In recent years, NFL teams such as the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts have hit the jackpot bringing in talent from the CFL, acquiring key defensive contributors like end Cameron Wake and inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman.
In the opinion of one CFL exec, there's another NFL star in the making currently plying his trade up Canada way. This one plays on offense and comes complete with something of an NFL pedigree.
And no, it's not Chad Ochocinco.
While speaking with Peter King of the MMQB, Montreal Alouettes general manager Jim Popp raved about wide receiver Duron Carter, saying that "Every NFL team should be after Cris Carter’s son."
Duron Carter is a phenomenal athlete. He’s got every measurable. He’s fast, 6-foot-4, can be a punt returner in the NFL with his size, can run with the ball, has got tremendous body control. When he got on the field last year for us he was just phenomenal. And hopefully he stays healthy this year. He’ll be a highly, highly sought after, Cam Wake kind of guy. This is Duron’s second year, and another year is going to be great for him. But this guy can go in and be a one or two guy [first or second receiver]. He is phenomenal. He can’t finish in the CFL season and then go to NFL in 2014, but teams could sign him to a futures deal for 2015.
It's a remarkable turnaround for a player who once seemed destined to do big things on a football field.
A 4-star recruit coming out of high school, via Rivals.com, Carter followed in his father's footsteps and enrolled at Ohio State. Carter caught 13 passes for 176 yards as a freshman, but his tenure with the Buckeyes ended abruptly when he was ruled academically ineligible prior to the 2010 Rose Bowl.
Carter then enrolled at Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College, a "way station" of sorts for players with eligibility issues, including former New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs and Cincinnati Bengals safety (and former first-round pick) Reggie Nelson.
Carter played well at Coffeyville, reeling in 44 catches for 690 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, while there he apparently also rankled at least one teammate, according to Mike Garafolo of USA Today:
"The team that drafts Duron Carter will get the most lazy, whiny & non-work ethic player the nfl has ever seen," Cayden Cochran, Coffeyville's starting quarterback for Carter's season there, wrote on his Twitter account in February of 2013. "I played w/him. Horrible person & will be a complete cancer to any team on the board."
Tell us how you really feel, Cayden.
Still, Alabama head coach Nick Saban liked what he saw from Carter enough to offer him a spot on the Crimson Tide. However, just as at Ohio State and a subsequent stop at Florida Atlantic, academic issues got in the way.
Carter never played a down in Tuscaloosa or at FAU, and his collegiate career ended with just those 13 catches.
Hall of Famer Cris Carter came to the defense of his son's issues in school prior to the 2013 NFL draft while speaking with Garafolo:
He didn't commit a crime, he has no tattoos, he has no kids, and he's a pleasant kid. His thing is he hates school, though. And I'm his dad. He's really bright; he's got an IQ over 130. He just hates school. We gave him the pretest on the Wonderlic. He got a 28.
He. Just. Hates. (Bleeping). School.
I know there aren't a lot of better receivers than him in this draft. That's not a guess; I know. I know wide receivers. Yes, it might take him some time. I just believe in pro football, it's all football. You get millions of reps. And what's the worst-case scenario? Maybe it takes him 16 months.
But when you see his talent, you'll be like, 'He's a pro.'
Bleacher Report's Justin Onslow agreed with the elder Carter that the younger Carter had NFL upside:
With a limited football resume, it’s nearly impossible to project Carter’s NFL potential. But considering his NFL bloodlines and impressive physical attributes, there’s no reason to believe he doesn’t have the football talent to earn his keep in the NFL. If he works hard and studies even harder, Carter could realize his full potential and surprise a lot of people at the professional level.
However, NFL teams weren't buying. Carter, as expected, wasn't drafted. There was a short camp stint with dad's old team in Minnesota and a tryout with the New Orleans Saints, but Carter couldn't land a job in the NFL as a rookie.
So it was off to the Great White North for Carter, and it was there where things finally began looking up.
With Montreal Alouettes
Carter shined as a rookie in Montreal. His 18.6 yards per catch led the CFL, and Carter ranked 11th in the league in receiving yardage.
It was an impressive enough performance that all the way back in October Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller was touting Carter as the next CFL-to-NFL success story:
Watching Cameron Wake tonight, the next CFL-star turned NFL-star will be WR Duron Carter. He's killing it in Montreal.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) November 1, 2013
Now Popp is singing the same tune, and you can rest assured that at least some NFL teams are listening.
More and more, NFL teams are mining the northern pipeline in a search for the next Wake or Freeman. The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks are even getting into the act, signing 2012 CFL Most Outstanding Rookie (and fellow wide receiver) Chris Matthews to a reserve/futures contract back in February.
And why not? The financial investment involved with signing one of these youngsters is minimal. The risk is nonexistent. And there are plenty of NFL teams who could use a 23-year-old, field-stretching, 6'4" wide receiver.
Looking at you, Cleveland.
Sure, Carter may have taken the scenic road to the NFL, and the road had plenty of potholes. However, whether his maturation took place in college or Quebec, Carter finally appears to be "getting it."
And it's time for NFL teams to take notice.
Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.