May 27th, 2024

NFL Network’s Jeremiah high on Canadian tight end McLachlan heading into NFL draft

By The Canadian Press on April 24, 2024.

Arizona tight end Tanner McLachlan runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Friday, March 1, 2024, in Indianapolis. NFL draft guru Daniel Jeremiah is a big fan of Canadian tight end McLachlan. The six-foot-four, 240-pound Lethbridge, Alta., native had a record-setting tenure at Arizona, surpassing Rob Gronkowski for most career receptions by a tight end (79). THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Conroy

NFL draft guru Daniel Jeremiah is a big fan of Canadian Tanner McLachlan.

The six-foot-five, 244-pound Lethbridge, Alta., native had a record-setting tenure at Arizona, surpassing Rob Gronkowski for most career receptions by a tight end (79).

Jeremiah, a former NFL scout now with NFL Network, ranks McLachlan second among tight ends for the 2024 draft, which begins Thursday night in Detroit.

“I haven’t got the exact same love reciprocated when I’ve talked to people around the league,” Jeremiah said last week during his final pre-draft conference call. “They like him, I’m higher on him.

“I think it’s an instinct position (and) he’s got as good instincts as anybody in the draft at that spot. I don’t think he’s going to win any awards in the run game (but) the effort is there. There’s enough want-to that you can work with him.”

Injury forced McLachlan to miss the Senior Bowl, but he did participate in NFL combine. In addition to posting a 40-yard dash time of 4.61 seconds, McLachlan had a 35-inch vertical and nine-foot nine-inch broad jump while not participating in the bench press, three-cone and short shuttle.

McLachlan began his college career at Southern Utah in 2018. Over two seasons (25 games) with the Wildcats, McLachlan had 79 catches for 984 yards and six touchdowns, earning a ’23 honourable mention All-PAC 12 selection.

Jeremiah projects McLachlan as a third- or fourth-round pick but admits he might not be the first Canadian tight end drafted. Penn State’s Theo Johnson, a six-foot-six, 260-pound player from Windsor, Ont., could be the second tight end selected after Georgia’s Brock Bowers.

“I don’t think it’s a great tight end draft (so) if you told me (Johnson) was the second tight end to go, I wouldn’t bat an eye,” said Jeremiah, adding Johnson is his fourth-ranked tight end. “He’s got a huge catch radius, he can really get down the seam, he’s understanding in terms of the physicality after the catch.

“He’s not the most defined, precise route runner (but) I think there’s some development to take place there.”

Johnson appeared in 45 games over four seasons at Penn State, recording 77 catches for 938 yards and 12 TDs. He was a ’23 honourable mention All-Big Ten selection.

After participating in the Senior Bowl, Johnson performed very well at the NFL combine, posting a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, 39.5-inch vertical, 10 foot five inch broad jump — all second-best results — and short-shuttle time of 4.19 seconds that topped the position group.

The tight ends lead a Canadian draft class that includes versatile Isaiah Adams (who played guard and tackle at Illinois) and Howard tackle Anim Dankwah. The six-foot-four, 315-pound Adams, of Ajax, Ont., participated in both the Senior Bowl and NFL combine while the towering six-foot-eight, 353-pound Dankwah, of Brampton, Ont., played in the ’24 East-West Shrine Bowl before attending the combine.

Jeremiah sees both Adams, who began his collegiate career at Wilfrid Laurier, and Dankwah as third-day selections.

“I thought (Adams) was a fifth-round type guy who’s got some versatility inside and outside,” Jeremiah said. “I think he’s better off playing inside and holding up there at guard.

“(Dankwah) is a large human being . . . but felt more like a project to me. It was more of kind of a practice-squad player that you take a flyer on like the sixth or seventh round.”

A record five Canadians were drafted last year.

An intriguing prospect is Qwan’Tez Stiggers, the CFL’s top rookie last year. The six-foot, 197-pound cornerback had a team-high five interceptions and 56 tackles in 16 regular-season games with the Toronto Argonauts.

Stiggers participated in the East-West Shrine Bowl on Feb. 1. Then, 29 NFL teams attended his pro day and the 22-year-old didn’t disappoint, posting a 40-yard dash time of 4.47 seconds, 36.5-inch vertical jump, 10-foot eight-inch broad jump and 4.25-second short shuttle.

Stiggers finished high school in 2020 and had committed to Tennessee’s Wayne College on scholarship. But that all changed in September 2020 when Stiggers’ father died about eight months after being involved in a car accident.

Stiggers fell into a deep depression and didn’t attend school. With help from his mother and his fiancĂ©e, he eventually returned to football in 2022, playing in the Fan Controlled League, a seven-man indoor circuit.

His coach was John Jenkins, a former Argos offensive assistant who recommended Stiggers to the CFL team.

Two other Canadians who’ve garnered NFL attention are UBC offensive linemen Theo Benedet and Giovanni Manu. The six-foot-seven, 305-pound Benedet was Canadian university football’s top lineman last season for a second straight year while the six-foot-eight, 350-pound Manu visited with a number of NFL teams this off-season.

Both are projected as either late-round selections or priority free agents.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2024.

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