Here is a full rundown of how former Maryland football players fared in the NFL throughout the 2015 season:
Stefon Diggs (WR, Minnesota Vikings)
Stefon Diggs had a breakout year for the Minnesota Vikings. While the NFL Rookie of the Year award will likely go to Amari Cooper, Todd Gurley, or Jameis Winston, the former Terps star wideout was at least a part of the conversation after his first four games with the Vikings. After not seeing the field the first three weeks of the NFL season, Diggs made his first appearance in Week 4 and immediately showed chemistry with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. In his first four appearances, Diggs recorded games of 87, 129, 108, and 95 receiving yards with two touchdowns. He didn’t crack the 100-yard receiving mark the rest of 2015, but then again the Vikings’ offense isn’t exactly structured around the passing game. He had another big game against the Bears in Week 15, grabbing another two touchdowns and finishing with three catches for 55 yards. Diggs finished his impressive rookie campaign with 720 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 12 games. He has the potential to become a true NFL star in the 2016 season with more catches like these.
Vernon Davis (TE, San Francisco 49ers/Denver Broncos)
Vernon Davis is far removed from his 2009 and 2013 Pro Bowl seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, both of which included 13 touchdown receptions and 850 or more receiving yards. After posting a modest 194 receiving yards on 18 receptions with no touchdowns through six games with the 49ers, he was dealt to the Denver Broncos. Though the Broncos locked up the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, Davis was not a significant reason why. Initially, it was not incredibly far-fetched to think Davis could somewhat return to form after becoming a part of the typically prolific Denver offense.
However, a lack of targets (just 28 in nine games) and well-documented quarterback issues headlined by Peyton Manning missing several weeks of action, led to Davis accumulating just over 200 yards receiving in nine games with the Broncos. He finished the season with just 38 total catches for 395 yards and zero scores. Unfortunately for Davis, his most memorable highlight of the season was not a good one. In a season that included several dropped balls, a wide-open Davis dropped a pass on third-and-16 that would have given Denver a first down late during a shootout with the Pittsburgh Steelers that was tied at 27 at the time. Pittsburgh went on to win that game. Hopefully he can get more involved in the offense throughout the playoffs and show flashes of the unstoppable force he once was with San Francisco.
Torrey Smith (WR, San Francisco 49ers)
The former teammate of Davis in San Francisco had a very mediocre season in 2015, but then again the entire 49er offense was one of the worst in the NFL. Torrey Smith notched a mere 33 receptions on the season for 663 yards and four touchdowns. The real story in San Francisco was the ineffective quarterback play. This included the curious case of Colin Kaepernick, who was replaced midseason by Blaine Gabbert. Smith had just one game over 100 receiving yards, but did have a highlight-reel 71-yard catch and score in overtime to give the 49ers the win against the Chicago Bears in Week 13.
Darrius Heyward-Bey (WR, Pittsburgh Steelers)
After shockingly (or not so shockingly, considering it was Al Davis), Darrius Heyward-Bey went seventh overall in the 2009 NFL Draft to the Oakland Raiders. After a few up and down seasons in Oakland and a stint in 2013 with Indianapolis, Heyward-Bey landed in Pittsburgh in 2014. In 2015, despite being a part of the Steelers’ pass-first mentality with Ben Roethlisberger under center when healthy, there were too many mouths to feed in Pittsburgh for the speedster to have a significant impact in the offense. With the receiver falling to fourth or fifth in the pecking order behind receivers Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, and tight end Heath Miller, Heyward-Bey finished the 2015 regular season with 21 receptions for 314 yards and two touchdowns. Most of his production came in the first five weeks of the season due to the absence of Bryant (suspension). His best game came in Week 2 when he caught four passes for 77 yards and a touchdown in the midst of a blowout win over the 49ers.
D’Qwell Jackson (LB, Indianapolis Colts)
After seven successful years with the Cleveland Browns, including a Pro Bowl selection, D’Qwell Jackson has made a name for himself with the Indianapolis Colts. He started all 16 games at linebacker in 2015, and recorded 89 tackles (61 assisted), had nine passes defended, one forced fumble, one interception, and one defensive touchdown.
Nolan Carroll, DB, Philadelphia Eagles
Nolan Carroll has established a solid NFL career to date, especially considering he made the switch from wide receiver to defensive back during his time as a Terp. In 11 games in 2015, Carroll tallied two interceptions, one touchdown, and 41 tackles (14 assisted). Unfortunately, Carroll’s season was cut short; he was carted off the field in Week 12 after suffering a broken ankle, and was placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. One of the top highlights of his season was a pick six of New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning in Week 6.
Nick Novak, K, Houston Texans
Nick Novak was not on an NFL squad to begin the season, but was picked up by the Houston Texans after the team parted ways with their longtime kicker Randy Bullock following Week 3. Novak narrowly beat out former Washington Redskins kicker Kai Forbath for the gig, and the acquisition worked out for both Houston and Novak. Novak drilled all 16 of his attempts from less than 50 yards, including hitting 29-of-31 extra point attempts (now 33 yards). In total, Novak hit 18 of 21 field goal attempts in 2015, and now finds himself kicking for a playoff team.
Others Terps around the NFL:
Darius Kilgo (NT, Denver Broncos) – In his rookie campaign after being selected by the Broncos in the sixth round of the 2015 draft, Darius Kilgo saw the field in nine games, recording one pass defended and five solo tackles.
Josh Wilson (CB, Detroit Lions) – Josh Wilson, now in his ninth year in the league, played in eight games this season for the Lions before injuring his knee during a Week 10 contest against the Packers and subsequently being placed on injured reserve. He recorded one pass defended, one fumble recovery, and 26 tackles (five assisted).
Randy Starks (DT, Cleveland Browns) – Randy Starks has been in the league for over a decade now. He spent the 2015 season with the Browns, his third different team since coming into the league in 2004. Appearing in 15 games, he totaled 29 tackles (15 assisted), one sack, and one fumble recovery.
Jon Condo (LS, Oakland Raiders) – Jon Condo has been the long snapper in every game for the Raiders since the start of the 2007 season, including the first 13 of the 2015 season. He placed on injured reserve and missing the remaining three games of the year.
Erin Henderson (LB, New York Jets) – After being out of the league entirely for the 2014 season, Erin Henderson signed with the Jets in the offseason. He suited up for all 16 games of 2015, and made 23 tackles (eight assisted).
A.J. Francis (DT, Seattle Seahawks) – The Seahawks claimed A.J. Francis after he was waived by the Miami Dolphins in November. He was subsequently released by the Seahawks, only to be signed to their practice squad just two days later. He was promoted to the active roster following the season-ending injury of star tight end Jimmy Graham.
A few others:
Dexter McDougle (DB, New York Jets) – Dexter McDougle mostly played on special teams in 2015 after missing the entire 2014 rookie season with injury.
Shaun Hill (QB, St. Louis Rams) – Shaun Hill attempted seven passes in 2015, completing two for 15 yards
Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil (LB, Tennessee Titans) – Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil saw time in two games in his rookie year, but didn’t record any statistics.