When the NFL Draft kicks off Thursday, it will more than likely be the first time in two years that a former Maryland player will not hear his name called in the first round.
Although the Terps may not have any former players drafted on day one of the draft, the program will still likely have at least three players that hear their name called by the time the draft wraps up Saturday. Running backs Anthony McFarland Jr. and Javon Leake, in addition to defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr., should hear their names called at some point during the 2020 draft — likely during day three, according to most mock drafts.
Throughout its history, the Maryland football program has put up mixed results on the field in terms of wins and losses, but the program has consistently put top-notch talent in the NFL. Players like Randy White, Boomer Esiason, Vernon Davis, Shawne Merriman and Torrey Smith all were drafted in the first two rounds and went on to have great NFL careers after leaving Maryland.
Although the Terps have had their fair share of early round guys, the program has also put many great players in the league that were a bit overlooked after their Maryland careers ended.
Let’s take a look at the top five NFL draft pick sleepers that hailed from the University of Maryland.
**For the purpose of this list, a sleeper is someone selected in rounds 3-7 of the draft**
Drafted round five, 146th overall, by the Minnesota Vikings
Given how successful Stefon Diggs has been since entering the league in 2015, it’s crazy to think that he was passed on 145 times before being selected in the draft. Since leaving Maryland, Diggs has blossomed into one of the top receivers in the NFL.
While Diggs has surprisingly not made any Pro Bowls during his great career so far, he is most known for something better. Diggs was on the receiving end of one of the craziest finishes in NFL playoff history, the Minneapolis Miracle. Diggs caught a game-winning 61-yard touchdown to lift the Vikings over the Saints 29-24 to advance to the 2018 NFC championship game.
Diggs has been extremely productive throughout his NFL career, and he is coming off of another great season. During the 2019 season he recorded 63 receptions for a career-high 1130 yards and six touchdowns.
Diggs also made the news during this offseason as he was traded from Minnesota to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a first-round pick and a plethora of mid-round picks.
Drafted round three, 69th overall, by the Jacksonville Jaguars
Since entering the league in 2016, Yannick Ngakoue has been an absolute force and the definition of a mid-round steal. He made the Pro Bowl in 2017 and has been one of the most productive defensive ends in the NFL.
In his four seasons in Jacksonville, Ngakoue has tallied 37.5 sacks and 14 forced fumbles. He currently ranks second all-time in sacks in Jaguars franchise history. Ngakoue’s best season so far came in 2017, which ended with a Pro Bowl selection. During that year, he recorded a career-high 12 sacks, which ranked 10th overall in the NFL. Ngakoue also recorded a whopping six forced fumbles that season, which led the league.
Although he has been one of the best players on the Jaguars in recent years, he will almost certainly be playing for a new team next year.
After a brief holdout last offseason, the Jags placed a franchise tag on Ngakoue this offseason instead of giving him a new contract. This move angered Ngakoue and resulted in him demanding a trade.
Yannick Ngakoue’s discontent in Jacksonville reached a new level today as he traded jabs with Jags co-owner Tony Khan.— Jordan Gold (@Jordan_Gold0) April 20, 2020
The former Terp has been one of the best defensive lineman in the league since entering in 2016, recording 37.5 sacks and 14 forced fumbles in 4 seasons. pic.twitter.com/VzgJXd0lNl
Whoever is able to land Ngakoue for next season will be getting an absolutely special player.
Drafted round five, 153rd overall, by the Baltimore Ravens
Diggs was not the first former Terp receiver to get drafted in the fifth round and go on to have a great NFL career. Jermaine Lewis started the trend in 1996 when he was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.
Lewis had a strong career for the Ravens and made his mark as a kickoff and punt return specialist. He made the Pro Bowl twice in 1998 and 2001 and was an All-Pro in 1998 as well as a second team All-Pro in 2001.
Lewis is probably best known for his role in the Ravens winning the 2000 Super Bowl. During the big game, he brought back an 84-yard kickoff return touchdown en route to the Ravens 34-7 victory over the New York Giants.
After his five year stint with the Ravens, Lewis went on to play for the Texans and Jaguars before his career ended in 2004. Lewis still holds the record for most punt return yards (2730) and touchdowns (6) in Ravens history.
Drafted round six, 160th overall, by the Washington Redskins
Frank Wycheck was a former Terp tight end who came into the NFL in 1993. He was drafted by the Redskins but only played one season for the team before being released. Wycheck instead made his mark for the Tennessee Titans.
Wycheck was a fan favorite in Nashville and was selected to the Pro Bowl three times in 1998, 1999 and 2000. For his career, Wycheck recorded 5,126 total yards, 28 total touchdowns and 505 receptions.
He is well-known for being a part of the Music City Miracle during a 2000 playoff game against the Buffalo Bills. Wycheck was the one who threw the lateral to win the game during this crazy play, which ended with the Titans winning 22-16.
Drafted round five, 55th overall, by the Chicago Bears
To conclude this list, we end with a true blast from the past.
You might have never heard of Stan Jones, but he is arguably one of the best NFL players to come out of the University of Maryland.
Jones played offensive tackle and guard for the Chicago Bears from 1954-1965 and finished his career in 1966 with the Washington Redskins. Jones was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times and was also a three time All-Pro selection. He was an NFL Champion in 1963 with the Bears and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.
In addition to his NFL success, Jones was also a part of the only Maryland football team to win the National Championship in 1953.