Atlanta, GA - December 17, 2016 - Georgia Dome: Chad Williams (10) of the Grambling State University Tigers during the 2016 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. (Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

The 2017 NFL Draft is today. Several former HBCU football players are anticipating hearing their names called at some point this weekend. We are breaking down each of the notable draft hopefuls on the eve of the three-day event in Philadelphia.

Chad Williams — Grambling State


Williams is a 6-foot-1, 207-pound wide receiver was arguably the premiere player at his position in the FCS last season. In 2016, he piled up 90 receptions for 1,337 yards and 11 touchdowns. The production earned him second-team FCS All-American honors and first-team All-SWAC pick and an invite to the Senior Bowl.

Pro Day results:

Vertical Jump: 35.5 inches

Broad Jump: 10 feet, 3 inches

40 Yard Dash: 4.37 seconds

Bench Press: 21 reps

His 40-yard dash time was impressive and would have been second fastest time among receivers at the NFL Combine.

What the NFL says:

Strengths

Plays bigger than his size. Confident in his hands and snatches the ball way out in front of this frame. Shows some physicality after the catch and isn’t easy to bring down. Hung 13 catches for 152 yards on Arizona early in the season. Uses body as a shield between the throw and the defender and can play as big as he needs to in space.

Weaknesses

Early route speed is below average. Takes too long to get to the top of his routes. Straight-liner. Heavy feet and stiff hips prevent shakes and jukes to allude early tacklers. Needs to run under the deep ball rather than gliding down the field. Can improve his adjustments on low throws. Character will need to be vetted thoroughly.

Heavily targeted and highly productive against a lower level of competition. Williams has decent size and ball skills, but looks slow on tape with very disjointed route work. He needs to run well at his workout, but even if he does, he’s a developmental prospect rather than an early helper.

Projection: 7th Round

Javancy Jones — Jackson State

Jones is a 6-foot-2, 245-pound linebacker who is considered undersized for his position as it would translate to the NFL. But that didn’t stop him from being a dominant linebacker at Jackson State, where he tallied 77 tackles for loss, 18.5 sacks and 351 tackles during his college career.

Pro Day results:

Vertical Jump: 32 inches

Broad Jump: 9 feet

40 Yard Dash: 4.83 seconds

Bench Press: 26 reps

What the NFL says:

Strengths

Scouts rave about his his intelligence and character. Leadership galore. Rare four-year captain. Big linebacker and put-together. Has desired length and hand strength. Quick processor with above average read and response time. Uses sudden hands to work around blocks. Closes on ball carriers with good acceleration and lands heavy pads as a tackler. Doesn’t shy away from physicality of the game.

Weaknesses

Played outside in college but may have to transition inside to middle linebacker and learn a new position. Short-stepper with limited speed and overall play range. Stiff lower body operates with below average bend and leverage at the point of attack. Needs faster disengage when tied up. Lacks reactive athleticism to be a full-time playmaker. Likely to struggle if forced into coverage.

Projection: 7th round

Tarik Cohen — North Carolina A&T

Cohen, a 5-foot-6, 179-pound running was one of the best players in the FCS during his career. Despite his size, Cohen was named three-time MEAC Offensive Player of the Year and rushed for a school-record 5,619 yards.

NFL Combine results

Vertical Jump: 31.5 inches

Broad Jump: 11 feet

40 Yard Dash: 4.42 seconds

Bench Press: 11 reps

What the NFL says:

Strengths

Nicknamed “The Human Joystick” for his ability to make seemingly impossible cuts. Plays with unpredictable movements. Can turn any play into a random game of “connect the dots.” Rare ability to stop and start. Cuts are just as seamless and sharp from any direction. Field vision is excellent. Has lateral escapability to put would-be tacklers on his highlight tapes. Gifted with unusually large hands and a powerful lower body that enhances his contact balance and ability to drive for extra yardage. Very good acceleration pulls him away from tacklers and into the clear. Relentless competitor. Had four touchdown runs of 83-plus yards this season. A true weapon out of the backfield that will be tough to matchup with. Has good hands and is very slippery in space.

