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NFL Draft 2017: Will Likely is Maryland’s clear No. 1 prospect

His skills as a returner will be his best asset. Will he be healed in time to compete this summer?

NCAA Football: Maryland at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL Draft takes place this week, starting Thursday and ending on Saturday. Maryland has a few players 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.

A year ago, Will Likely figured to be a lock to hear his name called in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Now, things aren’t so certain. The former Maryland corner saw his senior season end halfway though 2016 due to an ACL injury, throwing his professional projections into disarray. Likely’s been through a ton of rehab, and though he wasn’t able to participate at the combine in early March, he was able to give it a go at Maryland’s pro day later that month.

Likely is one of the most exciting Maryland players in recent memory. He was an All-American kick returner in 2015, and was the program’s best cornerback for the past four years. He even played offense a bit as an upperclassman, but that’s probably not going to be part of his game at the next level.

What an NFL team is getting

First and foremost, Likely brings a return ability few can match. If he’s recovered from his injury, that’ll be his first key to landing in the league. There will always be a spot for this:

His future as a cornerback is a little more unclear. Likely’s size was always going to be his No. 1 enemy come draft time. He’s only 5’7, and that’s far below what NFL teams are looking for. That won’t be a total deal-breaker, but it’ll be the No. 1 thing teams say about him. Luckily, he has the athleticism to make himself an attractive enough prospect.

Here’s’s Lance Zierlein with a fairly positive scouting report:

It is impossible to ignore Likely's diminutive stature and it's impossible to ignore the fact that he's having to come back from an ACL tear. It's equally impossible to ignore his elite quickness and hyper-competitive nature. His lack of size will put a ceiling on his draft stock, but Likely is talented enough to become a slot corner in the NFL. His ability to take over return duties should add value for a player who can make a team better regardless of what the tape measure says.

Draft projection

CBS Sports projects him to go either in the seventh round or undrafted, and rates him as the No. 32 player at his position.

NFL Scouting Combine performance

40-yard dash: n/a

225-pound bench reps: n/a

Vertical jump: n/a

Broad jump: n/a

Height: 5'7

Weight: 180 pounds

Where Likely goes from here

He’ll likely find a destination on Saturday or Sunday. There seems to be an equal chance at either. He could actually get drafted late in the sixth or seventh rounds, and we’d all have our final answer at where he’d at least start his NFL career. If he doesn’t get drafted, information on where he’s signed as an undrafted free agent should come out Saturday night or Sunday. Whether he gets drafted or not, Likely will report to a team this summer and start his journey.