HBCU Legacy Bowl standouts that could be good fits with Saints

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HBCU Legacy Bowl
Feb 25, 2023; New Orleans, LA, USA; Team Robinson quarterback Jayden Thomas(10) catchers a pass against Team Gaither cornerback Jai Nunn-Liddell (27) during the first half of the HBCU Legacy Bowl at Yulman Stadium (Photo:: Stephen Lew).

As the focus on Historically Black College and University (HBCU) sports continues to magnify, its HBCU Legacy Bowl (the conference’s all-star game) entered its second year in 2023. With the game hosted at Tulane University’s Yulman Stadium in New Orleans, the New Orleans Saints are afforded an up-close look at the HBCU all-stars.

This year, there were some standout players where the Saints should be looking to add talent this offseason. Here are five HBCU Legacy Bowl players that would be good fits with New Orleans whether drafted or undrafted.

Southern University DL Jason Dumas
The first thing that jumps off the field when it comes to Dumas is his burst off the line of scrimmage. He ended up with three sacks on the day including what was easily the fastest sack by either team. His immediate penetration is also assisted by his leverage. Though he is undersized (listed at 5-foot-11 and 270 pounds) his size was far from an impediment. Like his college teammate DL Cameron Peterson, he won with both power and finesse. His second sack in particular was outstanding, manhandling the offensive lineman immediately off the snap with great anticipation.

Just two plays later, he chased the passer out of the pocket which he continued to do consistently throughout the matchup. Dumas proved he is an extremely disruptive player (three tackles for a loss) with good body control and a serviceable understanding of how to use his size for leverage.

Southern University DL Cameron Peterson
Peterson started his day with a pressure that forced Bowie State QB Dion Golatt to run and continued his tear throughout the day. Had it not been for a face mask penalty he would have contended with Dumas for the fastest sack of the game with an impressive swim move over the top of the guard trying to engage with him.

His mix of power and finesse as a pass rusher standout but he also showed great discipline in the run game making a couple of stops and causing mayhem in the backfield with three tackles for a loss. Peterson also forced a fumble and got his hands up in time to bat down or tip a few passes. At 6-foot-5, he has the frame to add weight to his already well-distributed 270 pounds. Peterson has everything it takes to be a big-time player at the next level.

Benedict College WR Jayden Thomas
Came out on the field in a short yardage situation and immediately converted a much needed first down to help Team Robinson continue their drive. Thomas willing blocker that was deployed both as a weak side and flanker receiver showing his versatility. He brought in a stellar 33-yard catch down the left sideline with tight coverage showing off his size and ability to high-point passes. Allen said the Saints missed having a contested catch threat in 2022.

If they wanted to give a young prospect a shot that fits their size prototype (6-foot-2 and 205 pounds), Thomas could be worth a sizable UDFA deal. He finished his game in New Orleans with 4 catches for 67 yards on 5 targets.

Florida A&M WR Xavier Smith
Smith was undoubtedly the start of the HBCU Combine and Legacy Bowl week. He showed off his speed in his 40-yard dash which brought in unofficial times between 4.38 and 4.40. But his offensive MVP performance Saturday night proved another layer to his game when he brought in several contested catches on well-defended opportunities.

In all honesty, when it comes to the Saints at least, Smith falls below the required measurables to be selected in the draft. At 5-foot-9 and about 175 pounds, size will always proceed his skills set unfortunately. But make no mistake about it. If Smith were 6-foot tall, he would be widely discussed as the player expected to be the highest-drafted HBCU athlete in 2023. Maybe New Orleans can take advantage of the lack of heraldry that may come his way post-draft much like they did with wide receiver Deonte Harty back in 2019.

Kentucky State University CB Jai Nunn-Liddell
New Orleans has done a great job loading up its cornerback room, but there is never a cap on having too much talent in that room. Nunn-Liddell shows impressive tackling ability both on defense and in punt coverage. For someone likely to be a later-round selection of priority free agent, special teams play will be remarkably important to his chances in the NFL. He’s a bigger corner at 6-foot-3, but his 200 pounds fly quickly all around the field. He’s a heat seeking missile as a downhill defender and has a good nose for anticipating where the ball is headed.

My biggest question for Nunn-Liddell’s stock is whether or not he would be able to play both inside and out. The Saints could be looking to add talent in the slot for their post-Bradley Roby days in the eventual future. If the Kentucky State corner can prove he has that kind of versatility he’d prove himself a great fit in the Big Easy and beyond.

Bowie State QB Dion Golatt
Saints head coach Dennis Allen said that the team would “leave no stone unturned” when it came to their quarterback coach, so exploring a young passer from the HBCU ranks shouldn’t be ruled out. Golatt checks a lot of boxes that NFL teams will like. He is a fast processor with experience in both run option and pro style offenses thanks to his time at both Morgan State and Bowie State, has a big arm and has a relentless work ethic when it comes to preparing for games.

Unfortunately, his day in New Orleans was cut short. He left the game in the first half after starting the game just 1-of-3 on passing attempts before leaving the game early with an apparent lower leg injury. He did start his week with an impressive showing at the HBCU Combine both in terms of on-field drills and interviews.

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Ross Jackson

Saints/Football Analyst

Ross Jackson has been the host of the daily Locked On Saints podcast, covering the New Orleans Saints since 2018. Since then, his host role has expanded to include co-hosting Locked On NFL on Tuesdays with a focus on in-depth analysis on the biggest stories across the NFL and fantasy football. Ross is also a contributor for Saints Wire, part…

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