NFL.com has rated the four Canadians most likely to hear their names called at this year’s NFL draft. The Draft begins Thursday April 30 and ends Saturday May 2
Vancouver’s Christian Covington, a defensive tackle who played at Luke Willson’s alma mater (Rice University in Texas) is the top rated Canadian in NFL.com’s annual Draft Tracker, with a score of 5.37.
This video, from IMG College Football Analyst Nate Griffin @coloranalyst is from Covington’s most recent pro day – https://twitter.com/nflcanada/status/580815512000598017
Draft prognosticator Walterfootball.com ranks Covington 16th at his position, and predicts the 6-foot-2, 289-pound defender will be selected between the 3rd and 5th rounds.
Strengths: Shoots out of stance and into blocker with good pad level and forward lean. Brings natural power to the party. Effective two-gapper who plays with proper arm extension. Keeps linemen at end of his length and keeps eyes trained on the backfield. Frees himself from blocks with jerk-and-shed action. Athletic movement in space. Can cave interior of the pocket with initial jolt and sustained bull rush.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t gather feet under him after initial engagement, causing body control and balance problems. Ends up on ground far too often. Showed suspect coordination of feet against Notre Dame. Needs to shed blocker a shade sooner. Must learn to string together pass-rush moves and improve skill level with his hands. Dislocated his kneecap in second game of the season and missed the rest of 2014.
Sources Tell Us: “I thought Christian was an early third-day selection, but could have really improved his status if he had stayed another year. With that said, all bets are off until he gets medical clearance because of that knee.” — AFC South scout
NFL Comparison: Dwan Edwards
Bottom Line: Rotational defensive tackle with functional power and enough initial quickness to play in an odd or even front. Covington has played just two years of college football after missing almost the entire 2014 season due to a knee injury. Missing an entire year of football and the injury that caused his absence will both be hills to climb, but he’s flashed NFL traits and talent previously.
Tyler Varga is next, with a score of 5.1
Strengths: Muscular, well-defined physique. Has hands the size of an offensive lineman. Determined player with willingness to switch from running back to fullback. Strong legs to power through angle tackles. Runs with above average change of direction and uses effective spin move. Able to stop on a dime and make defenders miss. Showed reliable hands out of backfield at Senior Bowl practices.
Weaknesses: Small for a fullback. Ducks head and leads with his shoulder when throwing a block. Must improve hand usage in pass protection. Willing to engage, but overwhelmed by size at times in Senior Bowl blocking matchups. Caught between running back and fullback for his NFL position.
Bottom Line: Could get pushed into the fullback genre when, in reality, he’s a running back and an instinctive one at that. Varga’s ability to run and catch gives him a shot at the back end of a depth chart, but he might have to show he can take snaps as a move fullback and shine on special teams to make an NFL team.
Varga, who grew up in Kitchener, Ontario, and attended Yale, is Walterfootball.com ‘s 4th ranked fullback entering the draft (projected as a potential 6th-round selection.
Also projected by Walterfootball.com to be selected as high as the 6th round is Mississauga, Ontario native Brandon Bridge. Bridge, who starrted at South Alabama, is the site’s 9th rated Quarterback.
NFL.com ‘s 2015 Draft Tracker rates Bridge a 5.0
Strengths: Tall, thin frame with room for more thickness. Three-quarter thrower with elite arm strength and instant release. Has enough arm to make off-balance intermediate and deep throws that few (if any) in this draft can make. Can drop deep ball into a bucket with accuracy and had a completion of 42 yards or more in eight of his 11 games in 2014. Showed some ability to work through progressions and uses his eyes to freeze the safety before taking vertical shots down the sideline. Able to make big plays with his feet. Had runs of 65 and 54 yards in 2014. Isn’t just a pull-and-go runner from pocket. Will buy himself time and continue to scan the field for open targets.
Weaknesses: Coin-flip accuracy with receivers having no idea where to expect the throw when the ball leaves his hand. Footwork is a mess at times, causing the ball to sail. Base gets very narrow with feet right on top of each other as he bounces in the pocket. Rushes some throws unnecessarily rather than finding his rhythm and getting it out on time. Fastball pitcher delivering nothing but gas on most throws. Must improve his touch to create more catchable throws. Average decision maker. Believes he has enough arm for any window and will throw into tight coverage. Relies too often on a fadeaway release.
Sources Tell Us: “He can throw it through a wall, but who knows if he can throw it right to me standing 15 yards away. Hard to get drafted when you can’t complete passes. I will be interested to see if our quarterback coach thinks those mechanics are fixable.” — AFC South scout.
Bottom Line: His arm strength is pure NFL, but his lack of functional accuracy simply cannot be overlooked. It’s one thing to miss with ball placement just inside or just a little bit high, but Bridge’s throws are all over the map. He puts so much heat on them that his receivers struggle to make successful adjustments. That size, arm and athleticism are definitely traits worth taking a chance on, and Bridge could become an interesting talent down the line if a team is able to get his mechanics and touch where they need to be.
UNLV’s Brett Boyko, an offensive tackle who is from Saskatoon, follows Bridge with a ranking of 4.99.
Strengths: Good length. Keeps back flat in pass set and keeps head out of his initial punch. Intelligent player and well-liked within program, according to scouts. Four-year starter at left tackle. Can redirect and get some initial pop when he gets full extension. Has outstanding instincts and football intelligence to recognize defensive line games and blitzes.
Weaknesses: Upright and straight-legged out of stance. Plays with no leverage and has below-average play strength at point of attack. Hands look weak and sloppy in placement. Waist-bending run blocker with no hip snap or drive in run game. Lacks foot quickness to handle good edge rushers and slow to the perimeter when called on.
Bottom Line: Lacks the athleticism teams want from tackles and the strength they are looking for at guard, but his savvy should get him into a camp. His best position may end up at center.