More known for its abilities on the ice as opposed to its talents on the turf, Canada is a sleeping dragon when it comes to producing NFL-level prospects.
Usually just lucky to have a player drafted in years past, Canada put itself firmly on the radar in 2020, earning itself a top-50 selection (Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers) and another top-100 pick (Neville Gallimore, Dallas Cowboys). It was the first time in history that multiple Canadian players had been taken in the same year, and fortunately enough it looks like that trend will continue in 2021.
With a few even bigger names set to rise to the top of next year’s ranks, it’s time to view the “Great White North” as a legitimate breeding ground for potential pro players. They won’t compete with a place like the state of Texas, for example, but that doesn’t mean that star players can’t be found outside of the U.S.
These seven Canadian 2021 NFL Draft-eligible prospects prove that point.
Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
Hubbard is probably the most famous Canadian football player in the world (and for good reason). Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Hubbard was offered by Oklahoma State and an abundance of other Power 5 schools after a dominant career at Sherwood Park High School, where he obliterated numerous records, including total rushing yards and touchdowns. It was the ability to generate NCAA interest despite sticking at an ordinary Canadian school that was particularly impressive in his case, as the majority of Canadian football prospects (as you’ll see below) need to transfer to American prep schools to gain any sort of interest.
Redshirting his first season on OSU campus to adjust to the faster pace and different American rules, Hubbard started his Oklahoma State career as predominantly a track athlete (Team Canada sprinter) and needed to change his body into a more “football-ready” physique as a result. Achieving this before his redshirt freshman season, Hubbard split time with Baltimore Ravens draft pick Justice Hill the following year, showing off the type of explosive potential—despite limited reps—that tantalized so many schools just a few years earlier. Rushing for 740 yards and seven touchdowns, it was quite impressive for some random kid from Edmonton. Still, Hubbard knew he could do more.
As a redshirt sophomore a season ago, Hubbard finally exploded, rushing for an astounding 2094 yards and 21 touchdowns over just 13 games. Statistically recording one of the best seasons of any running back in NCAA history, Hubbard had more than 200 yards in four separate games, including a career-high 296 yards against Kansas State.
The breakout was a true testament to his dynamic big-play ability as well as his superb vision out of the backfield. He’s yet to fully develop as a pass-catcher and won’t ever be considered a power back, but Hubbard brings rare burst and the uncanny ability to get “skinny” in the hole. Despite the RB position being as devalued as ever, it makes him a slam-dunk top-75 pick and a legitimate Heisman candidate entering 2020.
He’d be the first non-US player to ever win the award. If he puts on a repeat performance of 2019, it’ll be hard to say he doesn’t deserve it.
Alaric Jackson, OT, Iowa
Known most by draftniks as “that other Iowa tackle” after Tristan Wirfs stole the show a season ago, Jackson is an underrated commodity that will surely gain more steam as the draft process develops.
Born in Windsor, Ontario, Jackson moved to Detroit extremely early on in his life, which makes his situation a bit different than a player like Hubbard. Still, he can be considered a Canadian and we’ll gladly claim him as one of our own.
Displaying immense strength and size from the left tackle position, Jackson is a brute mauler with the length and physical gifts to be a legitimate next-level contributor. His overall technique is rough and he can get grabby in pass pro, but a starting future as a power guard or road-grading right tackle certainly isn’t out of the question.
With the way offensive linemen are shooting up boards in today’s day and age, Jackson could contend for a top-50 selection if he cleans up certain tendencies in 2020.
Jevon Holland, DB, Oregon
The player on this list that will be taken highest in the draft, many don’t know that Holland is actually Canadian. Before he moved to California and ended up as a consensus 4-star recruit, Holland was born in British Columbia, Canada, although that had more to do with his dad’s career than anything. A fellow DB, Holland’s dad was playing for the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League (CFL) at the time.
