An In-Depth Look at the Bombers’ Impressive Haul of Draft Picks

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.

2016 CFL Draft Positional Ranks: NFL-Bound Studs Headline Defensive Line Class

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.

David Onyemata. Photo credit: gobisons.ca

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.

Mehdi Abdesmad. Photo credit: http://www.bceagles.com

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.

OL/DL Scores: Western DT Rupert Butcher Dominates One-On-Ones

While game film trumps all, the one-on-one compete sessions at the CFL Combine are the last opportunity for prospects to sell themselves to CFL teams. They absolutely can be valuable to the scouting process.

The most even compete session was between the offensive lineman and defensive lineman, and in hopes of getting the most accurate idea of how each prospect performed in this competitive environment, each individual was graded on a scale of -3 to +3 on each play. The results show you who, exactly, helped their draft stock with a positive one-on-one performance.

Offensive Line:

1. RG Charles Vaillancourt, Laval (+6 in 7 reps)

Vaillancourt quietly went among his business, grading negatively on just one play. He took snaps at each position along the interior, including three at centre, and showed off his ability to be powerful while going backwards in pass-protection. His hand-placement was exceptional, as he didn’t allow one tackle to even get in position to try to use a swim or rip move, and he managed to keep his feet in good position against stunts/speed rushers. The big, 325-pounder was a little slow out of his stance, but has learned over the years how to compensate for that by staying balanced and sinking his hips at the point of attack.

2. C Michael Couture, SFU (+4 in 6 reps)

Taking reps at all five positions, Couture likely had the best one-on-one session of all offensive lineman. Scouts were concerned with his weight heading into the combine, as he regularly played at 275-pounds at Simon Fraser, but weighed in at a healthy 292-pounds on Friday. Couture showed off his versatility in one-on-ones, which coaches will love, as well as good footwork and exceptional hand placement. He was fast out of his stance, quickly proving that he might just belong in the top-tier of offensive lineman in the draft class.

3. LT Jason Lauzon-Seguin, Laval (+2 in 8 reps)

Lauzon-Seguin took the majority of his snaps at left tackle and was essentially immune to bull rushes, handling the power move handily. It was disappointing to see the 26-year-old, who’ll be an interior offensive lineman in the CFL, only get one snap where he wasn’t playing tackle, lining up in an unfamiliar center position and getting dominated by Rupert Butcher. His footwork needs improvement but he showed off accurate first steps and a lot of power as a run blocker.

4. RT Jamal Campbell, York (+1 in 8 reps)

Campbell, who has the size to be a professional offensive tackle, had a streaky performance with some dominant plays and some disastrous plays. Campbell’s inconsistency is an indicator that he needs work on his technique, but the raw talent is absolutely there. He’s powerful, quick with his kick steps and demonstrates patience, particularly on a rep where UBC DE Boyd Richardson tried to rush inside with a swim, which Campbell stopped with a shot to his ribs. Campbell, who ran a fantastic 4.98 40-yard dash, could be the best developmental offensive lineman in the draft.

5. RG Sean Jamieson, Western (-1 in 7 reps)

Jamieson confirmed he’s the stout run blocker that he is on tape, dominating his defender as a right guard and right tackle to open the one-on-one session. Despite being unfamiliar with the position, Jamieson was most effective with the angles from playing tackle. He was beat badly on two separate reps by a rip and a swim move at guard but held his own against bull-rushes. Overall, stock down for the 2014, 2015 first-team All-Canadian.

6. LG Phillippe Gagnon, Laval (-2 in 8 reps)

Despite a couple bad reps, Gagnon showed scouts what they wanted to see and didn’t do anything to hurt his stock. The Laval product squared up well his defenders and rode them away from the quarterback. The player who had Gagnon’s number was Western nose tackle Rupert Butcher, who was unpredictable and dominated every offensive lineman with a variety of different moves.

7. LT/LG Roman Grozman, Concordia (-9 in 8 reps)

Grozman was the only other offensive lineman who took reps at every position, and that decision may have hurt his draft stock more than it helped. Grozman excels at winning battles with raw strength once engaged with the defender, but it’s putting himself in a position to engage that is the Concordia product’s issue. He was burned on four occasions: twice by swim moves as a guard and twice with speed rushes as a tackle. Grozman clearly has a lot of room to improve as a pass-blocker.

