With approximately 250 players on active NFL rosters or practice squads each Sunday, there are numerous NFLPA Collegiate Bowl standouts every week around the league. In Week 16, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl alumni saw their defensive backs ball out! Let’s take a look at some of the stellar play from the secondary players around the league who hail from our event.
One of the best-kept secrets in the NFL might just be Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed. Despite being snubbed of the Pro Bowl, the 2020 fourth-round pick could be in contention to be named an All-Pro due to his stellar play in the slot. Sneed was back at it again this week, collecting seven tackles, as the Chiefs currently hold the top seed in the AFC. On the season, Sneed has racked up a remarkable 102 tackles, including five tackles for loss, ten pass deflections, two interceptions, three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery with two games remaining.
One of the longest-tenured NFLPA Collegiate Bowl alumni is safety Duron Harmon, who turns 32 next month. Playing on his fourth team in as many seasons, Harmon knows better than anyone, rent is due every day in the NFL, despite having over a decade in the league. The Rutgers product has had one of his best seasons to date, in lieu of the Las Vegas Raiders struggles. He registered another six tackles this past week against the Pittsburgh Steelers and now needs four more tackles to set a new career-high (he currently has 70 tackles). With two more interceptions this year, Harmon now has 23 for his career and appears to have plenty of gas left in the tank.
Playing alongside Harmon in the Raiders secondary is cornerback Nate Hobbs. The 2021 fifth-round pick emerged as a starter toward the end of last season and has provided dependable play since. After battling injuries earlier in the season, the second-year cover man has bounced back to have another solid year for Las Vegas. In nine games played this year, Hobbs has racked up 63 tackles, including three tackles for loss, three pass deflections, one sack, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. He has proven to be a true day three draft gem!
Another fifth-round pick who has exceeded expectations is safety Darrick Forrest, who has earned a starting role for a Washington Commanders team that is deep at the safety spot. It has been hard for head coach Ron Rivera to keep the second-year playmaker off the field this season, as he has made numerous big plays on defense. He had another solid game this past week and has now played in all 15 games, making nine starts, with 76 tackles, eight pass deflections, four interceptions, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. The future is bright for Forrest.
The Dallas Cowboys also struck gold by selecting an NFLPA Collegiate Bowl alumni in the fifth round. There doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by without DaRon Bland making his presence felt and this week was as big as ever. He made five tackles and had a key interception to help Dallas knock off the first-place Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys, along with Bland have begun to heat up, as the rookie has started the past six games, including his first start on the boundary in Week 16. In addition, 27 of his 32 tackles have come during the past seven games, while he also has seven pass deflections and an impressive five interceptions in 2022.
An undrafted rookie free agent, Chicago Bears cornerback Joshua Blackwell has shown that he belongs in the NFL. He had another four tackles this past week against the Buffalo Bills and has stepped in to provide stable play, as Chicago deals with depleted secondary depth. Blackwell has appeared in all 15 games on the season, including one start, and has 18 tackles, along with one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. A job well done, Blackwell has helped navigate the turmoil for Chicago and his experience will be beneficial for his long-term development.
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Alumni Spotlight
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*Be sure to follow us @NFLPABowl for the latest player acceptances and updates for the 11th Annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, January 28th, 2023 on NFL Network.