Some call it a glorified track meet, others dismiss it as the underwear Olympics, but the fact remains that a performance in front of scouts at the NFL Combine can make or break a prospects draft stock.
This year, three Canadian kids will have the opportunity to make their case before the league’s talent evaluators when they take the field in Idianapolis at the end of the month. Abbottsford’s Chase Claypool, Ottawa’s Neville Gallimore and Montreal’s JJ Molson each received one of the 337 invites to the league’s showcase, taking place February 27th to March 2nd at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Given that the NFL Combine often features one or fewer Canadians, the 2020 crop of talent is particularly notable. It represents the largest contingent of Canucks in Indianapolis since the quartet of Tyler Varga, Brandon Bridge, Brett Boyko and Christian Covington performed in 2015.
Claypool will take the field on Day One of the Combine, showing off his pass catching ability with the other receivers. Scouts are all over the place on the top target for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and you can find him projected anywhere from the top of the second round to late in the fifth thanks to a deep receiver class. Many are salivating over his athletic tools and his 6’4 230lbs frame, while others feel he’d be better off putting on an extra 20 pound and moving to tight end, where he could see Darren Waller-type success. Either way, few prospects have as much to gain with a strong combine showing as Claypool. He is expected to test at an elite level, but he could make himself millions if he exceeds those already high expectations.
Day Two in Indianapolis will see the specialist take the field and JJ Molson finds himself as one of only three field goal kickers invited to town. The UCLA standout was the primary leg for his squad all four years in the City of Angels. With a career percentage just south of 69% and a long of 50 yards, Molson doesn’t have eye-popping statistics but he does have a bigger leg than what he was able to show for the Bruins. In the often unpredictable world of scouting kickers, Molson could land on a team’s draft board with a strong outing.
The final Canadian prospect will be front and centre on Day Three, when Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore shows off with the rest of the defensive front seven group. Predicted to be one of the top testers at the Combine due to his freakish athleticism, the 6’2 300-pounder will be fighting for a spot in the first round of the draft. Currently a safe second round projection, teams have questions about his ability as top end pass rusher. If he puts up staggering measurables at Lucas Oil, many will feel those fears have been put to bed and draft experts will firmly place Gallimore in the first round conversation.
Along with the three invitees, several other Canadians will get significant NFL interest this draft season without the chance to test or interview in Indianapolis. Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke, Alberta offensive lineman Carter O’Donnell, Laval offensive lineman Ketel Asse and SFU receiver Rysen John are already firmly on the NFL radar, while players like North Dakota’s Mason Bennett and Southeastern Louisiana’s Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund could raise some eyebrows in the pro day circuit.
Canadian fans can watch their native sons perform live at the NFL Combine starting February 27th on NFL Network. The NFL Draft will take place April 23rd-25th in Las Vegas.