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Monday, May 7, 2018

OUT OF THE TUNNEL: CFL DRAFT ANALYSIS


BY: RODPEDERSEN.COM STAFF

This is an incredibly positive time of the year in the CFL. There is a fresh crop of Canadians that will make their way into the league, the Americans are starting to trickle into their respective teams’ cities and every team is in first place!

Much to no one's surprise the CFL Draft came and went with about as much excitement as a second coat of paint. There are many reasons, and just as many theories on how to fix the draft, but here are a couple of big hurdles:

- Look around any USports (or CIS or CIAU…which is another problem why people don’t understand Canadian college sports, it changes every 20 years!!!) city – how many stores have Huskies/Thunderbirds/Rams/Griffins/Blues merchandise on their shelves? How many cars do you see with their alma mater sticker on their window? University grads love and respect their school, but they don’t LOVE their school and won't get into an argument to the level of Alabama vs. Auburn, USC vs. UCLA or any other rivalry. So, without that crowd that watches every down of football, the draft will continue to go by the wayside with a whimper.

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- There was a time when the World Junior Hockey Championships registered barely a blip on the radar. TSN turned it into something to watch and get excited about.

In the case of the WJHC, you take 22 hockey players from across the CHL and NCAA that no one but their regional fans would recognize, taking on teams with players that no one has ever heard of and they managed to turn it into an event that got people to care.

Granted, there is national pride on the line and the Christmas season has eyes on screens, but TSN still makes it "can’t miss television". When it’s all over, most of the players will live again in relative anonymity. But for the duration of the tournament the names of those young men wearing the red and white are in the minds of hockey fans from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

TSN’s production of the CFL draft is admirable and the people involved love football, but let’s shake things up a bit. Maybe give Rogers the broadcast rights to the draft, they at least cover some USports football during the fall and would love the opportunity to dip a toe into the Canadian pro football pool.

- Also, move the date of the draft. Make it in mid-January (after university finals are over) when football is still fresh in the minds of CFL fans and not in the teeth of NHL and NBA playoffs. Put the combine/CFL week in the early part of the month and it will still give CFL personnel time to make all of their evaluations. It will also give the clubs time to have their drafted players indoctrinated into their organizations and a little more development time before training camp…not drafting and then three weeks later attending training camp.

Now to the draft itself. We here at Out of the Tunnel have seen enough of the players to be dangerous. Like anyone else who puts up their winners/losers or steals of the draft or sleeper picks, we are just data collectors and not in any way talent evaluators. So, take any post draft (or pre-rankings) with a heavy grain of salt.

There is also heavy area bias. Look at most of the CFL.ca post draft ratings, it’s heavy with players from the OUA and AUS -- just as Out of the Tunnel is incredibly tilted towards the Canada West. It all comes down to access to the games and players we see every week. We have watched in person or on TV all but a handful of CanWest games since 2017.

With all of that in mind, let’s keep things very simple and positive:


What The Riders Did

For the third season in a row, the Riders took a chance on a draft pick that is heading to the NFL to begin his football career. Dakoda Shepley inked a UDFA deal with the New York Jets. It included a $10-thousand bonus. Yes, it is less than what a seventh-round pick will receive as a bonus (estimated around $40-thousand) but it’s incredibly different than one of the many mini-camp invites because they get nothing.

Micha Teitz is a solid linebacker and a one of the leaders of a great Dinos defence. He will take a little time to develop and may spend some time early in 2018 on the practice roster.


Favourite draft class – B.C. Lions

It was reported that there were a few CFL front offices that were not impressed with Rice offensive lineman Peter Godber’s leaving the CFL combine without taking part in any of the drills or one-on-ones. He then proved that he could do all the work needed in his pro day a few days later. It was enough for B.C. to take him in the first round. Add Georgia State defensive tackle Julian Laurent in the first round and they have two players that will be in training camp on day one and adding to a pair of units that desperately need help.

They also got great third-round value with Nebraska offensive lineman David Knevel. Western’s David Mackie will be in line to take over from long-time fullback Rolly Lombula very soon.

Will Watson had a fantastic 2016 with the UBC Thunderbirds, but was set back with an injury plagued 2017. The Lions staff saw enough of the small-but-speedy receiver to take him in the seventh round.

Best day at the draft – University of Calgary Dinos


To have eight(ish) players taken in the CFL draft is incredible, but to have five(ish) in the first fifteen picks is almost unheard of. The best program in the Canada West continues to churn out quality football players.

What's with the "ish" you ask? Well that "ish" belongs to Rashaun Simonise. He has had one of the most unlikely roads to the CFL. After being ruled academically ineligible in 2016 he has spent time in a pair of indoor leagues, the PFC and a brief stint with the Cincinnati Bengals. He has the talent to be the next great Canadian receiver, but it may take time in Winnipeg.

