Canadian Jesse Luketa is already rising up NFL draft boards ahead of the most important job interview of his life.
The Penn State linebacker is one of just two Canadians, along with Alabama receiver John Metchie III, who will be in Indianapolis for the 2022 NFL Combine. While consensus media draft boards currently have Luketa projected as a mid-Day Three pick, anywhere from the late fourth to early seventh round, top NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes he could be off the board a day earlier.
“I would say Luketa’s probably a third-round type guy, probably in that range,” the former NFL scout told the media on a conference call leading up to the Combine.
Hailing from Ottawa’s Heron Gate neighbourhood, Luketa was a consensus four-star recruit out of Mercyhurst Prep in Pennsylvania before arriving at Penn State. He spent his first two college seasons in a backup role, before taking over as a starting off-ball linebacker his junior year. As a senior, he moved down to play on the edge, becoming one of the nation’s best run defending outside linebackers.
For Jeremiah, it’s that rare ability to play both in space and in the trenches that makes Luketa so valuable.
“He’s just a real versatile player. You talk to some coaches around the league right now and kind of where everything’s going, we’ve been talking about positionless players forever,” Jeremiah said. “He’s a different style when it comes to that in terms of what he can do, but he can do more than one thing. So his ability to play off the ball, his ability to rush off the edge.”
Luketa dressed for eleven regular season games as a senior in 2021, recording 52 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, one interceptions, and 0.5 sacks. He has finished his four-year NCAA career with 142 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, one interception, and 0.5 sacks playing both defensive end and linebacker.
The six-foot-two, 261-pound defender earned an invite to the prestigious Senior Bowl all-star game earlier this month and showed off more pass rushing ability than he had in college, notching two sacks in game action. 106 players who participated in the 2021 Senior Bowl were selected by NFL teams, representing 41 percent of the overall draft pool.
When it comes to positionless players, Luketa’s path has been paved by his former Penn State teammate and roommate Micah Parsons. A first round pick of the Dallas Cowboys, Parsons dazzled with 79 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, three knockdowns, and three forced fumbles as a rookie.
The Canadian has a drastically different projection and athletic profile, but both play with a similar reckless abandon.
“I love the fact that the guy just plays with fantastic energy. He just is always bouncing around. He’s got a lot of juice. He’s got a lot of life. He’s got really, really violent hands when he takes on blocks,” Jeremiah explained. “Some of the change of direction stuff and some of the stiffness, you’re just going to have to live with.”
Those two weaknesses are what Luketa will need to address during his on-field workout on March 5 in Indianapolis, trying to prove to NFL teams that he can be more than just a reliable run defender. Should his testing numbers show the burst and bend necessary to develop into a more well-rounded pass rusher, his stock could sky-rocket to that of a Day Two lock.
Currently the top rated prospect in the 2022 CFL Draft, there is no debate as to which side of the border Luketa will be playing on next season. What remains to be seen is just how highly drafted he will be in the NFL, with the next week going a long way towards determining that.