By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN — Welcome to Day Three of our 2018 NFL Draft primers.
Over the next few days leading up to the three-day hootenanny in Texas, we’ll take a look at the best black college football players available in this year’s draft. Despite the fact that several starters, Pro Bowlers, and Hall of Famers have come out of these campuses, HBCU players still get marginalized and overlooked during these yearly affairs.
Each day, we’ll focus on the best available HBCU players at each position offensively and defensively. Some of them you may have heard of, others you may be introduced to for the first time. Whether you’re a true draftnik or just a casual observer, you’ll definitely be a little bit more informed as you sit and watch the proceedings.
Part One was all about quarterbacks. Part Two was the running backs.
Today, we turn our focus to wide receivers and tight ends.
PATRICK SMITH (6-0, 195) TENNESSEE STATE
A two-time All-OVC selection, Smith finished his Tiger career ranked fourth all-time in receiving touchdowns in conference history. The Memphis native scored via passing, receiving and on a punt return in 2017. As a receiver, he caught 42 passes for 648 yards (15.4 per reception). Smith scored eight touchdowns through the air, while he tossed one against Austin Peay and returned one versus Jackson State. The OVC’s 2017 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year finished with 887 all-purpose yards on the season. Smith also left his mark in the TSU record books in career receptions, yardage, and touchdowns.
KHRIS GARDIN (5-8, 180) NORTH CAROLINA A&T
A three-time All-MEAC selection and two-time FCS All-American, Gardin was one of the most explosive offensive weapons in the country. He finished his career with 1,594 punt return yards, second all-time behind Hampton’s Marquay McDaniel (1,668 punt return yards). In 2017, he returned 29 punts for 371 yards and a touchdown. He also has five career punt returns for touchdowns and averaged 14.6 yards per return. He was also a consistent receiver for A&T. The speedy Gardin finished his Aggie career with 92 catches (1,005 yards) and 10 touchdowns.
KHADAREL HODGE (6-2, 200) PRAIRIE VIEW A&M
A two-time All-SWAC selection and an SBN All-American selection, Hodge was third in the SWAC in both receptions (48) and receiving yards (844), second in yards per catch (17.6) and first in touchdown receptions (12). He caught at least one touchdown pass in seven straight games, posting three 100-yard receiving games and four multi-TD receiving games. He also broke Otis Taylor’s 53-year old single-game receiving yards school record with 232 yards on eight receptions and three touchdowns vs. UAPB. He was also selected to play in the HBCU Spirit Of America Dream Bowl in January.
OKECHI NTIASAGWE (6-3, 201) BENEDICT COLLEGE
An All-SIAC performer for the Tigers in 2017, the Columbia, S.C. native had a breakout senior season. He had 41 receptions for 589 yards and three touchdowns for B.C. while also leading the conference in receptions per game and receiving yards per game. A member of the Don Hansen Division II All-Super Region Two squad, Ntiasagwe also appeared in a pair of all-star showcases: the SPIRAL Tropical Bowl FBS All-American All-Star Game and the 4th Annual FCS Bowl.
BRANDON NORWOOD (6-1, 190) FLORIDA A&M
A two-time All-MEAC performer, Norwood has been the Rattlers’ go-to receiver since arriving at Tallahassee. In 2014, he became the first freshman since All-American Jacquay Nunnally in 1997, to lead the team in receiving. He’s had at least 50 catches over the last two seasons and impressed many NFL scouts during FAMU’s Pro Day back just a few weeks ago.
JACEN MURPHY (5-11, 200) NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL
An All-MEAC selection in 2017, Murphy was tied for MEAC lead with 60 receptions for 742 yards and five touchdowns. He placed fourth in the conference with 67.5 receiving yards per game. The 60 grabs rank third on NCCU’s single-season list. His best game of the year came against Delaware State when he had 10 receptions for 189 yards and two touchdowns in October. Tabbed as the MEAC offensive player of the week, his 189 receiving yards were the most by an Eagle in 27 years.
NORLANDO VEALS (6-3, 200) ALCORN STATE
A two-time All-SWAC performer, Veals has been the Braves’ leading receiver the last two seasons. In 2017, the Mississippi native led the SWAC in receiving yards per game with 81.6 while hauling in 816 yards on the season with six touchdown catches. He also averaged 18.1 yards per catch and 4.5 receptions per game. Veals also ranks top-10 in the league in all-purpose yards with 82.0 per game. He posted a career-high 253 receiving yards and three touchdown catches against Mississippi Valley State.
BRANDON BRITTON (5-7, 190) BOWIE STATE
An All-CIAA selection in 2017, Britton was a huge part of the Bulldogs’ No. 1 ranked offense in all of Division II football. The Columbia, Md. native was BSU’s leading receiver with 68 catches for 953 yards (14.0 average) and 14 touchdowns. He led the CIAA in all three categories including yards per game (86.6). In his 11 games last year, he had five multiple touchdowns contests including a 4 TD game against Saint Augustine’s (a 66-13 BSU win) in September.
JAWILL DAVIS (6-0, 180) BETHUNE-COOKMAN
A consistent four-year starter for the Wildcats, the Miami native had a 23-game catch streak that stretched for nearly three seasons. In 2017, he had 36 catches for 475 (13.2 average) and three touchdowns. His best game came against Southeast Louisiana (a 28-23 win for BCC) in September when he registered seven grabs for 138 yards (19.7 average) and a touchdown.
SAM BOYD (6-4, 250) ST. AUGUSTINE’S
A two-time All-CIAA selection, Boyd helped lead the Falcons to their first .500 season (5-5) since 2012. Also chosen for the Don Hansen Division II All-Super Region Two squad, the St. Petersburg, Fla. native caught a team-high 42 passes at wide receiver for St. Aug’s. He was also tied for second in the CIAA in touchdown catches (9). His signature game came in SAU’s upset of Winston-Salem State. He caught two touchdown passes, including one from nine yards with 29 seconds left to clinch the victory.
DILLON BEARD (6-3, 256) SOUTHERN
A two-time All-SWAC selection, the Baton Rouge native is one of the best tight ends/receivers in the country. Last season after a slow start, he finished his senior campaign with 35 catches for 442 yards (12.6 average) and five touchdowns. An excellent blocker as well, Beard caught nearly 100 balls in four seasons (94 catches, 1,167 yards) at SU while scoring 14 touchdowns. Could be tabbed as a pure wide receiver in the NFL because of his speed alone.
Up next: Offensive lineman