Google Custom Search

Carl ‘Lut’ Williams
Black College Sports Page

There is an unusual number of significant and intriguing HBCU prospects for this week's NFL Draft that begins today (Thursday, April 27) and runs through Saturday (April 29). The popular and always-entertaining seven-round confab will be held outdoors for the first time ever at a theatre built on the famous "Rocky Steps" in draft logo

As many as ten HBCU products have legitimate shots at making it into this year’s draft, a significant number given the fact that it would be the highest number and only double-digit haul since 13 were taken in the 2000 draft (see chart below). ESPN, ESPN2 and the NFL Network will carry the festivities live.

While none of this year's prospects has the cachet of 2016 top black college pick Javon Hargrave, the outstanding defensive tackle out of South Carolina State who was taken in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, the sheer number of HBCU products getting major looks by the league’s teams should make this year's draft quite interesting.

No HBCU player is projected to go off the boards in the first round slated to start Thursday at 8 p.m. If that’s the case, and all indications say it will be, it continues a trend that has seen no HBCU player go in the first round since Tennessee State defensive back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie went with the 16th pick overall to Arizona in 2008. DRC is now with the New York Giants.

Things could get interesting on Friday however, the draft’s second day, with the first picks going off at 7 p.m.

While some draft experts project diminutive (5-6, 179) record-setting North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen to go as late as the seventh round on Saturday’s final day, NFL Media Draft Analyst Lance Zierlein expects the elusive scatback to go much earlier.

“I’ll be shocked if he makes it outside of the fourth round, because he’s a special type of running back that will only fit for certain teams,” said Zierlein on one his many draft posts on “We know it’s become a New England thing,” he said of the Super Bowl champion Patriots, “but for other teams who want to copy-cat that, this guy is going to be a weapon that you have to plan for when you draft him, but when you do, you’ve got yourself something special, especially out of the backfield.”

Cohen, who had the third fastest 40-yard dash time (4.42 seconds) amongst running backs at the Combine, rushed for 56 touchdowns and an MEAC record 5,619 yards in his four-year A&T career, the second highest total in HBCU history. He was also a dangerous weapon out of the backfield catching 98 passes for another 985 yards and three scores. Scouts consider him a slightly smaller version of the Philadelphia Eagles’ multi-talented running back/kick returner Darren Sproles (5-6, 190).

“You really have to go watch him,” Zierlein said last week of Cohen on the Ringer NFL Show hosted by Robert Mays. “If you want to talk about a guy who can annihilate people on option routes, (Stanford’s) Christian McCaffrey is good, Cohen is elite. He has tremendous stop-start quickness, like with a lot of running backs who are small. He’s got just ridiculous acceleration out of cuts, but he is basically impossible to handle out of the backfield.”

It’s clear that at least the Cohen’s supporters agree with Zierlein. They’ve planned a private draft party for him on Friday when picks in rounds two and three will be made.

One of the biggest movers up the draft boards has been massive (6-4, 335) defensive tackle Grover Stewart out of Div. II 

bcsp flag 125

Albany State. A four-time all-SIAC performer, Stewart was a Combine snub, but according to Tony Pauline of Draft Analysis every team in the league was expected to be at the Golden Rams’ Pro Day, something that rarely happens even at Power Five schools. Stewart has had as many as 17 workouts or visits with teams and had to turn down others because of scheduling conflicts. He could be a surprise Day 2 selection.

The bulk of the HBCU prospects appear in line for Day 3 when the league's 32 teams pick rounds four through seven. The fun gets underway Saturday at noon.

South Carolina State offensive tackle Javarius Leamon (6-7, 325) and Tennessee State guard Jessamen Dunker (6-4, 318) were two of the four HBCU players – along with Cohen and Tennessee State defensive back Ezra Robinson – who got to show their stuff at the Combine. Leamon and Dunker are ranked 10th and 12th respectively at their positions in an offensive lineman class that is considered below par. They will likely find themselves selected early on Saturday.

A big offensive line sleeper is Alabama State’s 6-8, 317-pound Jylan Ware who has an 84 ½-inch wingspan, 34-inch arms and 10-inch hands and a reputation for mauling. He has received a lot of buzz heading into the draft and is said to have to tools to be a starting left tackle in the future.

One name in just about every Mock Draft has been Jackson State linebacker Javancy Jones who elbowed his way into the conversation with an outstanding performance at the East/West Shrine Bowl. At 6-1, 245, Jones was a tackling machine for the Tigers making plays all over the field either off the edge as a defensive end or inside at linebacker. He had 74 ½ stops behind the line in his career and projects as a dynamite special teamer that could work his way into being an every down player. The Pittsburgh Steelers came in for a private workout with Jones on April 14 and came away impressed. Perhaps Jones reminds them of former Fort Valley State and Steeler stud Greg Lloyd who followed a similar path.

Robinson (5-11, 189) is considered the top HBCU defensive back in this year's draft and has been given a draftable grade at his position. Grambling State wide receiver Chad Williams (6-1, 204) and Alabama State tight end Brandon Barnes (6-5, 255) are the top two pass-catching prospects. Each has generated some buzz with their performances leading up to the draft.

Perhaps the biggest HBCU talent and certainly the biggest enigma is former Texas Southern basketball and football standout Derrick Griffin (6-7, 230). Griffin was considered one of the top receiving prospects in the nation out of a high school in the Dallas area but could not qualify academically at either Texas A&M or Miami. Instead, he enrolled at TSU.

In the 2015-16 season as a freshman, Griffin was a second-team all-SWAC receiver in football and first team all-SWAC forward in basketball, sweeping the player and defensive player of the year awards in the latter. This year as a sophomore, he was dismissed from the football team after just two games and quit the basketball team after 13 games to prepare for the draft.

Scouts say his skill set and athleticism are "off-the-charts," likening him to a bigger version of Randy Moss. That’s intriguing, to say the least.

The number of HBCU players taken in every draft since 1995

2016 3
'15 4
'14 2
'13 2
'12 1
'11 4
'10 2
'09 4
'08 5
'07 5
'06 3
'05 6
'04 2
'03 8
'02 5
'01 4
'00 13
1999 7
'98 8
'97 13
'96 17
'95 13

Please consider supporting our work.

The pandemic has financial consequences, especially for Black-owned businesses. Ad revenue is shrinking so we are asking you directly for your financial support. You can use the Cash App and contribute to $onnidan or process your donation through Square