Claypool, Gallimore top-rated Canadian prospects available in 2020 NFL Draft

Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters isn’t spending much time evaluating Oklahoma defensive lineman Neville Gallimore and Notre Dame receiver Chase Claypool.

That’s because neither of the top-ranked prospects for this year’s CFL draft is expected to set foot in the CFL for some time, if ever.

“You watch those guys and you’re like, ‘Well, we don’t need to spend a whole lot of time on them because those guys are really good,”‘ Walters said recently. “You see they’re projected somewhere high in the NFL draft, which generally means they’re going to stick.

“Those two are as good prospects coming out as you’ve seen in a long time.”

Gallimore and Claypool are the top-rated Canadians for this year’s NFL draft, which begins Thursday with the first round. The second and third rounds are Friday with the remaining four going Saturday.

The CFL draft is April 30.

Gallimore and Claypool have each been pegged as late first-round NFL picks in various mock drafts and will be among 58 prospects who’ll virtually participate in Thursday’s proceedings. But draft gurus Mel Kiper Jr. and Daniel Jeremiah see both as Friday selections.

The six-foot-two, 304-pound Gallimore, of Ottawa, had 30 tackles, four sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss last season. He appeared in 52 games — 38 as a starter — at Oklahoma, registering 148 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, nine sacks and five forced fumbles.

Gallimore impressed at the NFL combine with a 40-yard dash time of 4.79 seconds, becoming just the third 300-plus pound player to run that fast. He also recorded 23 reps in the 225-pound bench press.

Claypool a six-foot-four, 238-pound native of Abbotsford, B.C., was Notre Dame’s leading receiver in 2019 with 66 catches for 1,037 yards and 13 TDs. He registered 150 career receptions for 2,159 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Claypool also raised eyebrows at the combine, covering the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds. He joined former Detroit star Calvin Johnson as the only receivers measuring six foot four and 235 pounds or bigger to run under 4.45 seconds at the combine.

Rare blend of size, athleticism

Former CFL star Doug Flutie, a colour commentator for Notre Dame Football on NBC, feels Claypool can excel in the NFL. He said Claypool’s maturity was clearly evident last season.

“From the first day he stepped on the field last year, every time he touched the ball he was determined he was going to score,” Flutie said. “It was like a man possessed.

“He started having a determination I hadn’t seen the first few years. [Head coach] Brian Kelly pointed it out to us early, he said, ‘He’s a different cat now, he’s becoming a leader, he’s becoming disciplined,’ because the talent level was always there. He really grew up while he was at Notre Dame, he matured unbelievably.”

Claypool’s size and athleticism have prompted suggestions he could play tight end in the NFL. But Jeremiah, a draft analyst with the NFL Network who has Claypool rated No. 72 on his top-150 list, believes teams should leave him at receiver.

“I’d give this kid a chance on the outside,” Jeremiah said during a conference call. “He’s got some outstanding 50/50 ball wins where he can go up and high point the ball . . . he’s another one that’s really tough.

“He does have some drops. They don’t ask him to run the full route tree, as we like to say, so he’s got to continue to learn and develop as a complete overall route runner. But his physicality and size are going to play in the red zone right away.”

Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore of Ottawa celebrates with the Big 12 championship trophy after his Sooners defeated the Baylor Bears in 2019. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Jeremiah also likes Claypool’s special-teams ability.

“He’s a phenomenal special-teams player,” he said. “He’s one of the best gunners on punt in the entire draft.”

Kiper feels consistency is Claypool’s biggest fault. The ESPN analyst compared Claypool to Breshad Perriman, a ’15 first-round pick now with the New York Jets who’s faced criticism for dropped passes.

“The main thing with Claypool is he’s a freak with his size and his speed,” Kiper said during a conference call. “He’s got to be more consistent catching the ball.

“Claypool has got, like Perriman, a ton of talent but he’s had too many drops and that’s the reason he’s a second-round pick, not a first-round pick.”

Limited production, large upside

Kiper has Gallimore going in the third round but gushed about his versatility.

“He can wear a lot of hats for you, Gallimore can, because he’s got a lot of talent,” Kiper said. “He’s powerful, he tested extremely well.

“This kid is an athlete, he can run like no other. If you can get him in the third round with his versatility and the way he can get into that backfield, I would say Gallimore will be a really good third-round pick for somebody.”

Jeremiah has Gallimore ranked No. 65 on his list.

“When you look at Gallimore, he’s somebody that’s ultra explosive . . . he can collapse the pocket, he’s good at shooting gaps,” he said. “He just hasn’t been ultra productive.

“Sometimes when you watch him, I see a lot of activity without productivity. So that’s the challenge, figuring out a way to funnel all this athleticism and turn it into more production.”

Other Canadians who could also garner NFL attention either as late-round picks or undrafted free agents include: UCLA kicker J.J. Molson of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Que., a grandson of former Montreal Canadiens owner J. David Molson and cousin of current owner Geoff Molson who attended the NFL combine; Ohio University quarterback Nathan Rourke of Oakville, Ont.; and Alberta offensive lineman Carter O’Donnell of Red Deer, Alta.

O’Donnell and Rourke were third and seventh, respectively, on the CFL Scouting Bureau’s final top-20 list.

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