Each year, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) produce multiple NFL players. This year, you might have heard about the likes of Markquese Bell, the very talented safety of Florida A&M, and the superstar quarterback of Aqeel Glass from Alabama A&M. Here are four under-the-radar HBCU prospects in this year’s draft class.
1) Trey Gross, Delaware State:
Kicking off our underrated HBCU prospects list, we travel out to Dover, Delaware where Trey Gross went from walk-on to superstar for the Hornets. The tri-sport athlete (football, basketball, and track and field) has showcased how special of a talent he is. Trey comes in at 6’4 and 210 pounds as a prototype wide receiver two. With a great balance of athleticism and physicality, he excelled in the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) this past season with 48 receptions for 625 receiving yards and 13 receiving touchdowns. His release off the line of scrimmage combined with his long strides makes him a hard task for defensive coordinators to plan against. His basketball background helps him jump and box out defenders when it comes to jump ball situations, as he high points the football with overwhelming success.
The YAC (yards after catch) isn’t extremely high, but his willpower second effort is, as he puts his head down and fights for an extra yard, which can result in a first down or touchdown. Another underrated aspect of his game is the experience of being a special teamer at Delaware State, which will help him make a possible 53 man roster. Trey’s game resembles Mike Williams of the Los Angeles Chargers and should be a high-quality UDFA (undrafted free agent) in this year’s class.
2) Christian Clark, Alabama State:
Christian is an absolute unit of an interior defensive lineman at 6’0, 343 pounds of raw strength and power. He maintains gap assignments and clogs up the run lanes. He has that Vince Wilfork effect that you don’t want to run up the middle against him. You would think a man of this size couldn’t move very quickly, but his athleticism is up to par. and is one of the reasons why he gained so many TFLs (tackles for loss) over his 6 years at Alabama State. He utilizes his superb one-arm tackling ability to help stop running backs while being engaged with offensive linemen.
Christian also drives back the center, blowing up the play consistently showing that you can have him as a nose tackle or guard and he will be very effective. At the NFL level, I think he will succeed in a two-line rotation that will have him be interchange with other defensive linemen for run-stopping situational downs.
3) Al Young, Jackson State:
Al was a graduate transfer from Southeast Missouri State of the OVC (Ohio Valley Conference). The 5’11, 195-pound superstar cornerback is well balanced in both man and zone coverage. Off the line of scrimmage, Al will stay stride for stride with WR1’s of the opposing teams. With very fluent hips, he can flip and recover over the deep middle. In the red zone, he will out leverage his opponents more so towards the boundaries making it almost impossible for the receiver to be much of a factor.
Also, he has great play recognition and the instinct to break on the ball and get a possible interception or a pass breakup. He isn’t afraid to open field tackle running backs, tight ends, or receivers, as he will actually bring the lumber and use all of his momentum hitting the opponent. His playstyle reminds me of the great Al Harris, who played fourteen seasons in the NFL. I wouldn’t be surprised if we heard Al’s name called on day three of this year’s draft.
4) Jadakis Bonds, Hampton:
Rounding out of under-the-radar HBCU prospects, Bonds is one of the best receivers out of all HBCUs. If you head back to the 2019 season, Jadakis posted an incredible sophomore campaign, with 15 receiving touchdowns, which was tied for second in the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision), only behind Juwan Green of Albany. Standing at a lengthy 6’4, 190 pounds, he has tremendous speed to go with his long body. He has experience with former FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) quarterbacks throwing to him in Deondre Francois (Florida State/Hampton) and Jett Duffey (Texas Tech/Hampton).
Additionally, his ability to play both outside receiver positions and inside provides max experience and flexibility to teams. He has natural soft hands for easy receptions, with little drops in the 2019 & 2021 seasons. The red zone back shoulder fades to him were almost like free points just coming down with everything. His footwork out of breaks is smooth and quick and helps with double moves resulting in some plays getting him wide open. I find his game very similar to a young Brandon Marshall, and he could be a shocking 7th round selection in this year’s draft.
Entering this year’s NFL draft, people should keep their eyes on these four HBCU prospects. Also make sure to check out some other recent scouting reports including the 2022 QB class, Ikem Ekwonu, and Andrew Booth Jr.