2012 NFL Draft: How Players with Canadian Ties Will Fare
Yes, we do play football in Canada.
Yes, we have our own league (the Canadian Football League).
And yes, we have NFL quality players.
All three of these statements might be shocking to some, but over the last decade the number of Canadians being selected in the NFL draft has been going up.
In the 2012 draft, there were a record-breaking four players with Canadian connections selected in the draft. Most of you reading this have never heard of some of these players (unless your team drafted them).
But with Canadians becoming more and more immersed in four-down football (yes, the CFL only has three downs), it is time for our proud few to produce on the NFL stage.
Memorable Canucks in the NFL
Cam Wake has been tearing up the NFL since 2009 when he joined the Miami Dolphins. Before that?
Wake went undrafted and spent some time on the New York Giants' practice squad. He then decided to bring his talents to the BC Lions of the CFL. During his two seasons in the Canuck league, Wake had 16 and 23 sacks.
Since signing with the Dolphins, Wake has continued to produce with 28 sacks. Not bad for an undrafted CFL standout.
The free safety was born and raised in Windsor, Ontario. Atogwe would go onto the Stanford Cardinals, where he played football and ran track.
Atogwe would end up being drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the third round of the 2005 draft. He would be the Rams' best defensive player for a number of years, including the 2007 season—when he finished with 75 tackles and eight interceptions.
Atogwe would go onto be overpaid by (you guessed it) the Washington Redskins.
He's a solid player that has reached his ceiling, but had a few quality years in the NFL.
Vanderjagt had three separate stints in the CFL, two before his NFL career and one after.
He was nothing spectacular, and had a tendency to choke in big games.
He was, however, forever immortalized as the "idiot kicker" by Peyton Manning. Watch the video above for one of the best lines in sports history.
Tyrone Crawford was the top Canadian selected in this year's NFL draft, being taken 81st overall by the Dallas Cowboys.
Crawford, like OJ Atogwe, was born and raised in Windsor, Ontario.
Receiving no interest after high school, Crawford went to Bakersfield College for two seasons where he lit up the competition. Rivals.com rated him a 4-star recruit at defensive end.
Crawford spent the next two seasons of his college career at Boise State, where he developed into a solid player, netting 6.5 sacks and 10 fumble recoveries during his senior year.
Crawford is never going to wow anybody athletically, but he is a big defensive end (6'4", 275 pounds) and will be a solid all-around player.
The Cowboys 3-4 is a great fit for Crawford, and their scheme offers him the best chance to showcase his talents.
He will most likely be a rotational player for at least a few seasons. Crawford could develop into a good starting defensive end in the Cowboys 3-4 scheme, using his size to allow Demarcus Ware and (possibly) Anthony Spencer to rack up the sacks.
He's one of those classic gritty players that coaches love and fans don't know.
Akiem Hicks, the huge defensive tackle, was selected by the New Orleans Saints only eight picks after Crawford. Though 89th overall might seem like a stretch to some, Hicks has massive potential and could be one of the best in the league someday.
Hicks was originally a LSU recruit out of California before recruiting violations led him to playing for the University of Regina Rams.
A raw player who would have been a first-round pick had he gone to LSU with their top-notch coaching, Hicks is 6'5" and 318 pounds. He is surprisingly athletic for a man his size.
However, Hicks is lacking technique and has questionable work habits.
There are a few paths Hicks could follow in his NFL career.
1) With suspensions to fellow Saints players, he could be rushed along into playing time. This is the worst case scenario for Hicks. With sloppy technique and iffy effort, he would be dominated and could possibly give up. He'd bust and be out of the league in three years.
2) The Saints take their time and coach the young man. If this is to happen, I can easily see Hicks as a quality NFL starter for a long time. Potential Pro Bowl player is the best case scenario.
3) Hicks never turns it on in any situation and busts hard.
For all of Canada, let's hope for the second option.
Twenty picks after Hicks, the Denver Broncos selected Philip Blake out of Baylor. He could play guard, but will more likely be the eventual starter at center for the Broncos.
Blake was born in Toronto, Ontario (the center of the universe according to everyone from Toronto, Ontario).
Blake spent a year at Tyler Junior College in Texas before transferring to Baylor. He was drafted by the Montreal Alouettes in the 2011 CFL draft, but chose to stay at Baylor.
Baylor was one of the most potent offenses in the country, due in large part to Robert Griffin III. Blake blocked for RG3 and was named first-team All Big 12 in his senior year.
At 6'3" and 311 pounds, Blake has all the size and technique needed to be a starting center in the NFL. He will need to hit the gym and tone his body, though. During the Senior Bowl there was a bit of excess flab and he only benched 22 reps, much lower than most offensive linemen in the draft.
Blake landed in a great situation. At 26, he is mature enough to realize what's at stake. I see him taking the starting center job from day one in Denver.
Normally that would not be anything to spectacular for a rookie center, but he will spend the next few seasons snapping the ball to Peyton Manning.
If Manning can do for Blake what he did for Jeff Saturday then we could have arguably the best Canadian player to enter the modern era of the NFL (much to the dismay of everyone in Canada not from Toronto).
Christo Bilukidi has the least pronounceable name in the NFL draft...and that's the best thing I can say about him, really.
Selected 189th overall by the Oakland Raiders (you know he's a diamond in the rough if the Raiders selected him), Bilukidi must have been ecstatic. He was not graded by many people and I have seen him ranked as low as the 700th-best prospect.
Bilukidi was born in Angola, but was raised in Ottawa, Ontario.
He is also the first Georgia State player to ever be drafted into the NFL.
Aside from his size (6'6" and 290 pounds), he has few (if any) redeeming qualities.
It's not very good.
P.S.—If anybody actually knows how to say his name, please tell me. I have spent hours trying to figure it out.
That's All, Canucks
So that's it. The next generation of Canadians in the NFL have been drafted and will soon be reporting to camp.
Thank you all for reading. If you have a comment remember to be kind and non offensive in the vein of us Canadians.
Cheers... or bye.
(As a bonus, I leave you with a great clip from the CFL, which is without a doubt the most ludicrous play in football history.)