The Bears have had their fair share of success from HBCUs over the course of their franchise history.
Walter Payton and Richard Dent were two of the team’s cornerstones in their Super Bowl victory in 1985, and both are Pro Football Hall of Famers. Other players like Leslie Frazier, Big Cat Williams and Tarik Cohen have produced well for Chicago after successful careers with HBCUs. Though they might not generate as much attention as your typical Power 5 school, there’s still plenty of talent to be found at that level.
The 2022 NFL Draft features a handful of HBCU prospects who could be selected, as well as many others deserving of roster spots at the next level. If the Bears are wise, they’ll do their homework on these 10 prospects.
Markquese Bell, S, Florida A&M
If you’re looking for a size-speed project in the secondary on Day 3, Markquese Bell is someone you should be well acquainted with.
Bell is a 6-foot-2, 212-pound thumper of a safety who hits hard and isn’t afraid to charge downhill and lower the shoulder. He brings good versatility in the box and off the edge, but he’s also athletic enough to play in coverage out of the slot, in two-high shells and as a single-high defender. He ran a 4.41 40-yard dash and showcases very good straight-line speed on tape, and his motor allows him to maximize his physical gifts. That aggression can come back to bite him sometimes, but his floor of a special teams ace and ceiling as a quality starter could see him selected in Round 4.
Decobie Durant, CB, South Carolina State
One of my top defensive back performers at the Combine, Decobie Durant was a major beneficiary of the event coming back for this year’s draft.
Durant ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at the Combine and was able to secure two interceptions in a matchup against Clemson. He is a quick-twitched athlete with loose hips and the deep speed needed to defend vertical route concepts. His ball-tracking skills stand out on tape, as he high-points the ball well and isn’t afraid to enter the frame of opposing receivers: you don’t get 12 interceptions in 4 years by accident. He’s a hair short of 5-foot-10 and weighs just 180 pounds, so his size and physicality can come into question sometimes. That said, he projects very well as a slot corner who could come into play as a draft pick as early as Round 6.
Joshua Williams, CB, Fayetteville State
When you’re a small-school player, it helps your draft stock if you have elite physical upside to project for long-term success. Joshua Williams has exactly that.
A 6-foot-3, 197-pound defender with a 9.44 RAS score, Williams has an intriguing combination of size and explosiveness. In his two seasons as a starter for Fayetteville State, he tallied a combined 5 interceptions and 24 pass deflections. His feet are quicker in his backpedal than one would expect for his size, and he’s a polished press corner with a tough edge at the catch point. He can stand to work on his pad level and get lower when he backpedals to improve how quickly he changes direction, but Williams offers solid upside with his length, speed and physical edge and should be on the Bears’ radar in Rounds 5 or 6.
Ja’Tyre Carter, OL, Southern
With both a Senior Bowl and a Combine invitation to his name, Ja’Tyre Carter is one of the most high-profile HBCU players in this class.
Carter is a very good athlete for an offensive lineman with tackle-guard versatility, though he projects best as a guard in the pros. He has the lateral mobility, acceleration off the snap and body control in space needed to project into a wide-zone run blocking scheme like the Bears project to run. Having not allowed a single sack and allowing just two pressures in all of 2021, his dominance at the FCS level cannot be overstated. He can stand to add a little more anchor strength and lower his center of gravity at the point of attack, but Carter has the tools needed to factor in as a draft pick around Round 6.
Aqeel Glass, QB, Alabama A&M
It can be a fruitful endeavor to take a flier on a Day 3 quarterback in hopes they develop into something, because your ROI will be much higher than what you invested in him. Could Aqeel Glass be one of those sound investments this year?
He’s certainly shown promise in his 5 years as a starter. He’s been able to improve exponentially in his collegiate career, showcasing a strong arm and the mental and physical toughness needed to play quarterback. He has great height at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, and while he could still afford to add 10-15 more pounds, he plays with very good physicality in the pocket. Glass will need to show his ability to consistently make smart decisions past his first read and generate more follow-through from his back foot when he throws. However, he’s a true competitor with a great resume who could be worth a look from the Bears late on Day 3 or as an undrafted free agent.
Al Young, CB, Jackson State
With 11 pass deflections and an allowed completion percentage of just 32.8% in a season, Al Young is coming off of one of the best seasons an HBCU defender had in 2021.
Young is a physical perimeter defensive back with good instincts in zone coverage and an ability to take precise angles to the ball in the air. He has a good sense of how to anticipate route concepts and is patient in his backpedal when letting plays develop. His athleticism doesn’t jump off the page, but a player with his aggressive edge and intelligence deserves looks as a priority undrafted free agent at least, especially for a team that needs secondary help like the Bears.
Keith Corbin III, WR, Jackson State
After a few seasons as a reliable contributor for Houston, Keith Corbin came in and immediately stood out for Jackson State.
With 69 receptions, 921 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2021, Corbin was one of the most productive HBCU receivers in the nation. He’s a well-built receiver at 6-foot-1 and 191 pounds with very good lower-body explosion and solid breakaway speed needed to make plays with the ball in his hands. He also has reliable hands in contested situations and has shown impressive coordination attacking the 50-50 ball. A lack of an elite physical trait in his game could hurt his stock a bit, but he projects well as a future NFL depth piece.
James Houston, EDGE/LB, Jackson State
It’s tough to ignore a player with 16.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for a loss in a season. That’s what you’re getting in James Houston.
Houston is a dynamo off the edge, to be blunt. He plays with a red-hot motor on a consistent basis, and he does a good job of keeping his pads low to convert speed to power. His quickness off the snap is impressive, and he plays with the intention of pummeling blockers in front of him. He’s only 6 feet tall and 244 pounds, and while he has long arms, his lack of size could prevent him from playing as a full-time EDGE in the pros. That said, he should generate looks as an undrafted free agent with alignment versatility.
Will Adams, S, Virginia State
Versatility can be key to help a defensive rookie see playing time early, and that should help Will Adams out quite a bit.
Adams has taken reps as a slot and outside cornerback, and he can also play both as a high-shell safety and in the box. He’s explosive in his lower half with good acceleration and great leaping ability, as made evident by his 40.5-inch vertical at the HBCU Combine. He hits hard as a downhill tackler and isn’t afraid of physical situations, and he offers good size at 6-foot-1 and 186 pounds. His range in coverage is a bit limited and his hips a bit stiff, but he projects very well as a potential special teams contributor as a priority undrafted free agent.
Michael Badejo, EDGE, Texas Southern
As the Bears transition to a 4-3 base defense, they could look to bring in some edge rushers with plenty of experience with their hand in the dirt.
Michael Badejo was an HBCU All-American whose background as a three-star high school recruit and a former SMU contributor shows up on tape. He plays with a high motor on a consistent basis, showing active hands and good quickness in his first step. His physical ceiling in the pros might not be much more than a solid special teams contributor and depth piece, though. The Bears have done their homework on Badejo, so if they’re intrigued by what they see, he could be worth signing after the draft.
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