With the 2022 NFL draft beginning Thursday night in Las Vegas, there are a handful of players with Maryland ties who are hoping to turn their dreams of playing professionally into reality.
From Kentucky edge rusher Josh Paschal to Maryland safety Nick Cross, here are the local prospects to watch:
Boston College guard Zion Johnson
The Bowie native played at Riverdale Baptist and drew little interest from college programs before choosing to play at FCS-level Davidson. After two standout seasons with the Wildcats, the 6-3, 316-pound Johnson transferred to Boston College and quickly became a dominant force, earning All-ACC honors in each of his three seasons as a starter. He’s considered one of the best interior offensive linemen in this draft class and is expected to be picked in the first round.
Penn State edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie
Ebiketie is projected to be a late first or early second-round pick after recording 62 tackles and 9 1/2 sacks for the Nittany Lions in 2021. The 6-2, 250-pound Ebiketie, who transferred to Penn State after four seasons at Temple, was a three-star recruit from Albert Einstein High in Kensington.
Kentucky edge rusher Josh Paschal
Paschal, a former four-star recruit out of Good Counsel in Olney, totaled 139 career tackles, 37 tackles for loss, 13 1/2 sacks, 12 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and three blocked kicks in 52 career games with the Wildcats. The 6-2, 268-pound Paschal is projected to be an early Day 2 selection.
Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III
Born in Taiwan before moving to Ghana, Canada and finally the United States, Metchie attended St. James School in Hagerstown before transferring to The Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey, for his final prep season. After a breakout sophomore season at Alabama, the 6-foot, 195-pound Metchie recorded 96 catches for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the SEC championship game. He’s expected to be a Day 2 selection.
Penn State offensive tackle Rasheed Walker
Walker, who played for North Point in Waldorf, was a four-star recruit and the fourth-best player in the state from the 2018 class, according to 247Sports. The 6-6, 313-pound Walker, who is projected to be a third- or fourth-round selection, started 22 games at left tackle while being named third-team All-Big Ten in 2020.
Penn State cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields
The Upper Marlboro native is another former Riverdale Baptist standout who also competed in track and field in high school. The 6-foot, 194-pound Castro-Fields, a former four-star prospect, was a four-year starter for the Nittany Lions, recording three interceptions, 25 pass breakups and a forced fumble in 52 games. He could be a late Day 2 or early Day 3 pick.
Maryland safety Nick Cross
Cross was a standout at DeMatha in Hyattsville, becoming the top player in the state from the 2019 recruiting class, according to 247Sports. The Bowie native recorded 134 tackles and five interceptions in three seasons at Maryland. The 6-foot, 212-pound Cross, a three time All-Big Ten honorable mention, is projected to be a late second-round or early third-round pick with the potential to develop into a starter in the NFL.
Maryland tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo
After missing the 2020 season because of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, Okonkwo returned in 2021 and played a key role in the Terps offense, recording 447 receiving yards and a team-best five touchdowns. Okonkwo, who ran the fastest 40-yard dash among his position group at the NFL scouting combine in March, is projected to be a Day 3 pick.
Stanford defensive end Thomas Booker
The Ellicott City native and former Gilman star ended his Stanford career on a high note, recording a career-high 59 tackles with five tackles for loss and 1 1/2 sacks. The 6-4, 309-pound Booker was also a standout student off the field, becoming a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, also known as the “Academic Heisman,” as a senior. He could be a late Day 3 pick or a priority free agent.
Missouri running back Tyler Badie
In 2005, the Badie family was displaced from their home in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and moved to Randallstown. Badie played recreation football for the Owings Mills Wolfpack before attending Friends School in Baltimore from sixth to 10th grade. He then played his junior season at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, Tennessee, as a defensive back before enjoying a breakout senior year, in which he rushed for 1,186 yards and 18 touchdowns. As a senior at Missouri, the 5-8, 197-pound running back set the school’s single-season rushing yards record with 1,604 and scored 14 touchdowns on 268 carries and also led the Tigers with 54 catches for 330 yards and four touchdowns. He could be a Day 3 pick.
Florida A&M safety Markquese Bell
The former four-star prospect left Maryland during his freshman year after being suspended indefinitely a few days before the season opener for an unspecified violation of the school’s student-athlete code of conduct. After spending time at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, the 6-3, 205-pound Bell transferred to Florida A&M, where he earned FCS All-America honors as a senior. He could come off the board on Day 3 or be a priority free agent.
Ole Miss linebacker Chance Campbell
After leading Maryland with 43 tackles in 2020, the 6-2, 240-pound Campbell transferred to Ole Miss, where he totaled 109 stops and six sacks last season. The Ellicott City native and former Calvert Hall standout is expected to be a priority free agent.
Ferris State wide receiver-kick returner Jared Bernhardt
Bernhardt played four seasons for Maryland men’s lacrosse, becoming the program’s all-time record holder in career points (290) and goals (202) and winning the 2021 Tewaaraton Award, given to the top player in college lacrosse. before transferring to Division II Ferris State to play quarterback. Bernhardt led the Bulldogs to a national championship, rushing for 1,421 yards and 26 touchdowns and completing 70.7% of his passes for 1,322 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
The 6-1, 195-pound Bernhardt, who was nominated for the 2021 Harlon Hill Trophy as the Division II College Football Player of the Year, is projected to play wide receiver and be a kick returner if he lands with a team.
