Senior, Auclair among five Canadians who could claim NFL Draft spots

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Two intriguing skill-position players along with a trio of strong prospects in the trenches highlight the Canadian contingent of players that could be selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Five Canucks have legitimate chances to be picked by NFL teams when the pick-fest goes down in Philadelphia from April 27-29. Three were developed at NCAA programs and two Canadian universities. That’s proof you can stay up north, and, now more than ever, get taken seriously by NFL scouts.

As the NFL draft plays out, keep an eye out for these five players who have caught the attention of pro football evaluators.

Justin Senior, OL, Mississippi State

Hometown: Montreal, Que.
NFL draft range: Day 3 pick

A three-year starter at right tackle for the Bulldogs, Senior has put together a strong resumé playing in the Southeastern Conference over the last three seasons. The six-foot-five, 331-pound blocker became the second Mississippi State player to win the Kent Hull Trophy as the state of Mississippi’s top offensive lineman.

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Senior garnered an invite to the Senior Bowl, the top showcase event for senior NFL prospects in the United States. Then he attended the NFL combine in February.

He’s got the physical build with long arms (34 inches) and big hands (10.25 inches) that NFL scouts look for in offensive linemen. Smart and focused, Senior graduated with a degree in sociology last summer and earned SEC Academic Honour Roll status three times. Those traits combined with his consistency and experience at Mississippi State will get Senior drafted.

Antony Auclair, TE, Laval

Hometown: Notre Dame des Pins, Que.
NFL draft range: Day 3 pick

When an NFL scout comes north of the border to see a prospect play live in a U Sports game, that’s a strong sign.

Auclair has been attracting NFL interest for a while and taking advantage. He was invited to the East-West Shrine Game and shined all week under the Florida sun.

That led to personnel men from 17 NFL teams making the trip to Quebec City for Auclair’s Laval pro day.

From there, 10 teams also used one of their 30 visits to bring Auclair to town, meet the coaching staff and conduct further meetings with franchises.

At six-foot-five and 256 pounds, Auclair can block as an in-line tight end and possesses quickness and ability to create separation when running routes. He’s an intriguing prospect for NFL teams who can develop his skills to the fullest potential.

Geoff Gray, OL, Manitoba

Hometown: Winnipeg, Man.
NFL draft range: Day 3 pick or priority free-agent signing

Gray is a big, well-built prospect due in large part to his background in weightlifting. The young man can move a lot of poundage.

He attended the East-West Shrine Game and looked like he belonged with players from big-time NCAA programs. After that, scouts from eight NFL teams travelled to Winnipeg and saw his pro day in person.

Impressive vertical (31 inches) and broad jumps (nine feet, six inches) would’ve tied him for second among all offensive lineman who went to the NFL combine. And the massive young man topped it off by riding a unicycle.

For comparison, Canadian offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif drew nine teams to his pro day in 2014 and Kansas City selected the Mont Saint Hilaire, Que., native in round six, 200th overall. That late-round area could see Gray come off the board. If not, he’ll sign quickly after the seven rounds are completed.

Eli Ankou, DL, UCLA

Hometown: Ottawa, Ont.
NFL draft range: Day 3 pick or priority free agent

At six-foot-three and 331 pounds, Ankou is a load on the interior of the defensive line. Plus, he’s ultra-athletic for his size with a 31-inch vertical jump to prove it.

The stout defensive tackle played a total of 38 games for the Bruins, starting 19 during his final two seasons. He recorded 91 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, three knockdowns, 1.5 sacks, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick during his UCLA career.

Ankou combines size and athleticism at a premium NFL position. There are few prospects who possess the burst and movement skills he does at his weight. That alone makes him an intriguing prospect for NFL teams.

Cameron Judge, LB, UCLA

Hometown: Montreal, Que.
NFL draft range: Day 3 pick or priority free agent

Judge, who was recently added to the CFL Draft, has freakish athleticism with a 4.50 40-yard time, 6.69 3-cone, 36.5-inch vertical and 10-foot, one-inch broad jump.

Since the six-foot-one, 220-pounder arrived at UCLA in 2013 five linebackers from the program have been drafted by NFL teams – one in the first round (Anthony Barr) and two in the second (Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack). That’s a lot of talent to come through UCLA in a short span. Jayon Brown and Judge could bump that number to seven.

Judge became a team co-captain in 2015 and earned starts at linebacker during his last two seasons. Some football men believe the best football is still to come from judge with the athletic traits and work ethic he displays.

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