Draft notebook is a weekly series where I share my thoughts from the past week of watching film, hearing what CFL Draft sources are reported to be saying, and general CFL Draft tid-bits. An idea from Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, ‘Draft Notebook’ will hopefully be a good way for those interested in the draft to follow closely along as I comb through the tape of dozens and dozens of Canadian prospects in this year’s class.
We’re now one month away from the national CFL combine.
The combine rosters have been announced and, although preliminary – there are only 35 participants listed so far compared to 51 players last year – some notable names have been announced.
Some notable names include NCAA athletes Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga (LB, Maine), Mason Woods (OG, Idaho) and Faith Ekakitie (DT, Idaho), as their schools will likely be hosting Pro Days, and as we’ve seen, few prospects partake in the Combine if their school hosts a Pro Day for NFL/CFL scouts. For a league using CFL Week in Regina, Saskatchewan to help draw more interest to the Combine, successfully recruiting more NCAA athletes to the Combine is good news.
1. It’s hard to understate just how good Simon Fraser LB Jordan Herdman is. Despite being inexplicably unranked in the September Scouting Bureau, and then only being ranked no. 16 on the next, the Winnipeg native is likely the second best player in the class, with the ceiling to be the best. Herdman did better than anyone would have imagined at the Senior Bowl for a Division-II GNAC conference player, often catching the attention of NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock. Herdman is a freak athlete that does not come around often. Look for the 5’10”, 238-pounder to sneak into day-three of the NFL draft.
2. As I watch the games of more and more highly-touted offensive line prospects, the less infatuated I become with Manitoba Bisons’ right guard Geoff Gray, who’s the top-ranked lineman on the Scouting Bureau besides NFL-bound OT Justin Senior. Gray has obvious technical issues, and while teams will always value athleticism ahead of any other on-field trait, this class has other offensive lineman that possess similar strength with less technical concerns. One of those players is Idaho’s Mason Woods.
3. Wilfred Laurier pass-rusher Kwaku Boateng is an awfully intriguing prospect at defensive end. He has ideal size, with a rare ability to bend around the edge, displaying a low center of gravity and flexibility in his knees. This trait alone will sell some teams. His testing numbers will be interesting. I’d like to see his 3-cone time before coming to any conclusions.
LB Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga, University of Maine
Simply put, Mulumba has a nose for the football that every football coach desires from their middle linebacker. He’s a physical, violent play-maker that always finds a way to get his hands on the ball-carrier at the end of the play. A four-year starter at a Division-I FCS program, the Laval, Que. native accumulated 347 tackles, 20 tackles-for-loss and 4 interceptions in 42 career starts. He’s noticeably good at sifting through the trash to find the ball.
Mulumba is an incredibly instinctive linebacker. At times, it seems as though he knows what play the offense is running before they even do. Mulumba, the leader of the Maine’s defense, signaling and directing traffic in the defensive backfield, is exceptional at recognizing formations and quickly reading his keys. He’s rarely a victim of play-action and misdirection. Mulumba works from depth nicely in pass-coverage, jumping on shallow crosses. He uses a quick first step to his advantage after diagnosing what he sees from the offense as an off-ball player.
Mulumba tackles ball-carriers with a purpose. He was often used as a pass-rushing OLB on third-down, and displayed a good get-off coupled with surprising efficiency working with his hands. Scouts will value Mulumba’s production in a 2-gap defense, as he’ll be free to be more aggressive in a one-gap CFL scheme.
Granted, he is 20-25 pounds heavier than the average CFL linebacker, Mulumba doesn’t possess sideline-to-sideline speed, and he will be asked to drop some weight. Expect Mulumba to run around a 4.84-second 40-yard-dash at his Pro Day, which, while above-average, isn’t elite speed.
Mulumba’s change of direction abilities also have room to improve. He can be just a split-second behind at times. While playing in an overwhelming scheme for college blocking schemes to handle, Mulumba also benefited plentifully from a strong front-seven around him. Scouts may also be worried that a player they’d be drafting to be a starter in the future had minimal pass coverage responsibilities.
Mulumba will at times mistakenly get caught on the shoulder of a pulling guard, opening a large rushing lane for the ball-carrier when he’s responsible for two gaps. He wasn’t a reliable TED linebacker for Maine’s 3-4 when asked. (Think of the MIKE linebacker in Richie Hall’s defense, eating blocks to free up the WILL). Mulumba must work at staying square at the point of attack. He seemed to burn out in the fourth quarter of Maine’s week one match-up against UCONN.
The bottom line: Mulumba is a first-round talent with the traits to be a long-time starter at middle linebacker.
Projected round: First round.