Tuesday September 02, 2014




Defensive linemen Crawford, Hicks both selected in third round of NFL draft

Tyrone Crawford and Akiem Hicks are getting their NFL shots.

Crawford, a six-foot-four, 275-pound defensive tackle from Windsor, Ont., was the first Canadian selected in the 2012 NFL draft. Crawford, who played his college football at Boise State, went in the third round, 81st overall to the Dallas Cowboys on Friday night.

Hicks, a six-foot-five, 318-pound American-born defensive lineman who played at the University of Regina, went 89th overall to the New Orleans Saints. Hicks becomes the first Canadian university player selected in the NFL draft since defensive lineman Vaughn Martin of the Western Mustangs went in the fourth round to the San Diego Chargers in 2009.

"He's raw, we love his work ethic,'' interim Saints coach Joe Vitt said of Hicks. "Excited about him. Big body player.''

Hicks was the first player selected by the Saints in the draft. New Olreans didn't have a first-round pick after trading it to New England last year to take Alabama tailback mark Ingram at No. 28. And the club forfeited its 2012 second-round selection as punishment from the NFL's bounty investigation, which also included a year-long suspension of head coach Sean Payton.

The first round of the draft was held Thursday night.

Crawford had been projected at a mid-round selection. A mock draft posted on the NFL's website before the draft had Crawford going in the fourth round, 97th overall, to the Indianapolis Colts.

Crawford had 13 1/2 tackles for a loss last season with the Broncos.

"This is a good pick," said Mike Mayock, The NFL Network's draft guru. "He's the prototypical five-technique in the 3-4 defence.

"He provides tremendous depth that the Cowboys want.''

Crawford attended the NFL combine in February and posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.89 seconds and bench-pressed 225 pounds a total of 28 times. He also posted a 33-inch vertical jump.

The scouting report on Crawford is he's out of his stance quickly at the snap and can consistently disrupt plays in the backfield. He's listed as a solid tackler and strong player who can change direction well when in pursuit laterally.

Scouts also like that he's nasty, never gives up on a play and possesses a strong burst to get to a quarterback. He also is versatile enough to play special teams.

One knock against Crawford is he has trouble fighting off a double-team and scouts feel he will require extra coaching to adjust to the NFL.

Crawford was also the top-rated prospect for next week's CFL Canadian college draft. He'll certainly still be selected by a CFL squad, but it will now be as a future pick.

Hicks, a native of Elk Grove, Calif., had originally enrolled at LSU after the '08 season but never played for the Tigers after getting caught up in a recruiting scandal.

Another Canadian expected to be selected in the NFL draft is Toronto native Philip Blake, a six-foot-three, 320-pound centre at Baylor. Blake was projected to be the first Canadian taken in the mock draft, going in the third round, 82nd overall, to the Tennessee Titans.

Hicks was projected to go in the fourth round, also to Tennessee, at No. 115.

The final four rounds of the draft will be completed Saturday.

Hicks left LSU after the 2009 season and eventually transferred to Regina. The burly lineman had 42 tackles and 6 1/2 sacks last season and was named Canada West's outstanding lineman. And after a solid showing in the East-West Shrine game, Hicks was invited to the NFL combine.

Hicks posted a 40-yard dash time of 5.23 seconds at the combine, had 26 reps in the bench press and a vertical jump of 31.5 inches.

NFL scouts liked Hicks's physical makeup and versatility in that he could play tackle in a 4-3 alignment but also is athletic enough to be an end in a three-man front. But among their concerns was the level of competition he faced in Canada and the belief that Hicks can sometimes get overwhelmed at the point of attack by double teams and doesn't have many moves in his arsenal to counteract that.

If Blake is also drafted Saturday, it would mark the first time three Canadians were selected in one NFL draft and boost the number of Canucks taken to 21 since 1983 to 21.

Last year, offensive linemen Danny Watkins and Orlando Franklin made Canadian NFL draft history.

Watkins, a native of Kelowna, B.C., was selected in the first round, No. 23 overall, by the Philadelphia Eagles. Franklin, who grew up in Toronto, was taken in the second round, 46th overall, by the Denver Broncos. It marked the sixth time two Canadians went in the same draft but none had ever been selected as high as Watkins and Franklin.

The previous high was in 1986 when Queen's offensive lineman Mike Schad of Belleville, Ont., went in the first round, 23rd overall, to the Los Angeles Rams before Washington State tailback Rueben Mayes of North Battleford, Sask., was selected in the third round, 57th overall, by the New Orleans Saints.


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