The Canadian Football League’s free agent frenzy has come and gone, and teams have their full attention set on the Canadian College Draft, scheduled for May 10. But first comes the regional and national combines – the latter being scheduled for March 11-13 – where several players will see their draft stock fluctuate.
Here’s my first of three mock drafts.
1:1 Saskatchewan Roughriders – G Charles Vaillancourt, Laval
The ‘Riders essentially have needs for Canadians at every position, but none more than along their offensive line. Saskatchewan lost depth offensive lineman Corey Watman – a disappointing first-round pick from 2014 – in free agency; Chris Best, 32, is ageing and is on the decline; and centre Dan Clark, who cooled off after an inspiring start, could use some serious competition in training camp. Vaillancourt, meanwhile, has fantastic size at six-foot-four, 325 pounds, and is one of the most decorated offensive lineman in CIS football history.
1:2 Montreal Alouettes – WR Tevaun Smith, Iowa
Recording only 563 receiving yards, Smith had a disappointing senior campaign for Iowa and, as a result, saw his NFL stock decrease dramatically. But the physical traits are there, as the six-foot-two, Toronto, ON. native has elite speed and jumping ability – he’s a legitimate deep-threat. The Alouettes aren’t exactly desperate for Canadian pass-catchers, but Smith’s talents could be simply too good to pass on.
1:3 BC Lions – G Josiah St. John, Oklahoma
Unlike last year, the Lions will start three Canadian interior offensive lineman next season, and drafting St. John could give them a solid sixth lineman and future All-Star. St. John couldn’t hold down a starting offensive tackle position with the Sooners – he started four games in 2015 – but at six-foot-six, 308 pounds, with great run-blocking skills, he could make a seamless transition to guard.
1:4 Toronto Argonauts – DT Mehdi Abdesmad, Boston College
Abdesmad was a solid defensive end at Boston College but projects as a three-tech defensive tackle in the professional ranks. He has phenomenal lower-body strength and was a productive player in the ACC, amassing a whopping 49 tackles and 15 tackles-for-loss in 2015. The Argos, who’s signing of Brian Bulcke indicates they’ll still start a Canadian DT despite Cleyon Laing leaving for the NFL, could have a fantastic defensive tackle rotation in the future with Abdesmad and 2015 second-round pick Daryl Waud.
1:5 Hamilton Tiger-Cats – RG Dillon Guy, Buffalo
Guy, a Hamilton native, was apart of Buffalo’s offensive line rotation since his true freshman season. He’s known as a smart, disciplined right guard, who isn’t overly athletic but, oddly enough, stands out more as a pass-blocker than a run-blocker. Guy has a recent injury history, however, as he missed much of the 2014 season with a foot injury as well as much of last year with an unfortunate season-ending knee injury. The Ti-Cats traded away 36-year-old Tim O’Neill to the Lions, all but guaranteeing that they’ll be using their first-round pick on an offensive lineman.
1:6 Calgary Stampeders – RB Mercer Timmis, Calgary
The Stamps have solid Canadian depth all through their roster – except at running back, that is. They recently cut Matt Walter, and while Jon Hufnagel says the Stamps don’t need a national RB, I’m not buying it. With unreal speed for a running back of that size (6’1″, 220), Timmis has big-time player potential.
1:7 Ottawa REDBLACKS – DB Arjen Colquhoun, Michigan State
Ottawa, who took centre Alex Mateas with last year’s first-overall pick, can afford to pass on an offensive lineman here and look to improve their National depth elsewhere. Strong-side LB is Ottawa’s lone defensive position that’s absolutely guaranteed to be occupied by a Canadian (Antoine Pruneau) due to free agent losses, and depth is needed behind the 26-year-old. Colquhoun, who’s redshirt senior season was his first as a starter at Michigan St., could be a gem.
1:8 Edmonton Eskimos – G Philippe Gagnon, Laval
With the midseason signing of Matt O’Donnell, the Eskimos, at one point, had 14 offensive lineman under contract last season. Injuries have decimated this unit recently, and after passing on early-round offensive lineman annually until last season, the Esks would be wise to invest a first-round pick in Philippe Gagnon. Gagnon would be reuniting with 2015 first-round pick out of Laval, Danny Groulx, potentially forming a formidable duo for the future.
2:1 Winnipeg Blue Bombers – G Jason Lauzon-Seguin, Laval
Having traded Chris Greaves, released Dominic Picard and losing Tommy Griffiths to retirement, the Bombers only have four national offensive lineman under-contract, including recently signed, 33-year-old Jeff Keeping. Winnipeg has no choice but to spend one of their consecutive second-round picks on an interior lineman, and you can rarely go wrong with a Laval kid.
2:2 Winnipeg Blue Bombers – DT David Onyemata, Manitoba
This one could be a surprise to many. While Onyemata will surely sign a UDFA contract with an NFL team, there’s always a chance that he’s cut in mini-camp or training camp. The Bombers can afford to wait a year or two for Onyemata, the consensus top prospect, if necessary, with Jake Thomas and recently-signed Keith Shologan rotating at nose-tackle. And Onyemata, a Manitoba product from Nigeria, would surely be worth the wait.
2:3 Montreal Alouettes – RG Zachary Intzandt, McMaster
Some may view this as a reach, but Intzandt does nothing but impress me on film. He’s an athletic dude with great size, technique and a solid burst out of his stance. He’s also an effective puller, polished pass-protector and a solid run-blocker – the total package. He’s not great at anything, but more importantly, Intzandt has no glaring weaknesses. I wouldn’t be shocked if a solid combine sees McMaster’s anchor move into the first round on several team’s big-boards.
