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.
Yannick Ngakoue was Maryland football's star in 2015. In a season that will be remembered for the Terps' loss to Bowling Green and their inability to move the ball on offense, Ngakoue was a bright spot. In his first season moving from 3-4 linebacker to 4-3 defensive end, he was third among FBS players with 13 sacks.
A four-star recruit out of Friendship Academy in D.C., Ngakoue was the team's top backup at linebacker as a sophomore, and slid right into a starring role when every single one of Maryland's front seven starters graduated after the 2014 season. Ngakoue was mainly a pass-rusher when he played the WILL linebacker spot, and excelled as a junior when pass-rushing became even more of a focus for him. It's unclear if he projects as a linebacker or a defensive end in the NFL, but getting after the quarterback will be his primary objective no matter which position he ends up at.
Here he demonstrates some uncommon strength for a 6'2, 252-pound end. Ngakoue bull rushes his opponent before easily shedding him and making the sack.
Ngakoue's most impressive and most obvious attribute is his speed. Here he drops back in a quarterback spy before running across the field and chasing down USF's Quinton Flowers and prevents him from getting a first down.
Ngakoue still has room to improve when defending the run. He's a great pass-rusher, and projects to be a good one in the NFL, but he has to be more well-rounded if he wants to be an every-down player at the next level. Only 1.5 of his 15 tackles for loss came against the run this season. Here's an example of good defense against the run. He sticks with his defender, then easily sheds him to make the tackle when the running back heads his way.
NFL Combine performance
40-yard dash: 4.75 seconds
225 lb. bench reps: 26
Vertical jump: 34.5 inches
Broad jump: 9 feet 10 inches
Weight: 252 lbs.
Where Ngakoue goes from here
He should get taken on Saturday, in the middle rounds of the draft. As a middle-round pick, he would be all but assured a spot on his team as a rookie. He should receive ample playing time in the preseason and could end up as a solid contributor as a rookie if he's selected by the right team. Even if he needs to work on other parts of his game, his speed should translate well to the NFL, and that should mean at least a few sacks for him as a rookie.