Maryland football hasn’t had more than two players picked up in the NFL Draft since 2019, when four Terps were picked up. But with Mike Locksley entering his fourth season and many of his early recruits cycling into upperclassmen, the program could start cranking out more pros than it has in a while. And if you believe Athlon’s Kevin McGuirethey have two of the 10 best 2023 draft prospects in the Big Ten.
Athlon ranked receiver Dontay Demus Jr. and offensive lineman Jaelyn Duncan on its top 10 list, making Maryland one of two schools to place multiple players on the list, along with Ohio State, which had five.
“Maryland will look forward to the return of a healthy Demus this fall after seeing a promising start to the 2021 season cut short by a season-ending injury. When healthy, he is one of the top receivers in the Big Ten, “he wrote of Demus, the senior-to-be who could be the Big Ten’s top receiver if healthy. CBS Sports recently projected him as the No. 19 pick next year, going to the Tennessee Titans.
“The Terrapins also have one of the top offensive tackles in the conference. Already a heralded player as a two-time honorable mention for All-Big Ten and a preseason all-conference selection by Athlon Sports in 2021, Duncan is a massive (6 -6, 320) body on the offensive line to help make things happen. “
‘Health’ is the key word on Demus. He suffered a major knee injury while returning a kick last season against Iowa. At the time, the speedy 6-foot-3 Washington native was leading the conference in receiving yards. He’s still recovering and didn’t participate in spring practice. There’s no specific timeline for his return, but it seems unlikely he’ll be ready in time for the season.
“It was always in my mind:‘ I could go. I could declare [for the NFL draft last season], ‘”Demus recently told the Washington Post. “But that just wasn’t where my head was at. Being here was bigger than that. I wanted to help my team and make sure I still show them Maryland is on the cusp of doing some big things. ”
Duncan isn’t as heralded as Demus, in part because no one focuses on offensive lineman as closely as receivers. But the 6-6, 320-pound senior from New Carrollton is one of the best tackles in the Big Ten, having started 27 games and earned honorable mention all-conference honors the past two seasons. Duncan likely would’ve been drafted had he left after last season, but he announced on New Year’s Eve that he was returning for his senior year, giving a huge boost to an offensive line that brings back all five starters.
The Athletic’s Nick Baumgarner this week listed his favorite NFL prospect on each Big Ten team, choosing Duncan for Maryland.
“Physically, Duncan has what he needs to survive in the NFL. He is a mountain of a man at 6-6, 325, but he carries the weight very well. He appears to have very good length to go along with quick feet in short spaces. But consistency with technique and overall execution is still a work in progress, as Duncan found football in his teens and has continued to develop over time at Maryland, “he wrote.
“A three-year starter, Duncan has All-Big Ten potential and could earn himself plenty of NFL money with more consistency and just better general polish to his game. There are times when he’ll release out into space and run over a defender like an athletic tight end. Then, there are times he’ll run wide and miss everything. The talent is obvious, though. “
The rest of the top 10: Ohio State defensive end Zach HarrisonOhio State offensive lineman Paris JohnsonIowa tight end Sam LaportaPenn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr.Ohio State safety Lathan RansomNorthwestern offensive lineman Peter SkoronskiOhio State quarterback CJ Stroud and Ohio State receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba