Fans are routinely reminded that mock drafts are largely constructed around the basis that the picks are made based on how the draft analyst believes each general manager and coaching staff will approach their picks, and not what the draft analyst would do if they were making the calls.
Big boards – otherwise known as player rankings – are where one can share their true evaluation of the draft. My upcoming mock drafts will not mirror my big board due to the extreme subjectiveness of this process. Here, however, we get a look at how I’d approach the draft as a general manager.
Overall, the 2017 draft features the best prospect class in years. It’s a deep offensive line class, and unlike most years, there’s more than one blue-chip prospect in every position group, even when excluding those with NFL interest. Ranking the middle-tier of offensive linemen – Laval’s Jean-Simon Roy, Bethune-Cookman’s Dariusz Bladek, McGill’s Qadr Spooner and Calgary’s Braden Schram – created the toughest decisions when forming the list, while finding an appropriate placement for prospects such as Kwaku Boateng (weight) and Justin Herdman (times), both of whom have great film but poor measurables, also caused headaches.
It’s certainly a flawed process, as is the draft in general, and expect my next big board to look drastically different. Look for a top-50 in 7-10 days, with my second mock draft in between.
The CFL Draft is the hardest draft in sports to project, and every year a handful of, at first glance, intriguing prospects plummet down the board when the picks start to to fly by.
Last year, no two players took bigger falls than Simon Fraser’s Lemar Durant and Idaho’s Maxx Forde. Durant, said by some scouts to be the best player of the draft, was taken in with the 18th pick for a lack of special-teams capabilities. Maxx Forde fell to the seventh round, likely as a result of a small body of work, and for being far too much of a ‘tweener between a defensive tackle and defensive end.
There no fall-outs quite like Durant’s, though. None of the falls are really that surprising when you think about it – many I foresaw happening. Regardless, some intriguing names were taken later than expected, but don’t expect many of them to be steals. There’s a reason why each of them were drafted in the spot they were, and here’s your explanation.
1. RG Charles Vaillancourt, Laval – BC Lions (Round 1, pick 5)
Vaillancourt is a pro-ready offensive lineman that will likely start at center for the BC Lions from day one at training camp. So why did this blue-chip prospect, who was expected to be a top-two pick, fall to the Lions? The answer is simple: his lack of quickness. The Laval product has the most refined technique in the class as well as exceptional physical traits, but his lack of quickness could hurt him in the CFL. As was the case a couple times with Laval, it’s easy to see Vaillancourt costing a sack because he was too slow disengaging from a block then using his lateral quickness to step over and pick up a stunting defender or delayed blitzer. He can somewhat compensate for a lack of quickness, but it may put a ceiling on the player he’ll amount to. And while Vaillancourt has the potential to develop into an All-Star, his quickness may always be a lingering issue. As the great coach Bill Walsh said, “You can teach an athlete to be a technician, but you can’t teach a technician to be an athlete.”
2. DB Taylor Loffler, UBC – Winnipeg (round 3, pick 21)
After a dominant first season with the Thunderbirds that was given an exclamation point with an exceptional Combine performance, Loffler was seen as a possible first-round pick. But from looking at his college history with Boise State, it’s easy to see why Loffler fell all the way into the third-round, where the Bombers were more than willing to scoop him up. Loffler’s knees could be a time-bomb waiting to go off, with two knee surgeries already underwent. He’s also had surgery twice to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. A Vanier Cup champion, Loffler’s injuries could be a thing of the past after a clean bill of health last year, but it’s easy to see why teams were skeptical.
Guy is ahead of schedule on his rehab from a torn ACL and was a four-year starter at the University of Buffalo, but was still available when the Lions were on the clock in the fourth round. While Guy has a ton of experience under his belt against high competition, he wasn’t necessarily a stand-out player with the Bulls. But still, Northern Illinois receiver Juwan Brescacin hardly produced against high competition – similarly to Guy – yet he was taken in the second-round. See, with Dillon Guy, his flaws – largely from a technical stand-point, but also athletically – cannot be overlooked by the level of competition he played. My seventh ranked offensive linemen going into the draft, Guy has poor hand-placement, lowers his head when initiating contact and will sometimes initiate contact with his body instead of his hands. He’s also slow out of his stance, and lacks agility as well as balance. Guy has ideal size at 6-foot-4 and 317-lbs, but left college after four years of starting with a surprising amount of flaws.
4. NT Rupert Butcher, Western – Winnipeg (round 6, pick 46)
We may never see another player dominate the CFL Combine’s OL/DL one-on-ones quite like Rupert Butcher did in March 2016. He moved amazingly well at 6-foot-5, 327-lbs, displaying good quickness and hands, as well as a fearsome bull-rush. That took a lot of people by surprise, as his game-film with Western was underwhelming. Butcher was hardly a dominant player, and lacked consistency and motor, as per Kyle Walters. Defensive lineman have a huge advantage in Combine one-on-ones; they’re blocked one-on-one with no help; they know if it’s a pass or run; and they have a lot of time (and space) to operate with. It’s not a good way to make a full evaluation of a defensive lineman’s game, and it certainly didn’t make up for Butcher’s game-footage at Western.
There’s very little separating this mediocre group of pass-catchers that could produce very few, if only one or two, effective starters. Simply put, what does Corby bring to the table that no other receiver in this mediocre class did? Juwan Brescacin offers unique contested catch-ability at 6’4″, 230-lbs. Llevi Noel was a dominant, versatile special-teams player at the amateur level. Brett Blaszko offers a unique blend of size and speed at 6-foot-4 with a 4.55-second 40-yard dash time, which could translate well on special-teams. Mike Jones is a blazing speedster that has the best chance of any receiver to develop into a starter, but with limited – if any – abilities on special-teams, he was a third-rounder. Doug Corby, meanwhile, has no physical traits that separate him from the rest. With a 4.505-second 40-yard dash, he has the straight-line speed to return kicks in a role like Anthony Parker, but he hasn’t proven that it’s in his repertoire.
6. NT Quinn Horton, Simon Fraser – Calgary (round 8, pick 68)
Quinn Horton has a major flaw: pad-level. The Simon Fraser product plays with zero knee-bend, and as a nose tackle in the CFL, he’ll get swallowed by double-teams if this isn’t fixed. Like any prospect, he has other flaws as well that make him no slam-dunk player even if he fixed his pad-level, but his lack of knee-bend was almost enough to make him go undrafted. Horton was the second-best interior defensive lineman in the combine drills, but was able to his deceptive quickness and good hands to win match-ups. Standing straight up right off the snap, the native of Winnipeg often failed to generate a bull-rush, and was sometimes stonewalled with pure power by an offensive lineman while using his speed. Horton has a lot of skills – and not a long list of flaws – that projected him as a third-to-fourth round player, but his pad-level was an issue that teams could not overlook.
7. DE Denzel Philip, Eastern New Mexico (undrafted)
Philip was dubbed a “sleeper pick” and an “underrated prospect” by several draft pundits in the league, and I was not buying it. Very skeptical even before the draft, I was especially not sold on any of the hype after his combine performance. Similarly to Maxx Forde last year, Philip was seen as a ‘tweener – someone who’s too slow and stiff to play defensive end, but too small to be a pass-rushing defensive tackle in the 4 or 5-tech positions. Philip arrived at the combine at a far-too-light-weight at 225-lbs, likely as an attempt to improve his quickness and be seen as a defensive end. Regardless, Philip was the same player – explosive but slow, with no bend around on the corner and no hands. Philip didn’t change even at 225-lbs, making it clear to coaches that he could not play defensive end at the proper weight, 255-lbs.
LB DJ Lalama, Manitoba – Edmonton (round 8 pick 70)
This one baffles me, and I have no explanation. It was shocking to see DJ Lalama as Mr. Irrelevant, as his abilities should project to be an effective special-teams player in this league. While also a dominant linebacker, Lalama was predominantly an anchor on special-teams with the Bisons. He performed well at the Combine, and can also long-snap. The Eskimos could be getting a steal with the final pick in the draft.
The 2016 CFL College Draft was one of the most lopsided drafts in recent memory. As a direct result of the bad teams doing really bad, the good teams did exceptionally well.
While it is impossible to come to any final conclusions on a CFL draft for three to four years, it is reasonable to come away with an early, preliminary judgement of each team’s draft class using the consensus draft-stock of a prospect to discover reaches and value-picks; the balance of a team drafting for positional need and via best player available – there needs to be a balance of both; and some personal thoughts on select prospects.
1. Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The Bombers simply sat back, took the best player available and had an outstanding draft. Tenth overall pick Michael Couture, who needs time to develop, but will be a versatile starter down the road, fills a positional need and was also likely the best player available, similarly to Trent Corney. Corney and Taylor Loffler, who supplies excellent value in the third-round, are both relatively pro-ready defenders that could develop into elite Canadians. Loffler’s knees In the meantime, they can both make an immediate impact on special-teams, as will Laval linebacker Shayne Gauthier, who was one of the top pure special-teamers available. Sixth-rounder Rupert Butcher, who reaked havoc on the Combine, could be a steal in the sixth-round, while Zach Intzandt is the perfect project for Bob Wylie.
2. BC Lions
Wally Buono looked like a genius when he traded back in the 1st round only to have the player he thought would be gone in the top-2, Charles Vaillancourt, fall to him at fifth overall. Buono’s intentions all along were to likely trade back and get local product Michael Couture at five, but Vaillancourt can – and will – immediately step in and start at centre for the Lions. Although I don’t believe he was the top player at his position, Anthony Thompson fills a huge need at safety with the 12th pick and could be a solid special-teams contributor right away while pushing incumbent starter Eric Fraser for playing time. The Lions got Dillon Guy a round later than expected, while Brennan Van Nistlerooy, an underrated CJFL prospect, and Brett Blaszko fill needs and were taken in the appropriate round. BC came away with two solid picks in the closing rounds as well in Nate O’Halloran and Boyd Richardson.
3. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Brandon Revenberg is a perfect fit for the Ti-Cats after bulking up his playing weight to 298-pounds over the off-season. Mercer Timmis has a very bright future as both a running back and a slot-back in Hamilton’s receiver-needy offense, while Mike Jones is a speedster who I believe is the most likely of another receiver drafted to develop into an effective starter. A former NCAA running back who only has one season as a starting linebacker under his belt, Terrell Davis is one of the draft’s best developmental players, while Felix Faubert-Lussier in the fifth round is one of the best value picks in the draft. One of the most underrated prospects in the draft, this testing monster will, at the very least, be a solid special-teamer and pass-catching fullback, but don’t rule out the potential of him becoming an effective, role-playing slot-back.
4. Calgary Stampeders
No current NFL aspirations for Alex Singleton means the Stampeders likely drafted Juwan Simpson’s immediate replacement at sixth overall. Juwan Brescacin might be close to his ceiling already – I don’t really see him developing into anything more than a field side wideout – but that’s not bad value at fifteenth overall. Roman Grozman in the fourth-round is far more acceptable than the 1st and 2nd round hype he was receiving, while Michael Kashak and Quinn Horton are both excellent value picks in the 7th and 8th rounds.
5. Ottawa Redblacks
With Canadian lineman Nolan Macmillan moving back to right tackle in the final year of his rookie contract, the Jason Lauzon-Seguin pick was perfect. The Laval product has quick, nimble feet as well as a future as a rare Canadian right tackle. The Mikael Charland selection was for need and strikingly reminds me of the Jake Harty selection last year – and that pick is starting to look good. He’ll be in the NFL next season, but Mehdi Abdesmad should come North soon after inking a priority free agent deal with the Tennessee Titans. He fills a need at defensive end with Arnaud Gascon-Nadon potentially starting this year, but he better projects in my view as a defensive tackle in my view, as the additional yard off the ball could affect his ability to turn the corner on pass-rushes. The rest of Ottawa’s picks were underwhelming, though.
6. Saskatchewan Roughriders
Saskatchewan needed immediate improvements to their league-worst Canadian talent, and they did exactly the opposite. With 25 picks in between their first and second choices, Saskatchewan made two “futures” picks despite having no business with drafting players that can’t come help their Canadian depth immediately. Elie Bouka will spend at least a year with the Arizona Cardinals, while David Onyemata may never come north. Saskatchewan didn’t exactly make up for it with the selection of Quinn Van Gylswyk, as even though he’s an excellent prospect and the Riders needed a punter, they had far too many holes to address elsewhere to select a kicker with their third pick. I really like the value of Alex McKay and Josh Stanford in the later rounds, however. Stanford could have a future in this league if he fixes his attitude, which was reportedly a big red-flag at the Combine.
7. Montreal Alouettes
I love the Philippe Gagnon pick. While his technique is unbelievable, Charles Vaillancourt’s slowness is worrisome, especially when disengaging off blocks to shift over and take a blitzing linebacker or stunting defender. Gagnon’s technique is slightly less refined, and he might not have all of Vaillancourt’s physical tools (but almost), he’s significantly quicker with his feet. The Wayne Moore pick, however, really hurts the Alouettes – it screams Steven Lumbala and the 2013 CFL Draft. Moore performed magnificently in the Combine one-on-ones as both a blocker and receiver, but tested quite poorly and projects as a fullback. Sean Jamieson would’ve been a nice third or fourth rounder for some teams, but the Alouettes have 10 offensive lineman under contract; yes, a handful are upcoming free agents, but the Alouettes already picked up Gagnon. Maiko Zepeda was a good value-pick at 56 – he runs a 4.57 and hits like a missile – but George Johnson was drafted too early and should not have been picked before Doug Corby.
8. Toronto Argonauts
The Argos’ best picks came in the fourth round. Both products of southern Ontario, Noel’s floor is as a capable special-teams contributor, while Cross was the far and away the class’ best fullback. Toronto’s decision to pass on Trent Corney in the first round could be a mistake, as the Argos have no depth for soon-to-be 34-year-old Ricky Foley. It was also head-scratching to not see Jim Barker look for a defensive end such as McMaster’s Michael Kashak in the later rounds instead of stocking up on huge-project offensive linemen. I’ve made it clear that I don’t really think Brian Jones will develop into anything special, and even while dismissing those beliefs for the consensus thoughts on Jones, it’s a slight reach to select him in the top-5. Selecting DJ Sackey in the second round was certainly a reach, though, seeing as he would’ve been available much later in the draft. A third consecutive reach, Jamal Campbell also would’ve been available later in the draft, I’m sure. Although I believe he has a high ceiling, the York product has some of the most under-developed technique I’ve seen. After spending a third-round pick on him, the Argonauts must be committed to developing Campbell without losing their patience and cutting him.
9. Edmonton Eskimos
Despite winning a Grey Cup, Edmonton’s Canadian content was middling. Yet Ed Hervey spent his first two picks on NFL-bound players, which is even more inexplicable when you consider the Eskimos had no picks in the third and fourth round. Tevaun Smith could bounce around practice rosters for awhile, and the Eskimos simply did not need need a receiver, with Devon Bailey, Nate Coehoorn and Chris Getzlaf around town. Arjen Colquhoun, similarly to Smith, could spend more than a year in the NFL, but it was a positional need for the Eskimos. Despite a porous first three selections that included selecting Josh Woodman, who I think will be cut in year one, the Eskimos may have closed the draft better than anyone else.
Kyle Walters just sat back – probably didn’t relax – and let the chips fall where they may in the 2016 CFL draft. In the end, he came away with an outright ridiculous haul of players.
The first round of the CFL Draft was nothing short of crazy, and for Walters and Mike O’Shea, who remained quiet across the league back in Winnipeg, the outcome was nothing short of ideal. An early-run on offensive lineman – aided by the Eskimos foolishly selecting Tevaun Smith at eighth overall – meant Virginia pass-rusher Trent Corney slipped through the cracks in the opening round and into the hands of a thrilled Kyle Walters. A shake-up regarding the elite tier of offensive lineman saw Michael Couture also still on the board when Winnipeg was on the clock, and the war-room likely had no objections before calling in the pick.
Those two picks were already quite satisfying, but no one – not even the Bombers, but perhaps Justin Dunk – knew how graciously the draft would continue to unfold for the Bombers as the rounds passed by.
It’s all the more impressive when you consider the fact that Garrett Waggoner, a blue-chip, tremendous prospect, was technically selected with a 2016 draft pick. This class has the potential to be the defining moment of Kyle Walter’s career in Winnipeg, and it’s amazing what can unfold when a team is able to have freedom with their draft choices as a result of a solid corps of Canadians under-contract. Walters has brought the Bombers’ Canadian content a long way since he took over the skeleton-like depth chart from the Joe Mack era, and he took another large step forward with the first three players drafted by the Blue & Gold this year.
Round 2, pick 9 – DE Trent Corney, Virginia
This selection was more than ideal for the Bombers; not only does Corney fill a positional need, but he was easily the best player available as well. An ultra-athletic player, Corney was one of the most athletic defensive lineman available in the NFL draft, and many people were stunned when he not only went undrafted, but wasn’t even offered a priority free agent contract.
Corney had an excellent senior season – his first season as a starter. His first career start came against UCLA, where Corney battled a 1st-round (and 2016 top-10 pick) NFL offensive tackle, Ronnie Stanley. Notching six tackles and a tackle-for-loss, Corney ended up being Stanley’s toughest match-up of the season.
Although he has a very good chance of developing into a starter, he’ll start his career as Jamaal Westerman’s backup. With his ridiculous athleticism – the 6-foot-3, 251-pounder clocked a 4.52-second 40-yard dash, recorded a 38-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot broad jump – and hard-nosed style, he’ll make an immediate impact on special-teams.
Round 2, pick 2 – C Michael Couture, Simon Fraser
Another athletic player, Couture was a slam-dunk pick for Bombers at 10th overall in terms of value. With Charles Vaillancourt tumbling into the hands of the BC Lions at fifth overall, all plans drafting the local product went out the door in BC, so Couture fell into the hands of the Bombers. It was no secret the Bombers were going to draft an offensive lineman at any costs with back-to-back picks to open the second round, as the club only had four Canadian offensive linemen under contract until the draft.
The sky is the limit for Couture, as he played all of left guard, centre and right tackle with the Clan, while lining up at all five offensive line positions at the combine – and dominating. Couture has quick, nimble feet and excellent, refined technique – don’t rule out the ability of him developing into a starting right tackle down the road. In the meantime, he brings some much needed depth and versatility to the Bombers’ unit. He needs time to develop, but Couture has a bright future.
Round 3, pick 2 – S Taylor Loffler, UBC
Four surgeries in five years was enough to scare away enough clubs from Loffler until Walters pulled the trigger in the third round on the consensus top safety in the draft. While not directly a positional need with Garrett Waggoner young and on the roster, the former Boise State recruit was simply too good of a player for the Bombers to pass. Loffler is a a top-15 talent, and a clean bill of health during his first and only season with the UBC Thunderbirds could mean his health issues are in the past.
Loffler, similarly to Corney, is one of the more pro-ready players in the draft. He’ll contribute on special-teams and as a depth safety this year, but in perhaps one-to-two seasons, the Bombers could be starting Loffler at strong-side linebacker and Garrett Waggoner at weak-side linebacker – both of whom were technically acquired with 2016 draft picks.
Round 4, pick 28 – LB Shayne Gauthier, Laval
The Bombers were wise to invest in a player who projects purely as a special-teams anchor this early in the draft. Albeit only 5’10” and 220-pounds, Gauthier is a tough, throwback linebacker who plays off physicality and natural instincts. With deceptive downhill speed – he ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash – the Laval product should be able to make an immediate impact on special-teams.
Round 5, pick 2 – RG Zach Intzandt, McMaster
The Bombers needed to add at least two offensive linemen in the draft, and Intzandt happens to be one of the best developmental prospects eligible. He looks the part at 6-foot-4 and 304-pounds, but 2015 was Intzandt’s first year starting along the offensive line after converting from the defensive side in 2013. Nonetheless, his tape at McMaster was solid, however a rough Combine performance may have showed scouts that the London, ON. native was more of a project than perhaps originally thought. It’s slightly worrisome that this technique is already decently refined – you can teach technique, but you can’t teach physical abilities – but I don’t doubt the coaching abilities of Bob Wylie.
Round 6, pick 2 – NT Rupert Butcher, Western
Displaying one of the best Combine one-on-one performances in history, Butcher could be one of the steals of the draft. But it wasn’t completely surprisingly to see the Western product fall into the six-round. Butcher was never a consistently dominant player with the Mustangs – Walters pointed to his lack of motor – and only showed flashes. His motor was sure running at the combine, of course, as Butcher dominated every offensive lineman that crossed his face in a number of different ways, displaying shiftiness, good hands, pad-level and a fearsome bull-rush. Butcher must lose some weight – he’s a behemoth at 6-foot-5, 327-lbs – and will fit in behind Keith Shologan and Jake Thomas at the nose tackle position, likely making the practice roster this season.
Round 7, pick 2 – SB Alex Vitt, Manitoba
The Bombers passed on a handful of local products before picking up Vitt with the 55th pick the draft. While not flashy, Vitt is a physical, blue-collar pass-catcher who was a consistent contributor with the Bisons, notching 728 yards and 4 TDs in 2015. A player who won’t catch anyone’s attention with his testing numbers, Vitt didn’t have his best day running routes at the Edmonton Regional Combine and found his name uncalled when the list of participants moving on to the National event were named. A 6-foot-2 receiver with good hands and a willingness to block, Vitt will be an interesting name to watch in training camp.
Round 8, pick 2 – LB Frank Renuad, Windsor
It was disappointing to see the club pass on another local product who plays the same position, DJ Lalama, but I can’t say anything bad about Renaud. He didn’t have the opportunity of a fourth-season to improve his draft-stock, tearing his ACL at the East-West Bowl. The Bombers’ Canadian talent evaluates obviously liked what they saw at the event, but we’ll have to wait and see if the Bombers get any value out of a player who wouldn’t have been drafted without the new, additional eighth round.
The East-West Bowl, Combine and NFL Draft are now in the rear-view mirror – the CFL Draft is here.
The 2016 CFL Draft is tremendously top-heavy and will boast many, many future starters in this league. While depth is lacking, don’t be surprised if there’s a few late-round steals waiting to be uncovered.
Pending a big draft-day trade – looking at you, Saskatchewan – this will be my final mock draft of the year. Please keep in mind that this how I think the draft will unfold, not necessarily who I’d pick if I were GM.
Note: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers forfeited their 1st-round pick to select Garrett Waggoner in the 2015 supplemental draft
Note: The Calgary Stampeders forfeited their seventh-round pick to select Brandon Tett in the 2015 supplemental draft.
1:1 Saskatchewan Roughriders – RT Josiah St. John, Oklahoma
Although he’ll likely start his career at guard, St. John has the potential to develop into a starting tackle in the CFL. The Riders, who could make a draft-day trade out of this pick, would be swinging for the fences by taking St. John rather than the safer pick, Charles Vaillancourt. But with the way Saskatchewan’s offensive line is currently situated, they’d bode well with a Canadian at right tackle in the future.
1:2 Montreal Alouettes – RG Charles Vaillancourt, Laval
Although Montreal can afford to draft a skill-position player here, Vaillancourt is likely too good of a prospect to pass on. Montreal currently has 10 offensive lineman under contract, but a handful are free agents at the end of the year. Their veteran centres, Luc Brodeur-Jourdain and Dom Picard, are ages 33 and 35, respectively. The addition of the most pro-ready offensive lineman in the draft will allow Montreal to cut ties with some veterans at season’s end, or sooner.
1:3 BC Lions – C Michael Couture, SFU
Although I don’t think Couture is worthy of a top-3 pick, it’s unlikely the BC Lions allow this local product out of the province. The Lions are starving for help at centre, as they had to start an American in Jason Foster at the position last year, which is currently occupied by 36-year-old veteran Tim O’Neill. Couture offers tremendous versatility – he played centre, left guard and right tackle with Simon Fraser – and has great feet in pass protection, but is still a couple years away from being pro-ready. It will be, however, a couple years before he’ll be ready to contribute.
1:4 Toronto Argonauts – LB Alex Singleton, Montana State
This would be a slam-dunk pick for the Argos, who could start two Canadian linebackers this year in Thomas Miles and Cory Greenwood, who’s now 30-years-old and is coming off multiple concussions last year. Singleton, who recently earned his Canadian citizenship after bouncing around NFL teams in 2015, is a pro-ready linebacker with tremendous size, athleticism, awareness and tackling abilities. With 2015 1st-round pick Sean McEwen in the pipeline, the Argos can afford to pass on an offensive lineman here.
The ‘Cats would be drafting for positional need with this pick, but it’s hardly a reach with Loffler in the top-5. Hamilton recently lost Craig Butler to a season-ending injury, and it just so happens that Loffler – the most pro-ready CIS defender in the draft class – is a very similar player to the established, CFL All-Star safety. Loffler (6’3″, 218-lbs) is a natural safety but has the size and man-coverage abilities to play SAM linebacker as well, similarly to Butler. His knees could potentially scare some teams, as he’s already torn his ACL twice during his time at NCAA Divison I school Boise State.
1:6 Calgary Stampeders – LG Philippe Gagnon, Laval
No team keeps their cupboard of Canadian offensive lineman as well-stocked as the Stampeders. Gagnon is a blue-chip offensive lineman who’s not far behind the level of St. John and Vaillancourt. He’s a mauler in the run-game, and possesses even quicker feet than his teammate, Charles Vaillancourt. With Pierre Lavertu in a contract year, the Stamps, who typically don’t keep their offensive lineman for more than one or two contracts, would be drafting a future starter in Gagnon, and a Laval product in the first round two years in a row.
1:7 Ottawa REDBLACKS – DE Trent Corney, Virginia
Corney is easily the best player available here, and defensive end just so happens to be a position of need in Ottawa, with newly-acquired Arnaud Gascon-Nadon potentially starting this season. Corney, who was one of the most athletic defensive ends available in the NFL draft, went undrafted down south, and wasn’t even offered a priority free agent contract to the surprise of many. Corney has the potential to be an elite pass-rusher in this league, with great burst off the line, good shoulder turn and flexibility to turn the corner on speed-rushes, good hands and an understanding of using leverage. He could contribute in years one and two as a rotational, second-and-long pass-rusher.
1:8 Edmonton Eskimos – RT Jason Lauzon-Seguin, Laval
There’s not really any skill-position player either fits in with Edmonton or is worthy of the eighth pick. Lauzon-Seguin, with tremendously quick feet, has the potential to develop into a starting right tackle, a position that could soon be occupied in Edmonton by a Canadian in future seasons. (Both Matt O’Donnell and Danny Groulx have experience and the ability to kick out and play as book-ends). There could be a make-over along Edmonton’s offensive line in the next year or so, as Simon Rottier and Justin Sorensen are both pending free agents, and Alex Krausnick should be released in training camp.
2:1 Winnipeg Blue Bombers – RB Mercer Timmis, Calgary
Winnipeg will undoubtedly use one of their two back-to-back picks on an offensive lineman, but would fill another need with the addition of Timmis. Newly-signed running back Pascal Lochard doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence as Andrew Harris’ Canadian backup, and Timmis is an immediate upgrade that has the potential to replace Harris as the starter in the future.
2:2 Winnipeg Blue Bombers – C Brandon Revenberg, GVSU
The Bombers currently only have four Canadian offensive linemen under contract, making this pick inevitable. Revenberg, a versatile player with experience at centre and guard, plays with tremendous pad-level, is quick out of his stance and has good feet. Size remains a question mark, however, as he’ll need to have bulked up over the winter.
2:3 Montreal Alouettes – WR Llevi Noel, Toronto
While Noel might not have have quite as much potential as other draft-eligible receivers on offense, what separates the former Varsity Blue star from the rest is his abilities on special-teams. The Toronto, ON. product was a dominate special-teams player in the amateur ranks, contributing in the 2015 season as a returner – he had a punt return TD, kickoff return TD and missed field goal return TD in 5 games – and as a gunner on the punt team, demonstrating great open-field tackling skills for an offensive player. Offensively, Noel has good size (6’1″, 202-lbs) and crafty route-running abilities.
2:4 BC Lions – S Anthony Thompson, Southern Illinois
Since the departure of J.R. Larose – but really since retirement of Barron Miles – the free safety position has been a revolving door and a position of weakness in BC. In-season addition Eric Fraser should not be seen as the solution. Several people seem to view the athletic, hard-hitting defensive back from Southern Illinois University as the top free safety in the draft, and while I’d strongly disagree, Thompson has some intriguing physical abilities – just don’t ask him to match up one-on-one on a receiver.
2:5 Toronto Argonauts – WR Juwan Brescacin, Northern Illinois
The Argos’ Canadian depth at receiver is quite thin, as really only Anthony Coombs and Kevin Bradfield are behind 34-year-old Andre Durie, who’s in the tail-end of his career. Brescacin, a similar-type player as Tori Gurley, was a consistent contributor for Northern Illinois. He has the makings of a future field-side wide-out, with a large frame (6’4″, 230-lbs) that he uses to box out defenders to win contested catches, and solid footwork that allows him to run crisp routes.
It’s unlikely that Mathieu Girard, Everton Williams and Landon Rice – though a decent backup – is nearly enough depth to make the Ti-Cats’ management even hesitate before spending an early round pick on an offensive lineman. Guy, who’s recovering from a torn ACL, played high-level competition at Buffalo and was a four-year starter, but it’s hard to overlook some of his technical flaws. The Hamilton native has ideal size but also lacks some key physical traits, looking slow out of stance and lacking agility and balance.
2:7 Calgary Stampeders – NT Rupert Butcher, Western
Butcher’s dominant combine performance may have vaulted him into the top-20, and with Calgary’s excellent Canadian depth everywhere except at the interior defensive line positions, the fit is natural. Junior Turner is expected to miss the start of the season, and while the CFL draft is seldom used for immediate, short-term solutions, the Stamps will need another body with a Canadian passport, and Butcher would hardly be a reach if his combine showing holds value.
