This weekend's NFL draft played out in about the best possible way for the CFL. Of all the Canadian players NFL teams were reportedly interested in, only one, Rice defensive tackle Christian Covington, was actually taken in that draft. Even Covington, who the CFL's teams recently ranked as the top prospect eligible for May 12's CFL draft, was only taken in the sixth round. While being picked 216th overall (by the Houston Texans) puts Covington ahead of the rest of the Canadians hoping to get to the NFL, it still doesn't assure him of much. However, while only having one Canadian player taken in the NFL draft should boost the amount of top Canadian content available for the CFL, the NFL has an impact on CFL prospects that goes well beyond just its draft.
Every year, there are significant numbers of players who sign with NFL teams as undrafted free agents or attend NFL teams' minicamps without contracts, and there are plenty of Canadians in those categories this year. One of the most notable may be South Alabama quarterback Brandon Bridge, the first quarterback ever to appear on the CFL top prospects list (clocking in at #19). Bridge went to the full NFL combine and impressed at his pro day, and while he wasn't taken in the draft, there was plenty of interest in him afterwards. There were early reports that he'd signed with the Detroit Lions, but while he had conversations with them, he wound up agreeing to go to the Dallas Cowboys' minicamp instead.
That won't necessarily lead to anything for Bridge, as the competition will be intense. It's also extremely hard to find long-term NFL success as an undrafted quarterback. However, it's notable that Cowboys' starter Tony Romo was once in that position. Fortunately for the CFL, that minicamp takes place this coming weekend, so teams should know before the draft whether it immediately leads to anything for Bridge or not.
There have been some other Canadian players who have already signed in the NFL, too. UNLV offensive lineman Brett Boyko (#2 on that CFL prospect list) signed with the Philadelphia Eagles right after the draft , while Yale running back Tyler Varga (#4) signed with the Indianapolis Colts. Both of those players (along with Covington and Bridge) attended the full NFL combine, so NFL interest in them isn't unexpected. Their lack of drafted status is positive for the CFL, and it may mean we see them in Canada sooner than we would have otherwise, but NFL teams locking them up right after the draft suggests there's strong interest in them south of the border and that they'll probably be with those teams at least through this summer. Thus, CFL teams drafting them high would be taking a gamble.
There's another batch of top prospects who CFL teams will need to be in more of a wait-and-see mode with, those who, like Bridge, haven't signed NFL deals yet but will be attending NFL minicamps on a trial basis. As John Kryk writes, seven Canadians (#6 Sukh Chung, #7 Daryl Waud, #8 Lemar Durant, #10 Sean McEwen, #13 Jacob Ruby, #14 Byron Archambault and #15 Tevaughn Campbell) will be attending the New York Giants' minicamp, and an eighth (#3 Alex Mateas) will be attending the New York Jets' minicamp. There may be others out there as well. Like the Cowboys' camp, those camps take place this coming weekend, so the CFL should be able to see who's signed and who hasn't before next Tuesday's draft; we shouldn't have another David Foucault situation this year. Still, CFL teams will have to keep a close eye on the NFL interest in a wide variety of top prospects ahead of the draft. Only one Canadian player may have been officially drafted by the NFL this year, but many more could still wind up there.