It’s not all that often a player goes from the Canadian university football ranks directly to the NFL. But Laval’s Antony Auclair might become the second in as many years to manage the feat.
The 23-year-old tight end has so far drawn interest from six NFL teams with more surely to come.
Auclair jumped on the scouting radar back in May after a strong CIS East-West Bowl performance. At six-foot-five and 254 lb., he recorded a 34-inch vertical leap, which tied for tops among all receivers, ran a 4.84-second laser-timed 40-yard dash and displayed agility with 4.30- and 7.00-second shuttle and three-cone times.
When the Rouge et Or beat the University of Montreal in the Dunsmore Cup last Saturday, a high-ranking NFL personnel man made the trip across the border to see Auclair play in person at CEPSUM. With the scout watching closely, Auclair made three catches for 32 yards along with a strong blocking performance in Laval’s 20–17 RSEQ conference championship game victory.
Within Laval’s offence, the Notre-Dame-des-Pins, Que., native is used as a tight end, slotback and out wide at times. He’s heavily involved in the run game as a blocker and is a clear mismatch as a pass catcher because of his size. That combo of skills is why NFL talent evaluators see Auclair as a tight end prospect.
"He certainly has the body type and measurables," says an NFL scout. "If you’re big and athletic the NFL will find you."
Adds one CFL evaluator: "He’s got everything you want: perfect size, tenacious blocker, soft hands, smarts and runs well enough.... Auclair’s unique in that he might be a more valuable commodity south of the border than he would be up here because of the different styles of play.”
With his body of work, Auclair should be a lock to earn an invite to the prestigious East-West Shrine Game, the longest-running college football all-star game in the U.S.
Every year since 1986 at least two Canadian university players have gotten a shot to go down to Florida and showcase their talents in front of NFL scouts with a week of practices culminating with a game. And while that hasn't historically guaranteed a ticket to the NFL for participating Canadians, two out of the last three years a player from north of the border has impressed enough at the event to get selected in the NFL draft.
In 2014 McGill product Laurent Duvernay-Tardif made scouts take notice and got picked by the Kansas City Chiefs in the sixth round he became the second offensive lineman ever from a CIS school to be drafted into the NFL. Duvernay-Tardif has developed into a starter along the Chiefs' offensive line.
University of Manitoba alum David Onyemata used the Shrine Game as a launching pad in 2016. The athletic defensive lineman was taken in the fourth round by New Orleans after the Saints traded up to secure him.
“Common denominator for both those guys is size and athleticism,” says an NFL talent evaluator.
Auclair’s looking to create a buzz at the Shrine Game—with his seemingly inevitable invite on the way—like Duvernay-Tardif and Onyemata did.
“He’s prototype size for an NFL tight end,” says a CFL personnel man. “If he gets an NFL shot in the right system where they employ multiple tight ends, I can see him getting a chance to develop.”
To get there, Auclair will have to take advantage of the opportunities directly in front of him that could enhance scouts’ opinions. Laval has a matchup in the Uteck Bowl against a stout Laurier defence. If the Rouge et Or are successful there, a potential meeting with Calgary looms in the Vanier Cup. The Dinos employ former Eskimos and Alouettes head coach Tom Higgins as their defensive coordinator.
Putting quality plays on film against those elite-level opponents could boost Auclair’s resumé. And if he can perform like he did in the Dunsmore Cup with a scout focused on his every move—both in the game and at practice—more NFL scouts will be crossing the border to take an up-close look in advance of the 2017 NFL Draft.