football-fcs flag

Stan Becton | | April 28, 2023

The top HBCU football prospects in the 2023 NFL draft

NC Central's Davius Richard and Khalil Baker break down winning school's first Celebration Bowl

The 2023 postseason all-star circuit is over and the NFL draft is here. After HBCU players like James Houston IV, Joshua Williams, Decobie Durant, Ja'Tyre Carter and De'Shaan Dixon all had an impact as rookies last fall, it's time to see who could be the next HBCU prospects to land at the next level.

Let's take a look at the top HBCU prospects in the 2023 cycle.

The top three prospects 

LB Isaiah Land | Florida A&M

Florida A&M's Isaiah Land is a former Buck Buchanan Award winner and enters the 2023 NFL draft as one of two HBCU players that received an invite to the NFL combine. Land can immediately contribute on an NFL team as a pass rusher as shown by his 27 sacks in the last two years. Land gets the nod as the top prospect after an impressive Senior Bowl where he had a sack and tackle for loss.

MORE: What happened in the 2022 HBCU football season | 2022 Celebration Bowl | Final 2022 Rankings

OL Mark Evans II | Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Mark Evans II is the other HBCU prospect with an invite to the NFL combine. Evans played left tackle for much of his career at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but moved all across the offensive line at the East-West Shrine Bowl. Evans only allowed two sacks in his final season and will likely become the first Golden Lion drafted since Terron Armstead in 2013.

LB Aubrey Miller | Jackson State

Aubrey Miller championed the Jackson State defense that ranked among the best in the FCS in every category over the last two seasons. Miller, the 2022 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year, followed up an impressive season with seven tackles (five solo) in the Senior Bowl. If Miller is drafted, he'll make it back-to-back years a Jackson State linebacker was selected in the NFL draft (James Houston).

The pass catchers

WR Shaquan Davis | South Carolina State

In a deep HBCU wide receiver class, Shaquan Davis stands out as the best. Davis single-handedly took over the 2021 Celebration Bowl with three touchdowns, returning in 2022 to catch 11 touchdowns despite inconsistent quarterback play. Davis uses his 6'5 frame to make contested catches while being a big play threat. Davis also played in the East-West Shrine Bowl, making one catch.

Celebration Bowl MVP Shaq Davis discusses South Carolina State's victory over Jackson State

WR Jadakis Bonds | Hampton

Jadakis Bonds is another standout HBCU wide receiver. Bonds caught 10 touchdowns and averaged 17.4 yards per catch in his final season. Bonds is another big target at 6'4' and uses his catch radius to make impact plays. He caught two passes in the East-West Shrine Bowl.

TE Kemari Averett | Bethune-Cookman

Pass-catching tight ends are all the rave in the NFL, creating mismatches for defenses everywhere. Kemari Averett fits the mold at 6'6 with 17 receiving touchdowns to his name. Averett's path led him from Louisville to Bethune-Cookman to the NFL PA Bowl. Now, the NFL could be next.

BEST IN CLASS: The top HBCU football players, by position, from the 2022 season

WR Xavier Smith | Florida A&M

Xavier Smith is the fastest riser in the 2023 pre-draft process. Fast is an apt word for Smith, who ran a reported 4.3-second 40-yard dash at the HBCU Combine. Smith is on the smaller end as a receiver at 5'10, but that didn't matter when he notched a 1000-yard season at Florida A&M this fall. Smith followed that up by winning HBCU Legacy Bowl Offensive MVP honors after catching six passes for 85 yards and a touchdown.

MORE: Breaking down the 2023 HBCU Legacy Bowl rosters, how to watch and more

WR Dallas Daniels | Jackson State

If you watched a Jackson State game in 2022, Dallas Daniels was hard to miss. He caught six touchdown passes with the Tigers, showing off his speed and explosiveness. Daniels played in the East-West Shrine game during the postseason, catching two passes for 16 yards.

WR JJ Holloman | Tennessee State

JJ Holloman caught just one touchdown last year, but looks the part of an NFL receiver standing at 6'2 and 215 pounds. Holloman's athleticism is intriguing, and it's part of the reason why he began his career with the Georgia Bulldogs.

