March 29, 2017

(STATS) - The Historically Black Colleges and Universities of college football are no longer pipelines for the NFL, but each year dozens of their former players are on rosters.

This year is particularly strong for prospects coming from the HBCU schools of the FCS - both for the NFL Draft next month and those who will sign free agent contracts afterward.

"I feel like (HBCUs) might be a little less talented than the other levels, but I feel like there are still players on that level," said one of the better prospects, North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen. "And it's my job right now to show them it has players on this level."

The 11-team MEAC and 10-team SWAC are the two HBCU conferences in the subdivision, but there's also Ohio Valley Conference member Tennessee State, which often has pro prospects. The Tigers had two players drafted in 2014 and could again with Jessamen Dunker and Ezra Robinson.

Dunker, a 6-foot-4, 318-pound offensive guard, and Robinson, a 5-11, 189-pound cornerback, were both invited to participate in the Reese's Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine - the two biggest events in the buildup to the draft, which will take place April 27-29 in Philadelphia.

Dunker is considered the top HBCU prospect, generally drawing a mid-round grade. He spent a redshirt year at Florida before he transferred to Tennessee State, where he was a four-year starter at left tackle.

Jackson State outside linebacker Javancy Jones (6-1, 245) - a pass rusher who registered 44 tackles for loss and 13 sacks over his final two seasons - is considered the top draft candidate from the SWAC. But there are plenty more SWAC players who will be in NFL camps, including Grambling State wide receiver Chad Williams (6-0, 205), Texas Southern tight end Derrick Griffin (6-7, 230), and Alabama State offensive tackle Jylan Ware (6-8, 295) and nose tackle Roderick Henderson (6-1, 352).

Out of the MEAC, Cohen (5-6, 179) and South Carolina State offensive tackle Javarius Leamon (6-7, 332) are the highest-regarded prospects.

Cohen, the MEAC's all-time rushing leader (5,619 yards), recorded the third-fastest 40-yard dash (4.42 seconds) among running backs at the NFL Combine earlier this month.

Interestingly, the SWAC's all-time rushing leader, Southern's Lenard Tillery (5-10, 200), also expects to find himself in an NFL camp this year.

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