Virginia defensive lineman Brent Urban first Canadian taken in NFL draft
Saturday, May 10, 2014 12:01 am
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif made it a record-setting final day of the NFL draft.
The McGill Redmen offensive tackle went in the sixth round, 200th overall, to the Kansas City Chiefs, making him the fourth Canadian-born player taken, the most ever. All four were selected Saturday, the final day of the draft.
"For sure, it's a long time to wait . . . but at the same time I was saying to myself, 'There's not much financial advantage to being drafted at that point, it's more to get a good fit with a team," Duvernay-Tardif said during a conference call. "When I went to Kansas City I really enjoyed my time there and think I developed a good chemistry with the coaches so I was really happy the Chiefs got me."
Montreal Carabins offensive lineman David Foucault, a blue-chip CFL draft prospect, will attend the Carolina Panthers rookie mini-camp next week but hasn't signed with the NFL club.
The Baltimore Ravens figured prominently in the record day. They took Virginia defensive lineman Brent Urban, a six-foot-seven, 295-pound native of Mississauga, Ont., in the fourth round, No. 134 overall, before picking Winnipeg native John Urschel, an offensive lineman at Penn State, in the fifth, No. 175 overall.
Notre Dame receiver T.J. Jones — another Winnipeg native — went in the sixth, No. 189 overall, to the Detroit Lions.
Last year, Rice tight end Luke Willson, a native of LaSalle, Ont., was the lone Canadian drafted, going in the fifth round to the Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks. But in 2012, four players from Canada were selected.
Three Canadians — defensive linemen Tyrone Crawford of Windsor, Ont. (third round, Dallas) and Christo Bilukidi of Ottawa (sixth round, Oakland) and centre Philip Blake of Toronto (fourth round, Denver) — were drafted. So was Akiem Hicks, an American defensive lineman who played at the University of Regina (third round, New Orleans).
The six-foot-five, 314-pound Duvernay-Tardif, of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., is the 10th CIS player taken in the NFL draft but only McGill's second. Randy Chevrier, a defensive lineman/long snapper with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders, went in the seventh round to the Jacksonville Jaguars in '01.
J.P. Darche, a former Redmen and Toronto Argonauts long-snapper, signed as a free agent with Seattle in 2000 and remained there through the 2006 season before spending his final two campaigns with Kansas City. And like Duvernay-Tardif, Darche was a medical student who juggled his studies with football.
Duvernay-Tardif was twice an All-Canadian at McGill and last year was Canadian university football's top lineman. He also remained firmly entrenched atop the CFL scouting bureau's top-15 prospects list for Tuesday night's draft but will be a definite future selection now.
One adjustment Duvernay-Tardif faces in the NFL is having defensive lineman set up across from him instead of a yard off the ball. But he successfully dealt with that in January at the East-West Shrine game.
"I think I'm physical enough, I think I'm athletic enough," he said. "For sure, it (no yard off ball) will be an adjustment but when I went to the Shrine game it took me a practice to get used to it and after that I was ready to go.
"Ill be able to work on technique so when training camp starts I think I'll be pretty used to that."
Duvernay-Tardif, a converted defensive lineman, saw his draft stock skyrocket following his pro day in Montreal in March. The Chiefs were among nine NFL teams —Oakland, Philadelphia, Arizona, New York Jets, Green Bay, Chicago, San Francisco and Buffalo were the others — to attend, along with four CFL clubs — Montreal, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa. Duvernay-Tardif didn't disappoint, posting a 40-yard dash time of 4.94 seconds, a 31.5-inch vertical and 34 reps in the bench press.
Duvernay-Tardif was bypassed for the NFL combine but those numbers were as good as any offensive lineman who tested in Indianapolis. After his workout he visited with nine teams, including Kansas City.
But it was Urban who came in as the most highly regarded Canadian. Ravens coach John Harbaugh had given Urban a second-round grade before the draft and was surprised to see him still available in the fourth.
"He's a guy when I first watched him thought second round at the latest," Harbaugh told NFL Network. "This guy is a guy who fits our scheme perfectly, a big, strong guy who fell to us so we couldn't be more happy with him."
Urban, 23, started eight games last year before suffering a severe high ankle sprain. He still led all NCAA Division 1 defensive linemen with nine pass knockdowns and was invited to the Senior Bowl but couldn't play in the game due to injury.
Urban has been compared to Houston Texans' star J.J. Watt, one of the NFL's top defensive linemen, and came into the draft projected as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme — three defensive linemen, four linebackers.
"We feel like we're getting a potential starter down the road as a five-technique," Ravens' director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said on the club's website. "He's a guy we really liked throughout the whole process."
Urban went in the second round of last year's CFL draft to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats but returned to school.
This marks the second straight year Hamilton has lost a highly touted defensive lineman to the NFL. The club drafted Calgary Dino Linden Gaydosh first overall in '13 but he signed with Carolina as a free agent and spent all of last season on injured reserve after undergoing back surgery.
A converted hockey player, Urban took up football his first year at Lorne Park Secondary School.
After high school, he attended Virginia and redshirted as a freshman. He served as a backup defensive end for two seasons before starting at tackle in 2012. Last season, Urban recorded 13 solo tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and a sack. He attended the Senior Bowl but just practised twice because of his ankle injury.
Injuries were the major knock against Urban prior to the draft. He suffered a torn ACL in 2010 and played through a wrist ailment in 2011 that required surgery after the season. He had an ankle operation in February and missed the NFL combine but expects to be ready for training camp.
"He's a raw pass rusher," Hortiz said. "The potential is there to give you an inside pass-rush presence."
The six-foot-three, 313-pound Urschel was born in Manitoba but played at Canisuis High School in Buffalo, N.Y. He was a captain at Penn State, earned all-Big 10 honours his final two seasons there and was among 15 guards invited to the combine but will likely play centre as a pro.
Urschel is more than a football player, having earned a masters degree in math and receiving the Campbell Trophy as U.S. college football's top scholar. He's also been published in a scientific journal, prompting the Ravens to ask if football was a priority before drafting him.
"I guess I passed with flying colours," he told reporters afterwards. "My intelligence certainly helps.
"I feel like I really bring a toughness, a real get-after-it attitude and that's something I take pride in."
The six-foot, 195-pound Jones was born in Manitoba but moved to Georgia, where he went to high school. He had his most productive season at Notre Dame in '13 with 70 receptions for 1,108 yards and nine TDs.
Jones heads to the NFL with a definite pro pedigree.
His late father, Andre, was a defensive end at Notre Dame who also played for the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers. His uncle, Philip Daniels, is a former NFL defensive lineman who's currently Washington's director of player development.
Also, his godfather is former Notre Dame star Raghib (Rocket) Ismail, who helped Toronto win the '91 Grey Cup.