2016 CFL Draft Positional Ranks: Laval Trio, NCAA Products Headline Class of Offensive Linemen

Quality Canadian offensive lineman are directly linked to success in the CFL, and the best teams will continually draft at least one each and every draft.

This year’s draft class, however, is not particularly deep, and aside from the top-three offensive linemen on my board, I’m not completely convinced that even the first-round selections will develop into starters down the road.

There’s not a lot differentiating these prospects, particularly those that I expect to be taken in the mid-first to second round (prospects 4-6 on my list). They’re quite similar in terms of their potential, and it could come down to a team’s personal preference for player-types that’ll decide the order in which those players are picked.

Regardless of exactly how talented this year’s class of offensive linemen is in comparison to last year, fans should not complain when their team spends an early-round pick on a blocker. Canadian offensive lineman are a priority as well as the life-blood of the CFL, and each team should stock up.

It’s always wise to choose a Laval product, and that’s where the list begins.

1. RG Charles Vaillancourt, Laval (6’4″, 329-lbs)

A four-year starter at the University of Laval, Vaillancourt is one of the most decorated offensive lineman in CIS history. The four-time All-Canadian right guard is the most polished offensive line product in the draft, making himself the safe pick for Saskatchewan at first overall. He’s a tough, mean, technically-sound center who holds his own in one-on-one match-ups with leverage and hand-placement. Vaillancourt has raw strength as well, getting low and moving defenders, and doesn’t lose many battles once engaged. His footwork is clean and well-developed, and although he can be slow out of his stance, the Coaticook, QC. native has compensated for this weakness with his hands, strength and pad-level. I do, however, think Vaillancourt really needs to lose some weight.

2. RT Josiah St. John, Oklahoma (6’6″, 309-lbs)

Contrary to Vaillancourt, St. John is more of a high-risk, high-reward prospect. The product of Toronto, ON. only has four starts with Oklahoma under his belt, and frankly, he seemed to struggle in those games. St. John simply didn’t have the quickness to contain edge-rushers, and while was ineffective as a run-blocker, he certainly displayed the footwork and the strength to stonewall inside cuts up the B-gap. St. John projects more as a guard – at least to start his career – to me, and although he wasn’t much of a mauler in the run-game, St. John maintains good pad-level and keeps his feet moving. His hand-placement needs work, but St. John seems athletic and has ideal size to be a starting offensive lineman in the future. He’s not pro-ready by any means, but could develop into a starting offensive tackles in a few years.

3. LG Philippe Gagnon, Laval (6’3″, 317-lbs)

Gagnon is a powerful, technically-sound product that may be living in the shadow of Charles Vaillancourt. Gagnon isn’t that far behind his Laval teammate, as he is, in fact, better than Vaillancourt in certain areas. Both out of his stance and while initiating contact, Gagnon is far more explosive, and although I wouldn’t say his footwork is better, he’s slightly shiftier and quicker. Gagnon has decent hand-placement, understands how to use leverage and maintains good knee-bend throughout the play. He must work on keeping his feet moving, or else Gagnon will be the victim of finesse moves in the CFL. Although he will occasionally lower his head on impact, Gagnon is a technically-sound guard who rounds out the big-three of offensive line prospects in this class.

4. C Michael Couture, Simon Fraser (6’3″, 292-lbs)

Couture is a smart, athletic, versatile blocker that has room to improve as a run-blocker before he’s ready to play at the next level. The Burnaby, B.C. native has bulked up considerably over the winter – his senior playing weight at 275-lbs was far too light to play in the pro ranks – and is still the quick, nimble pass protector that he is on tape. He’s not the most explosive down lineman out of his stance, but Couture sets up quickly, remains patient and effectively uses his leverage. He needs to continue to get bigger and stronger – pad-level alone allowed Couture to move defenders in the GNAC conference, but it won’t in the CFL – and is a few years away before he’s pro-ready. Couture is well-coached and relatively technically-sound, but it’s no guarantee that he develops the power and explosiveness to be a top Canadian offensive lineman.

5. C Brandon Revenberg, GVSU (6’4″, 285-lbs)

Revenberg, a product of NCAA Division II school Grand Valley State, is still an underrated prospect at this point. He maintains the best pad-level of any offensive lineman in the draft, has smooth feet and good punch to win battles once engaged. He’s played both center and guard with the Lakers, and looks very quick and explosive out of his snap. The Lakers operated a zone-blocking scheme on offense, and Revenberg seemed very smart, comfortable and patient in the displacement of attacking defenders. The biggest concern, of course, is his size. It remains unknown whether or not Revenberg is still 285-pounds, but he’ll need to bulk up considerably to play at the professional level. Revenberg must continue to improve his hand-placement and footwork, and will need some seasoning as a depth player before he’s ready.

6. RT/OG Jason Lauzon-Seguin, Laval (6’4″ 294-lbs)

After binding his time behind offensive tackles Danny Groulx and Karl Lavoie, who were each first-round picks last year, Lauzon-Seguin made an immediate impact with the Rouge et Or last season despite it being his first season starting at right tackle. The Pointe-Claire, QC. product was a dominant CIS right tackle as a result of his quickness and great footwork. And while Lauzon-Seguin has great balance and agility, I have questions about his ability to shock defenders with his initial block, and his punch to maintain his block without behind swatted or shoved aside. Lauzon-Seguin will certainly be asked to move inside to guard to start his career, and while he compensates for a lack of lower-body strength with quickness, his strength is still not quite where it needs to be.

