When only one HBCU player was drafted following the 2022 HBCU Football Season, I was honestly as shocked as most HBCU fans. It was common knowledge in HBCU circles that the amount of talent at the HBCU level was remarkable and there were plenty of players with NFL talent. NFL teams were aware also, because only moments after the draft HBCU players went flying off the board. Which HBCU players are making the most of their opportunities? In this article we will examine 7 HBCU players hoping to make NFL rosters and predict their chances.
1) Shaq Davis, WR (South Carolina State) - New Orleans Saints
Shaq Davis - has had two impressive outings with the New Orleans Saints
Week 1 - He had two catches for 20 yards. The catch was very impressive, high jumping over a defender. At the end of the game to help the Saints win.
Week 2 - Shaq Davis caught 3 passes for 63 yards leading all receivers in receiving yards. He was also targeted in the end zone on critical downs. The catches were all impressive and showed his leaping ability. He also had a touchdown that was taken off the board by a penalty. Coach Dennis Allen mentioned Shaq Davis in his post game press conference saying he’s a big tall receiver and winning jump balls is where he is going to make his money.
Will he make the team: Yes, we predict he makes the practice squad, at minimum, as the Saints have several receiving options in Michael Thomas, Rashid Shaheed, Chris Olave, fellow rookie A.T. Perry, Tre’Quan Smith, Bryan Edwards. However, Davis has seemed to jump players like Lynn Bowden Jr and Jontre Kirklin, but he doesn’t contribute on special teams and the Saints want to keep 4 Tight Ends which may limit how many Wide Receivers they keep.
2) Isaiah Land, LB (FAMU) - Dallas Cowboys
Isaiah Land, the FAMU sack master, - in Week 1 - against the Jaguars, Land didn’t have much impact, but he did have two assisted tackles.
In week 2 - Land had a much bigger impact having two tackles, one assist, and his first sack
Will he make the team: Yes, we believe Land at least make the practice squad. He has shown that he can impact the passer, also the Cowboys have a history of taking FAMU players. We think he makes the squad.
3) Aubrey Miller Jr., LB (Jackson State) - Miami Dolphins
Aubrey Miller Linebacker - Miami Dolphins
Aubrey Miller is making noise in camp as a bit of a fan favorite. He RKO’ed one of his Miami Teammates at camp in jest to the delight of Miami Fans.
In his game against the Falcons he had one solo tackle and one assist.
In his second game Aubrey Miller didn’t record any stats.
Will he make the team: In May, Aubrey signed a 3-year contract worth $2.7 million with the Dolphins. He should be comfortably on the team, but it’s something to watch.
4) Xavier Smith, WR (FAMU) - Los Angeles Rams
Xavier Smith - Wide Receiver from FAMU didn’t have much impact in week 1 recording no stats other than two punt returns. However he was the only player returning punts, which is a sign that there is an avenue for him to make the team through special teams contributions.
In Week 2 - Xavier Smith was more effective but only recorded 1 catch. The catch though was a 25 yard highlight catch, which showed flashes of the “The X Man” every SWAC team could not stop last season.
This time Xavier Smith was used as a Kick Returner with 3 returns averaging 15.7 yards per return. There is some stiff competition for that job though as Wide Receiver Demarcus Robinson had 1 return for 24 yards.
Will he make the team: This one is hard to call, he has made plays, but he hasn’t made enough of an impact in games to make that call. If he is able to make the team, he will make it through his special teams contribution. He will have to show more impact in the third preseason game.
5) Emmanuel Wilson, RB (Fort Valley State) - Denver Broncos
Emmanuel Wilson - Running Back Green Bay Packers is a Phenomenal Story - from D2 Fort Valley State the running back initially signed with the Denver Broncos, but Coach Sean Payton like he did with Jackson State Wide Receiver Dallas Daniels gave Wilson the boot.
Wilson then signed with the Green Bay Packers and in his first preseason game he put the NFL world on notice. Wilson had the most productive week of all HBCU players running for 111 yards on 6 Carries and 2 Touchdowns.
One run was an 80 yard burst that showed all the speed Wilson could bring to the Packers.
In week 2 Wilson followed up that performance with a solid outing again out pacing all Packers running backs with 63 yards on 15 carries. He even contributed through the air with two catches for 15 yards.
Will he make the team: Yes, the Packers have two great running backs ahead of Wilson, but he brings a different speed element to the position. If they cut him at this point he will be signed to another team in short order. They won’t take that risk, and make the same mistake the Broncos did.
6) Darius Hagans, RB (Virginia State) - Indianapolis Colts
Darius Hagans Running Back from Virginia State didn’t have quite the impact in Week 1 with the Steelers. Only going 15 yards on 5 carries. One reception for one yard.
Hagans did even less in his second outing rushing for 3 yards on two Carries.
He also did not contribute on special teams as a returner.
Will he make the team: Unfortunately, we don’t see a way that Hagans will make the roster. It’s not the lack of production it’s the lack of opportunities that give us pause. As a running back to only get 3 touches in a preseason game means that a player may be a camp body. If Hagans can have a great 3rd preseason game there may be a chance but we don’t believe so.
7) Isaiah Bolden Cornerback (Jackson State) -
drafted by New England Patriots
Finally we will wrap it up with the one HBCU player drafted. That’s cornerback Isaiah Bolden with the New England Patriots.
Bolden had a great outing in Week 1. Showing off his 4.3 speed as a return specialist. He recorded two tackles and had a kick return for 26 yards.
In Week 2 made National News. He went down New England’s preseason game with the Green Bay Packers was called off on Saturday night after Bolden was carted off the field early in the fourth quarter. The Patriots said after the game that Bolden had feeling in all his extremities. Fortunately, Bolden is back with the team and in good spirits after this scare. His injury caused the stoppage of the preseason game. Both teams agreed to end play completely.
Will he make the team: Yes, his contribution on special teams as a return specialist makes it easy for us to see a pathway to the roster for Bolden. Barring serious injury, If he does not make the roster he will get another opportunity to make a practice squad.