Davis, with only one season of experience at linebacker under his belt after an extended career as a running back with both Arizona State and UBC, is one of the best developmental players in the draft. Davis has ideal size (6’0″, 222-lbs) and is quite athletic, but is still fairly raw – and that’s not at all a bad thing. Davis’ ceiling is high, and while he projects best as a WILL linebacker, don’t be surprised at all if, in time, he’s deployed as a SAM linebacker to provide depth behind Antoine Pruneau.
2:9 Edmonton Eskimos – DB Elie Bouka, Calgary
Edmonton wouldn’t have won the Grey Cup if they didn’t have good Canadian content on their roster. Instead of reaching for a linebacker, the Eskimos can afford to invest in a futures pick, and while Bouka will likely spend the entire NFL season down south, he could be CFL-bound as soon as training camp 2017.
3:1 Hamilton Tiger-Cats – K/P Quinn Van Gylswyk, UBC
The ‘Cats have yet to sign a single kicker or punter since the departure of Justin Medlock in free agency, and Van Gylswyk would immediately fill that void. The CIS has produced some tremendous kickers in recent years, but the UBC product, who’s game-winning field goal clinched the Vanier Cup this year for the Thunderbirds, could be the best one in a long time.
3:2 Winnipeg Blue Bombers – WR Brian Jones, Acadia
Jones recently suffered a broken scaphoid, an injury that has a 2-3 month recovery timeline but can often hinder a player for a long time afterwards. In my eyes, though, Jones’ plummet into the third-round doesn’t have too much to do with his injury – I’m not exactly sold on the Acadia product’s potential to develop into an effective receiver.
3:3 Montreal Alouettes – DE Mehdi Abdesmad, Boston College
Jim Popp’s futures picks have paid off recently, as Philip Blake and Vaughn Martin are now both Alouettes after careers in the NFL. Abdesmad inked a priority free-agent contract with the Tennessee Titans, but I don’t anticipate him spending more than a season down south. I’d project the Montreal, QC. native as more of a defensive tackle in the CFL, however, as the yard off the ball could really affect his ability to turn the corner on pass-rushes before being washed out of the play.
3:4 BC Lions – WR Brett Blaszko, Calgary
With Austin Collie now retired, the Lions, who could start two Canadian receivers to comply the ratio, are starving for non-import pass-catchers. Blaszko has a rare combination of size and speed – he’s 6-foot-4, and ran a 4.55 40-yard dash – and was a solid touchdown producer with the Dinos.
3:5 Toronto Argonauts – CB Arjen Colquhoun, Michigan State
The Argos may have to wait a couple of seasons before Colquhoun comes north – he signed a priority free agent contract with the Detroit Lions – but have good enough depth throughout the roster to invest a third-round pick in a player that will be an instant ratio-breaking starter when he comes North.
Hamilton will surely invest an early-round pick in a receiver, as they’ll start two Canadians at receiver this year and only really have Matt Coates as depth. The logical pick would be Doug Corby, a Burlington kid, but I think Jones has the best chance of any receiver in the draft not named Tevaun Smith to develop into a starting receiver.
3:7 Saskatchewan Roughriders – LB DJ Lalama, Manitoba
The Riders only have one Canadian linebacker on the roster – second-year player Nehemie Kankolongo – and will surely look to add at least one more after Lalama, who’s play on special-teams with the Bisons has him looking like a potential anchor on the ‘teams for the Riders in coming years.
3:8 Ottawa REDBLACKS -NT Quinn Horton, SFU
Ottawa needs to add depth behind Zach Evans, who’ll start in place of the departed Keith Shologan this season. Horton has a lot of great traits – he’s quick, agile and good with his hands – but it could all be good for not if he doesn’t improve his pad-level.
3:9 Saskatchewan Roughriders – SB Felix Faubert-Lussier, Laval
Chris Jones and Stephen McAdoo evidently prefer tall receivers, and while Faubert-Lussier is only six-feet, he could become an excellent pass-catching fullback, and also has the athleticism and decent-enough route-running to be a depth slot-back in the future.
4:1 Toronto Argonauts – DB Mikael Charland, Concordia
The Argos need to beef up their depth behind starting safety Jermaine Gabriel. Charland, who has excellent size at 6-foot-3 and 212-lbs, can play multiple positions, and could become a serviceable special-teams player with his speed and open-field tackling abilities.
4:2 Winnipeg Blue Bombers – RG Sean Jamieson, Western
The Bombers must continue to stock Canadian offensive linemen in their cupboard. Jamieson is a monster at 6-foot-6 and 306-lbs, and just so happens to be a Winnipeg native.
4:3 Montreal Alouettes – LB Michael Langlais, Laval
Langlais could have – and could still be – a top-20 pick had a torn ACL not sidelined him for the duration for of the 2015 season. He clocked a 4.55 40-yard dash at the East-West Bowl and has a lot of upside on special-teams.
4:4 BC Lions – SB Doug Corby, Queens
The Lions will need to add another pass-catcher even after drafting Blaszko, and it just so happens that Corby is also the best player available. The Burlington, ON. native reminds me a lot of Anthony Parker, and could return kicks before he can attempt to crack the starting lineup down the road.
4:5 Toronto Argonauts – DE Michael Kashak, McMaster
Ricky Foley is the only Canadian defensive end on the Argos, and that needs to change. Kashak’s an explosive player and could be effective setting the edge as a run-defender, but seems too stiff to settle in as a pass-rusher.
4:6 Hamilton Tiger-Cats – WR Tevaun Smith, Iowa
The ‘Cats are in a good position to gamble on a futures pick, even if their not known for taking NFL-bound prospects. Smith could spend a couple years down south before coming to Canada, but the ‘Cats could be getting a star if the Toronto, ON. product can’t stick in the NFL.
4:7 Calgary Stampeders – LB Doug Parrish, Western Oregon
Calgary’s done a great job at continuously drafting and developing Canadian linebackers and defensive backs. Parrish is new to the CFL game, but has great size and looked really good in Combine one-on-ones.
4:8 Ottawa REDBLACKS – Roman Grozman, Concordia
I’ll perhaps never understand the early-round hype surrounding Grozman. Aside from an exceptional punch that shocks defenders and prohibits them from disengaging, his technique is quite undeveloped and his footwork is poor. Quite honestly, I think Grozman is best suited as a defensive tackle.
4:9 Saskatchewan Roughriders – LB Shayne Gauthier, Laval
Gauthier is your traditional, throwback middle linebacker that plays simply off instincts and doesn’t need to be an athletic, quick player. He reads plays well, flows to the ball and meets runners in the hole with authority. He rarely over-pursues and consistently beats oncoming blockers with a plethora of different moves.
5:1 Saskatchewan Roughriders – DB Brennan Van Nistlerooy, Calgary (CJFL)
Van Nistlerooy had an excellent Combine, as the CJFL product ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash and was probably the second best defensive back in one-on-ones. Saskatchewan’s Canadian defensive back corps is quite underwhelming, and Van Nistlerooy could be a late-round gem that makes the active roster this year.
5:2 Winnipeg Blue Bombers – DE Denzel Philip, Eastern New Mexico
The Bombers only have Louie Richardson as Jamaal Westerman’s Canadian backup since the free agent signing of Ivan Brown didn’t work out. Philip, who was seen as a ‘tweener between a defensive tackle and defensive end before the Combine, dropped significant – and likely too much – weight so he could remain at defensive end, but has little to show for it.
