Talent acquisition in the NFL is a 24/7/365 business. As daunting a task as it may be to scout 129 FBS (Division 1) college football programs, the NCAA’s top-level is only the main course as far as scouting is concerned.
All divisions included, the NCAA is home to 628 football programs. Once you include the NAIA ranks, the number of teams eclipses 1,000. Still, no stone can be left unturned.
The NFL will hold it’s first annual HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) scouting combine March 27-28, in Miami, FL. Historically, HBCU’s have produced the likes of Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Deacon Jones, Art Shell, Richard Dent, and Michael Strahan to name very few of very many. Current NFL players from HBCU’s include Darius Leonard, Tarik Cohen, Javon Hargrave, Terron Armstead, and the Cowboys’ own Joe Thomas.
While the HBCU combine participant list has yet to be finalized, here are 6 HBCU players likely to participate (plus one who will participate in the national combine in Indianapolis), who might draw the interest of our Dallas Cowboys as draft picks or UDFA’s.
Chris Rowland – 5’8″/170 – WR // Tennessee State
My goodness, this player is fun to watch. I want to just start spilling superlatives right now, but I guess for the sake of format, I’d better rattle off his resume first. Wide receiver, return man. Owner of more conference honors than I felt like typing. Led the nation in combined return yardage as a freshman. Caught 104 passes for 1,437 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2019.
This is an NFL player. No question about it. This dude is dripping with Wes Welker vibes, but with a little more juice. He is a squarish and boxy 5’8″/170, but he doesn’t move like it. Filthy, filthy footwork. In and out of cuts in a half of a blink. Crafty and tough after the catch, and though I wish he was some 4.30 burner, he is not. However, he does not get run down from behind on tape and has plenty of speed to house the football at the next level. Also, experienced with the jet/orbit motion stuff the Cowboys have made a staple.
This guy is going to make it in the NFL and succeed. I really, really love this player.
Kyle Anthony – 6’3″/205 – WR // Howard
3-time All-MEAC. 195 career receptions, 21 TD.
This guy is the polar opposite of the previously mentioned Rowland. Kyle Anthony is a long, strong, possession receiver. 6’3″/205 with room to fill out. With a year of NFL weights and natural physical maturity, this is a 220 lb guy in a year’s time. His speed is solid at best, but out-running DBs is not Anthony’s game. Anthony can flat out go up and get it, and also exhibits fantastic hand strength and body control making catches in traffic. Just a nasty player. Rips footballs away from defenders, and runs angry once he has it.
For those clamoring for a Dez Bryant return, Kyle Anthony shows the ability to do some Dez Bryant type of stuff. This would be a fantastic UDFA pickup as a developmental player.
Alex Taylor – 6’9″/305 – OT // South Carolina State
Taylor is a consensus projected late-round draft pick and was a Senior Bowl participant. With a potential escape hatch just in starting LT Tyron Smith’s contract just a year away, finding his successor at a bargain rate would be a championship organization type of move. Taylor played on the right side at SC State but has some left tackle traits. If you are going to take a swing at a developmental player, it’s usually best to grab the one with the biggest toolbox.
At 6’9″/305, Taylor is built more like a power forward than an offensive tackle. He is long, lean and trim.
Watching Taylor play, the most encouraging part is that he is effective despite often having no clue how to use his otherworldly 88″ wingspan. He lets guys into his body far too often, but when he latches on and locks out, you’re dead. You can’t coach that type of length, but you can coach a guy to use it more consistently.
A 4th or 5th round pick for the possibility of a seamless transition at left tackle would be a major coup.
Caylin Newton – 6’0″/205 – QB // Howard
The face lets you know right away that this is Cam’s little brother. Emphasis on “little,” as the younger Newton is about 5 inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter than the former Heisman winner and NFL MVP.
I like this player mostly because I believe in having a backup with a skillset at least somewhat comparable to the starter so that you can play the same game when an injury to QB1 occurs. Caylin Newton certainly doesn’t stack up to the current version of Dak Prescott, and not as a draft prospect either. However, little similarities are visible.
Good not great mobility throws a nice catchable ball. Can make plays on the run to either direction, good improvisational skills. Off-target downfield more than you’d like. On film, he turned a few too many layup touchdowns into contested catches underthrowing the football. Rough around the edges for sure, but productive and a playmaker.
In 2019, the Cowboys brought aboard South Dakota State QB Taryn Christion for training camp, the reason being that he shared similarities to Dak Prescott. Bringing Newton aboard would be the same type of move, and would cost nothing as Newton is unlikely to be drafted.
Rico Kennedy – 6’3″/235 – LB // Morgan State
3-time All-MEAC and 2019 4th team All-American (Phil Steele). A disruptor, Kennedy owns his school’s record with 51 career tackles for loss, to go along with 19 career sacks. Good size on paper, but looking at Kennedy you notice right away that his frame has ample room for filling out.
Kennedy is not a projected draft selection by any major outlet. The Cowboys should be in the market for depth linebackers, and Kennedy would cost nothing more than a spot on the camp 90.
Jequez Ezzard – 5’9″/190 – WR // Howard
What an absolute playmaker. Legitimate, NFL downfield speed and also the technique to consistently get open deep. For a small guy, Ezzard is tenacious attacking the football in contested situations. Strong hands, one-handed catches. Agile and hard-nosed runner after the catch.
In 2018, Ezzard averaged an unfathomable 26.6 yards per catch over 40 catches. When you bust the 1,000-yard barrier on just 40 receptions, you are the quintessential deep threat. When you watch the film from that season, it’s easy to see how much more gaudy those numbers could have been. Ezzard’s QB Caylin Newton committed egregious underthrows on a handful of plays where Ezzard had his man smoked by and car’s length and had to come back for a contested catch. Ezzard’s stat sheet should have had 4 or 5 more 70-80 yard TDs on it.
I ran across Ezzard watching Caylin Newton, and only after studying him did I learn that being a part of this draft is not his preference. Ezzard missed almost all of 2019 with an injury and is looking to transfer schools and play a 5th year if granted a medical redshirt. From what information I can gather, his situation is currently unresolved. If things don’t go his way, Jequez Ezzard might be a name to know come supplemental draft time.
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