COLLEGE PARK – NFL scouts and reporters crowded the indoor practice facility at Cole Field House for the University of Maryland’s pro day on March 28. Talent evaluators from 30 NFL teams quickly jotted down notes throughout the day on 12 of the Terps’ NFL Draft hopefuls, all of whom were aspiring to get one team’s big board.
However, junior wide receiver D.J. Moore, the one player scouts were eager to see in action, was not among his teammates participating in the broad jump, the 40-yard dash or any of the position-specific drills.
Instead, Moore stood at the other end of the field, warming up until the final 20 minutes of the pro day.
As Moore got dressed and lined up to run routes, all the scouts’ attention turned to him. And as the six-foot, 215-pound receiver ran crisp routes, it was clear why Moore is projected to be a first-round pick.
“He’s always been hungry, and he’s always been the same person,” said former cornerback Will Likely III, who also participated in Maryland’s pro day.
Moore has already shown he has the athleticism that he needs to be an NFL wide receiver. He ran 4.42 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, and he impressed scouts even more with an 11-foot broad jump.
Now Moore wants to prove he has the football skills to match that athleticism. He did not drop any of the passes thrown to him by quarterback Caleb Rowe, but the Philadelphia native did not want to show off his hands. Instead, he wanted to show how well he can run NFL-style routes.
“It shows I’ve gotten quicker out of my breaks,” Moore said. “That’s what I’ve really been working on.”
While scouts have told Moore his breaks could be better, he has already done enough to raise his draft stock. Moore is currently projected to go No. 29 overall to Jacksonville per Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock draft, but Moore spent a lot of time with Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner, so the receiver being selected at No. 24 could also be an option.
However, Moore’s draft stock does not come up when he talks to scouts, and it does not seem to bother him.
“As far as round-wise, scouts don’t really talk about it,” he said. “They just tell me I’m a great player and my ceiling is so high.”
Moore's absence for most of the pro day allowed Maryland’s other hopefuls, most of which are not projected to be drafted, to be evaluated by scouts. For players like cornerback J.C. Jackson, who only played college football for two years, opportunities like the NFL combine and pro days could have serious implications.
“I feel like the combine and pro day are really important for me,” said Jackson who is projected to be drafted in the third to fourth round by NFL.com. “I put my heart into it, I worked out, and I did what I had to do.”
Jackson also added that drill in the combine and pro days allow him to show off his skill set.
Jackson has already met with the New Orleans Saints and has a visit scheduled with the Oakland Raiders April 2.
“It was a good experience. It’s about living your dream. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m just enjoying the process,” he said.
Other players, such as William Likely, used the pro day as a second chance. Likely tore his ACL as a junior in 2016, but still decided to forgo his junior year to enter the draft. Likely wound up going undrafted and worked out for the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns before ultimately being cut in training camp by the New England Patriots.
Now, fully recovered, and the former All-Big Ten cornerback feels like he is back to his former self.
“It feels different because last year I wasn’t 100 percent,” he said. “This year I was back to normal, actually more than back to normal. I feel like this was my real pro day.”
Likely has spent most of his time training, and he was finally able to put his work on display for NFL teams. He was limited to position drills but Likely felt like he helped improve scouts’ perception of him.
“It is a good time to showcase that I’m back healthy and better than I was before, Likely said. “The pro day kind of helped me because they (NFL scouts) want to see where I’m at.”