The top HBCU football prospects in the 2023 NFL draft
The 2023 postseason all-star circuit is over and the NFL draft is here. After HBCU players like James Houston IV, Joshua Williams, Decobie Durant, Ja’Tyre Carter and De’Shaan Dixon all had an impact as rookies last fall, it’s time to see who could be the next HBCU prospects to land at the next level.
Let’s take a look at the top HBCU prospects in the 2023 cycle.
The top three prospects
LB Isaiah Land | Florida A&M
Florida A&M’s Isaiah Land is a former Buck Buchanan Award winner and enters the 2023 NFL draft as one of two HBCU players that received an invite to the NFL combine. Land can immediately contribute on an NFL team as a pass rusher as shown by his 27 sacks in the last two years. Land gets the nod as the top prospect after an impressive Senior Bowl where he had a sack and tackle for loss.
MORE: What happened in the 2022 HBCU football season | 2022 Celebration Bowl | Final 2022 Rankings
OL Mark Evans II | Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Mark Evans II is the other HBCU prospect with an invite to the NFL combine. Evans played left tackle for much of his career at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but moved all across the offensive line at the East-West Shrine Bowl. Evans only allowed two sacks in his final season and will likely become the first Golden Lion drafted since Terron Armstead in 2013.
LB Aubrey Miller | Jackson State
Aubrey Miller championed the Jackson State defense that ranked among the best in the FCS in every category over the last two seasons. Miller, the 2022 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year, followed up an impressive season with seven tackles (five solo) in the Senior Bowl. If Miller is drafted, he’ll make it back-to-back years a Jackson State linebacker was selected in the NFL draft (James Houston).
#HBCU stars Isaiah Land & Aubrey Miller Jr. not only had strong @seniorbowl week practice but nailed it in game.
Land lined up at both DE & LB tallying a sack & 1.5 TFL while Miller led all w/ 7-tackles – Game clips from @nflnetwork @Loose_Qannon @IsaiahLand716 #NFLDraft #NFL pic.twitter.com/8MG8UdQkEx
— Scott Pioli (@scottpioli51) February 6, 2023
The pass catchers
WR Shaquan Davis | South Carolina State
In a deep HBCU wide receiver class, Shaquan Davis stands out as the best. Davis single-handedly took over the 2021 Celebration Bowl with three touchdowns, returning in 2022 to catch 11 touchdowns despite inconsistent quarterback play. Davis uses his 6’5 frame to make contested catches while being a big play threat. Davis also played in the East-West Shrine Bowl, making one catch.
Celebration Bowl MVP Shaq Davis discusses South Carolina State’s victory over Jackson State
WR Jadakis Bonds | Hampton
Jadakis Bonds is another standout HBCU wide receiver. Bonds caught 10 touchdowns and averaged 17.4 yards per catch in his final season. Bonds is another big target at 6’4′ and uses his catch radius to make impact plays. He caught two passes in the East-West Shrine Bowl.
TE Kemari Averett | Bethune-Cookman
Pass-catching tight ends are all the rave in the NFL, creating mismatches for defenses everywhere. Kemari Averett fits the mold at 6’6 with 17 receiving touchdowns to his name. Averett’s path led him from Louisville to Bethune-Cookman to the NFL PA Bowl. Now, the NFL could be next.
BEST IN CLASS: The top HBCU football players, by position, from the 2022 season
WR Xavier Smith | Florida A&M
Xavier Smith is the fastest riser in the 2023 pre-draft process. Fast is an apt word for Smith, who ran a reported 4.3-second 40-yard dash at the HBCU Combine. Smith is on the smaller end as a receiver at 5’10, but that didn’t matter when he notched a 1000-yard season at Florida A&M this fall. Smith followed that up by winning HBCU Legacy Bowl Offensive MVP honors after catching six passes for 85 yards and a touchdown.
.@FAMU_FB WR and @HBCULegacyBowl player Xavier Smith (@Shinetime_863) smokes his 40 yard dash at the HBCU @NFL Combine 💨 pic.twitter.com/WozWKteHDT
— HBCU LEGACY BOWL (@HBCULegacyBowl) February 20, 2023
MORE: Breaking down the 2023 HBCU Legacy Bowl rosters, how to watch and more
WR Dallas Daniels | Jackson State
If you watched a Jackson State game in 2022, Dallas Daniels was hard to miss. He caught six touchdown passes with the Tigers, showing off his speed and explosiveness. Daniels played in the East-West Shrine game during the postseason, catching two passes for 16 yards.
WR JJ Holloman | Tennessee State
JJ Holloman caught just one touchdown last year, but looks the part of an NFL receiver standing at 6’2 and 215 pounds. Holloman’s athleticism is intriguing, and it’s part of the reason why he began his career with the Georgia Bulldogs.
