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

Why Jamal Campbell is the Draft’s Best Developmental Offensive Lineman

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.