Will Likely has had several obstacles in his path to the NFL.
The Maryland cornerback is too small at 5’7 and coming off a torn ACL that suffered in October. Those factors should deter NFL teams from picking Likely in this weekend’s NFL Draft right?
False, that is definitely an incorrect assumption.
Look, it obviously doesn’t make sense to say that Likely should be a first round pick. Even if he had a clean bill of health through all four seasons in College Park, he might be selected on the second or third day.
On the other hand, size is always going to hinder certain players regardless of position. When star quarterback Drew Brees came out of Purdue, he had all the intangibles except for his height and ended up being a second round pick because of it.
When making the case for Likely, you don’t have to look at much tape before it’s evident just how hard this young man works. After all, he cracked Maryland’s starting lineup as a true freshman and more than held his own.
"“Stick that guy in a 6-foot body and he’s probably the first cornerback off the board this year. He’s got everything you want other than NFL size. He’s a really good football player but it’s going to be hard to bang the table for a 5-foot-7 cornerback who is coming off of an ACL tear.” — AFC Director of College Scouting (Exert from NFL.com)"
In his first year in College Park, Likely registered 70 tackles (51 solo), 4.5 tackles-for-loss, seven defended passes, and an interception. He was easily the most talented corner on the roster during the 2013 season.
Likely’s coming out party was definitely in 2014 when he led the Big Ten in interceptions (six). The Belle Glade, Fla. native displayed that he can be a true ballhawk at the cornerback position.
Likely has the quickness to close on the ball and make all the necessary plays. He also isn’t afraid to stick his noise in and help stop the run.
As a cornerback alone, Likely has a ton of value. He certainly projects to be a very talented slot corner at the NFL level.
Likely has additional value because of the fact that he is one of the most impressive return men in this draft class.
In four seasons, he totaled 2,233 kick return yards and two touchdowns while adding 875 punt return yards and four touchdowns.
On Sept. 5, 2015, Likely racked up a Big Ten record 233 punt return yards in a 50-21 win over Richmond. The elusive defensive back broke the previous record, which was held by Iowa’s Nile Kinnick in his 1939 Heisman Trophy winning season.
The trend continued the following week against Bowling Green when Likely had an 85-yard punt return touchdown. It was one of the few bright spots in a deflating 48-27 loss.
Maryland also used Likely on the offensive side of the ball at times. He totaled 13 carries for 108 yards on the ground over the past two seasons.
Honestly, there’s just too much not to like about a player of Likely’s caliber.
He projects as a very versatile slot corner that has a ton of athleticism. If that weren’t enough, Likely could make an immediate impact in the return game.
Likely is one of the fiercest competitors that the Big Ten has seen in quite a while. If a team takes a chance on him late, they could reap the benefits of an extremely talented player.