Weaknesses

Falls below the size standards expected from the position. Overwhelmed slower and less talented competition. Benefitted from heinous angles to the ball from tacklers he faced. Way too eager to take plays off script. Wants to swing for the fences on every snap and will have to learn when to hit singles. Too eager to bounce everything. Takes his share of negative yardage carries. Feet are electric, but footwork and run track on zone plays needs work. Takes big hits from big men when trying to fight out of tackles and squeeze out extra yards. Stature and short arms make him a tougher target for quarterbacks. Has almost no experience as a punt or kick returner on special teams.

Projection: 5th or 6th round

Grover Stewart — Albany State

Grover Stewart was an All-SIAC player in each of his seasons at Albany State. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound defensive tackle had 141 tackles and 23.5 sacks.

Vertical Jump: 31.5 inches

Broad Jump: 8 feet, 10 inches

40 Yard Dash: 5.14 seconds

Bench Press: 30 reps

Strengths

Powerful, NFL-ready frame with thick lower half and evenly displaced weight throughout. Jolts opponents with good initial pop that can knock blockers off their spots. Carries brute force in upper body with natural anchor to fight back against double teams. Showed off impressive straight line speed at his pro day. Athletic big man who will coast on blocks before flashing eye-opening reactive quickness disengaging and making tackles when runners try to race through his gaps. Bull-rush specialist able to create some pocket cave once he starts rolling downhill.

Weaknesses

Needs to play with better coordination between hands and feet. Lacks consistent feel for down blocks and double teams. Can be a little slow to set his anchor. Pad level is too tall. Improved bend and leverage would help generate more consistent results at point of attack. Rolls into initial contact rather than crowding and working with a quick punch-and-control technique. Raw and unskilled as a hand fighter. Slow to discard smaller blockers and allows them longer rides than they deserve. Face-up rusher lacking the upper body flexion and go-to move to slither into backfield.

Projection: 5th or 6th round

Jylan Ware — Alabama State

Ware was an anchored on an offensive line at Alabama State that was one of the best in the SWAC. The 6-foot-7, 317-pound workhorse was invited for the College Gridiron Showcase and the HBCU Spirit of America Bowl where he impressed scouts.

Pro Day results:

Vertical Jump: 29 inches

Broad Jump: 9 feet, 10 inches

40 Yard Dash: 4.99 seconds

Bench Press: 29 reps

What the NFL says:

Strengths

Athletic with decent movement skills. Flexible and comes off the ball with good pad level. Makes contact at leveraged angles. Can roll hips through defender after contact and generate some push in run game. Once he’s locked in, will pump his feet. Understands his length. Able to keep defenders off of him with long arms and plus hand placement inside the frame. Impressive strength in his large hands. Can snatch and maintain engagement to jersey/pads of his opponent. Decent balance in pass sets with well-timed punch. Rarely shoots hands unless pass rusher is in range. Appears to have foot quickness and agility to handle edge rushers.

Weaknesses

Needs to add muscle and overall bulk to his frame. Could struggle initially against speed-to-power pass rushers. Doesn’t always bring his feet with him after contact, causing balance inconsistencies when trying to maintain his run blocks. Inconsistent footwork in pass sets. Gets caught mid-gallop at times and can be knocked off-balance. Opens up a little too early in his slides. Needs a more flat-footed punch approach. Played a lower level of competition. Needs to quicken speed of hand usage to match NFL speed he will see. Noticeably late out of his stance too often.

Projection: 7th round

Jessamen Dunker — Tennessee State

Dunker, a transfer from Florida who did not start playing football until his junior year of high school, was one of the best offensive linemen in the Ohio Valley Conference. He made several OVC all-conference teams and earned numerous FCS accolades while at Tennessee State.

NFL Combine results:

Vertical Jump: 28.5 inches

Broad Jump: 10 feet, 8 inches

40 Yard Dash: 4.98 seconds

Bench Press: 23 reps

What the NFL says:

Strengths

Good athlete with few physical limitations in space. Has the feet to reach challenging blocks with more technique work. Able to get to cut-off blocks. Has adequate connection rate on linebackers and box safeties. Arm length and hand size is a plus. Plays with a wide base in his pass sets. Has ability to slide from gap to gap to handle quickness requirements against twists and blitzes.

