HBCU prospects for the NFL draft

North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen in action. (AJC)

FLOWERY BRANCH — There’s always  some hidden gems and solid NFL prospects from the historically black colleges and universities.

The Colts drafted Atlanta’s Robert Mathis out of Alabama A&M in the fifth round of the 2003 draft. He went on to play 14 seasons.

The Falcons didn’t re-sign Eric Weems, who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Bethune-Cookman. He signed with Tennessee.

Before the Falcons faced the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, the NFL had a tribute featuring Hall of Fame players from HBCUs. 

The celebration, which featured 29 former players, was part of the NFL’s partnership with HBCUs, “Strength of HBCUs: Impacting Pro Football Since 1948,” which honors the history and impact of HBCUs on the NFL.

The top HBCU prospect this season is Tennessee State offensive tackle Jessemen Dunker, according to HBCU Classic Sports which is published out of the Macon area by Ty Prather and has complied a list of the top 64 NFL prospects.

North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen, who’s 5-foot-6 and 180 pounds, is the second-rated HBCU player.  (I got to see him against the Howard Bison last season and he reminded me of Darren Sproles.)

He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds at the scouting combine and lifted 225 pounds 11 times. He’s the three-time MEAC offensive player of the year and the conference’s all-time leading rusher.

He amassed 6,598 total yards and 59 touchdowns for the Aggies.

In the first Celebtration Bowl at the Georgia Dome, Cohen rushed for 295 yards in 41-34 victory over Alcorn State in 2015. 

Five players from Georgia schools are ranked:

Fort Valley State cornerback Brian Walker is the 37th rated player on list.

Savannah State linebacker Marquis Smith is ranked 44th.

Fort Valley wide receiver Otis Brown is ranked 49th.

Albany State offensive lineman Javoris Wilborn (6-5, 300) is ranked 54th.

Albany State running back Jarvis Small is ranked 57th.


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