Meet the top Canadians in the NFL draft | CBC Sports

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Multiple Canadians should get picked in the NFL draft — just not tonight

Even by NFL draft standards, this year’s will be quite the spectacle. It’s being held on the Las Vegas strip, where the opulent setup for tonight’s made-for-TV first round includes a red-carpet stage built over the water in front of the Bellagio fountains.

All this hoopla, though, can’t hide the fact that this year’s draft class is pretty lacklustre. It’s devoid of can’t-miss quarterbacks (the biggest driver of draft interest) and the top half-dozen or so prospects all play on defence or the offensive line. The favourite to be selected first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars is Travon Walker, a high-upside pass rusher who had only six sacks last season for collegiate national champion Georgia. A QB might not be picked until the back half of the first round, where Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett and Liberty’s Malik Willis are expected to land.

This draft might also be a letdown from a Canadian perspective. Last year, a record-tying four Canadians were picked (all from rounds two through four in the seven-round draft). In 2020, receiver Chase Claypool got chosen in the second round by Pittsburgh and went on to have a dynamite 11-touchdown rookie season. The current class lacks that kind of quality or quantity in terms of Canadian prospects. None are expected to be chosen in tonight’s first round, and as few as two could be picked before the draft wraps up on Saturday.

The top Canadian is Alabama receiver John Metchie III. He had a team-high 98 catches and scored eight touchdowns last year for college football’s premier program before suffering a torn ACL in the Crimson Tide’s conference title game win over Georgia. Metchie missed the Tide-Bulldogs rematch in the national championship game, which Georgia won. The only other Canadian considered a sure-fire pick this year is Penn State linebacker Jesse Luketa.

For scouting reports on Metchie, Luketa and the other Canadians with a chance to be selected, I turned to CBC Sports’ Dion Caputi, an NFL draft expert who tracks football prospects year-round. Here’s his analysis:

John Metchie, WR, Alabama

Dion’s take: Metchie will be the first Canadian selected in this year’s draft, and he’s likely to come off the board between rounds two or three on Day 2. Prior to the smooth-handed volume receiver from Brampton, Ont., suffering a torn ACL against Georgia in the SEC title game in December, he was concretely regarded as an eventual first-round selection. All indications thus far point to an expedited recovery for Metchie, who himself said he should be cleared for action “around June.”

Jesse Luketa, LB, Penn State

Dion’s take: A move to defensive end out of team necessity in 2021 helped to refine and diversify Luketa’s draft appeal. The two-year starter, who hails from Ottawa, is a rugged physical profile with impressive tackling ability. He can hope to back-door Day 2 of the draft, but the Penn State product is more likely to be picked in the early part of Day 3, where rounds 4-7 are completed.

The others

Dion’s take: Talented defensive end Luiji Vilain transferred from Michigan to Wake Forest ahead of the 2021 campaign and erupted for eight sacks this season. The Ottawa native is a raw talent with an intriguing blend of size, quickness and length. It would be no surprise if a team bargains a late-round pick on his upside. Rutgers cornerback Patrice Rene has the desired length and size required by NFL evaluators to warrant some draft consideration, but the North Carolina transfer is unlikely to be regarded as more than a priority free agent. Also an Ottawa native, Rene has proven he’s overcome a season-ending knee injury suffered in 2019.

Read more about Metchie here. Follow Dion’s draft reactions and analysis on Twitter @nfldraftupdate.

Quickly…

The Raptors are one win away from being one win away. If they can pull off another victory over the Philadelphia 76ers tonight at home, the Raptors will send their first-round playoff matchup to a deciding Game 7 and have a chance to become the first team in NBA history to win a series after trailing 3-0. All the momentum right now is in Toronto’s favour. Since losing Game 3 in overtime, the Raptors have gotten NBA rookie of the year Scottie Barnes back from a sprained ankle, cracked down defensively, and held the Sixers to 88 points in a stifling Game 5 upset that had Philly fans booing their team off the court. The absence of all-star Fred VanVleet, who’d been playing through knee and hip problems for the past couple of months, seemed to actually strengthen the Raptors in that one. He’s considered doubtful for tonight. Meanwhile, the Sixers are looking shaky. NBA scoring champion Joel Embiid is clearly hampered by a torn thumb ligament, James Harden looks like he’s lost a step and coach Doc Rivers seems flustered by the possibility of blowing another big series lead. Tip-off time is 7 p.m. ET. Game 7, if necessary, would be Saturday in Philadelphia (time TBD). Read a preview of tonight’s Game 6 here.

The NHL playoff field is set. Last night’s shootout loss to Chicago eliminated the Vegas Golden Knights, who were the only outsiders that still had a mathematical shot of getting in. A top-three Stanley Cup favourite going into the season, the Knights will now miss the playoffs for the first time in their five-year history. Vegas’ loss cemented Dallas and Nashville as the two Western wild cards, rounding out the playoff field for that conference. The Eastern Conference’s eight playoff teams have been set for a while. With two nights remaining in the regular season, only two playoff matchups are set in stone. They’re both in the West, where it’ll be Edmonton vs. Los Angeles and Minnesota vs. St. Louis. The playoffs open Monday.

Also…

Canada’s Mattea Roach stretched her Jeopardy! win streak to 17 games — by the narrowest of margins.

On last night’s airing of the game show, the 23-year-old from Toronto by way of Halifax went into the Final Jeopardy round with exactly twice as much money as the second-place contestant. He bet it all and nailed the question (Who is William Butler Yeats?) to pull even with Roach, who looked like she might be in trouble after scribbling down her response just before the deadline. But she got it right and squeaked past her opponent with a $1 bet.

That less-than-aggressive wager drew some criticism from hardcore fans, and Roach’s Canadian bona fides took a hit when she missed a (not easy) clue about Neil Young. But she endeared herself to this newsletter writer after nailing two responses in a category titled “The league MVP’s team,” despite reluctantly announcing her choice by saying “Let’s get sports out of the way.”

Roach’s winnings are now up to $396,182 US — the 10th-highest sum ever in regular-season play. Only seven contestants in history have won more consecutive games than her Canadian-record 17, and she needs just two more to move up on the list. Read more about Roach’s latest victory here and watch last night’s entire game here.

And finally…

Check out this curling shot:

Canada’s Jocelyn Peterman worked that magic for three today at the mixed doubles world championship in Switzerland. The shot of the tournament helped send Peterman and her partner Brett Gallant to an 8-5 win over the United States in their round-robin finale. Canada (8-1) placed second in Group B behind Scotland (9-0), which gets a bye to the semifinals. The Canadians advance to a playoff game tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. ET vs. Norway (7-2), which finished third in Group A. The winner of that matchup faces Group A winner Switzerland (7-2) in the semifinals. Sweden and Germany square off tomorrow to see who plays Scotland in the semis. Peterman and Gallant are trying to become the first Canadian team to take the title in the 14-year history of the mixed doubles worlds. Read more about today’s action and see a longer video of Peterman’s incredible shot here.

You’re up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.

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