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

Combine Risers: 5 Players Poised to See Their Draft-Stock Climb

While scouts will always gather the most information on a player from game tape, scouting combines are a great opportunity for players to prove – or confirm – what may not have appeared on film.

A great interview that reassures the player’s love of the game and depth of knowledge could see him shoot up team’s rankings. A solid performance in competition drills that allows a player to display skill traits that his college scheme restricted him from showing could do the same thing for a player’s draft stock.

For example, a receiver who played in an Air-Raid college offense, often running posts and verticals, could entirely change the way scouts view him by excelling within a full route-tree in one-on-ones. Similarly, a receiver who faced off-coverage and mostly quarters defense in college due to his team’s scheme could improve his draft stock at the combine by getting clean releases off the line in combine one-on-ones against press coverage.

Be it in interviews, testing or one-on-ones, CFL teams will be searching for whatever they can find on players that they can’t find on tape. Every draft sees numerous players burst onto the scene with fantastic scouting combines that puts to bed any concerns coaches could have with their tape. Here’s five that could be the combine winners this year.

Joshua Stanford: WR, Kansas

Injuries can often derail a player’s draft stock, limiting the amount of film on the player and ultimately creating concerns with the player’s durability. Stanford is a great example of this, as numerous injuries have hampered his college career after a promising start as a freshman in 2013. With Virginia Tech, Stanford had 40 catches for 640 receiving yards and a TD, but took a 4-game leave to attend to off-field issues in his sophomore campaign and struggled to get back on the field after that.

Shortly after, Stanford transferred to Kansas, but the injury-bug followed him. He only appeared in two games last year, merely accumulating 3 catches for 38 yards. His freshman season, however, was good enough for the six-foot-one, 200-pounder to earn an invite to the national CFL combine.

He displayed great yards-after-catch ability as a freshman as an elusive runner that’s hard to bring down. He’s sound in creating space in zones and finding soft spots in coverages, as well as using change of speed to create leverage against the DB to run his route. But he has some flaws, such as a small catching radius, limited route running ability and release off the line-of-scrimmage. This is all based off his redshirt freshman campaign, however, exemplifying exactly how crucial this upcoming weekend is for Stanford to show that his hiatus from game action hasn’t stunted his growth as a football player.

Zachary Intzandt: RG, McMaster

Similarly to former Michigan State right guard James Bodanis, who the Montreal Alouettes selected in the third round last year, Intzandt has garnered CFL interest despite only playing one year on the offensive side of the football. His film, however, would not indicate that whatsoever.

Intzandt is a polished prospect considering his lack of experience. He’s an athletic dude with great size, technique and a solid burst out of his stance. He’s also an effective puller, polished pass-protector and a solid run-blocker – the total package. He’s not great at anything, but more importantly, Intzandt has no glaring weaknesses, and he can play in multiple different schemes (but zone-blocking would probably suit him most).

According to the intro in his highlight video, Intzandt should test very well. He apparently runs a 5.17 40-yard dash, a number that’d draw a lot of attention if he runs similarly on Saturday. The combine will be a great place for Intzandt to assure scouts that his little experience at right guard should not be too much of a red flag.

Terrell Davis: LB, UBC

Davis, a former running back for Arizona State, was converted to linebacker prior to 2015, his first season at UBC. It turned out to be a great move by the Thunder Bird coaching staff, as Davis turned out to be everything they’d hoped to be – an athletic, sideline-to-sideline linebacker that excels in coverage and gets to the quarterback quickly on blitzes. Davis, who has the size to be a CFL linebacker at 6-foot, 220-pounds, would be a great fit for the Blue Bombers’ scheme.

Given his athleticism as a former running back, Davis is going to have a great combine. The competitive drills – one-on-ones against RBs in routes/coverage and blocking/blitzing – are made especially for players like Davis to shine.

Josiah St. John: RT, Oklahoma

Canadian offensive tackles are hard to find, but extremely valuable. St. John, who made four starts in 2015, could see his draft-stock sky-rocket if he excels in one-on-ones as a tackle. At 6-foot-6, 308-pounds, St. John is built like a right tackle, pending his wingspan measurements. He’s a better run-blocker than pass-blocker – St. John struggled with his 3-step in college – so he doesn’t project as a blind-side protector. Scouts will likely hope to see St. John show a mean streak, as well as use his leverage more to his advantage against certain rushers. St. John could still be a top-5 pick as a guard, but a solid workout at right tackle would push him into the conversation for the no. 1 and no. 2 overall selections.

George Johnson: WR, Western

Johnson’s expected to test well in the 40-yard dash and in one-on-ones, but a solid shuttle drill time could really see his draft stock improve. Johnson already has great explosion, control and agility, and if just break on his routes a little faster  – he already has the explosion out of his break and the route-running knowledge – Johnson could be viewed as a top-3 receiver in the draft.