By TROY JEFFERSON and AUBURN MANN
Capital News Service
COLLEGE PARK — For players like Maryland running back Brandon Ross, who didn’t get invited to the NFL Combine in February, Pro Day is the last chance to showcase their skills in front of NFL scouts ahead of April’s draft.
“All the combine guys got a chance to show what they can do early,” Ross said. “Teams are starting to hone in on who they’re looking at. It was important to come out here and have a good showing.”
Ross and 10 other Terps spent Wednesday afternoon at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium running sprints, circling cones, broad jumping and moving inanimate objects, all for the amusement of 27 NFL representatives.
NFL.com analyst Chad Reuter called Ross a “top senior prospect” for the later rounds of the draft before last season.
After rushing for 958 yards, the 5 feet 10 inches and 210 pounds running back from Newark, Del., doesn’t have to look far for inspiration.
Last season, former Terps defensive tackle Darius Kilgo was selected in the sixth round of the NFL draft by the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos after not being invited to the NFL Combine.
“Somebody’s going to fall in love with you, that’s the most important thing,” Ross said.
Maryland pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue and defensive back Sean Davis are in a more comfortable position: they’re slated as middle-round draft picks and used the Pro Day as a chance to improve their stock.
“I feel like (the Pro Day) went great, I left everything on the field,” Ngakoue said.
Versatility is key for Ngakoue and Davis. The more positions the Washington area natives can play means a higher draft position.
“I feel like I’ll be used in numerous ways, with my hand in the dirt or standing up,” Ngakoue said, referring to his ability to play outside linebacker and defensive end. “It doesn’t matter, I like both.”
Ngakoue was a first team, All-Big Ten selection last season after posting a Maryland record 13.5 sacks, one behind the nation leader, Carl Nassib.
“All the teams know I can play safety, I did it for three years,” Davis said. “A lot of teams like me at (cornerback). I have the quickness and speed to play (cornerback).”
Davis also expressed interest in playing special teams, which is a must for a rookie trying to carve a role on a 53-man NFL roster.
Davis was a honorable mention to the All-Big Ten team this past season after starting all 12 games at safety and intercepting three passes.
Ngakoue said he’s been training in Largo, Md., and in Miami. He said he has visits set up with the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans.
Davis said he has visits and private workouts lined up but wouldn’t reveal the teams.
“I’m not biased. Whoever picks me, I’m happy to play,” Davis said.
All- American placekicker Brad Craddock is probably in the most interesting position of all the Terrapin prospects that participated in the Pro Day.
The Australian native was one of four Maryland players (Davis, Ngakoue and Quinton Jefferson were the others) to get invited to the combine and one of only six kickers.
The NFL changing the point after touchdown line back to 33 yards puts a increased emphasis on acquiring strong and consistently accurate kickers.
“Kickers are getting better,” said Craddock. “They (NFL teams) want that guy who is reliable in the game.”
After a wrist injury suffered against Wisconsin halted his 2015 season, Craddock is still undergoing rehab for a couple more months but indicated he is healing.
“Getting back in the gym has been awesome after sitting on the sidelines for months,” Craddock said
Given that even the best collegiate kickers tend to not hear their names called during the draft, the 2014 Lou Groza Award winner and school record-holder for field goal percentage and longest field goal (57 yards against Ohio State in 2014) exhibited even-tempered perspective on the destination and other specifics of his future.
“I don’t really mind,” Craddock said. “ Honestly, I would just like to play again.”
Three months removed from actual game competition, “playing again” was the theme among players at the Pro Day.
Maryland’s prospects will have to wait until the NFL Draft on April 28 to see if they will be playing again, only this time at the highest level.