"Oh Canada" - How The NFL Draft Has Expanded North

Photo: PHOTO: TY RUSSELL/SOONERSPORTS.COM

The great white north.

A land of beavers, maple syrup, and snow. A frozen tundra in which 10 provinces and 3 territories lay. The place where Drake, Justin Bieber, and most importantly - yours truly - originated.  

You guessed it - Canada.

Known for its hockey, baseball, basketball, and even curling - football simply isn’t a top priority for many citizens across the border. Sure, there’s a 9 team Canadian Football League (the CFL), which just played its quarter-finals this past weekend. But the culture and atmosphere surrounding the game just aren’t the same. Different rules, less funding, and a decreased interest make it near impossible for any Canadian kid to make a professional football career at the NFL level.

That was until now.

The CFL Draft

For the few rare Canadian prospects who have been considered in the NFL, the entire draft process is an interesting one. Obviously, you go through working out for scouts and interviewing with teams. The difference between them and regular prospects, however, is that you’re doing so in multiple leagues.

Only allowed to draft “non-import” players (lived in Canada for 7 years before their 15th birthday), the CFL is always starving for home-grown talent, and these prospects - who are maybe considered fringe NFL candidates - are often thought of as 1st overall pick material in the CFL.

However, these prospects leave CFL organizations in a conundrum. If they’re “too good” they’ll stick in the NFL, while if they’re not good enough, then they aren’t worthy of a high pick in the first place. Ultimately the entire process is about feeling out NFL teams' intentions as much as your own.  

Set usually at the start of May, it’s a confusing event, and almost always comes down to what happened south of the border just a few weeks early.

History of Canada and the NFL Draft

  • Since the start of the Super Bowl Era (1966) — there have been 61 players from Canada selected in the NFL Draft, including well-known names like Nate Burleson, Austin Collie, Jessie Palmer, Orlando Franklin, and David Onyemata.
  • In the last 8 years (excluding 2019) the average amount of players selected per draft has risen rapidly, with at least one Canadian being selected each year. 
  • 3 Canadians have been drafted in the 1st round, including Danny Watkins of the Philadelphia Eagles, Tim Biakabutuka of the Carolina Panthers, and most famously, Tony Mandarich of the Green Bay Packers. Mandarich is the highest-drafted Canadian of all time, being selected 2nd overall all the way back in 1989.
  • The most recent Canadian drafted was New York Jets defensive lineman Nathan Shepard. Shepard was taken 72nd overall after playing college at both Simon Fraser and Fort Hays State.
  • With 4 prospects selected, 2014 set the record for the year with the most Canadian players taken. This included Brent Urban, John Urschel, T.J. Jones, and current Chiefs starting offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

All this history has led to the 2020 draft, where Canada has grown a surprisingly strong prospect crop. Each has taken different paths to get to this point, but they all have one thing in common - their country.

2020 Canadian Prospects

The most well-recognized name on this list, Hubbard is a former track star from Edmonton, Alberta, who went to Bev Facey Community high school. Unlike two of the names on this list, Hubbard forewent the prep route and stayed at his high school to play football. It limited his exposure greatly, but Hubbard’s talented still ended up getting noticed by FBS teams. He received an offer to Oklahoma State and the rest is history.

Currently, Hubbard is leading the entire NCAA in rushing yards, and his electric burst and mind-blowing explosiveness make him a potential 2nd round candidate come April. He’s only a redshirt sophomore so he may decide to return to school, but he’s made Canada proud regardless.

Even Wayne Gretzky - the best hockey player ever - took to social media to take note of what Hubbard’s been doing.

Not bad.

Jackson has lived in Detroit for most of his life, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t born in Windsor, Ontario. Often known as Iowa’s “other tackle” bookending Tristan Wirfs, Jackson rose up the ranks playing prep sports in Michigan and is now considered a potential late Day 2 or early Day 3 pick. His tight hips may force him to kick inside at the next level, but it’s hard to imagine the Hawkeye not finding NFL success with his strong combination of power and quickness.

Having just been invited to the Senior Bowl, Claypool is currently a hot name. Standing at a massive 6-foot-4, 229 pounds, he’s a terrific red-zone target, using his acrobatic contortion and absurd body control to the best of his abilities. Recruited to play for Notre Dame after spending his early years in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Claypool excelled at both basketball and football during his high school years. Like Hubbard, he didn’t have the privilege to play at a prep school, but his play spoke for itself.

We saved the best for last.  

When it’s all said and done Gallimore has a chance to be a 1st round selection, which is something that’s only been done by 4 other Canadians in history. 

The only Canadian ever invited to play at the U.S. Army All-American game (even if he didn’t play because of injury), Gallimore is an absolute athletic freak and was highly coveted all across America as a teenager. Playing for the Canada Prep Raiders when he was in high school, Gallimore had an increased platform by playing U.S. competition and used it to the best of his advantage, gathering a 4-star ranking and over 10 FBS offers. 

Born in Ottawa, Ontario, he could become the first player born in the nation's capital ever to be drafted, and at this point, that seems like a guaranteed lock to come to fruition.

Standing at 6-foot-3, 300 pounds before he was even 18, Gallimore carries his weight amazingly, and excels with elite quickness and burst from the interior. Taking his game to another level this year with Oklahoma, he’s the best Canada has had to offer in quite some time. 

Conclusion

Ultimately, if his year’s class is any indication, Canada may be on its way to creating an under-the-radar NFL draft factory. With Hubbard, Jackson, Claypool, and Gallimore, 2020 may only be the beginning.


Written By:

Carter Donnick

Publications Intern

Publications Intern at The Draft Network. Very Canadian.

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