The most mechanical ho-hum draft – Calgary Stampeders


Business as usual for the best Canadian talent evaluators in the CFL. A pick in every round and no risky NCAA choices. Reloading on their offensive line in the first, fourth and fifth round and finding reserve defenders in the second and third. We at OOTT love the pick of Atlee Simon in the sixth. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and runs hard, he just needs to put on a few more pounds and improve his blocking.

That’s it for this week, hang in there it is just a couple more weeks and they will hit the field for real!

(RodPedersen.com Staff)

16 comments:

Wayne said...

Good Morning Rod. I think one of the reason why there is no interest is the fact most of the top draft pics have NFL aspirations and it is hard for fans to get excited for a draft pic who may never play for our team.

You right that the media could help. I listen to your program every day and if you and other people like Justin Dunk were to start profiling these players throughout the season, that might help

Dex said...

The CFL is a free-agent league. This maybe a result of the insistence on 2 or 3 year contracts and the resulting transient nature of CFL players. The players taken this year will be mostly backups and special teamers for a couple of years, then if they are any good your team can get them in free-agency.

The draft is primarily about o-linemen and backup receivers. There are only one or two impact skill players drafted each year. Very few of these players taken will change the course of a CFL team like the first round of the NFL or NHL drafts.

Another reason not to get excited is most of the top players are trying to get to the NFL and will only come here once those dreams have died.

I love the CFL but this push for people to get excited for the draft is a failure.

Lewis Grant said...

There was a time when the World Junior Hockey Championships registered barely a blip on the radar. TSN turned it into something to watch and get excited about.

I've always loved the WJHC because I'd way rather cheer for my country than for my NHL team (which may have almost no local players). And in three out of every four years, the WJHC is the only best-on-best international tournament. (The world hockey championships don't mean much when most of the best players are in the NHL playoffs.)

For me, I don't think my WJHC interest ever had much to do with TSN hype. I watched the WJHC for years before I ever got access to cable.

Also, in the WJHC, you're cheering for guys who aren't making any money, rather than the spoiled pros. (Incidentally, that's one more reason to support the CFL: its players make reasonable salaries for being professional athletes.)

Anonymous said...

agree with the points above. but another reason, the players just aren't that good. 69 players got drafted. My guess is ten will have any sort of respectable cfl career.

i actually like the riders philosophy. take the ebst player and hope he returns. the alternative is take a player you know isnt likely to make your team.

Anonymous said...

The Riders had a poor draft IMO but at least that won't effect the team this year. I think they go 10-8

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing pleas for more U.S. sports channels but personally I would prefer a true 'Canadian' sports channel. Ever try to get up to the minute college sports results? Love a lot of what TSN does. But even after you can find Canadian university football on tsn.ca you will find weeks/months old articles. Of course it's chicken/egg so hard to make money trying to create hype. The NFL betting has paid huge fan increase ... maybe we need betting on college football.

Anonymous said...

Only problem with moving the draft to January is then you're drafting blindly when it comes to guys getting drafted or signed into the NFL. That's why they moved it to begin with.

In my opinion, TSN tries but they miss the mark huge. There should be CFL draft specials weeks in advance, talk about it on your radio talk shows... it doesn't help when people in the big media stations basically make a joke of it year after year. Tim and Sid openly made fun of the CFL Draft not mattering (although Tim McCallef is also a big supporter of USports so I will give him that, he did at least post some CFL draft content on his own).

If TSN wanted to make it matter, they could. But they don't. So now it's up to members of the media such as yourself Rod and other play by play staffers across the league to MAKE THIS IMPORTANT FOR FANS. Bring on draft experts or USports representatives to talk about the draft leading up to it. MAKE THE DRAFT THE UNOFFICIAL START TO THE SEASON rather than focusing on Florida mini-camp so much where there's 120 guys but maybe 1 or 2 guys make the practice roster.

The CFL needs to tell TSN to pick up their game or open it up to Sportsnet. I am getting tired of TSN's mediocre and static coverage of the league. They do the bare minimum and barely get by. BUT HEY! I'M GLAD THEY PLAY TOP 10 MAD COACHES MOMENTS EVERY DAY! THANKS TSN!

Anonymous said...

For me the draft has been much MORE exciting the last couple of years, largely because of CFL week upping the interest and that carrying forward to the draft. But it's important to remember that the CFL draft is a very different kind if draft. It's more like the NHL and MLB drafts in that the players tend to be more developmental players who won't be ready to start for a couple of years, and it only applies to Canadian players and there are only 7-8 Canadian starters on a team. Add in the fact that some players get signed by NFL teams, and the whole thing becomes a very complicated stew of factors that probably only the die hard fans can get into. And, as someone has already pointed out, the short contracts make the FA market probably more important than the draft. There are lots of ways to acquire talent and ultimately the draft is nowhere near as important as it is in other sports. But that doesn't stop diehards like me from loving it!

