This draft cycle, we've seen a lot of prospects return to school for a variety of reasons. Prospects at HBCUs were no different. There were a bevy of talented players who returned to their respective programs and some who are just not draft eligible as of yet.

While that may be the case, it doesn't dismiss the fact that there is still a ton of talent hailing from the HBCU ranks this draft season. In fact, it may be one of the better ones at certain positions in quite some time. For example, I think there are some excellent return specialists and defensive backs in the 2024 draft class to keep an eye on. We'll have more on the full depth of the small-college/HBCU class at a later date.

But for now, we'll keep this list of prospects to a more manageable number, as we take a look at my top 10 HBCU prospects for the 2024 NFL Draft.

10. Joshua Heyward, DB, Benedict

At the Hula Bowl, Heyward (6-foot, 194 pounds) got better as the week went on, showing he adjusted to the step up in competition. As is the case with Mikey Victor, some teams may see him as a future safety. I see him as someone who's versatile enough to match up vs. bigger WRs and some athletic tight ends, which is a valuable asset in its own right. Coming off a standout week at the HBCU Legacy Bowl, the former Benedict Tiger was one of many who made themselves some money that week.

9. WIllie Drew, CB, Virginia State

Drew (5-foot-11, 191 pounds) was one of my favorite HBCU prospects in the class. He started off the season with a bang in Virginia State's upset win over Norfolk State. Drew made his way to the Reese's Senior Bowl and had an up-and-down week, but still competed well. I still believe in his tape, what was shown at times down in Mobile, and the type of athlete he is. He'll have a chance to be a Day 3 pick for sure.

8. Jordan Toles, DB, Morgan State

Toles (6-foot-1, 207 pounds) has excellent ball skills and instincts. He will find a way to be around the ball by the end of the play. His versatility was on display at the Legacy Bowl, playing more in the alley as a nickel defender. I didn't see him do a lot of that at Morgan State, so it was good to get a glimpse of what a projection would look like for him moving forward.

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7. Evan Gregory, OL, Norfolk State

Gregory (6-foot-4, 305 pounds) is as rock solid as they come for an offensive lineman, which I've seen firsthand having been on the broadcast for two of Gregory's games this season. I believe he'll have a home at guard as a pro and perform well. In the run game he is a space creator, consistently able to get movement in that aspect of the game. 

6. Tairiq Stewart, OT, North Carolina A&T

Tairiq Stewart (6-foot-5, 310 pounds) is another prospect who's in-season tape matched what we saw during the HBCU Legacy Bowl. His aggressiveness was where you wanted it to be, because it didn't hinder his ability to do his job. Too often you'll see aggressiveness lead to penalties or sloppy technique, and that wasn't the case. I thought he was the best offensive lineman in attendance at the Legacy Bowl. His athleticism is what puts him in my top 10.

5. Noah Washington, LB/DE, Morgan State

Washington (6-foot-4, 275 pounds) brings great versatility to the table as a defensive lineman. He has the capability of playing any technique up front and plays them well. He was well-coached at Morgan State, and coming down to the HBCU Legacy Bowl was a great chance to see him in an unfamiliar setting, in which he thrived. He's got the long arms and core strength to be a disruptive presence for a defense. 

4. Jarveon Howard, RB, Alcorn State

Howard (5-foot-10, 215 pounds) was one of the more impressive tailbacks in the SWAC during his career. Scouts were very familiar with his game based on just that alone. What really got people talking was his stellar workout at the HBCU Combine, running an unofficial 4.5-second 40-yard dash, jumping an impressive 10-foot-8 in the broad jump and having a solid on-field workout. He reminds me a lot of former Falcons running back Devonta Freeman with how assertive and explosive he is as a runner.

3. Davius Richard, QB, North Carolina Central

It is unfortunate that Richard (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) suffered a leg injury during the first drive of the HBCU Legacy Bowl as he ran in a touchdown on the opening possession. But reports coming out of New Orleans are that he's doing fine and will be OK. Going back to the week he had at the Hula Bowl was really impressive. He was able to carry that over to the HBCU Combine and Legacy Bowl week of practices as well. We'll track how his injury progresses throughout the spring, as he could have played himself into a potential Day 3 selection in the NFL Draft.

2. Sundiata Anderson, DL, Grambling State

Anderson (6-foot-3, 249 pounds) is another postseason stud who really stood out at the East-West Shrine Bowl. What immediately jumped out at you was his athleticism. During individual drills, Anderson moved fluidly as if he were a tight end. When you combine that size, athleticism and upside due to the raw nature of his game, you can understand why he's high on this list. In my opinion, he's a major combine snub, as he would have tested through the roof. 

1. Mikey Victor, DB, Alabama State

Victor (6-foot-2, 212 pounds) attended both the Hula Bowl and East-West Shrine Bowl, and performed exceptionally well. He combines great size and athleticism for the position, and more than held his own in 1-on-1s vs. upper-level competition. Some teams view him as an outside corner, while some see him as a potential safety convert. Either way, the former Hornet definitely garnered a lot of attention and raised a lot of eyebrows this postseason.