8. RG Zachary Intzandt, McMaster (-12 in 7 reps)

Simply put, Intzandt had a very disappointing session, and his lack of experience as an offensive lineman really showed up. Although the 6-foot-5, 300-pounder shows a lot of upside on tape, he was dominated on Sunday. His hand placement was terrible, making himself vulnerable to all kinds of pass-rush moves and giving Philip Denzel the easiest swim-move of his career. Intzandt simply wasn’t physical enough.

Defensive Lineman: 

1. NT Rupert Butcher, Western (+18 in 9 reps)

Butcher had one of the most dominant performances in CFL combine history. The huge, 6-foot-4, 327-pound Western product displayed fantastic hands – he had three clean swim moves that earned +3 grades – as well as good explosion out of his stance and power, earning two +3 grades and a +2 grade for three dominant bull-rushes. Butcher was unstoppable the entire session, improving his draft stock drastically. Butcher could become an even better player if he loses some weight and gains some shiftiness.

2. DE John Biewald, Western (+6 in 4 reps)

Although Biewald had a productive session, he likely didn’t do anything for scouts to overlook how undersized he is at only 225-pounds. It also didn’t help that he took only four reps, which can raise questions about his competitiveness. Biewald’s lack of size limits him to being strictly a speed-rusher, something you simply cannot get away with at the professional level. His lone non-speed rush was a spin move, which Jamel Campbell handled perfectly.

3. NT Quinn Horton, SFU (+4 in 8 reps)

Horton won three reps cleanly with rip and swim moves, demonstrating good hands and quickness around the guard/center. While not necessarily penetrating into the back-field, he pushed the pocket on bull-rushes enough to be effective in a game situation. Horton stood upright off the snap on a couple snaps, however, and can sometimes rely on upper body power and his hands instead of using leverage and knee bend. Regardless, I think Horton, who’s looking like he could be a third-round pick, really helped himself this weekend.

4. DE Daniel Tshiamala, St. FX (+4 in 5 reps)

Similarly to Ron Omara last season, Tshiamala, a natural middle linebacker, showed off his versatility by taking snaps as a defensive end. He showed a lot of upside in the process, winning three reps with speed rushes, demonstrating a good jump off the ball, agility and use of leverage.

5. DE Michael Kashak, McMaster (+3 in 6 reps)

Kashak had himself a solid day, displaying great burst, speed off the edge and use of leverage, which was a pleasant surprise as he was seen as more of a power-rush player before. He’s an agile, fluid runner with a relentless motor and received a positive grade on every speed-rush. Kashak’s stock has risen drastically today, proving he’s not a one-dimensional pass-rusher.

6. DE Boyd Richardson, UBC (Even in 5 reps)

Richardson got off the ball fast and demonstrated a great speed-rush. His best play of the session showed off all his athletic traits; Richardson jab-stepped to the inside of LT Jamel Campbell, used a rip move to get back to the outside and then blew by the helpless lineman with speed. Richardson still needs to bulk up and gain strength, which could effect his quickness.

7. DT Donnie Egerter, Guelph (-1 in 4 reps)

We needed to see more from Egerter, who was dominated by the top-tier of offensive lineman on bull-rushes. He graded positively on two plays, but both were bull-rushes on McMaster RG Zachary Intzandt, who had a rough day. Egerter, who took a rep as a left guard, didn’t display the athletic traits needed to be successful in the CFL in the four reps he took.

8. DT Tarique Anderson, Delaware State (-2 in 11 reps)

Anderson was easily the most ineffective of all defensive lineman, confirming his flaws that appear on tape. He struggles mightily to block-shed or perform moves with his hands, and hasn’t figured out a way to compensate for that. He’s a stiff athlete that can’t really control his movements or be agile. Scouts will like the fact that he took 11 reps, but he ultimately didn’t manage to do anything with the additional opportunities.

9. DE Denzel Philip, Eastern New Mexico (-4 in 8 reps)

Although he had the worst grade, Philip really didn’t do anything to hurt his stock and he certainly is not the worst of this defensive line group. He was arguably the fastest defensive lineman out of his stance and is clearly very competitive. But he was largely ineffective on his bull-rushes despite that being his trump card as a large, powerful defensive end. As a tight athlete who also lacks the lateral quickness to play defensive end, Philip is projected as a three-tech DT in the future. He beat Roman Grozman and Zach Intzandt cleanly with swim-moves in two of his three reps at defensive tackle.

Johany Jutras/CFL (I DO NOT OWN THIS PHOTO)
Johany Jutras/CFL (I DO NOT OWN THIS PHOTO)