MEAC VS SWAC: 16 of the best MEAC/SWAC Challenge moments

The defensive backs

CB Kennan Issac | Alabama State

Keenan Issac has had a busy offseason, playing in the NFL PA Bowl and the HBCU Legacy Bowl, impressing scouts at both. Issac is a bigger cornerback at 6'2, with size and athleticism that transfers to the next level. 

CB Isaiah Bolden | Jackson State

Isaiah Bolden is a versatile defensive back, capable of playing outside, in the slot or even as a return man. Bolden played in the NFL PA Bowl after a Jackson State career with two kick return touchdowns, 55 tackles and eight pass breakups.

🏆: HBCU football championship history

CB De'Jahn Warren | Jackson State

De'Jahn "Nugget" Warren is a tantalizing prospect. Warren was formerly the No. 1 JUCO recruit in the country, choosing Jackson State over Georgia. At Jackson State, he finished with 51 tackles, six pass breakups and an interception. What stands out most is Warren's off-the-charts athleticism, reportedly running a 4.36 40-yard dash at the HBCU combine that had scouts buzzing. 

The pass rushers

Here are some of the top pass rushers — outside of Isaiah Land — available from FCS HBCUs:

  • DE Jermaine McDaniel Jr. | North Carolina A&T
  • LB Ronnie Thomas | Mississippi Valley State
  • DT/FB Jason Dumas | Southern
  • LB Jordan Lewis | Southern
  • DE Keshaun Moore | Hampton

In the HBCU Legacy Bowl, Jermaine McDaniel showed what fans missed out on during an injury-shortened 2022, and Jason Dumas won Defensive MVP honors. Southern edge-turned-linebacker Jordan Lewis is also among the group. He won the Spring 2021 Buck Buchanan Award. Overall, the defensive line class of HBCU prospects in the 2023 cycle is deep.

MORE: How HBCU coaches with pro football experience performed in 2022

Offensive line

Robert Mitchell | North Carolina Central

Robert Mitchell stands out as the top HBCU offensive lineman not named Mark Evans. Mitchell won MEAC Offensive Lineman of the Year last year and didn't allow a sack. Mitchell had arguably the top week of any offensive lineman at the HBCU Legacy Bowl.

🐐: The greatest individual seasons in HBCU football history

The Division II HBCU prospects

  • QB Dion Golatt Jr. | Bowie State
  • RB Darius Hagans | Virginia State
  • RB Emanuel Wilson | Fort Valley State
  • DE Andrew Farmer | Lane
  • DL Joshua Pryor | Bowie State
  • CB Brandon Barnes-Brown | Fayetteville State
  • S Raymond Boone | Bowie State

Running backs Darius Hagans and Emanuel Wilson each played in the NFL PA Bowl and HBCU Legacy Bowl. Both have boosted their draft stock immensely and have a shot to land with an NFL team, especially after Hagans ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the HBCU Combine. 

On defense, defensive ends Andrew Farmer and Joshua Pryor continue the deep 2023 HBCU defensive line class. Farmer ran a 4.72 40-yard dash, jumped 38 inches in the vertical and jumped 9'10 in the broad jump at the HBCU Combine, while Pryor had two sacks and three tackles for loss in the HBCU Legacy Bowl. In the secondary, cornerback Brandon Barnes-Brown looks to follow in his former teammate and current Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Joshua Williams, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL draft.

CAN'T MISS: 6 HBCU football game-day atmospheres that you need to experience

USFL selections

12 HBCU players were selected in the 2023 USFL draft. See the selections below:

Alabama State and Morgan State's wins shake up Week 2 HBCU football power rankings

Here are Week 2's HBCU football power rankings from NCAA Digital's Stan Becton.

2023 SWAC Championship: Date, time, location, tv channel, history

Here's the what you need to know for the 2023 SWAC Championship Game, including a list of past SWAC champions and how teams qualify for the postseason game.

Every HBCU player ever selected in the NBA Draft

A complete history of HBCU players in the NBA draft, including the 351 HBCU men's basketball players selected since 1950.

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners