The Ravens won’t pick until late in the first round of April’s NFL draft. But Maryland should be represented early in the night.
Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, a former DeMatha star, is widely considered the draft’s top prospect and will be among the most popular players at this week’s NFL scouting combine. The Washington Redskins, who hold the No. 2 overall pick, are expected to bring him back home, reuniting Young with quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., a Maryland native and former Buckeyes star himself.
A deep pool of players with Maryland ties will join Young in Indianapolis, from a pair of Terps running backs to a record-breaking Navy quarterback. Here are the combine’s eight local prospects to monitor this week.
Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young
The top-rated recruit in Maryland and a top-10 prospect nationally in the Class of 2017, Young committed to the Buckeyes over the Terps and Alabama. As a high school senior, he helped lead DeMatha to an undefeated record and a top-25 spot in USA Today’s national rankings.
In Columbus, his impact was immediate. Young played in 12 games as a true freshman, posting six tackles for loss and 3½ sacks. In 2018, he finished with 15½ tackles for loss and 10½ sacks, team highs on a defense that lost star pass rusher Nick Bosa early in the season.
Last year, there was no better defender, and maybe no better player, than the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Young. Despite a two-game NCAA suspension for accepting an improper loan in 2018, he led the nation with 16½ sacks and six forced fumbles in 12 starts. While his Heisman Trophy candidacy faded toward the end of the season, he finished the year as Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded defender in its six years of evaluating college players.
Alabama defensive back Trevon Diggs
The younger brother of former Maryland and current Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs took a different path to the brink of the NFL. While not the blue-chip high school prospect that Stefon was, Trevon still earned an Alabama offer as a four-star recruit at Silver Spring’s The Avalon School.
As a true freshman in Tuscaloosa, Diggs earned snaps at wide receiver, cornerback and returner. He settled on defense in 2017 and became a full-time starter in 2018, though he broke his foot midway through the season. After returning for his senior year, Diggs earned All-America honors, allowing a passer rating of 44.5 in coverage and giving up just one touchdown, according to Pro Football Focus.
While Diggs lacks elite speed (and occasionally discipline in his technique), he has the physical and mental makeup to be a first-round pick. The 6-2, 207-pound Diggs is a natural fit in press coverage.
Maryland running back Javon Leake
In a 2017 Terps recruiting class with four four-star offensive recruits, including running back Anthony McFarland Jr. and quarterback Kasim Hill, Leake was something of a forgotten man. So he made his mark early on special teams.
The North Carolina native averaged 21.1 yards per kickoff return as a true freshman, then 25.6 yards the following season, with one run back for a touchdown. After averaging over 10 yards per carry in 2017 and 2018, Leake became the Terps’ primary running back last year. In addition to two kickoff return scores, he finished with 736 rushing yards (7.2 per carry) and eight touchdowns, showing a penchant for big plays.
With his limited work as a receiver (nine career catches for 55 yards) and the diminished importance of kickoff returns in the NFL, the 6-0, 206-pound Leake’s currently expected to be an early Day 3 pick.
Maryland defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr.
The Lanham native was a late addition to the Terps’ 2016 recruiting class, offered just days before national signing day, and quickly proved better than his low-profile billing.
A two-way player at Duval who was named Prince George’s County’s top Class 4A offensive player in 2015, Brooks found a home on defense in College Park. As a true sophomore in 2017, he led the Big Ten in tackles for loss (9½) by a defensive back, a total he matched the next year. Last season, Brooks had a team-high 87 tackles and a Big Ten-best 5.8 solo tackles per game, along with six pass defenses and an interception.
A two-time all-conference selection, Brooks has a versatile skill set, if not an obvious NFL fit. He could struggle downfield in coverage as a safety, but his instincts, football IQ and toughness should help Brooks earn playing time on special teams.
Maryland running back Anthony McFarland Jr.
The DeMatha product, a top-100 prospect in the Class of 2017, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings, was one of then-coach DJ Durkin’s biggest recruiting coups. Days before national signing day, he picked the Terps over offers from Penn State, Miami and Alabama.
After redshirting his freshman year, McFarland broke out in 2018. He averaged nearly 8 yards per carry and finished with 1,034 rushing yards and four touchdowns, earning freshman All-America honors. Running with a nagging ankle injury and behind a weakened offensive line last year, McFarland had 114 carries for 614 yards (5.4 per attempt) and added 17 catches for 126 yards.
McFarland has breakaway speed and good hands, but at 5-9, his size could be seen as a weakness. He’s also not far removed from a leg injury that forced him to miss his senior season at DeMatha and sit out his first year in College Park.
Penn State linebacker Cameron Brown
The four-star prospect in the Class of 2016, who committed to the Nittany Lions the summer before his senior year at Potomac’s Bullis School, didn’t wait long to see the field in college.
Brown started two games as a true freshman in 2016 and became a full-time starter in 2018. Last season, he earned third-team All-Big Ten honors after posting a career-high 72 tackles, 5½ tackles for loss, two sacks and four pass breakups. He was also voted a team captain.
The 6-5, 233-pound Brown has an aggressive, effortful playing style, but his gangly frame can sometimes be a hindrance. He’ll likely need to add mass to make it at the next level, and his play in the open field can be lackluster.
Georgia wide receiver Lawrence Cager
The Calvert Hall product, an All-Metro selection in football and track and field, spent his first four seasons at Miami. After leading the Hurricanes with six touchdown catches and 17.8 yards per catch in 2018, he joined the Bulldogs as a graduate transfer.
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The 6-5, 230-pound Cager played in nine games last season, making six starts and finishing with 33 catches for 476 yards, both career highs, and four touchdowns. His 132 receiving yards against Florida in November were the most by a Georgia receiver in over six years.
With his physical 6-5 frame, dependable hands and fluid play, Cager could establish himself as a possession receiver in the NFL. But his injury history is concerning. Cager tore his ACL in 2016 and suffered a season-ending ankle injury in November that required surgery.
Navy wide receiver Malcolm Perry
No, that’s not a typo. Perry, who set the FBS single-season rushing record for a quarterback last season in the Midshipmen’s triple-option offense, will follow Keenan Reynolds’s path to the pros.
Perry is the second Navy football player ever invited to the combine, after New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona. He’ll also be one of the least experienced wide receivers in Indianapolis. Perry changed positions before last month’s East-West Shrine Game, where he worked with Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant coach Antwaan Randle El, a college quarterback who converted to wide receiver in the NFL.
Running routes is new to Perry. Running by defenders isn’t. The 5-9, 190-pound Perry broke more tackles than any player in the country last season, according to PFF, and averaged 3.88 yards after contact per attempt.