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Several Canadians — including one Albertan — could get picked in an interesting NFL draft

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The rule of thumb for NFL drafts is that more top quarterback prospects equals more excitement. Throw in a few great receivers, the possibility of some big trades and you’ve got yourself a good time.

By those measures, this year’s draft should be better than most.

When the made-for-TV spectacle begins tonight in Detroit, the top three picks are almost guaranteed to be quarterbacks: USC star Caleb Williams is a lock to be selected first overall by Chicago, while Heisman winner Jayden Daniels of LSU will probably go second to Washington before New England takes big Drake Maye of North Carolina with the No. 3 pick.

There are also three standout receivers in this year’s draft class. Ohio State star Marvin Harrison Jr. (son of the Indianapolis Colts great) is expected to go fourth to Arizona, while LSU’s explosive Malik Nabers and Washington’s powerful Rome Odunze are projected for the top 10.

A big trade feels like a real possibility as several teams in desperate need of a quarterback are not currently in position to nab one of the top three guys. Minnesota is the most obvious candidate to trade up in the draft after losing Kirk Cousins in free agency and not replacing him with anyone (Sam Darnold does not count). The Vikings, who have the No. 11 pick, could be eyeing Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy.

Football fans on this side of the border will also be pleased to know that, once again, a handful of Canadians are expected to be picked in the draft. Don’t expect any to go in the first round tonight, but a handful should get chosen either Friday night during rounds two and three or Saturday afternoon when the draft wraps up with rounds fourth through seven.

Last year, a record five Canadians were selected — all in rounds two through five. Three were linemen, and none of them made a big impact as rookies. But running back Chase Brown showed some pop as the second-stringer for the Cincinnati Bengals, while his twin brother Sydney Brown, a safety with the Philadelphia Eagles, had a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown before tearing an ACL in the season finale.

To figure out which Canadians might get drafted this year, I turned to my CBC Sports colleague Dion Caputi. He’s a draft expert who follows prospects year-round, and he’s a Vikings fan. So you know he’s really dialled in right now.

Dion thinks four Canadians will get picked — two tight ends and two offensive lineman. Here’s his scouting report on each player and a estimate of where in the draft they’ll go:

Theo Johnson, tight end, Penn State (round 2 or 3)

Dion’s take: The Windsor, Ont., native’s appealing traits include a rocked-up 6-foot-6, 259-pound frame, long arms to create a large catch radius and “plus” straight-line speed for his position and size. He’ll make many contested catches downfield, and his ascending production in college offers the possibility of a high ceiling under a more structured NFL passing offence. Read more about Johnson here.

Isaiah Adams, offensive line, Illinois (round 4)

Dion’s take: Adams, from Ajax, Ont., took an unusual path to the NFL draft. He began his collegiate career at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., before a brief stop at Garden City Community College in Kansas led him to NCAA Division I ball at Illinois. Adams proved to be a versatile commodity for the Illini, contributing both as a tackle and a guard. He’s more likely to end up as a guard in the pros due to his strength and compact build. Adams could be a five-plus-year starter in the NFL if he addresses some footwork concerns.

Tanner McLachlan, tight end, Arizona (round 5)

Dion’s take: Though he’s considered a tight end, the Lethbridge, Alta., native’s skill set and physical composition are more akin to that of a modern “big-slot” receiver. McLachlan hauled in a combined 79 receptions for 984 yards and six touchdowns over the past two seasons after transferring to Arizona as a walk-on following a torn ACL at Southern Utah. He’s not the best blocker, but his receiving talent alone could get his name called early on day three of the draft if health concerns aren’t an issue.

Anim Dankwah, offensive tackle, Howard (round 7 or undrafted free agent)

Dion’s take: The Brampton, Ont., native is literally the biggest offensive lineman in the draft, measuring 6-foot-8 and 353 pounds. With an imposing frame and enormous wingspan, he was Howard’s unquestioned starter at the all-important left tackle position for three straight seasons. But much assembly will be required with his footwork and lateral efficiency at the pro level, making him an intriguing long-term developmental prospect. The NFL loves a physical specimen, and Dankwah fits the bill.

Dion also wanted to mention defensive back Qwan’tez Stiggers, who is not Canadian but was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie last year with the Toronto Argonauts after leaving college in the wake of his father’s sudden death in 2020. Stiggers could go in the later rounds.

Massive University of British Columbia offensive lineman Giovanni Manu could also be a late-round pick, which would make him the first U Sports player taken in the NFL draft in eight years.

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