The excellent football bloodlines from his dad certainly transferred into Holland's skill set, as the playmaker is an electric presence on the back end. Nabbing five interceptions as a freshman before following it up with another four last season, the Oregon safety is an absolute ballhawk capable of covering the best that the NCAA has to offer. Lining up at both single-high and nickel, he may not be the fastest straight-line player, but more than makes up for it with his intensity, instincts, and intangibles.
I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that with a quality 2020 season, Holland will be a top-20 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Amen Ogbongbemiga, LB, Oklahoma State
Hubbard’s Canadian partner in crime at Oklahoma State, Ogbongbemiga has not only had a crazy life story, but is also considered the quintessential leader of OSU’s defense.
Born in Nigeria before moving to Houston in 2003, Ogbongmedia’s family decided to move to Calgary, Alberta in 2011, where he would go on to post a decorated high school career, earning the attention of numerous schools, including Oklahoma State. The cousin of former Oklahoma State (and current Miami Dolphins) edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah, Ogbongmedia’s connection to OSU sensibly swayed his decision to join the organization back in 2016, where he would play in a reserve role his first two seasons before eventually breaking out as a junior in 2019.
Exploding for 100 total tackles and five sacks, his rise to prominence has put him on the radar as a potential draft pick, even if that might just be on day three.
Terrell Jana, WR, Virginia
Wideouts like Joe Reed and Olamide Zaccheaus have taken the spotlight at Virginia for years, but although not as exciting as those speedsters, Terrell Jana has quietly emerged as a dependable secondary option for the Cavaliers.
Born in Surrey, British Columbia, Jana excelled at both QB and point guard on his respective high school athletic teams, earning quite the resume north of the border. Unfortunately, he struggled to get the NCAA’s attention from the distant location, opting to transfer to a Virginia prep school to play at receiver before his senior season. Posting more than 1,000 yards in his only season as a wideout, the decision to change both location and position was a wise one, leading to an in-state offer from Virginia.
Much like many of the players on this list, Jana was a reserve for his first two seasons before breaking out a year ago. Earning more than 800 yards and 74 catches in 2019, he proved himself worthy of NFL consideration, even in what looks to be an exceptional WR class up ahead.
Virginia QB Bryce Perkins is gone and it may hurt his target share, but Jana has a legit chance for an NFL Scouting Combine invite (and maybe even a Senior Bowl offer) with a successful senior season. That’s quite impressive when you look back at his throwing and dribbling days in BC.
Joshua Palmer, WR, Tennessee
Another wideout to make the list, Palmer, despite never achieving over 500 receiving yards in a season, is another player worthy of 2021 draft consideration.
Born in Brampton, Ontario before moving to Florida for his final two high school seasons, Palmer ended up as a 3-star recruit and earned his way into meaningful reps with the Volunteers over the past two seasons. A lanky prospect with quality vertical ability, he’s going to need much better production as a senior to earn a Combine invite, but it’s certainly a possibility.
Jesse Luketa, LB, Penn State
A rotational LB for Penn State, Luketa is only a junior and highly unlikely to declare this year, but has the type of athletic tools and platform to be an eventual draft pick when the time is right. Born in Ottawa, Ontario, he’s still likely to be in a sub-package role this upcoming season, but he’s a name to keep an eye out for as part of one of the nation’s most talented squads.
Sydney Brown, DB, Illinois
Last but not least, we’ve got an impact safety from the Big Ten rounding out the list.
Born in London, Ontario before moving to Florida to end his high school career, Brown has logged four total interceptions with the Fighting Illini, including three a season ago. Highly unlikely to be a full-fledged starter at the next level, Brown isn’t the rangiest player or most fluid athlete, but his instincts and tackling dependability (88 tackles last season) are two immediate positives that are consistently put on display.
Like Luketa, he’s only a junior and probably won’t declare, but his name should be kept in the back of your mind regardless.
Interestingly enough his twin brother—Chase—also plays for Illinois after he transferred from Western Michigan last season.