Texas A&M edge rusher Tyree Johnson
The Washington native originally attended Bowie High before transferring to St. John’s College. A three-star recruit, he chose Texas A&M over Maryland, Rutgers, Virginia Tech and Tennessee. After being named to the SEC All-Freshman team in 2018, Johnson led the team in sacks with 8 1/2 as a senior last season. He’s expected to be a Day 3 selection.
West Virginia running back Leddie Brown
Brown started his prep career at Eastern Christian Academy in Elkton before moving to Smyrna High in Delaware after the Cecil County program shut down following his sophomore year. He then spent his senior year at Neumann-Goretti High in Philadelphia. The 6-foot, 213-pound Brown eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards as a junior and senior at West Virginia and was named first-team All-Big 12 in 2020. He’s expected to be a late Day 3 pick.
Virginia Tech cornerback Jermaine Waller
The Washington native started his prep career at Archbishop Carroll before transferring to The Avalon School in Gaithersburg. The three-star recruit was ranked the No. 18 prospect in Maryland in 2018. The 6-foot, 180-pound Waller recorded a career-high 24 pass breakups and seven interceptions in 2021 to earn second-team All-ACC honors. He’s expected to be a priority free agent.
Maryland defensive lineman Sam Okuayinonu
Okuayinonu, who spent three seasons at the junior college level before transferring to Maryland, benefited from an extra year of eligibility, racking up 55 tackles and a team-best six sacks. The 6-1, 269-pound Okuayinonu, a third-team All-Big Ten selection, is projected to be a priority free agent.
Maryland safety Jordan Mosley
The 6-1, 205-pound Mosley was the eighth highest-graded safety by Pro Football Focus last season after totaling 83 tackles (56 solo), eight pass breakups and one forced fumble in 13 starts for the Terps. He’s expected to be an undrafted free agent.
Maryland running back Tayon Fleet-Davis
The 6-1, 213-pound Davis rushed for a team-best 721 yards and eight touchdowns on 128 carries last season while also tallying 32 receptions for 305 yards and one touchdown. The Oxon Hill native rushed for a career-best 152 yards in the Terps’ regular-season finale against Rutgers. He’s expected to be an undrafted free agent.
Maryland defensive lineman Lawtez Rogers
The 6-3, 261-pound Rogers, who played for Eleanor Roosevelt in Greenbelt, started in 12 games for the Terps in 2021, recording 33 tackles (20 solo) and 4 1/2 tackles for loss. He’s expected to be an undrafted free agent.
Maryland kicker Joseph Petrino
The 6-foot, 180-pound Petrino went 13-for-20 on field-goal attempts as a senior to finish his Terps career 30-for-44 (68.2%). The first true freshman to start at kicker for the Terps since Brad Craddock in 2012, Petrino also hit a career-long 51-yard field goal in 2020, the longest for Maryland in three years. He’s expected to be an undrafted free agent.
Towson wide receiver Caleb Smith
The 5-11, 182-pound Smith caught 52 passes for 614 yards (11.8 yards per reception) and five touchdowns as a graduate student for the Tigers in 2021. He’s expected to be an undrafted free agent.
Towson running back Jerry Howard Jr.
After registering 1,114 all-purpose yards, including 850 rushing yards in four seasons for Georgia Tech, the 5-11, 222-pound Howard transferred to Towson, where he totaled a team-best 932 rushing yards and three touchdowns in 2021. He’s expected to be an undrafted free agent.
Towson cornerback Mark Collins Jr.
The 5-10, 185-pound Collins, who transferred to Towson from the University of South Dakota, was second on the Tigers with 40 tackles last season while recording two interceptions in nine games. He’s expected to be an undrafted free agent.
Towson offensive lineman Demarcus Gilmore
Gilmore played two seasons for the Tigers after transferring from Pasadena City College in California. In 2019, the 6-3, 331-pound Gilmore started all 12 games at right tackle, blocking for a Tigers offense that ranked fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association with 30.2 points per game. He’s expected to be an undrafted free agent.
Towson offensive lineman Andrew Garnett
The Upper Marlboro native and former Riverdale Baptist standout anchored the Tigers’ offensive line as the starting left tackle for three seasons. Earlier this month, the 6-5, 325-pound Garnett was honored as a member of the National Football Foundation (NFF) Hampshire Honor Society. He’s expected to be an undrafted free agent.
Delaware defensive back Nijuel Hill
The Baltimore native and former Calvert Hall standout was a sixth-year player for the Blue Hens and was named a team captain in 2019. The 5-10, 185-pound defensive back, who participated at Maryland’s pro day, recorded 30 tackles, four tackles for loss, one forced fumbled, one interception and six pass breakups last season to earn All-CAA second team honors. He was a first-team All-CAA pick the previous season. He’s expected to be an undrafted free agent.