MEAC VS SWAC: 16 of the best MEAC/SWAC Challenge moments
The defensive backs
CB Kennan Issac | Alabama State
Keenan Issac has had a busy offseason, playing in the NFL PA Bowl and the HBCU Legacy Bowl, impressing scouts at both. Issac is a bigger cornerback at 6’2, with size and athleticism that transfers to the next level.
CB Isaiah Bolden | Jackson State
Isaiah Bolden is a versatile defensive back, capable of playing outside, in the slot or even as a return man. Bolden played in the NFL PA Bowl after a Jackson State career with two kick return touchdowns, 55 tackles and eight pass breakups.
🏆: HBCU football championship history
CB De’Jahn Warren | Jackson State
De’Jahn “Nugget” Warren is a tantalizing prospect. Warren was formerly the No. 1 JUCO recruit in the country, choosing Jackson State over Georgia. At Jackson State, he finished with 51 tackles, six pass breakups and an interception. What stands out most is Warren’s off-the-charts athleticism, reportedly running a 4.36 40-yard dash at the HBCU combine that had scouts buzzing.
🚨Take a look at De’Jahn “Nugget” Warren showing off some of his skills at the NFL HBCU COMBINE 👀🔥‼️ #nfl #hbcucombine #nflhbcucombine #nfldraft #nflnews #hbculegacybowl #jsufootball #hbcu #swac pic.twitter.com/JIaoMx0O6P
— Elizabeth Stamps (@Stamp5Elizabeth) February 21, 2023
The pass rushers
Here are some of the top pass rushers — outside of Isaiah Land — available from FCS HBCUs:
DE Jermaine McDaniel Jr. | North Carolina A&T
LB Ronnie Thomas | Mississippi Valley State
DT/FB Jason Dumas | Southern
LB Jordan Lewis | Southern
DE Keshaun Moore | Hampton
In the HBCU Legacy Bowl, Jermaine McDaniel showed what fans missed out on during an injury-shortened 2022, and Jason Dumas won Defensive MVP honors. Southern edge-turned-linebacker Jordan Lewis is also among the group. He won the Spring 2021 Buck Buchanan Award. Overall, the defensive line class of HBCU prospects in the 2023 cycle is deep.
Southern University (@GeauxJags) EDGE Jason Dumas (@JaSionGr8House) gets a sack on a great pass rush rep in HBCU Legacy Bowl pic.twitter.com/WLfCbrc7Zj
— Devy IDP Grind Podcast (@DevyIDPGrind) February 26, 2023
MORE: How HBCU coaches with pro football experience performed in 2022
Robert Mitchell | North Carolina Central
Robert Mitchell stands out as the top HBCU offensive lineman not named Mark Evans. Mitchell won MEAC Offensive Lineman of the Year last year and didn’t allow a sack. Mitchell had arguably the top week of any offensive lineman at the HBCU Legacy Bowl.
🐐: The greatest individual seasons in HBCU football history
The Division II HBCU prospects
QB Dion Golatt Jr. | Bowie State
RB Darius Hagans | Virginia State
RB Emanuel Wilson | Fort Valley State
DE Andrew Farmer | Lane
DL Joshua Pryor | Bowie State
CB Brandon Barnes-Brown | Fayetteville State
S Raymond Boone | Bowie State
Running backs Darius Hagans and Emanuel Wilson each played in the NFL PA Bowl and HBCU Legacy Bowl. Both have boosted their draft stock immensely and have a shot to land with an NFL team, especially after Hagans ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the HBCU Combine.
On defense, defensive ends Andrew Farmer and Joshua Pryor continue the deep 2023 HBCU defensive line class. Farmer ran a 4.72 40-yard dash, jumped 38 inches in the vertical and jumped 9’10 in the broad jump at the HBCU Combine, while Pryor had two sacks and three tackles for loss in the HBCU Legacy Bowl. In the secondary, cornerback Brandon Barnes-Brown looks to follow in his former teammate and current Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Joshua Williams, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL draft.
Joshua Pryor | DL | Bowie State University 📈
– Quick Hands
– Run ➡️ Pass transition
– Ankle flexibility
– 2nd Gear after clearing blocker@DraftHBCU pic.twitter.com/FYY4YuEclp
— Gerald J. Huggins II, M.A. (@Coach_HugginsJr) February 23, 2023
CAN’T MISS: 6 HBCU football game-day atmospheres that you need to experience
12 HBCU players were selected in the 2023 USFL draft. See the selections below:
Here’s a look at the HBCU athletes who were selected in yesterday’s 2023 College draft 👏
Who was your favorite player to watch in college? pic.twitter.com/kfHa2XW0xb
— USFL (@USFL) February 22, 2023