Maryland had zero draftees, but cornerback Will Likely was the most dynamic player the Terps sent to the next level in 2017.
Likely impacted all three phases of the game at Maryland with his work as a returner, on defense, and occasionally on offense. He garnered NFL interest after his junior year, but returned for his senior season. His draft stock evaporated after he tore his ACL six games in, though he was far enough along in his recovery to participate in Maryland’s pro day.
My knee is gone be fine,i jus wan compete!— William Likely III (@4GoLive) May 2, 2017
Some of Maryland’s other undrafted free agents have found NFL homes, but Likely still hasn’t been signed. Likely should find his way onto a team’s training camp roster soon, but until then, let’s look at what he could bring to an organization.
His skill as a returner is his top asset
If Likely is going to find a place on an NFL roster, it will probably be as a return specialist. Likely was an All-American returner and the Big Ten Specialist of the Year in 2015, averaging 22.5 yards with a touchdown on 35 kickoff returns and 18.2 yards and two touchdowns on 23 punt returns. He finished his college career with six return touchdowns—four on punt returns and two on kickoffs.
Likely looked healthy at pro day, and if his acceleration has returned, he’s deadly when he sees daylight. With the ball in his hands, he’s always a threat to take it to the house, needing just one good block to spring a long return.
He can also get some looks as a slot defender
Though Likely’s ticket into the league will be his special teams play, his coverage ability may be what helps him stay. Likely defended both inside and outside during his time in College Park, but at 5’7 he projects as a slot defender at the next level.
Elite lateral quickness should allow him to soak up shifty slot receivers out of their release. Able to mirror and match complex routes. Has instant burst to restrict throwing windows. Plays with plus instincts and anticipation and rarely takes false steps. Always looking to take a path to throw rather than defaulting to the receiver. Has feisty play demeanor. Extremely competitive and plays with a great deal of confidence.
Likely earned his credentials as a defensive back, too. He was first team All-Big Ten in 2014, when he recorded 83 tackles and returned two of his six interceptions for touchdowns. He followed that up with an all-conference second team nod his junior season, defending 11 passes, forcing three fumbles and making 44 tackles.
His versatility will get him a shot
Don’t expect Likely to be out of work for too long; he brings too much to the table. In addition to his skills as a returner and defender, his speed translates to the offensive side of the ball too. Likely first got some burn as a runner and receiver in 2015 when Mike Locksley took over as interim coach for Randy Edsall. He wasn’t the most explosive player offensively, but the same lateral quickness that helped him shadow defenders allowed Likely to be a shifty runner out of the backfield.
He totaled 108 yards on 13 carries and 12 yards on six receptions during his offensive career. That isn’t a large sample size, but when combined with his other assets, it could be enough to entice a NFL team to pick up the phone and call his agent.