Washington currently has 14 UDFAs and a pair of 7th round drafted rookies on the roster, but that list of players is subject to a lot of change. In previous years, we’ve put together profiles of players only to see them cut by the team a day before the profile was set to publish (or a day after it did publish). In fact, in just the 4 weeks or so that followed the 2022 draft, we saw a lot of churn in this part of the roster among both UDFAs and veteran free agents.
These articles about the bottom-of-the-roster players are not intended to suggest that any given player is bound for glory; rather, the articles are intended to celebrate the ongoing fight of each player to extend his NFL dream.
For those of you who appreciate the fight of the underdog, I hope you enjoy today’s article and the others that will follow in this “2022 UDFA Spotlight” series.
Jequez Ezzard, receiver & returner, Sam Houston State
Jequez Ezzard is not a big guy and he didn’t go to a big college, but he has big dreams. At just 5’9” and 194 pounds, Ezzard relied on speed (4.43 40 time), acceleration and body control to succeed in college.
In the NFL, if the 24-year-old finds a home, it will likely be as a slot receiver and punt returner.
Ezzard started his college career at Howard University, where he spent 4 years, putting up 1,064 yards and 12 TDs in 2018, before an injury cost him his entire 2019 season.
The young receiver decided to enter the transfer portal, and he chose to go to Sam Houston State ahead of the 2020 season. He explained that decision:
Well, I’m not a big social media person. When I eventually entered into the portal, my best friend J.P told me that I could go anywhere in the country. He said he was going to make me a Twitter and he was going to reach out to every coach possible. He ended up showing me a screenshot that he had reached out to 600 coaches on the first day that he made the Twitter.
When he told me about all the coaches and what they said, it sounded like they were trying to recruit me. I told him that I didn’t want to come in like I was a freshman. I told him to keep it FCS, and he started reaching out to North Dakota State and James Madison and such.
I was thinking about it and I knew it would be guaranteed to win at one of those schools. I told him to find me a team with a great defense that has never got over the hump. I wanted one of those underdog teams. I wanted a team that was always in contention but could never finish it off.
He reached out to a few more and then he found Sam Houston. They got back to us and it just went from there.
With his new team, and playing in the COVID-affected competition, Ezzard exploded for 861 yards receiving and an incredible 22.7 yards per catch in the Spring Season. Sam Houston State ended their season with a victory over South Dakota State in the FCS Championship Game. He talked about what it felt like to be a part of that champion team:
It was different, man. I’m still trying to soak it up to this day. Coming from Howard, you never think about winning a National Championship. We weren’t eligible for a playoff run even if we went undefeated, so we were packing up to go home in November.
It was just special, man. The longer you get to play, the better that the experiences are. Making it all the way with those guys, knowing what we went through in that spring, that was big. Like I said, I’m still trying to soak it all in today.
Ezzard played another 10 games for Sam Houston State, and ended up with 1,470 yards receiving on 79 catches for 15 touchdowns.
As you can see, Ezzard averaged over 26 yards per reception for Howard in back-to-back seasons, and then averaged 22.7 in 2020 with Sam Houston State. His career 22.4 yards per reception is a pretty gaudy stat, as is his 33 TDs on 154 receptions.
As a punt returner, Ezzard had his best season in 2020, when he averaged an incredible 17.4 yards per return, with 2 touchdowns. In his 3 best years as a punt returner, he averaged 13.6 yards per return. He also has some experience returning kickoffs.
His apparent skill as a punt returner is likely the key to Ezzard’s chances to make the Commanders roster, or that of any other NFL team.
Washington let their successful return man from 2021, DeAndre Carter, leave in free agency. Ezzard could slide into his roster spot as a specialist return man and backup slot receiver.
To do that, he’ll have to beat out a few players. During OTAs and minicamp, beat reporters consistently identified the same five players fielding punts: UDFAs Ezzard and Kyric McGowan, 7th-year free agent receiver & returner Alex Erickson, 2021 7th round draft pick Dax Milne, and this year’s 1st round pick Jahan Dotson.
Click here for to see other UDFA profiles on Hogs Haven
I’ll be publishing a separate article shortly on the candidates for the return duties, but Ezzard’s college experience, speed, and elusiveness seem to bode well for his chances of succeeding in winning the returner’s job, or, at the least, being signed to the practice squad as a backup returner.
This video is long (almost 22 minutes), but if you want to get a feeling for what Ezzard looks like on a football field as both a receiver and returner, it’s worth watching.
If you prefer just a peek, here’s a tweet for you:
Sam Houston WR Jequez Ezzard has averaged 25.0 yards/catch on 114 career receptions! Insane.— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 12, 2021
Spent 4yrs at Howard before transferring to @BearkatsFB and becoming the Southland Newcomer of the Year...
Nice to see him on @BruceFeldmanCFB Freak List & on @Seniorbowl Watch List! pic.twitter.com/oEnID86e4C
Before I started working on the profile, I have to say that I wasn’t all that excited about a small, fast slot receiver who spent 6 years in small college programs, but the more I learned about Jequez Ezzard, and the more highlight clips I watched (there are a lot of them), the more intrigued I became.
We all know how hard it is for UDFAs to make an NFL roster or have an impact, but the key for most of them that do succeed is special teams. Ezzard is a punt returner who is going to training camp with a team that needs one. I’d say he’s a young man to keep an eye on in preseason. If he can flash as a returner and show that he’s capable of playing in the slot as a backup, he could give the competition a run for their money.
How excited are you that Jequez Ezzard was signed by the Commanders?
This poll is closed
5 - Very excited!
4 - Looks good...for a UDFA
3 - I’m okay; let’s wait and see
2 - I’m doubtful about this guy’s prospects
1 - This guy doesn’t belong in an NFL training camp