Canadian Pros Behind NFL’s Top 2022-23 Underdogs

 The CFL and NFL have a few notable rule differences—but they aren’t dire enough to prevent players from switching from one league to the other. Each season, players entering free agency have the possibility of signing with the opposite league. For the most part, top players leaving the NCAA are heading for the NFL—and some of the league’s best players come from Canada.


One of the biggest Canadian names grabbing headlines this year is the Miami Dolphins’ Jevon Holland. And close behind is Joshua Palmer of the LA Chargers. Like Palmer, close to a dozen other Canadian pros are building their future in Los Angeles. But, like Holland, others such as Nathan Shepherd are attempting to push their teams up out of the bottom rankings.


For pros on the Jets and the Dolphins, this year presents the perfect opportunity for a turnaround. As of 17 November, NFL odds favour the Bills and Chiefs to take the AFC with odds of +185 and +235, respectively. However, the Dolphins and Jets aren’t that far behind—and making a splash in the AFC Conference finals would be a huge coup for either team. The Dolphins have odds of +900 to exit on top, while the Jets have longer odds at +3900.


Will Canadian talents like Holland and Shepherd be able to make a difference this season? Or are they in store for a long haul as they contribute to full roster rebuilds on their respective teams?


Jevon Holland

DB, Miami Dolphins


When it comes to Canadians in the NFL, Holland is at the top of the list. Born in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Holland eventually moved south of the border to Oregon. He played as a safety for the Oregon Ducks, one of the US’s most prestigious football programs. In 2021, he entered the NFL Draft where he was selected by the Dolphins in the second round.


Since then, he’s become one of the team’s most consistent defensive players. In 2021 during his rookie season, he notched up 69 tackles, 10 pass defences, three fumble recoveries, and two interceptions. In the first five weeks of the 2022-23 season, Holland totalled 29 tackles, ten of which came during the Dolphins’ win against the Bills—this year’s Super Bowl favourite.


Nathan Shepherd

DL, New York Jets


Hailing from Ajax, Ontario, Shepherd is another defensive powerhouse from up north. Unlike most other Canadians featuring in the NFL, Shepherd didn’t participate in the NCAA. He spent time on teams at Fort Hays State and Simon Fraser University, where he played as a defensive tackle.


When he entered the NFL Draft in 2018, the Jets picked up Shepherd in the third round as the 72nd overall pick. He’s known for his size and agility, which is a necessary asset for the Jets as they attempt to steer away from a decade of losing seasons. At the moment, he’s on a one-year extension with the Jets, where he’s currently serving as a backup for Solomon Thomas.


Los Angeles: City of Canadians


Those perusing the current rosters of top Canadian football stars will notice there’s a huge concentration of players in Los Angeles. The LA Rams have defensive tackle Michael Hoecht  and right tackle AJ Jackson on their rosters as backups, and the LA Chargers have Tevaughn Campbell, Deane Leonard, Amen Ogbongbemiga, and Josh Palmer on their books.


Wide receiver Josh Palmer (from Brampton, Ontario) is Canada’s breakout star on the West Coast. After being drafted in the third round at the 2021 NFL Draft (and signed to a four-year rookie contract), he notched up 33 catches for 353 yards during his first year for a total of four touchdowns.


Many are eyeing Palmer to stick with the Chargers and make headway with the team as they grow under star quarterback Justin Herbert. As a wide receiver, Palmer’s ability to work well with Herbert could pave the way for his future in the city. At the moment, Palmer is playing second string to Mike Williams—but that also may work out in his favour, as defences focus on Williams and give Palmer more space.

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