The 2021 college football season has yet to begin, but four Canadians are already beginning to make waves when it comes to the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Reese’s Senior Bowl unveiled the 2022 Watchlist for its annual all-star showcase on Thursday, considered a pivotal part of the Draft process. In 2021, 106 players from the event were drafted by NFL teams, representing 41 percent of the overall draft pool. Only college seniors and fourth-year graduating juniors are eligible to participate in the game and a quartet of promising Canadians are among the 523 soon-to-be college graduates publicly on the game’s radar.
Linebacker Jesse Luketa, offensive tackle Dontae Bull, and defensive linemen Tavius Robinson and Mohamed Diallo are hoping to be the next set of Canadians to use the all-star showcase as a springboard to NFL stardom.
Back in 2020, strong Senior Bowl showings from Abbotsford’s Chase Claypool and Ottawa’s Neville Gallimore cemented them as Day Two draft selection. That was followed by big performances from Brampton’s Josh Palmer and Montreal’s Benjamin St-Juste last year that saw both selected in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Windsor-born tackle Alaric Jackson also attended the event, earning a shot as an undrafted free agent with the Los Angeles Rams.
Ottawa’s Jesse Luketa is the biggest name among the potential 2022 crop. The former four-star recruit ascended to a starting role at linebacker with Penn State in 2020, also being named a team captain. The athletic six-foot-three, 247-pound linebacker made 59 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and three pass deflections in nine games last season, while adding a fumble recovery.
Hailing from Victoria, Dontae Bull is hard to miss on the offensive line for Fresno State. The six-foot-seven, 326-pound left tackle has started all 14 games he’s played over the last two season, blocking for the Mountain West’s best offence. He is one of just two Bulldogs to make the list.
An improbable story, Tavius Robinson was playing for his hometown Guelph Gryphons, registering 8.5 sacks in 2019, before electing to transfer to Ole Miss once U Sports canceled its 2020 football season. The six-foot-seven, 245-pound edge defender became an instant starter in the SEC, finishing with 18 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
The 19th overall pick by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the the 2021 CFL Draft, Toronto’s Mohamed Diallo rounds out the watchlist Canadians in impressive fashion. A first-team All-MAC selection while playing for Central Michigan in 2020, racking up 19 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in just four games. The six-foot-four, 305-pound wrecking ball opted to enter the transfer portal after the season and has not yet announced a new home, though the Senior Bowl has him listed as attending the University of Arizona.
The Senior Bowl Watchlist will be both added to and whittled down considerably over the coming months, with no Canadians guaranteed to make the final game roster. However all four have a strong chance to earn inclusion and cement their NFL Draft stock with strong 2021 seasons.
The group is unlikely to continue the streak of two straight Senior Bowl games with Canadian touchdown scorers, established by Claypool and Palmer, but expect college football’s most prestigious all-star event to continue to have some maple flavouring going forward.