For black college players, the 2016 NFL Draft went just about as projected. The three players selected in last week’s three-day draft – South Carolina State defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, North Carolina Central defensive back Ryan Smith and S. C. State tight end Temarrick Hemingway – all from the MEAC, were the three heralded on literally all draft boards to be taken by NFL teams. Hargrave, the two-time MEAC defensive player of the year and FCS all-American, was taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 26th pick of Friday’s third round. He was the 89th overall selection and the 11th defensive tackle to go off the boards.
Prior to the draft, Hargrave had been rated by several draft services well inside the top 100 overall prospects, from ninth to 11th among players at his position and was given a third round grade. Smith was perhaps the highest riser among the three. He entered the draft with projections that ranged from among the top 100 overall prospects to 35th or 39th amongst defensive backs. He was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the tenth pick in Saturday’s fourth round, 108th overall. He was the 22nd cornerback selected.
Hemingway matched his projection as the ninth or tenth tight end in the draft. He was taken by the Los Angeles Rams Saturday with the second pick of the sixth round, 177th overall. He was the ninth tight end selected. Both Hargrave and Smith earned titles as ‘steals’ in the draft. “If he would have played at a Division I program, he would have gone in the first round,” said NFL Media Analyst, Daniel Jeremiah of Hargrave in a story on NFL.com entitled ‘Five picks I loved.’
“He was one of the most dynamic interior pass rushers in the draft. He had 29.5 sacks over the past two seasons. That is big-time production. If you look at his testing numbers, they stack up favorably with a lot of the best interior defensive linemen from the past two drafts,” Jeremiah said. “This guy is a first, second and third down player,” said Steelers’ Defensive Line Coach John Mitchell of Hargrave. “The things that we do, where we can put him, he can help us. He will give us a new dimension for a big guy in our sub package.”
Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times writes that the Bucs brought Smith in for a visit and left impressed with his toughness, and drafted him to join a revamped secondary that will include first-round corner Vernon Hargreaves and veteran cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Josh Robinson. “He’s fast. He’s a low 4.4 (40-yard dash) guy, we’ve had him timed as high as 4.3,” Auman quoted Bucs general manager Jason Licht as saying. “He’s an aggressive guy. He’ll hit you. He’s got a great mentality. He’s a super kid. “He’s played safety and corner there (at NCCU). We see the possibility of him being a safety here. That versatility is always good. … He’s tough, he’s athletic. He’s got a chance.”
Hemingway was the second tight end taken by the Rams and third receiver following tight end Tyler Higbee of Western Kentucky and South Carolina wide receiver Pharoah Cooper, both taken in the fourth round. All three are expected to play a major role in the development of Rams’ rookie quarterback Jared Goff, the first overall pick in the draft. Hemingway, whose 4.71 40 time and two other marks were best among tight ends at the Combine, made a visit to the Rams two weeks ago and was told by head coach Jeff Fisher that the team was interested in acquiring his services. He was full of emotion and could hardly respond when he got the call from Fisher notifying him of his selection.
Hargrave was the 54th player from South Carolina State taken in NFL Draft history. Hemingway’s selection made it 55. Smith is only the second NCCU selectee in the last 25 years joining defensive lineman Greg Peterson who was selected in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. They are the first two selected since former defensive back Robert Massey was a second round selection in the 1989 draft.