5:3 Calgary Stampeders – WR Shaquille Johnson, Western
Johnson burst onto the scene as a freshman with McGill, eclipsing Andy Fantuz’s CIS record for receptions in a season by a freshman. Since then, he’s taken a crazy path to get to the CFL draft, with stints at Western University and with the London Beefeaters of the CJFL for school issues and family reasons. He can undoubtedly play football, though, and clocked a 4.37 40-yard dash at the Toronto regional combine.
5:4 Hamilton Tiger-Cats – DB Maiko Zepeda, Montreal
Hamilton lost a handful of depth Canadian defensive backs in free agency that they’ll need to replace. Zepeda is only 5-foot-8 and also had a very poor session in the combine one-on-ones, but he clocked a 4.57 40-yard dash at the Montreal Regional Combine and hits like a missile, leading me to believe that he has what it takes to be a special-teamer in this league.
5:5 Toronto Argonauts – DB Nicolas Termanson, UBC
One of the better defensive backs in the Combine one-on-ones, Termanson also recorded a 39.5-inch vertical jump. Termanson can play both safety and corner, supplying the Argos with more depth behind Jermaine Gabriel.
5:6 Hamilton Tiger-Cats – DE Boyd Richardson, UBC
Richardson gets off the ball fast, displaying quickness and agility as a pass-rusher. But he lacks strength to maintain gap integrity and will get washed out in the pro ranks if he doesn’t get bigger and stronger. He does, fortunately, have a few different pass-rush moves, and possesses the lateral quickness to possibly do some damage on twists, but his sack production with UBC was still poor.
The best thing about Egerter is his ability to perhaps suit up as an offensive lineman, as he seemed adequate in limited reps on offense at the CFL combine. In his natural defensive tackle position, Egerter gets low and has a good bull-rush, but he’s limited athletically and doesn’t have very good hands.
5:8 Ottawa REDBLACKS – RG Zach Intzandt, McMaster
Even after adding Grozman, Ottawa must continue to stockpile young, Canadian offensive line like Montreal has over the years. Intzandt only has one season of experience on the offensive side of the ball, and at six-foot-four and 303-lbs, the potential is there.
5:9 Edmonton Eskimos – DE Daniel Tshiamala, St. FX
Tshiamala, similarly to Deon Lacy, can play both linebacker and defensive end. Despite playing strictly linebacker with the X-Men, Tshiamala lacks lateral quickness, and will probably mainly be a pass-rusher in the CFL.
6:1 Ottawa REDBLACKS – WR Josh Stanford, Kansas
Reports have come out that scouts were disappointing with his attitude at the CFL Combine, but Stanford had a fantastic freshman season with Virginia Tech back in 2013 and looked smooth in the route-running drills at the Combine.
6:2 Winnipeg Blue Bombers – SB Alex Vitt, Manitoba
The Bombers pass on Western receiver George Johnson for the local product in Vitt, who had 728 yards and 4 TDs last season with the Bisons.
6:3 Montreal Alouettes – LB Marc-Antoine Laurin, Ottawa
Laurin is an athletic linebacker with quite a few technical issues, but he makes for a potential special-teams contributor. Laurin gives the Als another athletic, but less physical linebacker to pair with Nick Shortill as Canadian depth.
6:4 BC Lions – RT Jamal Campbell, York
Campbell, who posted some amazing testing numbers, is loaded on potential but will need several seasons of developing – and a patient organization – to work through his long list of technical flaws.
Cross did not attend the CFL Combine, but appears to be, far and away, the most complete, smash-mouth fullback in the draft.
6:6 Montreal Alouettes – DB Hunter Turnbull, Calgary
Turnbull had a great season with Calgary, but tested rather poorly at the Edmonton Regional Combine and didn’t earn an invite to the national event. Montreal could look to add another player similar to Chris Ackie with this pick.
6:7 Calgary Stampeders – DT David Onyemata, Manitoba
A fourth-round pick of the New Orleans Saints, Onyemata may never play a snap in the CFL.
Even after picking up Lalama and Gauthier, the Riders must continue to add Canadian linebackers, and Barnett brings a completely different skill-set to the table than the aforementioned.
6:9 Edmonton Eskimos – LB Kevin Jackson, Sam Houston State
Coming from a great program in Sam Houston State, Jackson was poised for a breakout senior campaign until injuries limited him to one game in 2015. He lacks college game film, however, and I’m not sure if his combine performance really satisfied scouts.
7:1 Ottawa REDBLACKS – WR George Johnson, Western
Although Montreal doesn’t need another receiver, Johnson is easily the best player available. A poor-man’s Llevi Noel, Johnson is exciting to watch with the ball in his hands.
7:2 Winnipeg Blue Bombers – OL Alex McKay, Manitoba
The Bombers add their third local product in the draft with McKay, who’s the best Canada West offensive lineman available in the draft.
7:3 Montreal Alouettes – RB Wayne Moore, McMaster
His 40-yard dash was tremendously disappointing, but Moore was the Combine star of the running backs. His blocking was great, and linebackers had a very difficult time covering him in one-on-ones.
7:4 BC Lions – LB Curtis Newton, Guelph
Newton has tremendous pass-coverage skills, but his lack of size and inability to be a force in the CIS at the point off attack will really limit him in the CFL.
7:5 Toronto Argonauts – RT Kadeem Adams, Western
An injury kept Adams out of the Combine, but he displays good feet and balance on tape, and could compete in training camp next year after returning to school.
7:6 Hamilton Tiger-Cats – DB Malcolm Brown, Western
Brown ran well at the Combine and seemed slightly more adequate than his teammate, who’s the next player in this mock, in one-on-ones.
7:7 Ottawa REDBLACKS – CB Josh Woodman, Western
Woodman was consistently burnt in the Combine one-on-ones, seemingly abandoning his technique with the pressure of performing in front of scouts.
7:8 Edmonton Eskimos – DE John Biewald, Western
Biewald has refined technique and has good shoulder turn around the edge, but is greatly undersized at 225-pounds, and hasn’t found a way to compensate for that.
8:1 Saskatchewan Roughriders – WR Riley Wilson, Regina
Wilson has the desired size for the ‘Riders at six-foot-three, and just so happens to be a local product.
8:2 Winnipeg Blue Bombers – DB Michael Schmidt, Calgary
Schmidt missed most of his fourth season with an injury, but ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash at the Edmonton Regional Combine
8:3 Montreal Alouettes – FB Nate O’Halloran, Guelph
O’Halloran was an adequate blocker and pass-catcher for Windsor, appearing to be a very smart player. He’s a stiff athlete, however, and will need more power and quickness to last in this league.
8:4 BC Lions – LB Alex Ogbongbemiga, Calgary (CJFL)
Ogbongbemiba tested well in the vertical and the shuttle at the Edmonton regional, earning himself an invite to the National Combine. A productive, smash-mouth Mike LB with Calgary, Ogbongbemiba recorded 23 tackles, 1 sack and 1 INT in six games last season.
8:5 Toronto Argonauts – FB Donald Tabor, St. FX
Taboris a proven pass-catcher with the X-men, but needed to prove at the CFL Combine that he could block well enough to play fullback in the CFL and did anything but.
8:6 Hamilton Tiger-Cats – FB Devon Stewart, McGill
The ‘Cats needed to add another body behind C.O. Prime at some point in the draft, but few fullbacks, including Stewart, warranted anything but an eighth-round pick.
CFL teams cannot have too many Canadian linebackers – just ask the Hamilton Tiger-Cats or Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Canadian linebackers are, in some aspects, the heart of special-teams in 3-down football. They’re difficult to develop into starters on defense, but still offer tremendous value to clubs for their play on special-teams, an incredibly important aspect of Canadian football.
This years’s class boasts almost strictly players who project as special-teams players at most – which, evidently, is not necessarily a bad thing – except for a certain NFL-alum who tops our list of the top-10 linebackers in the 2016 CFL Draft class.
1. Alex Singleton, Montana State (6’2″, 235-lbs)
Singleton easily tops this list, as the former Seattle Seahawk and Minnesota Viking was already nearly CFL-bound as an international player before receiving his national status recently. Singleton is a pro-ready linebacker, with ideal size and experience in the professional ranks. He’s an athletic freak, and possesses incredible instincts and football I.Q. to go along with it. Amassing 136 tackles in his senior year, Singleton had incredible collegiate production. He’s a fluid player on tape, with sure-tackling abilities, awareness both in coverage and against the run, and aggressive, physical play at the point of attack. He works off blocks, forces cutbacks and is able to chase down ball-carriers. Singleton has a bright future in the CFL, and it could lead to more NFL opportunities down the road.
2. Terrell Davis, UBC (6’0″, 222-lbs)
Having only spent one season as a linebacker after entering the collegiate ranks as a running back with both Arizona State and UBC, Davis is still quite raw. The mental part of the game, such as awareness and pursuit angles, will need developing, but the physical part of the game is there. Davis is quite athletic, and possesses good feet, hips and change of direction skills, and really put them to display in the combine one-on-ones in pass-coverage. He’ll be a project, but Davis has a lot of potential and has the physical traits to excel on special-teams.
3. DJ Lalama, Manitoba (5’11”, 229-lbs)
Lalama, who participated in the New York Giants’ rookie mini-camp, has been an underrated linebacker prospect through the pre-draft process. Lalama possesses a great blend of size, aggression, instincts and reliable open-field tackling skills to project well as both a MIKE and WILL linebacker. He takes accurate first steps and shows excellent closing burst to arrive with force at the point of attack, creating lanes to the ball carrier for himself and for his teammates. As a physical striker with reliable breakdown skills in the open field, Lalama has been an excellent special-teams player with Manitoba as well. Lalama, who was experience long-snapping, should be a respectable special-teams player in this league.
4. Shayne Gauthier, Laval
Gauthier is your traditional, throwback middle linebacker that plays simply off instincts and doesn’t need to be an athletic, quick player. He reads plays well, flows to the ball and meets runners in the hole with authority. He rarely over-pursues and consistently beats oncoming blockers with a plethora of different moves. His pass-coverage skills remain a question, but Gauthier’s 4.6-second 40-yard dash time may have satisfied scouts.
5. Doug Parrish, Western Oregon (6’0″, 225-lbs)
Parrish, a former San Jose State commit, looked good at the combine, where he weighed in 10 pounds less than expected. That’s certainly not a bad thing, especially considering how good he looked at the combine. Parrish was smooth in coverage and very tough to block in one-on-ones, impressing scouts after a disappointing senior campaign.
6. Mitchell Barnett, UBC (6’1″, 205-lbs)
Barnett projects more as a safety in the CFL, but don’t rule out the possibilities of him playing in the box, too. Barnett plays very fast – he ran a 4.85 40-yard dash for reference – and is surprisingly good at winning battles at the point of attack, shedding blocks with his hands. He understands his landmarks when he drops into coverage and reads the quarterbacks eyes, all the while scanning the middle for crossers. With consistent tackling abilities, Barnett projects quite well as a special-teams player in the CFL.
7. Kevin Jackson, Sam Houston State (5’10”, 223-lbs)
Jackson tested very well at the Toronto regional Combine, clocking a great 4.75 40-yard dash and 4.37 3-cone time for a stocky, 5-foot-10 and 223-pound middle linebacker. Coming from a great program in Sam Houston State, Jackson was poised for a breakout senior campaign until injuries limited him to one game in 2015. He lacks college game film, however, and I’m not sure if his combine performance really satisfied scouts.
8. Marc-Antoine Laurin, Ottawa (6’0″, 222-lbs)
Laurin is an athletic linebacker with quite a few technical issues, but he makes for a potential special-teams contributor. While he does have good size and speed, he’s not aggressive enough at the point of attack, and needs to continue to work on angles and tackling.
9. Curtis Newton, Guelph (6’1″, 211-lbs)
Newton has been the fantastic pass-coverage linebacker in his tenure with Guelph that scouts so desperately covet. Newton isn’t built very big and doesn’t play with much raw strength on the football field, projecting more as a safety in my eyes, similarly to Graig Newman. Newton, who struggles to shed blocks with his hands or with power, doesn’t consistently meet at the point of attack with force, as a linebacker should.
10. Alex Ogbongbemiga, Calgary (CJFL) (6’0″, 233-lbs)
Ogbongbemiba tested well in the vertical and the shuttle at the Edmonton regional, earning himself an invite to the National Combine. A productive, smash-mouth Mike LB with Calgary, Ogbongbemiba recorded 23 tackles, 1 sack and 1 INT in six games last season.
Plenty has been made of the NFL’s recent interest in Canadian players, and nowhere else is that best represented than with the 2016 draft-eligible defensive linemen.
The top-3 defensive linemen in this class each have varying levels of NFL interest, which doesn’t bode well for CFL clubs that are looking to shore up their depth along the defensive line in the draft.
It’s an incredibly weak year for defensive linemen beyond the top-3. But, fortunately, those top-3 are incredibly talented. Where they’ll each be drafted, however, remains a mystery, particularly for the prospect that tops the list, who just happens to be the best Canadian prospect in years.
1. NT David Onyemata, Manitoba (6’4″, 300-lbs)
A fourth-round pick of the New Orleans Saints, Onyemata may never play a snap in the CFL. He’s an incredibly gifted athlete, and although he’s extremely raw by NFL standards, with coaching and some seasoning, Onyemata has the potential to develop into a starter down south. He was one of the most athletic interior defensive lineman selected in the 2016 NFL draft, and as a result, may not be drafted until the mid-to-late rounds of the CFL draft.
2. DE Trent Corney, Virginia (6’3″, 251-lbs)
Corney is easily the most athletic player in the draft, as the 6-foot-3, 251-pound edge-defender clocked a 4.52-second 40-yard dash, and recorded a 38-inch vertical jump, 10-foot broad jump, and 34 reps on the bench press, which would have tied him for the most reps at the national NFL combine. In fact, Corney would have likely earned the best SPARQ score – a scoring system designed to measure sport-specific athleticism – out of every defensive lineman and linebacker at the 2016 NFL combine. Regardless, Corney was surprisingly not drafted or offered a UDFA contract, settling on a mini-camp invite with the New York Jets, which has likely seen his CFL draft-stock sky-rocket.
Pending some wild fall-out, Corney will surely be a first-round pick next week, as he has the potential to develop into a starter fairly quickly. He has a great burst off the line, as well as the shoulder turn and flexibility to turn the corner as a rusher. He’s good with his hands and, best of all, fully understands how to use leverage to his advantage. Although Corney has a great motor, he can get washed out at the point of attack as a run-stopper.
3. DE Mehdi Abdesmad, Boston College (6’6″, 284-lbs)
Abdesmad, who signed with the Tennessee Titans after going undrafted in the NFL draft, had an incredibly productive senior season in the ACC after two previous injury-riddled campaigns. The Montreal, QC. native collected 49 tackles, 15 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks in 12 games despite being one season removed from a severe knee injury suffered against Florida State. He’s not expected to make the Titans’ final roster, however, so it’s possible that the CFL team that draft’s him could sign him by September, unless he signs on the practice roster.
Abdesmad is an intriguing prospect for the CFL, as I’m not sure if he has the athleticism, body type and flexibility to turn the corner as an edge player. He’s better suited as a defensive tackle, lining up as a 3-tech or a 4-tech. He’s strong and great at the point of attack, but will absolutely need to improve his pad-level before he can start in the CFL.
