Snapshot: HBCUs and the NFL Draft

Tennessee State’s Ed “Too Tall” Jones was drafted first overall by the Dallas Cowboys in 1975.

On Thursday evening, 32 young men will join the fraternity of first round NFL Draft picks. And while none of the HBCU prospects eligible for this draft are expected to be selected on Sunday, we’re taking a look back at the history of HBCU prospects in the first round.

Highest Drafted Players: Grambling’s Buck Buchanan (1963) and Tennessee State’s Ed “Too Tall” Jones (1975) both hold the distinction of being the only HBCU prospects drafted first overall. A towering defensive tackle, Buchanan was drafted first overall in the American Football League (AFL) draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Buchanan anchored a defensive unit that helped Kansas City win two AFL Championships and Superbowl IV. Buchanan was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

Standing 6’9, 270 pound Jones came to Tennessee State to play basketball, but found his calling as a defensive end. The three-time All-Pro helped the Dallas Cowboys win Super Bowl XII, and was a key member of the Cowboys’ famed Doomsday Defense. He finished his career with an unofficial total of over 100 sacks.

Notable First Round Picks: 

*Jackson State running back Walter Payton was selected fourth overall by the Chicago Bears in 1975.

*Alcorn State quarterback Steve McNair was selected third overall by the Houston Oilers in 1995.

*Mississippi Valley State receiver Jerry Rice was selected 16th overall by the San Fransisco 49ers in 1985.

// Jackson State Duos: Jackson State had two players selected in the first round of both the 1975 (Walter Payton, Robert Brazile) and 2000 (Sylvester Morris (21) and Rashard Anderson (23)) drafts.

Last Player Selected In First Round: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was selected sixteenth overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2008 NFL Draft. The 6’2, 182 pound defensive back was a three-time All-OVC Selection, but it was his pre-draft workouts that boosted him to first-round status. Rodgers-Cromartie signed a one-year, five million dollar contract with the Denver Broncos this spring.

Teams With The Most First-Round Draft Picks: Tennessee State and Jackson State both have seven players drafted in the first round, tied for most in HBCU football. Grambling State is third with five.

HBCU Teams With Most Picks Overall

1. Grambling State 119
2. Tennessee State 104
3. Jackson State 98
4. Southern 76
5. FAMU 65
6. Alcorn State 54
6. South Carolina State 54
8. Texas Southern 49
9. North Carolina Central 37
10. Morgan State 35

Source: Draft History

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