The decrease in HBCU players being selected in the NFL Draft over time has become a sore topic at the schools, and it peaked after none were taken in last year’s seven-round event.
In response, the inaugural HBCU Legacy Bowl, a postseason all-star game, and several new combines were held this year to help put a spotlight on the players.
Heading toward the April 28-30 draft, The Analyst called on a roundtable of experts who know the value of prospects coming from the FCS – Emory Hunt of Football Gameplan and CBSSportsHQ, Jordan Reid of ESPN and Ric Serritella of NFL Draft Bible on Sports Illustrated. Over five days this week, we’re picking their brains on how the FCS class stacks up in this year’s NFL Draft.
Our fourth question surrounds the leading draft prospects coming from FCS HBCU programs:
The attention on HBCU programs has been high recently, although they didn’t have a draft selection last year. Can you size up this year’s leading HBCU prospects?
Emory Hunt (@FBallGameplan), Football Gameplan/CBSSportsHQ
“What a strong year of HBCU prospects. I think we’ll see maybe four guys drafted this cycle from the (FCS) HBCU ranks: Southern offensive lineman Ja’Tyre Carter, Florida A&M defensive back Markquese Bell, South Carolina State cornerback Decobie Durant and Jackson State linebacker James Houston. No surprise that three of the four guys – Carter, Durant and Bell – had really good NFL Combine workouts on top of their performances at the Senior, East-West Shrine and NFLPA bowls, respectively. Houston was a stud at both the NFLPA Bowl and Shrine Bowl, showcasing his versatility as an off-ball linebacker. He arguably should’ve won Defensive MVP in the Shrine Bowl.
“We talked about Aqeel Glass (Alabama A&M) perhaps being another player drafted, which would be the first HBCU QB taken since the late Tavaris Jackson back in 2006. There are a host of players that will find themselves on NFL rosters coming from HBCUs. I would venture out to say at least 10 coming from the HBCU FCS ranks. Keep an eye on some wide receivers such as Dee Anderson of Alabama A&M, Trey Gross of Delaware State and Marquis McClain of Southern.”
Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid), ESPN
“As you know, I’m high on South Carolina State cornerback Decobie Durant and how much he’s helped himself this year, but there are others worth mentioning that have a chance to end the HBCU draftee drought. Along with Durant in the fourth or fifth round, the FCS possibilities include Florida A&M safety Markquese Bell in the fourth or fifth round and Southern interior offensive lineman Ja’Tyre Carter in the sixth or seventh round. Alabama A&M QB Aqeel Glass has a chance, but is more likely a priority free agent.”
Ric Serritella (@RicSerritella), NFL Draft Bible on Sports Illustrated
“The HBCU Legacy Bowl in New Orleans was a great platform for HBCU prospects to showcase their skill set. Several notable players in attendance have a chance to hear their name called late during the 2022 draft. Alabama A&M wideout Dee Anderson often found himself on the receiving end of fellow NFL Draft prospect and teammate Aqeel Glass. Both players have an outside shot to hear their name called late on Day 3, with Anderson drawing many comparisons to Darren Waller (Las Vegas Raiders) as a possible tight end-conversion prospect.
“Linebacker James Houston (of Jackson State) can line up at any position in the second level. He was impressive at both the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and East-West Shrine Bowl, where he showcased some of his off-ball skills. Lack of prototypical size may prevent him from being drafted, but he owns ‘make it’ traits.
“Who is the top prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft from HBCU? That distinction would seem to belong to (Norfolk State defensive end) De’Shaan Dixon, who dazzled during the all-star circuit and projects as a solid mid-round selection.”