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Stan Becton | | April 27, 2022

Here are 20 HBCU football players to know entering the 2022 NFL draft

Celebration Bowl MVP Shaq Davis discusses South Carolina State's victory over Jackson State

The 2022 NFL draft is approaching and several HBCU football prospects will land on professional teams. With increased exposure from the HBCU Combine and HBCU Legacy Bowl, many HBCU players have drawn the attention of NFL scouts.

Here's a look at the HBCU football players you need to know before the 2022 NFL draft.

Offensive Skill Positions

QB Aqeel Glass | Alabama A&M

Alabama A&M product Aqeel Glass was the best quarterback in HBCU football the last two seasons. In the postseason bowl circuit, Glass continued his success, completing 81 percent of his passes for 141 yards and a touchdown in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. He's one of the 10 best quarterbacks in this draft class.

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RB Jah-Maine Martin | North Carolina A&T

In 2019, running back Jah-Maine Martin led the FCS with 23 touchdowns while averaging 7.7 yards per carry. Martin didn't play in 2020 (pandemic cancellation), and in 2021, his production dipped because of a sprained MCL injury. However, Martin is back healthy and displayed pass-catching ability at the HBCU Combine that complimented his downhill-running style seen on film. 

WR Trey Gross | Delaware State

Trey Gross was one of the best HBCU receivers in 2021, bursting on the scene with 13 receiving touchdowns. Gross is a big-play threat with the ability to go get footballs in places that opposing defenders can't.

CIRCLING BACK: The final HBCU football power rankings for the 2021 season

WR/TE Marquis McClain | Southern

Wide receiver Marquis McClain got on NFL radars with his 10-foot-2 broad jump at the HBCU Combine. It showed off athleticism to go with his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame. The former Auburn Tiger then displayed his playmaking ability at the inaugural HBCU Legacy Bowl with impressive catches.

WR/TE Dee Anderson Alabama A&M

Dee Anderson found a home at Alabama A&M after previous stops at LSU and Oklahoma State. Now, the 6-foot-6 pass-catcher has the attention of NFL teams as a versatile prospect that could play at wide receiver or tight end.

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TE Isiah Macklin | North Carolina Central

North Carolina Central's Isaiah Macklin began his college football career as a wide receiver for San Diego State before switching to tight end for the Eagles. The decision paid off as Macklin was one of the standouts all week during the HBCU Legacy Bowl practices. Macklin also participated in front of NFL scouts at Duke's pro day.

Offensive linemen

OG Keenan Forbes | Florida A&M

Keenan Forbes was an HBCU All-American in each of the last two seasons as a starter for Florida A&M. Forbes drew eyes from NFL scouts all season long and projects as a guard at the next level.

OT/OG Ja'Tyre Carter | Southern

Ja'Tyre Carter is one of the top 2022 NFL draft prospects from an HBCU this cycle. After a solid week at the Senior Bowl and an impressive showing at his pro day, Carter has virtually locked himself in as an NFL draft pick.

OT Cam Durley | Tennessee State

At 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, Cam Durley has the size that projects to the next level. Durley grew up in Saudi Arabia and attended Kansas before transferring to Tennessee State, where he received NFL-quality coaching from the likes of Eddie George. Durley plays with a mixture of physicality and finesse that could entice NFL scouts.

OT Jay Jackson-Williams | Florida A&M

Jay Jackson-Williams might have the most unique path of any prospect in the entire NFL draft. He began his career at San Diego State as a walk-on tight end, then transferred to Grossmont College — a junior college — where he switched to offensive tackle. Jackson-Williams became one of the best JUCO players in the nation, leading him to sign with Florida State. After missing summer workouts due to COVID-19, Jackson-Williams entered the transfer portal in search of another opportunity. He landed at Florida A&M where he earned All-SWAC honors in his lone season.

As Jay Jackson-Williams prepares for his next stop in his football career, he is an intriguing prospect for NFL teams thanks to his size — his nearly 37-inch arms caught the attention of multiple scouts at his pro day — and FBS experience.

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Defensive linemen

DE De'Shaan Dixon | Norfolk State

No player did more for his draft stock at the HBCU Legacy Bowl than De'Shaan Dixon. Dixon was arguably the top performer, dominating in practice and during the game. Dixon is a prototypical 4-3 defensive end with length, power and speed that translates to the next level.

DL Keyshawn James | Fayetteville State

Fayetteville State's Keyshawn James can move all around the defensive line, whether it's inside at defensive tackle or on the edge. James' numbers rose with each season he played for the Broncos, culminating with his 2021 CIAA Defensive Player of the Year selection. As a versatile prospect with a relentless motor, James can contribute to an NFL team.

