With the 2015 NFL Draft just two weeks away, teams are checking all their sources in the hopes of finding one last late round sleeper or first round lock. Most of this search focuses on the American NCAA Football system. However, in recent years, some Canadian players have stepped across the border and into NFL uniforms. Most of these players have not been superstars; top high school players can make the trip across the border, play for an elite American university team, and seal their fate in the draft. However, in a season when we have Ali Marpet, a DIII offensive lineman, projected by many as a top 100 prospect, it's time to take a look north to see what the talent pool looks like.
First things first. The Canadian Combine. The Combine in Canada is much smaller than it is in the States. Only 51 players participated in the Canadian Combine this year. The rest of the players hoping to make it into the CFL were relegated to smaller, regional combines. This is similar to how the NFL operates, but on a much smaller scale. The drills are very similar; the CFL Combine uses bench Presses, 40-Yard Dashes, Vertical Jumps, Broad Jumps, Shuttle Drills, and 3-Cone Drills to assess the physical abilities of its players. For comparison, the top 40 time in the CFL Combine was Tevaughn Campbell clocking in at a 4.355. That would have been good enough for a 3 way tie for 4th at the NFL Combine, with J.J. Nelson running a 4.28, Trae Waynes running a 4.31, and Phillip Dorsett running a 4.33. The top bench press result was Byron Archambault at 41. That would have topped Ereck Flowers' NFL Combine leading result of 37. Canadian athletes, then, are physically capable of at least keeping up with and competing with their American counterparts.
Why don't we hear about Canadian players more often? First, the level of competition in Canadian University Football is lower than it is in the States, with many scouts equating it to DII or DIII football. Canadian players are therefore lumped in with American small-school prospects near the tail end of most boards. Most scouting departments simply don't take the time to pay much attention to players north of the border. Time is needed to help players transition into the American game. Most of these guys are viewed as developmental players who can be scouted once they're in the CFL. That being said, "developmental" guys can make or break your team. Tom Brady was a 6th round pick and Tony Romo went undrafted. Neither player was projected as anything more than a deep backup.
My point isn't that the next Hall of Fame player is lurking in Canada as we speak. My point is that we need to, as football fans and draftniks, pay more attention to the players north of the border. Some players have been drafted from Canada in recent years, and things appear to be picking up. Now's a perfect time to get acquainted with some of Canada's talent. Here are a few players I like. They'll likely go undrafted in the NFL, but they're worth taking a look at.
Lemar Durant, WR, Simon Fraser University. Durant is a transfer from the University of Nevada and looks to be a backup/special teams type of player if he makes it in the NFL. That being said, he's explosive after the catch, and could make some nice plays in the right offensive system, or even as a return man. He won't likely be drafted in the NFL, but he deserves a camp invite.
Daryl Waud, DT, Western University. Waud is a prospect that was solid enough to receive an invite to the 2015 Shrine Game. He'll likely start out as a depth or practice squad player in the NFL but definitely has the raw ability to develop into a decent rotational player. Well worth watching.
Addison Richards, WR, Regina. Richards is another Shrine Game participant. He could make it as a 5th or 6th receiver on an NFL roster and potentially contribute on special teams. He's got decent hands but lacks breakaway speed, and needs to work on polishing up his routes. That being said, he's capable of adjusting to poorly thrown balls and making plays.
Chris Ackie, DB, Laurnier. Ackie is a quick, shifty defensive back out of Laurnier. He made some nice plays in college, and showed extremely well at the CFL Combine. This is a guy that would likely start out in a developmental role in college but could easily develop into a nice package/rotational player (or even an eventual starter). He might be my favorite Canadian player this year. Here's some film. Needs to polish his tackling technique a bit but his coverage skills are solid. DEAR NFL SCOUTS, DRAFT THIS MAN.
Byron Archambault, LB, Universite of Montreal. Archambault is a solid linebacker in the Canadian university system, and has great core strength. His tackling technique needs some work, and for now he'd project as a depth or practice squad type of player, but he has the physical gifts to develop into a solid player at the NFL level. Well worth a look.
There are many other capable Canadian college players who I haven't listed here, but even with a sample size this small, it shows that Canada is a place where scouts should spend more time. Some of these players have the ability to step into the NFL and become big-time contributors. If you've got some time between now and draft day, check out some of the talent in Canada, and join me in anger as your favorite team drafts a less-talented but better known player at the end of the 7th or brings one in as a undrafted free agent. Canadian University Football, it's worth checking out.
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