The 2016 NFL Draft takes place this week, starting Thursday and ending on Saturday. Maryland has a few players who will surely 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.
It's been five years since the Maryland football program last produced a second-round (or better) NFL draft pick. The Baltimore Ravens took receiver Torrey Smith in 2011 with the 58th overall pick, setting Smith on a course to eventually become a Super Bowl champion and cash out in free agency with the San Francisco 49ers.
Sean Davis might not accomplish all that, but as the weekend's 2016 draft approaches, he appears well positioned to be Maryland's highest pick since Smith a half-decade ago. He is being bandied about regularly as a second-round pick, and there's been at least a little hopeful speculating he could sneak into the first round. (This would be surprising, frankly.)
Davis was never an elite player at Maryland, but his considerable draft buzz hasn't come from nowhere. He was impressive at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, and he demonstrated a good bit of versatility during his four-year letter career at Maryland. Davis started full-time for two years at safety, then as a senior at cornerback. He was often inconsistent, but he always showed tantalizing potential. That's what captivates the NFL.
What an NFL team is getting
Whichever team drafts Davis will have to decide whether he's a safety or a cornerback, first of all. The NFL's official draft website classifies him as a corner, but he'll play wherever a team puts him. Davis has shown good and bad as both a cornerback and a safety over his four years, and there's a lot of tape to go over.
Maryland mostly deployed Davis as a cornerback last season, but he played safety in certain sub-packages. He's always been good against the run from that spot, and he's a hard hitter.
Maryland didn't label its safeties as "strong" or free" under Randy Edsall, but Davis was mostly playing on the back side of the field in passing situations. He was sometimes good at that. He was sometimes not, vulnerable to inexplicable roastings over the top of the formation, made possible by Davis' poor angles.
Davis isn't going to get out-run by a lot of players, but he's not always going to win straight-line races as a cornerback, either. And he sometimes had communicative problems with Maryland's safeties when he moved to the outside, as happened on a bomb touchdown pass he allowed to Bowling Green's Roger Lewis last year:
But sometimes, Davis did incredible work as a cornerback, showing off physical gifts and reaction time that aren't common. One sampling of that: an interception against South Florida in his senior season, where he matched his receiver stride-for-stride and then out-jumped him for a picture-perfect takeaway.
That's a small serving of the ups and downs a team will get with Davis. Someone's going to bank on his obvious athletic gifts and the benefit of NFL instruction being enough to ensure Davis gives the team more of the ups than the downs. It's not a bad bet to make, although there are no guarantees in NFL drafting.
NFL Scouting Combine performance
40-yard dash: 4.46 seconds
225-pound bench reps: 21
Vertical jump: 37.5 inches
Broad jump: 10.5 feet
Weight: 201 pounds
Where Davis goes from here
To an NFL roster.
Even if Davis falls hard in the draft and goes in the fourth or fifth round, it's very likely he'll make a team. If he goes in the second or third round, as expected, it's a virtual guarantee. (Teams do not draft players that high to cut them in training camp.) Davis will play in the NFL next season, and all that's left to find out is where – and for how much.