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.