2020 NFL Draft: The top five HBCU offensive prospects

HBCU football boasts NFL-caliber talent in 2019. Here are the top prospects on the offensive side of the football.

The 2020 NFL Draft is projected to be one of the most talented classes top to bottom in recent history. For many, the idea of the draft class stops at FBS programs. But at the FCS level, HBCU players, in particular, have plenty to say about that. Here are five HBCU players on the offensive side of the ball to watch in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Jequez Ezzard, WR Howard

Howard University hasn’t had a wideout drafted since John Javis in 1989. In fact, Javis is the only Bison wideout ever drafted. But if Jequez Ezzard has anything to say about it, he’ll be selected next April. In 2018, Ezzard led the FCS in yards per catch with 26.6. Ezzard’s 40 receptions, 1,064 yards, and 12 touchdowns were all Top-10 in the conference. His performance in the 2018 season led him to MEAC All-Conference, 2019 HERO Sports Preseason All-American and STATS Preseason All-American honors. But the selling point for Ezzard is his consistent dominant performances against FCS programs. What are usually looked at as tune-up games for the biggest schools have become opportunities for Ezzard to show out.

In 2017, Ezzard caught three receptions for 120 yards against Kent State. In 2018, Ezzard set a school record with 223 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions against Ohio.

The Bison start the 2019 season on the road against the University of Maryland in College Park. No game will be more important for Ezzard. Judging by past performances, he’ll be up to the task. There will be plenty of scouts in attendance ready to be wowed with his ability to play inside and outside the numbers and get separation.

Kevin Hall, T Alcorn St

Despite not finishing as HBCU champions, Alcorn State on paper looks like the best team in the SWAC Conference for 2019. One of the main reasons is its high-powered offense. The Braves had two 1000-yard rushers in 2018. The man leading the way for quarterback Noah Johnson and running back De’Shawn Waller is tackle Kevin Hall. The senior was named 2018 All-SWAC First Team, and for good reasons. In addition to being a superb run blocker, Hall is equally solid in pass coverage. He has the combination of size, athleticism, and dominance at his position that give him a great shot at being selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.

De’Shawn Waller, RB Alcorn St

As aforementioned, Alcorn State has several weapons that look primed for an opportunity to play on Sundays. The most dangerous is senior running back De’Shawn Waller. A phenomenal 2018 season earned him First Team All-SWAC honors and has landed him on the national radar. Waller was an FCS force, rushing for 1215 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was eighth in the nation in yards per game with 121.5. This is incredibly remarkable because Waller wasn’t named the starter until Week 7. Waller was a transfer from Hutchinson Community College, who started the 2018 season third on the depth chart. The focus will be on him in 2019.

Caylin Newton, QB Howard

Often, when a player has NFL lineage, they are often given the benefit of the doubt and given an opportunity at the next level. HBCU players don’t often get that same privilege, often having to work harder despite the success of their father or relative. Howard quarterback Caylin Newton is the younger brother of superstar Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. But in terms of similarities, that’s where they end, especially on the football field. Caylin is 5 inches shorter and nearly 50 pounds lighter than his brother. He’s even smaller than Cecil, his older brother, who spent time with the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted center.

Nevertheless, Newton has separated himself at Howard, making some major strides as a Bison. In 2017, Newton led Howard to a 43-40 win over UNLV as a freshman. It was the biggest point-spread upset in college football history, making national headlines. Newton’s efforts earned him the 2017 MEAC Rookie of The Year award. He followed that with a solid 2018 campaign, being named the MEAC Offensive Player of the Year. Newton threw for 2,629 yards and rushed for over 500, while throwing 22 touchdowns. The dual-threat QB was one of 25 FCS players recently named to the 2019 STATS Walter Payton Award Watch List. All eyes will be on Newton this season, as he further attempts to create his own legacy in the family.

Elijah Bell, WR North Carolina A&T

North Carolina A&T is the only FCS program in the nation to have a player drafted in three consecutive years. Aggies wideout Elijah Bell can make it four straight years, and make his mark among the incredibly talented 2020 wide receiver prospects. Bell made an immediate impact after coming to Greensboro, becoming MEAC Rookie of The Year and making second-team All-MEAC. In 2017, Bell was just 47 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season and set an A&T record with 11 touchdowns. Despite a lag in production in 2018, Bell earned All-MEAC second-team honors again. He comes into the 2019 season needing just 26 receptions and 173 yards to set all-time school records in both categories. Bell is great at using his body to create space on jump balls.

HBCU football is in good hands going into the 2019 season, and can make a significant splash in the 2020 NFL Draft.

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