THE BEST: Here are the greatest individual seasons in HBCU football history 

DE Michael Badejo | Texas Southern

Michael Badejo is a late riser in the NFL draft process, drawing the attention of many teams, including the Chicago Bears. Badejo began his career at SMU before transferring to Texas Southern where he showcased his athleticism off the edge. Badejo is rising up NFL draft boards and could find himself as a Day 3 pick.

Edge/DL Jerry Garner | Mississippi Valley State

Jerry Garner helped lead Mississippi Valley State to its highest win total since 2012 this fall and now makes his case for the next level. Garner played all over the Delta Devil defensive line, lining up from the interior to out on the edge. In the pros, Garner may move to an OLB in a 3-4 scheme based on his size, but he should get to rush the passer nonetheless.

ALL-HBCU: The top players, by position, in the 2021 HBCU football season

Defensive skill positions

Edge/LB James Houston | Jackson State

James Houston was one of the best pass rushers in the FCS in 2021, finishing as a Buck Buchanan Award finalist. He played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and East-West Shrine Bowl, displaying versatility as a pass rusher and stand-up linebacker. 

LB Keonte Hampton | Jackson State

If you need someone who can tackle, Keonte Hampton is your guy. The Jackson State linebacker and former SWAC Defensive Player of the Year is a tackling machine that manned one of the top defenses in the FCS this fall.  

CB Decobie Durant | South Carolina State

Decobie Durant shined on the biggest stage during his final collegiate season, with two interceptions against FBS-ranked Clemson and winning Defensive MVP in the Celebration Bowl. He was a shutdown corner in the MEAC and had an impressive combine performance, including a 4.38 40-yard dash. Durant's résumé will lead to his selection in the NFL draft.

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CB Joshua Williams | Fayetteville State

Joshua Williams could be the first player picked from an HBCU in the 2022 NFL draft. Coming from Division II, CIAA program Fayetteville State, Williams is a big corner standing at 6-foot-3 with almost 33-inch arms. He was invited to the NFL Combine and later ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at his pro day. Williams checks off numerous boxes teams like to see in NFL corners and could be a Day 2 selection.

S Markquese Bell | Florida A&M

Before Markquese Bell ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, he was already touted as one of the best HBCU prospects in the 2022 NFL draft. Bell boosted his stock with his combine performance, validating his film as a rangy but physical safety.

DB Will Adams | Virginia State

Will Adams was the star of the HBCU Combine. The 6-foot-1, 186-pound defensive back ran a 4.57 40-yard dash, put up 21 reps on the bench press, had a 40.5-inch vertical and jumped 10-foot-3 in the broad jump. On the field, Adams put on a show in position drills, catching the eyes of many, including former NFL cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

"That man has some juice. He's explosive," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "That was smooth. Exactly how you want to see a DB get out of breaks."

While an injury kept Will Adams out of the HBCU Legacy Bowl, he remains on NFL radars entering the draft.

RECAP: See all that happened in the 2021 HBCU Football season

If those weren't enough here are 10 additional HBCU prospects for the 2022 NFL draft you should know.

  • ATH Ladarius Skelton | Southern
  • WR Josh Wilkes | Arkansas-Pine Bluff
  • WR Keith Corbin | Jackson State
  • IOL Jalen Powell | Norfolk State
  • DL Antwan Owens | Jackson State
  • LB Wes Bowers | Bowie State
  • CB Al Young | Jackson State
  • CB Zafir Kelly | South Carolina State
  • CB Joshua Flowers | Winston-Salem State
  • DB Myles Wolfolk | Bowie State

If you like Taysom Hill of the New Orleans Saints, you should like Southern's Ladarius Skelton. Skelton played quarterback in the fall, but has worked out at nearly every offensive skill position this offseason. He could be a Swiss army knife for an NFL team.

Also among the remaining offensive skill position players are wide receivers Josh Wilkes and Keith Corbin, two playmakers from the SWAC. In the trenches lies Jalen Powell, a versatile interior offensive lineman that can play either guard or center at the next level.

Physical defensive lineman Antwan Owens and athletic linebacker Wes Bowers round out the front seven, while a quartet of defensive backs finishes the list. Cornerback Al Young allowed a completion percentage of just 32.8 percent last fall, and Joshua Flowers is a lengthy cornerback with a knack for the ball. Keep an eye on Myles Wolfolk too; he's a former starter for the North Carolina Tar Heels and participated in UNC's pro day.

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