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Five local HBCU prospects to watch this offseason


The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.

HBCU players have been an integral part of the NFL's history. From Jerry Rice to Larry Little and Walter Payton, the league has been shaped by talented athletes from historically black colleges and universities.

For the Washington Commanders, this fact should be familiar to them. Doug Williams, a Grambling alum, guided Washington to its second Super Bowl victory with an impressive performance, taking down the Denver Broncos with 340 yards and four touchdowns.

Now, this year's group of HBCU prospect are looking to follow in their footsteps. In anticipation for the 2022 NFL Draft and in honor of Black History Month, let's look at some HBCU prospects from the DMV to watch this offseason.

Quinton Williams, QB, Howard

The Commanders have an opportunity to take one of the best quarterbacks in the draft with the No. 2 overall pick, but there's nothing wrong with signing an undrafted free agent to compete for a practice squad spot in training camp.

Enter Howard's three-year starting quarterback Quinton Williams. A Second Team All-MEAC selection last season, Williams played in 39 games during his four years with the Bison, recording 7,065 yards with 51 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. He was never asked to throw the ball much, but he was efficient with a completion rate of 60%. He led the Bison to a six-win season -- the most since 2017 -- and helped them earn a spot in the Cricket Celebration Bowl against Florida A&M.

The Commanders have a history of bringing in prominent HBCU quarterbacks for at least rookie minicamp. They tried out Bowie State signal-caller DJ Golatt last, and while he ultimately wasn't signed, he did get an opportunity. Perhaps Washington will do the same in 2024 with Williams.

Willie Drew, DB, Virginia State

It's rare for an HBCU prospect to get an invite to the Senior Bowl, but Virginia State's Willie Drew's production was simply too impressive to overlook.

Drew's three seasons at Virginia State were filled with success. He grabbed 11 interceptions, including a career-high of six in 2023, and returned one for a touchdown. He led the team in pass breakups in 2022 and 2023, knocking away 22 passes last season. Despite only being 6-foot and 185 pounds, according to the school's website, Drew finished in the top 10 on his team in tackles.

Drew had a decent performance at the Senior Bowl and will need to test well during his pro day. There are some reports that he can run a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash. If that ends up being true, then he could be a steal as an undrafted free agent.

Anim Dankwah, OT, Howard

Dankwah is a unique individual. He's from Ghana and fell in love with the campus at Howard University. He plays the piano and admires rapper Rod Wave.

He's also an enormous human being, weighing 362 pounds and standing at 6-foot-8.

It should not be a surprise that Dankwah was an impact player for Howard. He appeared in 33 games, earning all-conference nods in each of his final three seasons and helping Howard earn the MEAC regular season championship. He's known for being a strong player who can use his physicality to make up for limitations like his leverage and quickness.

Dankwah has all the makings of what an intriguing player at the NFL level could be. The right coach could mold him into a quality backup or even a starter at some point in his career.

Lawrence Richardson, LB, Morgan State

Richardson did a little of everything for Morgan State, whether it was being a run-stopper (he had 210 tackles with 124 solo stop), rushing the passer (he finished his career with 3.5 sacks) or dropping into coverage (he had four interceptions and nine pass breakups in four seasons).

While Richardson has experience in several areas, his biggest strength is in the run game. He led the team with 77 tackles and ranked fifth in the conference in 2022. The following season, he ranked third on the team, including a career-high 12 tackles against Richmond.

Richardson still has some work to do in coverage, but his athleticism does make him a possible special teams candidate.

Uvel Paul Jr. LB, Bowie State

Paul only had two seasons of being a serious contributor for the Bulldogs, but he does have some traits that could make teams curious about the possibility of letting him compete for a roster spot.

Paul said in an interview with NFL Draft Diamonds that his ability to win one-on-one matchups makes him standout on film. There's certainly some evidence to support that claim, as he recorded 12.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss in his career. He didn't flash as much in coverage, but he does know something about creating turnovers with two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

If Paul does get a chance in the NFL, it will likely be as a special teams player or situational pass-rusher. The Commanders gave Joshua Pryor -- another Bowie State product -- a chance to make a name for himself, and he ended up on the active roster, so maybe Paul can repeat that feat.

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