NFL Draft impacts Canadian players in ’21, ’22 Draft class

TORONTO — One of the names near the top of the CFL’s Scouting Bureau rankings for the past year will, as expected, get his shot in the NFL.

Ottawa native Jesse Luketa was chosen in the seventh round (256th overall) by the Arizona Cardinals. The six-foot-three, 247-pound linebacker added some defensive end work to his resume in 2021, his third and final season at Penn State. Luketa had 61 tackles total (34 solo) a half-sack and an interception last season.

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Luketa was the fourth-ranked prospect in the CFL Scouting Bureau’s fall rankings and moved up to first for the winter rankings. He dropped down to second in the spring rankings, with Alabama receiver and Brampton, Ont. native John Metchie III — who went WHERE, WHAT to the Houston Texans — taking the final top spot in the rankings.

Luketa joined Metchie and cornerback Deane Leonard, who went 236th overall to the L.A. Chargers as the Canadian content in this year’s NFL Draft. Leonard was the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ second-round selection in the 2021 CFL Draft. The Calgary native opted to return to play his final season at Ole Miss and through that, got his NFL opportunity.

It’s very possible that Luketa will still hear his name called at the CFL Draft on May 3. CFL teams will often use a late-round pick on an NFL-bound Canadian player as a longer-term projection.

While those three Canadians were chosen in the NFL Draft, a number of other Canadians either signed as undrafted free agents or received minicamp invites from NFL teams.

Three players that have been projected to be early picks in the CFL Draft have received NFL interest.

The 2021 CFL Draft class was impacted by this year’s NFL Draft. Luiji Vilain, whom the Toronto Argonauts chose in the third round of last year’s CFL Draft, went back to Wake Forest for 2021 and inked a post-draft deal with the Minnesota Vikings, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

The Argos also saw their second-round pick from the ’21 draft, Sage Doxtater, go from his final year at New Mexico State to a deal with the New Orleans Saints.

Barrie, Ont.’s Jake Julien, a punter out of Eastern Michigan University that was drafted by Ottawa in 2021, agreed to a contract with the New England Patriots.

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