The 2016 NFL Draft will take place this week, starting Thursday and ending Saturday. Maryland has a few players who should be drafted, plus a couple others who could sneak into the late rounds or will at least be fighting for roster spots in training camp. We'll break down all of them.
Quinton Jefferson was a steady, sturdy presence on Maryland's defensive line for three of the last four years. The only year he wasn't, he tore his right ACL in Maryland's third game of the year and didn't play again. When he was in Maryland's lineup, though, Jefferson produced. He was a useful reserve behind A.J. Francis, Joe Vellano, Darius Kilgo and Keith Bowers in his freshman year, 2012, a solid starter in 2013, out in 2014, then a real force in 2015.
Jefferson opted to forego his last year of eligibility, instead trying to make his way in the NFL. As he tries to do so, versatility will serve him well. Jefferson was primarily a defensive end over his first three years in college, but when Maryland changed its base defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3 before the 2015 season, Jefferson moved inside to tackle. He lined up frequently as a "three technique" DT, aligned on the outside shoulder of one of the opposing team's guards.
In his role as a tackle, Jefferson showed an ability to both rush the passer and create problems in the running game. No matter where he set up shop in Maryland's formation, he was a handful.
Here, Jefferson harnesses some of his old defensive end skills to slide around Michigan's right guard and hunt down quarterback Jake Rudock for a sack. He's faster and more agile than your standard tackle, and it shows.
And here's Jefferson playing a three technique, bursting toward the interior of Iowa's defensive line and then into the Hawkeyes' backfield to stifle a run.
Everyone has good highlights, of course. Jefferson having made a few plays for Maryland last year doesn't automatically make him good. But these are a decent showcase of his versatility and how strains of his days as a sought-after defensive end (he was top-40 weak-side end in his class) still help him now that he's a tackle. In the NFL, he could play nearly anywhere on the defensive line. (He's not a 3-4 nose tackle, but anything else will do.)
37 games (28 starts), 107 tackles (21.5 for loss), 10.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles
NFL Scouting Combine performance
40-yard dash: 4.95 seconds
225-pound bench reps: 24
Vertical jump: 29 inches
Weight: 291 pounds
Where Jefferson goes from here
It's very likely Jefferson will get picked late in the draft. If he isn't, he'll be snapped up fairly quickly as an undrafted free agent. Either outcome will lead to a similar result: Jefferson will have a shot to make an NFL roster this season, but he'll have no guarantees in either job security or salary. It's a lot of pressure, but Jefferson has a chance. That might be all he needs.