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Maryland draft prospects audition for Bill Belichick, NFL scouts on blustery day

Maryland draft prospects audition for Bill Belichick, NFL scouts on blustery day
University of Maryland's Stefon Diggs during drills at the 2015 Pro Day event at College Park on Thursday, when departing Terps football players ran drills for NFL scouts. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

As New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick stood several yards behind the drills, his top scouting executive fired passes Thursday afternoon to Maryland wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.

Despite blustery conditions during the Terps' Pro Day and the fact that Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio hasn't played quarterback since he was a four-year starter at John Carroll University, Diggs and Long twisted their bodies to haul in a series of passes. Former Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown opted not to try out for the NFL after joining the work force and taking a job with Amazon, according to coach Randy Edsall.

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In particular, Diggs and Long drew a large NFL contingent to Byrd Stadium with representatives from 30 NFL teams watching them and 11 other Terps audition. Diggs had a private meeting with the Patriots, according to a source.

One pass from Caserio skipped off Diggs' outstretched hands after the wind caused it to sail. Overall, it was a sharp performance by Diggs as he displayed his route-running skills and explosiveness.

"It was a great day," said Diggs, who stood on his 4.46 time in the 40-yard dash from the NFL scouting combine. "Hard work is paying off. I'm a dominant competitor at everything I do.  I'm going to do everything I can to help my team.

"As far as what I bring to a team, I'm a playmaker."

Diggs has generally been graded as a third-round draft target, but several NFL scouts said Thursday that his draft stock is rising.

"I'm very impressed with Stefon because of what he can do with the football in his hands," said Oakland Raiders scout Raleigh McKenzie, a former NFL offensive lineman who's the twin brother of Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie. "The guy makes big plays all the time. I love what he can do, creating things after the catch."

A former blue-chip recruit from Good Counsel who chose Maryland over Ohio State, Florida and Auburn, Diggs declared for the draft following his junior year. Diggs led Maryland with 62 catches for 792 yards and five touchdowns and was named second-team All-Big Ten Conference last season.

"He's a very dynamic young man with the abll in his hands," Edsall said of Diggs. "He's able to contribute in a lot of different ways, not only as a wide receiver, but as a punt and kickoff returner. He's a neat guy to be around. He's got tremendous hands.

"The size of his hands gives him the ability to use his athletic ability to get to balls some guys can't. He's a really good kid. He won't embarrass your team in the offseason or during the season."

Diggs has a visit with the San Francisco 49ers. He met with the Ravens at the scouting combine.

"I've had conversations with the Ravens," Diggs said. "Everybody knows I would love to stay home. I would love to play for one of the hometown teams."

Although Diggs never played a full season in College Park, he finished with 150 career receptions for 2,227 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Looking back, Diggs said he has no regrets about his decision to leave school early.

"As far as making choices, you weigh the good and the bad," Diggs said. "I stand by my choice. I feel like I was ready and I am ready."

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Diggs missed the final two regular-season games last season with a lacerated kidney before returning for the Terps' bowl game against Stanford. He suffered a broken leg against Wake Forest that ended his season two years ago.

Durability is about the only question that's been raised about Diggs.

"Some people will harp on it, some people won't," Diggs said. "As far as durability, it's all about training the right way and eating right."

After overcoming a few false starts as he tried to get a good jump, Long ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, according to an NFC scout.

He's drawn interest from several teams, including the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers. Long is scheduled to attend the Ravens' local prospect day April 21 along with outside linebacker Matt Robinson, an Atholton graduate who ran a 4.6, had a 34-inch vertical leap and a 10-1 broad jump at 247 pounds.

"I feel like I could have done better," said Long, who bench pressed 225 pounds 15 times and had a 34 1/2 inch vertical leap. "I'll continue to do that even though I don't have a combine anymore and don't have to perform those tests, I'll continue to have those numbers in my head.

"I feel like I ran good once I was able to get my start. Once I got it together, I did good. The biggest thing I wanted to show scouts is I can play wherever they want me to  play. I can play outside. I can play inside. I can return kicks, block kicks. I'm a durable player and I can be all they want me to be."

Long attended four colleges, going to West Virginia, New Mexico and Iowa Western Junior College before completing his career with the Terps.

A Washington native who played at Dunbar, Long increased awareness about his skills during the East-West Shrine all-star game after catching 51 passes for 575 yards and two touchdowns last season.

Long has been graded as a later-round draft prospect.

"He's got good quickness, good ability to make something happen after the catch," Edsall said. "He's a guy that understands concepts, understands what you're trying to do offensively."

After playing in the East-West Shrine game, defensive lineman Darius Kilgo has visited the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins. He met with the Patriots on Wednesday and has an upcoming visit with the Cincinnati Bengals.  The North Carolina native will also participate in the Carolina Panthers' local prospect day.

"There's a lot of teams that have interest in Darius," Edsall said. "I know there's high interest in Darius and high interest in [linebacker] Cole Farrand as well."

A 6-2, 313-pound projected nose tackle, Kilgo bench pressed 225 pounds 33 times.

"I just wanted to prove myself that I can be a draftable guy," Kilgo said. "Hopefully, I did that and showed what I can do. Teams tell me they like what they see on film. I had a number of scouts come up to me and said they were impressed with my workouts and athleticism. There's some buzz going around."

Stocky Maryland defensive lineman Andre Monroe, a 5-foot-11, 291-pounder who bench pressed 225 pounds 29 times, introduced himself to Belichick following a workout where he ran the 40-yard dash in the high 4.8 range.

"I went through a lot of adversity," Monroe said. "Running my first 40, I got off to a great start and I tweaked both of my legs. That kind of scared me a little bit. I pushed through it and competed in every drill."

Belichick has former Maryland defensive lineman Joe Vellano on his roster.

"The thing with Andre is it has to be that one team that wants to give him that opportunity," Edsall said. "Whoever gives him an opportunity, they'll get somebody who's worked real hard and has tremendous quickness and a tremendous first step and somebody who loves the game with a lot of passion."

Monroe has a lot of intangibles working in his favor, but is short by NFL standards.

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"Height actually does matter, but I think it's in my favor," Monroe said. "In the trenches, the low man wins. I already have that low center of gravity. For taller guys, it's a challenge for them to get to my level and still have power."

End zone

Dicussing Brown's decision not to pursue an NFL career, Edsall said: "C.J. ended up having some job opportunities, and he's working with Amazon. He just felt that, hey, his career was going to be over. Now, he's into the business world."

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