Top Five NFL Rookies From HBCUs This Season | James “The Problem” Houston Is An Elite QB Crusher For Detroit Lions

With the 2022 NFL season just about over, and only Conference Championship Weekend and Super Bowl Sunday remaining, we thought we’d check in on the 2022 HBCU players who saw action this season. Most of the impact rooks were on the defensive side of the ball.

1. James Houston — Lions, Edge

Nicknamed “The Problem,” and for good reason, Houston didn’t disappoint when his number was called by Lions head coach Dan Campbell and rising defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. Playing opposite of 2022 No. 2 overall pick and 2021 Heisman runner-up Aidan Hutchinson, Houston wreaked havoc for opposing defenses weekly. The former Jackson State Tigers star tallied eight sacks, finishing second among rookies behind his teammate Hutchinson.

With the Lions showing some real promise this season in going 9-8 after starting 1-7, the pass rush specialist has carved out a nice spot in Motown. And he was also solid in the run game, something the Lions didn’t know he could do when they drafted him.

Niners QB Brock Purdy is a finalist for Offensive Rookie of the Year after just eight starts. Houston should’ve garnered some Defensive Rookie of the Year votes, as he did his work in just seven games.

2. Joshua Williams — Kansas City Chiefs, CB

The rangy Williams had a baptism by fire, having to play early and often for a banged-up Chiefs secondary. He finished with mixed reviews, as he was very good in zone coverage but struggled a bit in man-to-man. In marquee matchups versus the Bills and Bengals, both teams targeted the former Fayetteville State Broncos star.

In all, he showed no fear of the moment, and playing in a Steve Spagnuolo-coached defense isn’t for the faint of heart. With the constant pressure that he dials up, corners are often left on an island. With the emergence of 2022 seventh-round pick Jaylen Watson, Williams will have his work cut out cracking the starting rotation. He’ll find some playing time going forward because he’s a good special teams player and K.C. uses a ton of defensive backs.

3. DeCobie Durant — Los Angeles Rams, CB

Durant was a real find for the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. The former South Carolina State standout saw time in nine games. He hauled in three interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Durant displayed the ballhawk prowess that made him a draft prospect. Learning from All-Pro Jalen Ramsey didn’t hurt either.

He’s a future starter in the Rams secondary, and it could come as soon as next season if the team decides to part with Ramsey and his huge cap number.

4. Ja’Tyre Carter — Chicago Bears, OL

The versatile swing lineman didn’t see a ton of action, and when he did it was in mop-up duty for a woeful Bears team. While Carter may not be a starter going forward as the team looks to upgrade an offensive line that struggled to keep franchise QB Justin Fields upright, his services and versatility could still come in handy in the Windy City.

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The former Southern Jaguars star has a future in the NFL.

5. Markquese Bell — Dallas Cowboys, Safety

Bell, the physically imposing former FAMU Rattlers enforcer, only started one game for the Cowboys in 2022. But, man, did he flash some natural ability in the preseason and in practices. Caught in a logjam of safeties on the Cowboys team, Bell’s lack of playing time stemmed more from inexperience than it did lack of ability.

Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn doesn’t run an easy scheme to grasp, but what Bell does best is come downhill and hit, like former Seahawks star Kam Chancellor, who starred for Quinn in the Pacific Northwest.

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Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy praised Bell for his work ethic in the offseason program.

“Bell has been extremely impressive. Bell has an excellent chance to do some excellent things.”

That opportunity should be more available in 2023.

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