4. NT Rupert Butcher, Western (6’4″, 327-lbs)
Butcher had the best Combine one-on-one performance I’ve ever seen, dominating every match-up that presented itself. The huge University of Western product displayed fantastic hands – he had three clean swim moves – as well as good explosion out of his stance and power, dominating three separate reps with bull-rushes. He drastically needs to lose some weight – which could improve his shiftiness – but Butcher’s Combine performance likely at least somewhat made up for his mediocre game film. He is, however, a wall against double-teams, planting his outside leg and fighting hard to maintain position in his gap. But I question his recovery athleticism and tackling abilities for a big-man.
5. NT Quinn Horton, SFU (6’3″, 289-lbs)
Horton is quick, agile and strong, but his pad-level is quite poor – he stands right up off the snap. He does, however, play with a huge motor and is quick to diagnose run direction, playing with instincts and football smarts. He has ideal size and really good hands, but he’ll get swallowed by double-teams in the pros if he can’t improve his knee-bend and punch. The Winnipeg, MB. product has good lateral quickness to be a threat on twists, and his motor will help compensate for some of his flaws.
6. DE Michael Kashak, McMaster (5’11”, 242-lbs)
Kashak is able to set a strong edge in run-defense, and while he’s shorter than teams would like at the edge position, he effectively uses his leverage to generate a pass-rush on the outside. He’s relatively athletic, but still kind of stiff and doesn’t have enough bend to turn the corner as a speed-rusher. Kashak is explosive – he is, in fact, better out of three point stance than standing up – and possesses a strong arm-over move as his go-to. He’s a smart player, and could develop into a rotational player in the future.
7. DE Denzel Philip, Eastern New Mexico (6’0″, 228-lbs)
Seen as tweener between defensive tackle and an EDGE, Philip evidently shed a lot of weight to gain the speed and quickness he lacked as a defensive end. Despite the weight loss, Philip didn’t seem much different in combine one-on-ones. Although explosive out of his stance, he’s still very stiff and doesn’t turn the corner until he’s already washed out of the play. I said long ago that Philip would be best suited inside, and with Philip choosing to lose weight to gain quickness as a defensive end rather than gaining weight, that window is closed.
8. DE Boyd Richardson, UBC (6’2″, 234-lbs)
Richardson gets off the ball fast, displaying quickness and agility as a pass-rusher. But he lacks strength to maintain gap integrity and will get washed out in the pro ranks if he doesn’t get bigger and stronger. He does, fortunately, have a few different pass-rush moves, and possesses the lateral quickness to possibly do some damage on twists. He’s a late-round player, however, and could return to UBC for a fifth season after training camp.
9. DT Donnie Egerter, Guelph (6’2″, 278-lbs)
The best thing about Egerter is his ability to perhaps suit up as an offensive lineman, as he seemed adequate in limited reps on offense at the CFL combine. In his natural defensive tackle position, Egerter gets low and has a good bull-rush, but he’s limited athletically and doesn’t have very good hands.
10. DT Tarique Anderson, Delaware State (6’4″, 270-lbs)
It wouldn’t surprise me if Anderson went undrafted, as he’s an incredibly stiff interior defensive lineman, and also has far from ideal size or build. Anderson is very ineffective with his hands and struggles with block-shedding. He’s not quick, explosive or powerful, and has many technical flaws.
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)
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.
Quality Canadian offensive lineman are paramount to success in the CFL, and the best teams will continually draft at least one – and sometimes up to three – each and every year.
Continually drafting Canadian offensive lineman in bulk every year is crucial, as the CFL draft is, in many ways, a crap-shoot – some picks will pan out, others will flop. Injuries take a toll and make careers short for many offensive lineman, the best of which will depart for the NFL.
With CFL success often being directly affiliated with Canadian content along the offensive lineman, the best teams will often draft one early every year regardless of their needs, and another later on. This year’s class of offensive lineman, however, is not particularly deep. There’s a strong top-tier of offensive lineman, which can now be divided into two tiers with the emergence of Grand Valley State’s Brandon Revenberg and Simon Fraser’s Michael Couture, but it falls off after that.
One player who could be a nice late-round find is York offensive tackle Jamal Campbell, a testing monster at the CFL combine.
Campbell will be a large project for whichever team takes a flier on the 6-foot-5, 292-pound book-end, but it only takes one team to look past the glaring technical issues and see Campbell for the prospect he really is: an athletic freak with a ton of potential.
As the great coach Bill Walsh once said, “You can teach an athlete to be a technician, but you can’t teach a technician to be an athlete.”
Campbell’s testing numbers were off the charts at the CFL combine, as the Toronto, ON. native clocked a mind-blowing 4.984-second 40-yard dash, 31-inch vertical and 7.41-second three-cone time. And while testing numbers are a poor way to evaluate offensive lineman, they can somewhat be an indication of the ever-important athleticism factor, particularly for offensive tackle prospects.
Campbell’s athleticism, the most important piece of playing offensive tackle, is noticeable not only during tests, but also on the field. His short-area quickness is apparent in his kick steps, which requires quick, nimble feet to mirror and contain outside pass rushers while recovering inside to wall-off stunts and twists – Campbell’s natural abilities allows him to do that.
Campbell is also extremely powerful in his upper-body, displaying a powerful punch. He can shock the defender with his initial punch, latch on and not be easily swatted away once engaged. Campbell, evidently, has a lot of natural ability, which can’t be coached at the next level. Natural ability often is a sign of potential, and with the right coaching, Campbell could become an excellent late-round draft pick in the future.
Of course, it’ll take a team willing to invest a lot of time into Campbell. He’s very raw and lacks a lot of fundamental technique, stemming from a lot of different areas. There’s obviously not a lot of film out on the York product, but I found that his eight reps during one-on-ones at the CFL combine showed both the good and the bad of his game.
Balance is very important for offensive lineman, and Campbell often gets too upright in his stance. He’ll often over-extend and reach for the defender, leaving himself susceptible to finesse moves or underneath cuts. His footwork is another issue, and while it’s good to have a wide stance, he can reach too far out wide with his kick steps rather than taking shorter, quicker steps, which he’s quite capable of.
While these are all fixable issues, this doesn’t mean Campbell is a home-run pick, of course, as some of his flaws are quite detrimental if he isn’t able to compensate using some of his strengths.
Campbell still needs to develop his lower-body and add muscle, and as I touched on earlier, he lacks patience. He’ll often rely too much on his athleticism rather than his technique, which will need a lot of work. And as a Canadian offensive tackle who probably doesn’t fit the mold as a guard, the odds become increasingly low for Campbell – many blue-chip, first-round picks who were book-ends in college must move inside to play in the CFL.
But with his freakish athleticism, Campbell has potential. He’s going to be a huge project, and perhaps some teams don’t have the time or the patience to invest into the development of an offensive tackle who, even with seasoning on the practice roster, may never develop into a legitimate professional offensive lineman.
Campbell should still be worth a late-round pick, and while it’s ludicrous to project him as the next Jon Gott (fifth-round pick in 2008) or Chris Greaves (sixth-round pick as a defensive lineman in 2010), he’s shown enough upside to maybe think he could become a solid depth player after some grooming, which would be exceeding expectations for a late-round pick at offensive tackle.
All that’s apparent is that Campbell has potential, and in a draft class of offensive lineman that isn’t very deep, the York product is likely the best developmental offensive lineman in the draft. He has a lot of glaring issues and is far from being any-sort of a technician out wide, but with off-the-charts athleticism, he’ll be in many ways a blank canvas for offensive line coaches to paint into the player they want.