The Raiders organization has found great success with players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Hall of Famers Willie Brown, Art Shell and Jerry Rice are just a few that come to mind.
There's been a recent push to increase the level of national spotlight to overlooked HBCU prospects. In January, the NFL partnered with the Senior Bowl to have the first-ever HBCU Combine. Several NFL legends are also in the process of revamping HBCU football programs – with Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders leading Jackson State to an 11-2 record last season and Heisman winner Eddie George becoming the head coach at Tennessee State University.
Cobie Durant, CB, South Carolina State
Durant has the opportunity to become the next great SC State defender in the league following in the steps of Javon Hargrove and Pro Bowler Darius Leonard.
The cornerback's journey consisted of him going from a walk-on to FCS first team All-American. In December, Durant was named the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year after developing into a lockdown cornerback with 14 pass deflections in his senior season and 12 career interceptions. What has aided Durant in coverage is his blinding speed – evident when he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, which was the fifth fastest of all cornerbacks at this year's event.
"Durant might be undersized, but he plays with tremendous confidence and competitiveness," NFL analyst Lance Zierlein said about Durant, who is 5-foot-10, 180 pounds. "He plays with good foot quickness and above-average ball skills to attack the throw. He'll be targeted in run support so he will need to be used judiciously.
"Durant profiles as a late Day 3 selection due to his size, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him outperform his draft slotting."
Markquese Bell, DB, Florida A&M
Bell is not only one of the best HBCU prospects in this draft class, but perhaps one of the most underrated safeties as well.
He stands out on the tape as a great run-stopping safety, with a 85.3 run-defense grade by PFF in 2021. Bell has prototypical size to play the strong safety position, and has great sideline-to-sideline speed. The Florida A&M product was a transfer from Coffeyville Community College, and became a star player in his three seasons with the Rattlesnakes.
In his first season in Tallahassee, Bell led the MEAC in interceptions (five). He wrapped up his college career with 95 total tackles, five forced fumbles, two sacks and an interception in his senior season. He was selected to the 2021 AP FCS All-American third-team.
"[H]e's known as a hard hitter and a safety that offensive players are cautious of when he enters into their areas," said Jordan Reid of The Draft Network. "At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, scouts are excited to see a safety that has been labeled as a well-rounded option that's able to play both on the roof and in the box.
Bell continued to raise his draft stock at the NFL Combine, running a 4.41 40-yard dash with a 36.5" vertical jump.
Ja'Tyre Carter, OL, Southern University
After picking up over 30 pounds going into his senior season, Carter turned himself into a viable offensive line prospect with a nice skillset that can be coached up. Carter has displayed the necessary strength you need to have on the O-line, but also has exceptional athleticism for someone of his stature.
Carter had legitimate interest from colleges as a basketball player coming out of high school, before committing himself to Southern University and football. As a Jaguar, Carter didn't allow a single sack in three seasons, and was given a 93.2 pass block grade by PFF for his 2021 season.
"Everything is under a microscope when you go to an HBCU," Carter told The Advocate earlier this month. "Everything you do, every little thing. You have to do everything times 100 when you go to a small school, because you're not really getting looked at like that. ... [B]ut if you can show that you can play, they'll have no choice but to come get you."
Carter was given more opportunities to prove himself in the Reese's Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, running a 5.13 40-yard dash with a 4.9 20-yard shuffle. With the Raiders trying to build up depth at the guard and tackles positions, Carter could be a suitable option with experience playing both in college.
"Offensive line prospect with the frame, strength and grit to make a go of it moving from tackle to guard," Zierlan has noted of the o-lineman. "Carter displays some technical savvy in certain areas, but needs much more work to get to where he needs to go."
Aqeel Glass, QB, Alabama A&M
The dual-threat quarterbacks in this year's draft class are headlined by Liberty's Malik Willis, who probably will go in the first round. But for someone looking for the same size and skillset that Willis possesses on Day 3, look no further than Aqeel Glass.
The Alabama A&M quarterback may have the last name "Glass," but he plays like he's made of steel. The 6-foot-5, 215 pound prospect not only has the pretty deep ball to get to his receivers, but is also not afraid to run over defenders in his way. Glass was a two-time Deacon Jones Trophy winner, which is awarded annually to the top player from an HBCU. He ended his collegiate career as a Bulldog with 104 passing touchdowns and nearly 11,000 passing yards.
In his senior season, he accumulated 3,568 passing yards with a 36:7 touchdown to interception ratio. He then made a great impression at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, going 9-of-11 with 141 yards and a touchdown.
Glass would make for a solid late-round draft pick or UDFA signing to back up Derek Carr and Garrett Gilbert. The Walter Payton Award finalist could become something special at the next level.
In honor of Black History Month, we look back on the Raiders who have played for a Historically Black College or University. Not pictured: Willie Williams from Grambling State University (1966), Rod Hill from Kentucky State University (1987) and Victor Jackson from Bowie State University (1987).