The 2022 NFL draft saw four HBCU players drafted, which is four more than we saw taken in 2021 and three more than we saw in 2020. Of the four, Los Angeles Rams cornerback DeCobie Durant seems to be the one with the highest ceiling and who could see the most playing time this season as a rookie.
The smooth, ballhawking corner has been very good in training camp and his play has caught the eyes of fellow cornerback Jalen Ramsey, head coach Sean McVay and GM Les “F Them Picks” Snead.
In late July, the organization raved about Durant, the 142nd overall pick. They praised his effort and swagger. Ramsey, arguably the league’s best corner, is a great measuring stick for Durant and speaks highly of the rook.
“He’s a competitor,” Ramsey, a five-time Pro Bowl selection said. “He’s sneaky, sneaky, super athletic. He’s very smart. He wants to soak up a lot of knowledge.”
McVay talked about the South Carolina State star jumping off the screen in the spring, and how it’s carried over to training camp.
“He made some plays even in the spring that stood out where you can see he’s a great competitor, even when you watch his film the way he played against Clemson. Similar to what I was mentioning about DK the other day. McVay said of Durant’s playmaking in camp.
“He’s just got a great play swagger. He’s getting more and more comfortable. He is playing outside and inside, but he’s getting a lot of work inside. And you can see there’s a lot of nuances that we ask of the star position, and he’s getting more and more comfortable every day and making a lot of plays.”
GM Les Snead who infamously wore a T-shirt that said “F-ck Those Picks” as a blatant reference to all the picks the Rams have given up in acquiring win-now talent, is happy to have hit on a draft pick.
“South Carolina State, a very respected program. A lot of players come out of there and make it to the league, and they do play a lot of power five schools here or there. You go to a combine or pro day, and you check some boxes there.”
“You take another look, and another look … and DeCobie’s a Ram.”
Decobie Durant CB from South Carolina State University taking Reps with First Team Wowed the LA Rams Fans at Training Camp with two early interceptions pic.twitter.com/5Le0d4EH6I
— HBCU Premier Sports & More (@HBCUSports1) July 31, 2022
Durant has been a surprise to an extent. The Rams knew he could play but didn’t expect him to immediately grasp the nuances of playing slot and boundary corner. He’s handled it, and the team’s brass loves it. Even as the young defensive backs struggled a bit in a 24-20 preseason loss to the Cowboys, McVay was quick to point out Durant’s play deserved an applause.
“I like the way that our young DBs continue to play. I thought Durant had another strong performance,” said McVay, who is gunning for a second straight Super Bowl.
Durant is currently in a tight battle to be Ramsey’s backup at right cornerback. He’ll dabble in the slot as well.
Durant Isn’t The Only HBCU Player Showing Well In Camp
Chiefs cornerback Joshua Williams was the first HBCU player drafted in the 2022 NFL draft, and his play has earned him the backup spot to starter L’Jarius Sneed at right cornerback as well.
Sneed has taken Williams under his wing, and it’s paying dividends for the rangy and inquisitive cornerback by way of Division II Fayetteville State.
Sneed even said he’s learning from Williams as well. During a post-practice presser last week, Sneed had this to say.
“Joshua Williams man, I try to steal some things from him as in using his hands, he’s very good with his hands, he’s very patient at the line. I learn from him as a rookie, and I’m still learning myself,” raved Sneed.
Williams appreciated the gesture and had this to say about Sneed, who’s known for his physical style of play.
“First off, it’s a blessing for LJ to say that, because I look up to LJ. That’s somebody that’s a vet, that I really do try to model myself after and take little things after.”
Looks like Deion Sanders was right about the deep, untapped, pro-level HBCU talent pool. These two defensive dynamos are adjusting quickly.