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The NFL draft is back — and a record number of Canadians could get picked
Last year’s “virtual” draft was the first live sports (or at least sports-related) event after the pandemic hit. And it was delightfully intimate. We got to see Roger Goodell’s basement, Kliff Kingsbury’s luxurious pad and Bill Belichick’s dog.
This year, with the United States getting back on its feet, the draft is reverting to something more like the made-for-TV spectacle we’ve come to expect. It’s being held in Cleveland, where top prospects will greet the commissioner on (an outdoor) stage after they’re picked on Thursday night, and (vaccinated) fans will be in attendance.
The top two picks appear to be pretty locked in. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will almost certainly be chosen first overall by Jacksonville, and BYU QB Zach Wilson should go second to the New York Jets. Then it gets interesting. San Francisco traded up to No. 3, suggesting it’ll look to grab one of three QBs: Alabama’s Mac Jones, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or Ohio State’s Justin Fields. Other potential All-Pros on the board include Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell and LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. A pair of Alabama receivers are highly regarded too: Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and speedster Jaylen Waddle.
Also, a record number of Canadians could be drafted. The consensus is five or six, which would surpass the four selected in 2014. None of them are as tantalizing as Chase Claypool, the Notre Dame receiver who went in the second round last year and became a rookie-of-the-year contender with the Pittsburgh Steelers. So you probably won’t hear a Canadian’s name called on Thursday night (when the first round takes place), but it could happen as soon as Friday (rounds 2 and 3) and surely Saturday, when the draft concludes with rounds 4-7.
Here’s a look at the top Canadians with analysis from CBC Sports’ Dion Caputi, an NFL draft expert who evaluates prospects year-round:
Jevon Holland (safety, Oregon)
Hometown: Coquitlam, B.C.
Likeliest draft round: 2 or 3
Dion’s breakdown: “Holland is your quintessential centre-field safety with impressive range and the desired ball skills for the position — a valuable commodity in a modern NFL that values its passing game. He also offers some special teams value as a genuinely reliable punt returner.”
Benjamin St-Juste (cornerback, Minnesota)
Likeliest round: 3 or 4
Dion’s breakdown: “St-Juste is a prototypical long-limbed, press-man cornerback with tailor-made attributes for a zone coverage scheme. His value is somewhat hindered by a lack of burst or long speed, but his aggressive style in one-on-one matchups and desirable measurables make him appealing.”
Chuba Hubbard (running back, Oklahoma State)
Likeliest round: 3 or 4
Dion’s breakdown: “After recording all-world numbers on the ground in 2019, Hubbard’s production slipped sharply in 2020 as Oklahoma State passed the ball more. Despite his limited lower-body drive and minor ball-security concerns, Hubbard has a decisive, no-nonsense running style that pro franchises appreciate. He’s also tirelessly durable and has above-average vision.”
Josh Palmer (wide receiver, Tennessee)
Hometown: Brampton, Ont.
Likeliest round: 4 or 5
Dion’s breakdown: “One of the premier chain-moving receivers in this year’s class, Palmer could be a far better pro than collegian. Sub-standard quarterback play at Tennessee caused his athletic ability to fly somewhat under the radar, but Palmer exhibits masterful body control when making adjustments (and he had to make many). His upside may be limited by his lack of vertical speed, but Palmer’s route-running fundamentals and reliable hands could make him a good secondary target in the NFL.”
In addition to those four, Dion sees Iowa offensive lineman Alaric Jackson (Windsor, Ont.) getting picked on Day 3, and he thinks Oklahoma State linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga (Calgary) also has a shot to be selected before the end of the seventh round. Read more about Hubbard and the other top Canadian prospects here. And for more draft insight, follow Dion on Twitter @nfldraftupdate.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. > Vladimir Guerrero Sr. OK, not quite. Despite Vlad Jr.’s enjoying a breakout season (he’s tied for the AL lead in homers and ranks third in batting average), Vlad Sr. is a Hall of Famer and one of the most beloved baseball players ever. But last night, the son did something his dad never did: hit three home runs in a major-league game. One of them was a grand slam, giving Guerrero seven RBIs on the night. His old man only did that once (though his effort, a nine-RBI performance in 2004 with Anaheim, was even better). Another cool fact from Junior’s big night: the grand slam came off Washington ace Max Scherzer, who became the second pitcher (after Ivan Nova) to serve up homers to both Guerreros. Read more about Vlad Jr.’s home-run hat trick here.
Olympic and Paralympic athletes will be tested daily for the coronavirus in Tokyo. That was one of the tightened measures introduced today by organizers and the governments of Tokyo and Japan as they try to convince an increasingly skeptical world that they can safely hold the events this summer. Anyone participating in the Games must show two negative tests before their flight to Japan and, upon arrival, stick to an “activity plan” designed to minimize contact with the public and even other people involved in the Games. International spectators were ruled out a while ago. A decision on domestic fans will be made in June. The Olympics officially open 12 weeks from this Friday. Read more about the updated measures here.
The women’s world curling championship is on. It was in doubt after two German players tested positive for the coronavirus during pre-tournament screening in Calgary. They’re in isolation and the entire squad is still awaiting medical clearance, but the World Curling Federation said today that the other 13 teams can start practising. It’s unclear what will happen with the German team, but the plan is to start the tournament Friday as scheduled. Canadian skip Kerri Einarson and her team, who won their second straight Scotties title in February, will get their first crack at a world championship. Last year’s was cancelled due to the pandemic. Read more about the decision to go ahead with this year’s here.
The National Women’s Hockey League is doubling its salary cap — but also putting its Montreal expansion team on hold. Commissioner Tyler Tumminia says the cap increase (from $150,000 US to $300,000) is a result of new sponsorship deals and the NWHL’s success in growing its fan base despite shortening its 2021 season to two weeks and having to postpone the playoffs for a couple of months due to a coronavirus outbreak. Players will now make an average of about $15,000 per year. The decision to delay the Montreal team’s debut until the 2022-23 season is due to pandemic-related uncertainties, according to the league. Read more about these moves and the state of the NWHL here.
One of the greatest boxers of all time will once again box someone who is not really a boxer. Floyd Mayweather hasn’t stepped into the ring against an actual pro boxer since defeating Andre Berto in 2015. And he hasn’t fought anyone at all since stopping UFC star Conor McGregor in the 10th round of their stunt bout in 2017 to run his career record to 50-0. Mayweather’s next opponent is even less qualified. On June 6 in Miami he’ll face YouTube star Logan Paul, whose only official fight is a 2019 split-decision loss to another YouTuber who calls himself KSI. If you could swear Paul just fought a couple of weeks ago, you’re thinking of his brother Jake — another YouTuber who recently knocked out former MMA fighter Ben Askren and also KO’d ex-NBA player Nate Robinson last year. At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Logan Paul is about six inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than Mayweather was in his heyday as welterweight champ. But that matters much less when you remember that Paul is, you know, not a boxer.
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