7. LG Dillon Guy, Buffalo

A four-year starter at the University of Buffalo, it’s difficult to get a read on a player that was facing much harder competition than the average CIS lineman. But it’s hard to overlook some of Guy’s glaring flaws from both an athletic and technical standpoint, as the native of Hamilton, ON., who seems slow out of his stance, also lacks agility, balance, power and punch. Although he has decent footwork, Guy will sometimes initiate contact with his body instead of his hands, and drops his head on impact. Guy has ideal size at 6-foot-4 and 317-pounds, and it’s very evident that he plays with an attitude and finishes blocks, but is not the polished product that a four-year starter at the NCAA level should be.

8. RG Sean Jamieson, Western (6’6″, 306-lbs)

At 6-foot-6 and 306-pounds, Jamieson certainly looks the part. He has several other good physical traits, such as lower-body power, quickness and agility. Jamieson, however, has poor hand-placement and often over-extends for the defender, as shown several times in the combine one-on-ones. His technique and upper-body need refining, but Jamieson’s size, feet and lower-body power could make him an intriguing mid-round selection.

9. OT/G Roman Grozman, Concordia (6’3″, 299-lbs)

Grozman will be a huge project for whoever takes a late-round flier on the Concordia product, as while he might have the best punch of any offensive lineman in the draft, his technique is far too poor right now to put himself in a position to engage with defenders at the professional level. Grozman has slow feet, and he doesn’t keep his weight over his legs in pass-protection, often over-extending and reaching for the defender. Grozman took reps at all five positions at the CFL combine, and while scouts love versatility, that decision may have hurt his stock more than it helped. He has upside, and quite honestly, I think Grozman is better suited as a defensive lineman in the CFL.

10. RT Jamal Campbell, York (6’5″, 292-lbs)

Although Campbell is an extremely raw offensive tackle prospect from a smaller school in York University, he has incredible athletic potential, and if an offensive line coach can develop his technique to the point that they scratch the surface of that athletic potential, Campbell could be a solid late-round draft pick. At this point, however, Campbell lacks patience, has poor footwork that leads to over-stepping with his kick steps, and gets too upright in his stance. He poorly projects as a guard, which hurts his stock seeing as many of the most blue-chip tackle prospects are moved inside.

Best of the rest: RG Zach Intzandt (McMaster), RG Kadeem Adams (Western), Alex McKay (Manitoba)

Credit: Mathieu Belanger
Credit: Mathieu Belanger

How Couture, Revenberg Emerged into 1st-round Offensive Line Prospects

They’re no 6-foot-6, 310-bound right tackles who played in the prestigious SEC, and they certainly aren’t products of Laval, but versatile offensive lineman Michael Couture and Brandon Revenberg could be sky-rocketing up draft board’s ahead of the CFL draft.

Prior to the combine, neither were notable prospects. Couture, a product of Simon Fraser University, was an undersized player, and Revenberg, who was likely much more favored by CFL scouts than by league pundits, hadn’t garnered much attention being from a lesser-known Division II school, Grand Valley State. Fast forward two months, and it’s easy to see both big-men as blue-chip prospects destined to be selected in the inaugural round of the 2016 CFL Draft.

Couture’s draft-stock likely took a turn for the best the moment he stepped on the weight scale at the combine. The 6-foot-4 native of Burnaby, B.C. weighed in at a healthy 292-lbs, dispelling any questions about his lack of size. Couture played the 2015 season at around 275-pounds, which is far too light for professional football, but put on a lot of weight during the winter months and, as a result, boosted his draft stock tremendously.

Couture evidently already had the athleticism and the technique to worthy an early-round pick, but size was enough to write him off until the middle rounds. And while he should certainly continue to bulk up, size is no longer a glaring issue anymore, and after a tremendous performance in the combine one-on-ones, Couture very well could be a top-5 pick this May.

Revenberg, meanwhile, does not have a dominant combine performance to boost his stock – he opted instead to participate in GVSU’s pro day that weekend – but his game film at Grand Valley State is already enough. A three-year starter with the Lakers, Revenberg might have better natural pad-level than any other offensive line prospect in the draft. He has really smooth feet, and a strong enough punch to give defenders issues with using finesse moves to disengage. Revenberg, a two-time Great Lakes Conference All-Star, played several positions along the offensive line, offering highly-valued versatility at the next level.

Couture also offers versatility – he has game experience at centre, left guard and right tackle with the Clan – and displayed it at the combine, taking reps at all five positions. Couture, who’s well coached in a sense that he sets up quickly after the snap and remains patient, has a great balance of technique and athleticism. He has quick, nimble feet – his kick steps are very fundamentally sound – and appears to be very alert and aware with his responsibilities. He’s not the most powerful player – his technique allowed him to move defensive lineman around in the GNAC conference – and, similarly to most – if not every – draft-eligible offensive lineman this year, is not at all pro-ready. But Couture is certainly talented enough to contend neck-and-neck with Revenberg as the draft’s top blocker behind the consensus big-two, Charles Vaillancourt and Josiah St. John.

After flying under-the-radar all winter, Couture and Revenberg could be the draft’s best blockers outside of the pair in the top-tier. And while Laval’s Phillippe Gagnon is right there with them, there is at least a case to be made for one of the NCAA Division II products – if not both – to be drafted ahead of the ninth-ranked player on the CFL scouting bureau.

Couture and Revenberg are now blue-chip prospects – a far-cry from where their stocks at least appeared to be a couple months ago – and will have made themselves a lot of money recently should they be fittingly drafted where they belong – the first round.

Photo credit to athletics.SFU.ca (Simon Fraser University)
Photo credit to athletics.SFU.ca (Simon Fraser University)