Canadians who could be selected in the NFL draft (or signed after)

There are a number of Canadians to watch during – and especially after – the NFL draft.

Some talented Canucks are vying to keep the record streak of Canadians selected in the NFL draft alive: at least one Canadian has heard their name called during the NFL talent grab for eight straight years.

There’s a good shot the number reaches nine. Laval defensive lineman Mathieu Betts, versatile Tennessee defender Jonathan Kongbo and Arkansas State receiver Justin McInnis have the best chance of being selected. But if they aren’t drafted – and that would be a surprise – expect the trio to sign undrafted free agent contracts.

A number of other prospects could ink UDFA deals or get rookie mini-camp invites. With the NFL draft set to begin on Thursday, here’s a look at the Canadian players who are in the mix.

Possible draftees:

Jonathan Kongbo, DL/LB, Tennessee

The Surrey, B.C. native suffered torn knee ligaments – ACL and MCL – against Auburn University last October, which ended his senior season prematurely. Kongo was at the University of Tennessee pro day on March 14 to be measured by NFL scouts and bench press, recording 20 reps of 225 pounds. Without the injury, Kongbo would have been a lock to be selected.

Mathieu Betts, DL, Laval

Scouts from three NFL teams – including the New Orleans Saints – travelled to Laval University to see Betts play live last season. Five NFL teams – the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers – made the trip to campus for the Rouge et Or pro day where Betts was the main attraction. Strong NFL attention means Betts will get a shot to be in a training camp, one way or another.

Justin McInnis, REC, Arkansas State

McInnis has a rare combination of size and speed and turned it into production for the Red Wolves. He finished his NCAA career with back-to-back productive seasons, catching 49 balls for 800 yards and four touchdowns in 2017 and 61 grabs for 748 yards and five touchdowns as a senior.

Potential UDFA signess:

Michael O’Connor, QB, Michael O’Connor

O’Connor’s arm talent and prototypical size has scouts intrigued by the Canadian pivot. Because of the connection to Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, O’Connor is a known quantity in NFL circles.

Maleek Irons, RB, Ohio

Irons followed a strong senior season – rushing for a career-high 831 yards and eight touchdowns on 126 carries (6.6 yards-per-carry) – with an impressive pro day that was attended by more than 20 pro teams from both sides of the border.

Brayden Lenius-Dickey, REC, New Mexico

The Seattle Seahawks had the specimen receiver in for a private workout, a clear indication of interest. Lenius-Dickey has flashed intriguing potential.

Kurleigh Gittens Jr., REC, Laurier

Gittens Jr. produced a USports single-season record 75 receptions for 953 yards in 2017 to earn the OUA MVP award and, despite changes at the quarterback position, brought in 58 balls for 781 yards last year. The Arizona Cardinals have shown tangible interest in Gittens Jr.

Hergy Malaya, REC, UConn

Malaya started as a freshman for the Huskies and led the University of Connecticut in catches the last two seasons. The Montreal native had two NFL teams at the UConn pro day.

Drew Desjarlais, OL, Windsor

Ever since Desjarlais posted impressive testing numbers at the CFL combine, multiple NFL teams have taken notice.

Alex Fontana, OL, Kansas

Becoming a starter at two NCAA schools and playing well has garnered some NFL attention.

Brady Oliveira, RB, North Dakota

Despite a slower 40-yard time than expected, Oliveira was productive for the Fighting Hawks.

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