Canadians Have Record-Setting Representation in 2023 NFL Draft

Canadians Have Record-Setting Representation in 2023 NFL Draft
By Bill Ordine
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

The roll call of Canadians in the recent NFL Draft would have hit the over if Ontario sports betting had made such a line, reaching an all-time high with five players from North of the Border being selected.

The highest Canadian player picked in the 2023 draft was Atlanta Falcons’ second-rounder Matthew Bergeron, an offensive guard who was born in Montreal and played college football at Syracuse University. Bergeron, 6-foot-5 and 332 pounds, was the No. 38 pick overall on the second day of the draft.

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In the third round the Philadelphia Eagles selected safety Sydney Brown from London, Ontario. Brown is a 5-10, 211-pound safety who played at the University of Illinois. He joins a team that Ontario betting apps give the third-best Super Bowl odds (+750 behind Kansas City and San Francisco).

Sydney Brown’s identical twin, Chase Brown, was also drafted in the fifth round by the Cincinnati Bengals. Chase Brown, a 5-9, 205-pound running back, also played at Illinois. The Bengals have the fourth-best Super Bowl odds at Caesars Sportsbook Ontario.

In the fourth round, the New England Patriots took Sidy Sow, a 6-5, 326-pound offensive lineman from Bromont, Quebec. Sow played both guard and tackle at Eastern Michigan University. 

Also selected in the fourth round was edge rusher Tavis Robinson, from Guelph, Ontario. Robinson, 6-6, 260 pounds, made his way from Canada to Ole Miss as he scrambled to assemble his academic and athletic career in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Canadians Have Notable Draft Streak

While not many Canadians hear their names called by NFL teams, at least one Canadian player has been taken in the last 13 drafts, including a first-rounder - N'Keal Harry from Toronto, a wide receiver taken by New England in 2019. Harry spent last season with Chicago.

In 2020, Pittsburgh took Chase Claypool, from Toronto, in the second round. After a promising start as a rookie receiver with the Steelers, Claypool also wound up finishing the 2022 season with the Bears.

The highest Canadian ever to be taken in the NFL Draft was also one of the all-time colossal busts.

Offensive lineman Tony Mandarich, from Oakland, Ontario, was a media sensation at Michigan State and was selected No. 2 overall by the Green Bay Packers in 1989 after No. 1 pick Troy Aikman by Dallas.

Mandarich’s far less-than-stellar career was further underscored by the three players who were drafted right after him — running back Barry Sanders (Detroit), linebacker Derrick Thomas (Kansas City) and cornerback Deion Sanders (Atlanta). All went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Mandarich’s disappointing career aside, a number of other Canadians made their marks on the NFL.

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Rypien a Canadian Super Bowl MVP

Quarterback Mark Rypien, from Calgary, Alberta, moved to the U.S. as a young child and went on to become the MVP of the Super Bowl in leading Washington over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVI. He also earned a Super Bowl ring in Super Bowl XXII as a backup.

Kicker Mike Vanderjagt, from Oakville, Ontario, retired as the NFL’s most accurate field goal kicker but along the way earned the animus of teammate quarterback Peyton Manning, then with the Indianapolis Colts, who labeled Vanderjagt “our idiot kicker” after Vanderjagt criticized the team and head coach Tony Dungy.

Wide receiver Nate Burleson left Calgary as a child but still sports a Maple Leaf tattoo as evidence of his affection for Canada. A third-round pick by Minnesota in 2003, he caught 457 career passes for the Vikings, Seattle and Detroit.

Two Canadians who hail from the NFL’s earliest days also bear mention.

Tommy Hughitt, of Genoa, British Columbia who grew up in Michigan, may not be familiar to even ardent NFL fans today but in the early 1920s, he played for and coached one of the evolving league’s first teams in Buffalo and championed fair treatment of African-American players.

And then there was a fellow from Rainy River, Ontario, whose very name evokes visons of an NFL when broken noses and gnarled fingers seemed to be issued with game jerseys — Bronko Nagurski.

Nagurski, who moved to Minnesota as a child, joined the Chicago Bears before the NFL Draft was instituted in 1936. However, he went on to become a two-way legend, three-time world champion, four-time first-team All Pro, and a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Bill Ordine

A longtime reporter and editor who began writing on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened, Bill covered the world Series of Poker and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for a decade.