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Anthony McFarland Jr. could be a late-round steal in the NFL Draft

The running back has had injury concerns, but he has the talents for the next level.

Maryland football vs Howard Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

Running back Anthony McFarland Jr. was a top-100 prospect in the 2017 recruiting class and sent shockwaves when he spurned Alabama and Miami to stay home and commit to the University of Maryland.

After a redshirt season and two years on the field in College Park, McFarland opted to forego his junior and senior seasons to enter the 2020 NFL Draft.

This is the first of a series of breakdowns by the Testudo Times team as part of our 2020 NFL Draft coverage.

The numbers

Height: 5’8
Weight: 208 lbs
40-Yard Dash: 4.44 seconds
Vertical Jump: 29.5 inches
Broad Jump: 116 inches

What a team is getting

In his two seasons as a Terp, McFarland ran 245 times for 1,648 yards — ranking third in Maryland history with a 6.7 yards per carry average. A lingering injury limited McFarland in 2019, but as a freshman, he set a program record with 1,022 rushing yards on the season.

One of the biggest pieces to McFarland’s game is his speed and ability to break off big plays. He further proved his speed at the NFL Combine, running a 4.44 40-yard dash — which was the fourth-fastest time by a running back.

Many of McFarland’s rushing scores involve beating defenders with his pure speed, but he got his recognition on the national stage when the Terps faced off against Ohio State in 2018.

Then-redshirt freshman McFarland took an outside rush on second and 11 — the second play from scrimmage of the afternoon — 81 yards for a Maryland score. After the Buckeyes managed to put three points on the board, the Terps ran a near-identical play where McFarland this time rushed 75 yards to the house for his second score in just as many attempts.

Along with the speed and agility that McFarland possesses, combining those with pass-catching will make a difference in the NFL.

McFarland tallied 24 catches for 199 yards (8.3 yards per catch) and one touchdown in 2019. Transitioning from Matt Canada’s offense to a more typical spread allowed for McFarland to have increased chances out of the backfield as 17 catches came on the season.

At the NFL Combine, McFarland took part in on-field drills that allowed him to display his speed and agility as a runner out of the backfield, but also his ability to catch the ball.

Against Syracuse, the Terps were out to a big lead but still pushing ahead to score before halftime.

McFarland was sent out to the left on a quick flat route. And despite quarterback Josh Jackson delivering a ball that sent him behind the line of scrimmage, McFarland was able to break a tackle, turn on the jets and get upfield for a gain of 39 yards.

As Maryland was on the six yard line, McFarland ran an identical quick flat to the left and Jackson found him wide open for the easy score.

Maryland benefited during McFarland’s tenure as a Terp with a plethora of talented backs and players that could return kicks, so McFarland had few chances to show his ability.

In fact, during his two years as a Terp, McFarland had just one kickoff return — in his final game against Michigan State.

With the Terps in need of good field position as time was running out, McFarland fielded his first kickoff with confidence inside the five yard line and turned on his playmaking ability.

McFarland weaved through defenders and paired that agility with his speed for a 40-yard return — setting up the offense with under 60 yards to go down by one score.

Though he had just the one attempt during his college career, McFarland could be a guy that finds his way onto an NFL roster on special teams.

Draft projections

With the NFL Combine finished and digested, as well as being just a few weeks until the NFL Draft, there is a more consensus feeling on where prospects are slated to land.

For McFarland, the biggest downside in his draft profile is his durability. His first year in College Park was designated as a redshirt year to get him up to speed after a leg injury in high school, and his 2019 season was hindered by a lingering ankle sprain.

Most analysts agree that McFarland has all the tools and makeup of an NFL running back and that he can provide teams with rare, all-purpose depth at the position — if he can stay healthy.

But McFarland is not considered one of the top running backs in the draft. CBS Sports has him as the seventh-best at the position, while Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has him as far down as the No. 13 running back prospect.

Consensus: Day 3, Rounds 4-7