2020 NFL Draft: Canadian prospects to keep an eye on

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With the 2020 NFL Draft just days away, teams are making final preparations for an event that will be drastically different than in past years.

For Canadian prospects, the NFL’s virtual draft means they won’t get the chance to walk onto the stage, but they could still have their dreams realized if their names are called. They will look to join fellow countrymen like Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Tyrone Crawford and Brent Urban, who have been drafted into the NFL and are making significant contributions for their respective teams.

Who are the Canadians that could be drafted into the NFL this week? Here is a look at three who stand out and should have an NFL home after this weekend.

Chase Claypool – WR, Notre Dame

2019 stats: 66 receptions, 1,037 yards, 13 TDs | NFL Combine results

Chase-Claypool
Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool (83) runs from the pursuit of Louisville defensive back Cornelius Sturghill (6) during the second half in Louisville, Ky., Monday, Sept. 2, 2019. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)

Claypool is one of the more intriguing Canadians heading in the draft. The Abbotsford, B.C., native has found a way to stand out in a strong wide receiver class because of his athletic stature. At six-foot-four and 238 pounds, the senior has been able to line up on the outside or can be used in the slot as a possession receiver.

Notre Dame’s MVP for the 2019 season has a decent catch radius and isn’t afraid to be physical to create separation or go up for contested catches.

What has helped Claypool elevate his stock was his strong showing at the combine, where he caught a lot of eyes with a 4.42 40-yard dash time that put him in rare company. He can also be a valuable contributor on special teams, which should earn him playing time out of training camp.

Considering this is a deep class at the receiver position, most draft rankings have Claypool pegged to be picked in the second round.

Neville Gallimore – DT, Oklahoma

2019 stats: 29 tackles (6.5 for loss), four sacks, two forced fumbles | NFL Combine results

neville-gallimore
Oklahoma defensive lineman Neville Gallimore (90) plants a University of Oklahoma flag after the Sooners 30-23 overtime win over Baylor for the Big 12 Conference championship, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. (Ian Maule/AP)

Gallimore took a different approach in his development, first attending the Canada Prep Academy. The school doesn’t follow Canadian football rules, playing four-down football against U.S.-based high schools.

The Ottawa native was a four-star recruit, committing to play for Oklahoma after receiving offers from many schools, including Florida State, Auburn, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oregon and Florida.

Running a 4.79 40-yard dash at the combine drew plenty of attention considering Gallimore is 304 pounds, making him just the third player weighing 300-plus pounds to run that fast. Those physical tools make him a coveted player heading into the draft.

Teams looking for a pass-rushing nose tackle will like how Gallimore disrupts the pocket with his ability to get into gaps and lose blockers with his quickness.

Both Gallimore and Claypool have been invited to participate in the virtual draft on Thursday, which means teams could take a chance on them as Day 1 picks. However, ESPN’s Mel Kiper and NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah both believe that Gallimore will likely be selected on Day 2.

JJ Molson – K, UCLA

2019 stats: 8-of-14, 57.1 per cent on FGs, long of 49; 40-of-40 XPs | NFL Combine results

The grandson of former Montreal Canadiens owner J. David Molson and cousin of current owner Geoff Molson, JJ turned down an offer from Alabama’s Nick Saban to go to UCLA after receiving a full scholarship offer.

He admitted he was shocked to get an invite to the combine considering there aren’t many kickers who are asked to go.

“Honestly, I was really pretty shocked with this invitation. I thought there’s a lot of kickers that did better than me this (past) season and deserved this opportunity a lot more than I did,” Molson told John Kryk of Postmedia. So I was pretty shocked that I got the invitation. But I felt that maybe my kickoffs kind of saved me, even though my field-goal percentage was down a bit this year.”

Molson had a tough 2019 season, making only eight of 14 field goals for 57.1 per cent after posting an 81 per cent success rate in 2017 and 73.7 per cent in 2018. He has proven to be a capable kicker from the 30-to-49 range, but did struggle from the 50-plus range.

Other Canadians to keep an eye on

Rysen John – WR, Simon Fraser University

John hosted a virtual pro day for NFL and CFL teams and had interest from the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Cols, along with both the New York Giants and Jets, he told the 3DownNation Podcast.

Nathan Rourke – QB, Ohio University

The 21-year-old completed 200 of 308 passes for 2,820 yards to go along with 20 TDs and five interceptions last season and has held virtual interviews with both NFL and CFL teams.

Carter O’Donnell – OL, University of Alberta

O’Donnell had his pro day cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but eight teams were prepared to watch and invite him to participate in a personal workout.

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