Weaknesses

Play strength doesn’t match his weight. Was unable to anchor against speed-to-power as a tackle. When defenders stab his chest, he is unlikely to reset hands and recover. Has issues over-setting at both guard and tackle. Guard-only prospect. Plays way out over his toes in run game and falls off of blocks. Feet move as drive blocker, but there isn’t much push behind them. Can be rag-dolled at point of attack by power.

Projection: 6th or 7th round

Erza Robinson — Tennessee State

After transferring from Michigan State, Robinson had his best season at Tennessee State in 2016 with five interceptions, two defensive touchdowns and recording eight pass breakups.

NFL Combine results

Vertical Jump: 34 inches

Broad Jump: 13 feet

40 Yard Dash: 4.47 seconds

Bench Press: 13 reps

What the NFL says:

Strengths

Opportunistic from zone coverage. Sifts through combination routes and comes out of the other side in position to crowd routes underneath. Will trigger into a passing lane when he senses quarterback is locking in. Looks to play through the catch point and has soft hands to pluck it and flip the field. Adequate foot quickness to match short and intermediate routes. Has enough responsive athleticism when play is in front of him.

Weaknesses

Lacks functional strength. Physical receivers can jostle him around inside their routes and own him as run blockers. Backpedal needs to be ironed out. Shows lack of confidence in his recovery speed. Heavily penalized in coverage and is quick to grab and hold when he senses receiver is getting past him. Needs to open and sprint earlier to maintain his feel with deep routes and avoid the grabs. Passive and ineffective against the run. Will be heavily targeted in run support if he hits the field.

Projection: Free-agent

Brandon Barnes — Alabama State

Barnes, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end, impresses scouts with his pass-catching ability, route running and ability to get open. At Alabama State, Barnes caught 85 passes and 1 touchdown as a senior in 2016.

Pro Day results:

Vertical Jump: 35.5 inches

Broad Jump: 9 feet, 6 inches

40 Yard Dash: 4.69 seconds

Bench Press: 20 reps

Projection: 7th round

Derrick Griffin — Texas Southern

Griffin only played one season of college football at Texas Southern and proceed to catch 11 touchdowns. The 6-foot-6, 248-pound wide receiver also was on the basketball team where he earned SWAC Player of the Year honors.

Pro Day results

Vertical Jump: 31 inches

Broad Jump: 9 feet, 11 inches

Bench press: 11 reps

What the NFL says:

“He needed to put on a show, but where was the show?” the scout said. “I don’t think this kid is going to get drafted now, but I do think he can play in the league if he gets healthy and gets in better shape. I do think he’ll be in demand as a priority free agent. Injured or not, he just didn’t look prepared and there was a lot on the line for him.”

Projection: Free-agent

Willie Quinn — Southern

As a four-year starter, Quinn was the most electric combination of kick returner and offensive player in the SWAC. During his career at Southern, Quinn was the school’s all-time leading receiver with 231 catches and 3, 192 yards.

Pro Day results:

Vertical Jump: 32 inches

Broad Jump: 9 feet, 8 inches

4o Yard Dash: 4.48 seconds

What the NFL says:

Yes, Willie Quinn is the smallest guy we’ll profile on the site. And arguably the smallest guy in the entire draft class. But he also is one of the most interesting and definitely the most fun to watch.

At 5’5 150, it’s easy to move on to the next guy. But the NFL has proven it doesn’t care how big you are but how good you are. There’s a whole list of players with similar stature who have gotten a shot in the league.

Projection: Free-agent

Lenard Tillery — Southern

Tillery ended his career at Southern as the school’s all-time leading rusher with 4,837 yards. NFL Draft Scout rated Tillery as the No. 54 running back in this year’s draft class.

Pro Day results:

Vertical Jump: 32 inches

Broad Jump: 9 feet, 5 inches

Bench Press: 16 reps

4o Yard Dash: 4.56 seconds

What the NFL says:

Tillery is an explosive back, with fairly good speed, and is also a good kick returner for the Jaguars. At Southern, Tillery became the SWAC’s all time leading rusher after walking on. He was named as a standout out at the NFLPA Shrine game by the Browns 247 sports site.

Projection: Free-agent

3 COMMENTS

  1. Javancy Jones is not undersized as a linebacker at the next level. As a defensive end yes he would be undersized at the next level. Also his pro day results of 26 reps rank 2nd among OLB at the combine

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