2:4 BC Lions – DE Trent Corney, Virginia
With Ese Mrabure-Ajufo only one year into his career, the Lions can’t be ready to give up on starting a Canadian defensive end after Jabar Westerman’s lackluster 2015 campaign. Corney, a high-motor rusher who reminds of Greg Peach, could give them another option for the future.
2:5 Toronto Argonauts – DB Elie Bouka, Calgary
Bouka, already my second-ranked defensive back, could see his draft stock improve even more after draft combine one-on-ones. Having played each position in the secondary as well as some linebacker, Bouka brings tremendous versatility to the table. As shown by several first-round selections in past drafts such as Chris Ackie, Antoine Pruneau and Mike Edem, CFL teams really value DBs who are able to play wherever needed. Don’t be surprised if Alquhoun and Bouka swap draft positions in the real thing, pending the CFL combine.
2:6 Hamilton Tiger-Cats – DB Taylor Loffler, UBC
While Loffler, a Boise State graduate, isn’t the most athletic safety available in the draft, he could be the most intelligent. He routinely reads route combinations, reacts quickly on the fly and isn’t easily fooled by any motion that offenses throw at him. The Ti-Cats, who could – but likely won’t – start three Canadian defensive backs if Craig Butler moves to linebacker, will need depth in the secondary after moving on from Neil King, Aaron Crawford, Mike Edem and Kyle Miller in free agency.
2:7 Calgary Stampeders – WR Juwan Brescacin, Northern Illinois
Brescacin wasn’t the most productive receiver during his time at Northern Illinois – his season totals have declined each year after putting up a career-high 499 yards and six touchdowns in his sophomore season – but he’s certainly showed flashes of potential as a red-zone threat with his massive build. Similarly to Lemar Durant last year, scouts may question the six-foot-four, 230-pound receiver’s ability to run an entire route tree.
2:8 Ottawa REDBLACKS – LG Sean Jamieson, Western
Ottawa really can’t go wrong with adding another young, Canadian offensive lineman to the cupboard for a future role as the sixth offensive lineman. Jamieson, a mean, nasty run-blocker, would be a safe pick.
2:9 Edmonton Eskimos – DB Anthony Thompson, Southern Illinois
Thompson, contrary to Taylor Loffler, is an extremely raw player with pro-calibre speed and agility. He’s displayed poor awareness in zone-coverage as a safety and far too often goes for the kill shot rather than the wrap-up tackle. But, again, he has so much talent in terms of his speed, quickness and ball skills that he could warrant a top-15 selection.
3:1 Hamilton Tiger-Cats – LB Terrell Davis, UBC
Davis, a former running back for Arizona State, is a prototypical Ti-Cat linebacker with his athleticism. While he has the agility, blitzing ability and pass-coverage awareness to fit in well in Hamilton’s defensive schemes, he’s going to make his money on special-teams. It’s easy to envision the six-foot, 220-pounder as an excellent punt protector at the pro-level.
3:2 Winnipeg Blue Bombers – WR Llevi Noel, Toronto
Noel appears to be the complete opposite of Addison Richards, Winnipeg’s second-round draft pick in 2015, supplying fantastic speed from the outside and big-time yards-after-catch ability. Noel appears to be far from a complete receiver, however, and I’m interested to see if he lives up to the hype at the CFL combine.
3:3 Montreal Alouettes – DB Josh Woodman, Western
Woodman is a likely candidate to leap-frog Anthony Thompson in the DB position rankings. He’s a smart player who’s aggressive, yet fundamentally sound. He looked especially good at corner throughout his tenure at Western in their zone-heavy defensive scheme.
3:4 BC Lions – WR Doug Corby, Queens
Averaging 118.4 receiving yards/game, Corby’s 2015 season really put him on the map. The Lions are quite thin at national slot-back behind Austin Collie and drafting Corby is a low-risk move with the thin amount of talent remaining.
3:5 Toronto Argonauts – LB Curtis Newton, Guelph
Green is a fantastic pass-coverage linebacker with Guelph that, perhaps in the future, could become a situational weak-side linebacker. While I doubt the Argos start third-year linebacker Thomas Miles in the middle this year, Cory Greenwood will start the season at WILL. The latter suffered some major concussion injuries last season, however, giving the Argos even more incentive to draft Newton (six-foot-two, 220-pounds).
3:6 Hamilton Tiger-Cats – FB Declan Cross, McMaster
Cross enjoyed a large role in McMaster’s offense and developed into a very versatile fullback. He’s an absolute wrecking ball, no doubt, but shows flashes of rushing and receiving capabilities that could keep him in the CFL for a long time.
3:7 Saskatchewan Roughriders – G Kadeem Adams, Western
Adams displayed good feet and downfield blocking as a puller, but isn’t the biggest guy and will need to bulk up to move inside to right guard in the CFL. The ‘Riders could use another developmental project along the offensive line.
3:8 Ottawa REDBLACKS – K/P Quinn Van Gylswyk, UBC
Van Gylswyk connected on 20/24 field goals but, more impressively, averaged over 43.6 yards per punt last year with UBC. Having kicked the Vanier Cup-winning field goal, he already has experience making big kicks in big times. It sounds like Van Gylswyk, who evidently has a huge leg, has great accuracy, as well.
3:9 Saskatchewan Roughriders – WR Joshua Stanford, Kansas
The last pick in this mock is the wild-card. Stanford, once a break-out true freshman with West Virginia, who had over 600 yards in 2013, has been a disappointment ever since. Before transferring to Kansas, where he battled a hamstring issue among other things, in 2015, Stanford fell out of favor in his sophomore season with the Hokies, dealing with on-field, off-field and injury issues. But if he resembles anything like the dynamic player he was in 2013 at the CFL combine, Stanford could sky-rocket up the draft boards.