Maryland cornerback Will Likely is projected to go late in the 2017 NFL Draft, if he gets drafted at all. He’s the best chance the Terps have at getting one of their own selected.
Likely is Maryland’s most popular player since Stefon Diggs. He doesn’t quite have the athleticism or profile of Diggs, but brings a similar electricity. Likely was a four-year starter at Maryland, moving from nickel to outside corner, then back to nickel as a senior.
Who is Will Likely? 5 things to know:
1. He was an All-American kick returner in 2015
Likely’s best shot at sticking in the NFL is as a return man. That’s how he rose to prominence at Maryland. Likely set the Big Ten single-game return yards record in Maryland’s season opener against Howard in 2015, and had 6 career return touchdowns.
Likely was voted as an All-American by the media as a kick returner in 2015, then didn’t have as many opportunities during his senior season. His average yards per kickoff return went up, from 23 to 27, but his punt return average went way down, from 18 to 3.
2. He played defense, offense and special teams at Maryland
After starting at cornerback and kick returner his first couple years, Likely started playing offense halfway through his junior season. He never got fully engaged in Maryland’s efforts on offense, but the threat was always there. He ended his senior season with only 2 carries for 13 yards, but if he wasn’t playing so many snaps on defense, Likely could have been more valuable. Still, he didn’t play receiver consistently, so Likely playing wideout in the NFL is a long shot.
Likely’s versatility is his second-best weapon. He can play inside and out, and that’ll be an asset as he attempts to stick with an NFL team.
3. He tore his ACL halfway through his senior season
Likely’s final college campaign ended on a kick return against Minnesota. The injury wasn’t announced right away, but by the time the Terps took on Michigan State the next week, the school had announced that Likely had torn an ACL. Since then, his rehab has been right on schedule. Likely wasn’t able perform at the NFL combine, but he was healthy enough to participate at Maryland’s pro day earlier this month.
It's the Will Likely show now. Everybody has stopped their drills as Likely runs through a (seemingly scripted) set of drills pic.twitter.com/Nsy0vJfWVp
— Jared Goldstein (@_jgoldy17) March 29, 2017
CBS Sports projects him as a seventh-rounder or an undrafted free agent. Either way, he’ll get a chance with an NFL team. Staying with one? That’ll be tougher.
4. He’ll have to convince teams his height isn’t an issue
Likely’s health can improve. His 5-foot-7 stature can’t.
That’s probably what led Likely to decide to stay in college for one final season despite a new coach and a team that wasn’t going to do anything big in terms of national attention in 2016. His height was probably a roadblock for coaches last year, and it’ll probably be the same for some coaches now.
5. He ended up further north than most Florida prospects
Likely is from Belle Glade, Fla. Not many blue-chip recruits get out of the Sunshine State, and fewer end up at Maryland. The Terps lucked out with him, as Likely’s small stature and 3-star status gave enough pause to programs such as Florida, Florida State and LSU.
Of course, Likely wouldn’t have had such an easy road to playing time at those schools, so maybe it worked out best for him that he ended up at Maryland. He started when injuries hit Maryland’s secondary hard his freshman year, and took over Diggs’ spot as kick returner. That led him to gaining an early spotlight on kick returns, which helped Likely make a name for himself.