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Darnell Savage’s athleticism makes him Maryland football’s top NFL Draft prospect

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The Terps safety is rising on draft boards and could sneak into the first round, where no Maryland defender has been taken since 2005.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Darnell Savage Jr. was a three-year starter in Maryland football’s secondary. Now, he could be the first Terp defender drafted in the first round since 2005, when Shawne Merriman went 12th overall to the Chargers. Though undersized, Savage’s tantalizing athleticism has the safety shooting up draft boards and making a big climb as the draft approaches.

With just three days remaining until the start of the NFL Draft, let’s take a look at Savage’s professional prospects. We’ll continue profiling several of Maryland’s potential draftees in the coming days.

The numbers

Height: 5’11
Weight: 198

40-yard dash: 4.36
225-pound bench reps: 11
Vertical jump: 39.5 inches
Broad jump: 126 inches

What an NFL team is getting

The biggest knock against Savage has and always will be his size (or lack thereof). Simply put, a 5’11 safety who weighs 200 pounds is certainly not going to be a “thumper” as the last line of defense in an NFL secondary. And not only is his frame small, but it doesn’t seem that he’s all that strong either—he completed just 11 reps on the 225-pound bench press, putting him in the seventh percentile among NFL safeties.

Darnell Savage Jr. Measurables (S)
mockdraftables.com

But what Savage lacks in build, he more than makes up for in athleticism. For starters, he posted one of the fastest 40-yard dash times among all players at the 2019 combine. His 4.36 official mark ranked eighth-best overall, third-best among defenders. His vertical jump, broad jump and 20-yard shuttle all ranked in the top 20 of defensive backs as well, showing off his raw athletic abilities.

In addition to being freakishly athletic, Savage possesses strong ball skills, grabbing seven interceptions over the past two seasons. Thanks to his elite speed and excellent ball-tracking abilities, he has the ability to get to nearly any ball on the field. More often than not, when in position to make a play, Savage does just that. And with the ball in his hands, he is dangerous.

Draft projections

Due to the concerns about his frame, Savage’s ceiling as a prospect seemed to be as a Day 2 selection. As recently as a few weeks ago, a second/third round pick was in the cards for the safety, which would immediately put him in contention for a potential starting gig depending on where he ended up.

But as the draft gets closer and closer, there is serious steam for Savage to climb his way into the first round. Pro Football Focus rated the safety as their No. 2 prospect at the position (and No. 28 overall), and now, it’s a very real possibility that the senior safety hears his name called on Thursday night.

“There’s no player that’s got more steam and momentum right now in this draft than Darnell Savage, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah said on a conference call last week. “Teams love him, love him to the point where I would not be surprised if he found his way into the first round.”