MEAC's draft candidates stronger than SWAC's

Apr 8, 2016 - 6:22 PM (STATS) - There's great tradition with MEAC and SWAC football, but neither FCS conference remains the pipeline they once were for NFL teams.

The two conferences of historically black colleges and universities used to combine annually on 20 to 30 selections in the NFL Draft during the 1960s and '70s and remained in double figures in the '80s and '90s.

Such Pro Football Hall of Famers as Elvin Bethea (North Carolina A&T), Bob Hayes (Florida A&M), Willie Lanier (Morgan State), Shannon Sharpe (Savannah State) and Art Shell (Maryland-Eastern Shore) were drafted from MEAC schools, and the SWAC produced greats such as Mel Blount (Southern), Buck Buchanan and Willie Davis (Grambling State), Walter Payton (Jackson State) and Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State).

Two years ago, no MEAC or SWAC player was chosen - the only time that has happened in the NFL's common draft era, which began in 1967.

Last year, there was one fourth-round selection from each FCS-level conference, the Arizona Cardinals taking Delaware State nose tackle Rodney Gunter from the MEAC and the Baltimore Ravens picking Texas Southern cornerback Tray Walker from the SWAC. Walker died March 18 from injuries suffered in a dirt bike accident.

The MEAC is the stronger conference this year, with its candidates led by South Carolina State defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who is considered a mid-round possibility. His teammate, tight end Temarrick Hemingway, also could be selected, while North Carolina Central cornerback Ryan Smith has been rising on draft boards following a strong NFL Combine and pro day.

The SWAC is not expected to have a draft pick this year. Jackson State cornerback Robert Porter and Alcorn State quarterback John Gibbs have warranted the most attention from scouts.

A number of HBCU players, such as All-America linebacker Deon King from Norfolk State, figure to sign free agent contracts if they go undrafted.

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