College Sports

Maryland players could buck recent trend in NFL draft

Maryland defensive back Sean Davis looks on during the third quarter of the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi's Stadium in 2014.

When Scott McBrien walked out to the practice field as Maryland's quarterback in the early 2000s, he was surrounded by one of the top crops of talent in recent Terps history. There were 12 future NFL draft picks on that team, including first-round selections Shawne Merriman and Vernon Davis, second-rounders D'Qwell Jackson and Madieu Williams, and third-rounders Dominique Foxworth and Randy Starks.

Those were the players who helped form the core of a three-year run in which Maryland notched 31 victories, won the Peach Bowl and Gator Bowl, and reached the Orange Bowl in Ralph Friedgen's first three years as coach.


And when McBrien was running the offense, he'd be staring across the line of scrimmage at those future high picks.

"At the time you don't know it, you kind of take it for granted," said McBrien, now a Maryland football radio analyst. "You don't really understand how good these guys are. You practice with them every single day. …I didn't know any better. I thought this was always how it was and how it was supposed to be."


Over time, the NFL talent that stocked Maryland's roster has dried up. From 2001 through 2008, Maryland constantly had at least 10 players on its roster who were drafted by NFL teams, including three top 12 picks — Merriman (12th overall in 2005), Davis (sixth in 2006) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (seventh in 2009).

But from 2009-11, the roster never had more than six future picks..

In the past four drafts combined, only four Maryland players have been selected.

In the fickle world of scouting and drafting, several factors could have led to the drop off: lack of talent, lack of development and, in some cases, lack of luck.

"I think it comes down to more of an individual basis," Bleacher Report NFL draft writer Matt Miller said. "A big phrase that you'll hear in scouting is to scout everything in a bubble, to look at every player individually and not pay attention to track records or what a team does well at certain positions or doesn't do well."

For CBS Sports draft analyst Dane Brugler, the dearth of high draft picks comes from having less top-flight talent coming through the program in recent seasons. In the eight years from 2001-08 in which the Terps had at least 10 future draft picks on their roster, they won an average of eight games per season. In the seven years since, they've averaged roughly five wins per season.

"Maryland just hasn't had the top NFL prospects in their program in recent years," Brugler wrote in an email. "Players like Torrey Smith and Stefon Diggs have done well, but we haven't seen the premium players come out of the program in the last five to seven years."

In next week's NFL draft, though, Maryland can equal its output from the past four seasons. Miller projects four Terps — Yannick Ngakoue, Sean Davis, Quinton Jefferson and Brad Craddock — to be drafted, and predicts Ngakoue and Davis to land on the draft's second day, which consists of the second and third rounds.


Maryland's most recent pick in the top two rounds was Smith, who went No. 58 overall to the Ravens in 2011.

"I would say that it's Yannick," Miller said of which former Terp is likely to go off the board first. "But it's probably pretty close [with Davis]."

Last season, Diggs had a bright rookie campaign for the Minnesota Vikings with 52 catches for 720 yards and four touchdowns. The former five-star recruit — one of the most heralded Maryland recruits in years— fell to the fifth round and the No. 146 overall pick because of injury concerns and lack of production in an offense that never had consistent quarterback play.

Diggs' rookie performance caught the eye of NFL draftniks, and in "redrafts" of last year's first round done by and USA Today, Diggs checks in at Nos. 14 and 20, respectively.

He is a rare recent Terp who has made a considerable impact in the pros, even if he went drafted far later than he should have.

Ten or 12 years ago, he'd be a small part of a large group of NFL-bound Terps.


In fact, McBrien, the quarterback of those first Friedgen teams, was practically an exception when he didn't get draft.

While five of his Maryland teammates were getting selected in the 2004 NFL draft, McBrien waited and hoped for his phone to ring. That call never came during the draft, but he signed with the Green Bay Packers as a free agent.

More than anything, he understands that the results of the NFL draft are circumstantial and vary. And while there seems to be a recent drought of Maryland players getting selected high in the draft, McBrien knows that could change quickly.

"The NFL draft is really the right place at the right time," McBrien said. "What team needs you, what they need you for, what your skills are."