5 Players to Watch at NFL's HBCU Combine

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2022

5 Players to Watch at NFL's HBCU Combine

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    There's no such thing as a perfect prospect in the NFL draft. However, having the right information can help teams pick quality players, avoid mistakes and uncover late-round gems. This is why franchises scout prospects for years, pore over game film, attend events such as the Senior Bowl and the scouting combine and conduct in-depth interviews.

    This year, a new piece of the predraft puzzle has been added. The league, in partnership with the Senior Bowl, will debut the NFL Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Combine. There's a good chance that teams will find worthy talent at the event, which will take place Friday and Saturday.

    Here, you'll find a look at the HBCU combine and some of the top prospects to watch over the weekend. Every prospect is worthy of consideration, of course, but we'll focus on those with the proven production, upside and positional value that demand pro attention.

    Players are listed in alphabetical order.

What Is the HBCU Combine?

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    Historically Black colleges and universities such as Grambling State, Jackson State and Tennessee State have sent several notable names to the NFL over the years. Greats such as Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Donald Driver, Michael Strahan, Shannon Sharpe, Deacon Jones, Walter Payton and Jerry Rice were all HBCU products, though current players from HBCUs don't always receive national exposure or invites to the NFL's scouting combine in Indianapolis.

    No players from HBCUs were selected during the 2021 NFL draft. With the HBCU combine taking place in Mobile, Alabama—the city where the Senior Bowl will happen February 5—things might be different at the 2022 draft.

    "Everything the guys are going to do in Indy they're going to do here. Same drills, interview process," Director of Football Operations Michael Coe said, per Daeshen Smith of Fox 10 News. "This instills a lot of hope knowing all 32 teams will be here in Mobile to see these guys."

    The goal is to give a chance to prospects who might otherwise not get in front of pro scouts and team decision-makers. For many, that could be enough to get an NFL opportunity.

    "It's leveling the playing field," Jackson State product and NFL Hall of Famer Robert Brazile said, per Smith. "If you're a diamond—and I say it all the time—a diamond will be at Jackson or at Auburn or Alabama, he'll shine. You're still going to shine."

    The HBCU combine will be held at the University of South Alabama Training Center in Mobile. A full list of participants can be found here.

Dee Anderson, WR, Alabama A&M

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    Wideout Dee Anderson might be familiar to college football fans from his time at LSU and Oklahoma State. With the Tigers in 2018, Anderson caught 20 passes for 274 yards and a touchdown. After being on crowded depth charts at LSU and Oklahoma State, Anderson found an opportunity to fully break out at Alabama A&M.

    He was one of Aqeel Glass' biggest targets this past season—quite literally. Listed at 6'6" and 220 pounds, Anderson is an imposing, rangy receiver in the mold of Calvin Johnson or Mike Evans.

    While size and catch radius alone won't land Anderson an NFL opportunity or put him on the level of those Pro Bowlers, the prolific pass-catcher believes a strong showing at the HBCU combine will earn him a shot.

    "Just put me on the field and not see what I can do. I'll show you what I can do," Anderson said, per Smith.

    Partnered with Glass—arguably the most high-profile prospect on this list—Anderson caught 33 passes for 493 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. His combination of size, production and upside could easily allow Anderson to hear his name called on draft weekend.

Keith Corbin III, WR, Jackson State

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    Like Anderson, Jackson State wideout Keith Corbin III transferred to an HBCU before last season. At Houston in 2020, Corbin caught 27 passes for 352 yards and a touchdown. At Jackson State, he was a much more important piece of the passing attack.

    In his lone season under head coach Deion Sanders, Corbin caught 69 passes for 921 yards and seven touchdowns. That level of production likely already had him on the NFL scouting radar. A strong performance at the HBCU combine could help him move up draft boards before the spring.

    Listed at 6'2" and 200 pounds, Corbin has great size for a receiver. He's also a great route-runner who knows how to find space in the secondary—as evidenced by his game-sealing touchdown catch against Alcorn State.

    Corbin has put plenty to like on film. If he tests well athletically this weekend, he should cement his position as a prospect worthy of a draft selection.

Aqeel Glass, QB, Alabama A&M

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    Glass is likely the most notable name to be invited to the HBCU combine because he plays the game's most important position. Teams are always looking for young quarterbacks to develop and who can provide depth, and Glass should get a long look over draft weekend.

    As a bonus, there's no "sure-thing" signal-caller in this class, and Glass has plenty of upside.

    "He can fire bullet passes into tight windows, put the right amount of touch on throws to every level of the field, drive the deep ball downfield (both inside and outside the numbers), beat both zone and man coverage with sound decision-making and consistent accuracy," Luke Easterling of Draft Wire wrote.

    Listed at 6'5" and 215 pounds, Glass will have no trouble seeing over an NFL offensive line. He's mobile enough to avoid pressure and pick up the occasional first down with his legs, and he's shown that he can fire the ball all over the field.

    In 2021, Glass amassed 3,568 passing yards, 36 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. He completed 62.6 percent of his passes and posted a 160.3 passer rating.

    Glass is participating in Saturday's NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Pasadena, California, so it's uncertain if he'll put in an appearance at the combine. Regardless, he's a prospect to monitor before draft weekend.

Trey Gross, WR, Delaware State

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    There's a reason multiple wide receivers made this list. NFL teams often carry six or even seven receivers on their regular-season rosters and more on the practice squad. Depth is always valued at the position, and receivers and defensive backs often make up the core of special teams units.

    In other words, a big, fast and athletic receiver will have a good chance of landing a spot at an NFL training camp. Delaware State's Trey Gross will be no exception.

    Listed at 6'4" and 210 pounds, Gross has the size and length that NFL teams covet out wide. He's also flashed enough playmaking ability to command the attention of scouts. The Hornets standout caught 48 passes in the fall for 625 yards and 13 touchdowns.

    Gross caught eight touchdowns in his final four games alone.

    Size cannot be coached, and Gross has it. If he tests well over the weekend, he should have a good chance of at least landing an opportunity as an undrafted free agent.

Cory Rahman, S, Tennessee State

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    Tennessee State safety Cory Rahman is set to receive plenty of exposure before the draft. He's participating in this week's NFLPA Collegiate Bowl along with Glass and has been invited to the HBCU combine.

    Listed at 6'2" and 195 pounds, Rahman has good size to play safety in the NFL. He has also shown tremendous playmaking ability.

    Last season, he logged 31 solo tackles, a sack, two interceptions and four passes defended.

    Hard-hitting, ball-hawking defensive backs are always in demand—check out Rahman's heads-up interception against Grambling State—and as previously noted, defensive backs frequently land opportunities on special teams.

    Whether Rahman makes his mark at the Collegiate Bowl or the HBCU combine, expect him to have a strong start to the draft-scouting season.

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