Just one last note. A lot of people praise the Stamps for their draft record, but they've been getting Canadian talent from us over this past year. They needed depth on the OL and we had an excess, so we traded Dillon Guy to them. And then this winter they signed Mrabure, who we didn't have room for because we signed Zach Evans. So for all their "great drafting" they've been picking up OUR excess Canadian talent this past year.

One more note. In two years we've gone from having very poor overall Canadian talent to being one of the top teams in the league. Every team could use a couple more star Canadians, which is why Jones is making more of the higher risk picks on the top players, but in two short years we now have so much depth that we're supplying the rest of the league with Canadians. See also Demski and Van Gylswyk, who will probably be starters on their new teams but would not have been starters for us.

Anonymous said...

why is it up to TSN to hype the draft?
why should the submit resources into something nobody will watch or care about? (anything less than 500,000 viewers is essentially nobody)

Anonymous said...

I enjoy and follow the draft. Jones' approach to the draft though is frustrating to me. We have no "excess" cdn talent as most of our talent has come through FA, which is expensive. Calgary and Montreal got some of our cdn talent because they have the cap space for them, where we don't. Also Jones' approach of "best athlete equals best player" puts him in direct competition with the NFL for talent. Most GM's look for the guys that do not necessarily have the measureables but are great players. Our draft class this year is 9th of 9 teams, frustrating.

DJR

Anonymous said...

I love the CFL,and would like to see more University football but couldn't care less about the draft! Very few drafted players make in in their 1st or second year or at all so who really cares except for friends and family

Anonymous said...

DJR, you're wrong on a number of points. Yes, we had and have excess talent. Please re-read my post and see the names I named.

FA don't need to be expensive. They're expensive if you're doing it wrong, or if you're trying to rebuild quickly and you have the money. Muamba was expensive but at the time we needed him badly and we had the money. Now we have waaaaay more Canadian depth and overall talent, and we didn't need him as badly, so we asked him to take a pay cut, he refused and we cut him. There are a number of options for replacing that Canadian spot either at MLB, or SAM, or perhaps on the DL, but we now have good depth and options in all areas. We have a high draft pick and elite athlete but very young player in Judge, a seasoned vet in Hurl (FA signed at a very reasonable price), another interesting and quite high draft pick in Teitz, and a maturing draft pick conversion prospect in Francis. One or some combination of these players in a rotation should give us what we need if we plan on starting a Canadian LB. That's depth, and note the three up and coming young draft pick prospects. I've also heard some good things about yet another draft pick Bartlett, so he may be in the mix as well. So that's 4 draft picks from the last 3 years plus an economical veteran FA as insurance. Again, that's depth.

Further on FAs, you can also look at players like Mrabure, Zver, and Guy, who were all cheap FA signings because Wally had given up on them and didn't want to pay them regular roster salary. He wanted to put them on the PR, they said no thanks and signed with us. Three great bargains, and Zver could push Clark this year. And you can also look at veteran FAs like Messam and Evans, who are both on very reasonable contracts considering their level of production. The only one left who might have one of those top dollar FA deals is Brouillette, but I think he's the last one.

As we transition from the rapid rebuilding phase to the sustained success phase it's a lot easier for us to attract players and they're costing us a lot less money. Bailey and Harty are two more high draft picks who signed very reasonable FA deals with us, both backing up Bagg. Again, great depth at that position as well.

Anonymous said...

CFLeague needs to rid itself of the archaic Canadian team player ratio, it only hinders and waters down the on field product. Only the best of the best need apply to play.

Anonymous said...

Nobody considers the Riders with the top Cdn talent in the league outside Regina. Mrabure was a BC draft, not Saskatchewan, & free agents are not given to other teams, they sign where they want. Were you given Messam? He & Hughes were done in Calgary. Sustained success isn't gained by signing players like Johnson, Hughes & Messam. Bagg is 33 & had his worst season statistically. Your OL is old compared to the better ones in the league. Your youngsters better be ready because you may have to use a couple this year. While top teams like Calgary are getting rid of old players, Jones is busy bringing on other teams' oldtimers. Bailey did nothing for Jones in Edmonton when he had him there & is on his 3rd team. Guys like him, Zver & Guy are cheap for a reason. The running game was dead last, only Messam is new, & the QB is 0-12. Welcome to the new look Saskatchewan Roughriders. Everything old is new again.

Anonymous said...

Excess Cdn talent!!! We came close in 2013, no where near now. Having multiple players that might be good at a position suits Jones' "multiple options" style of coaching but is not "excess talent.".

DJR

Anonymous said...

If guys like Mrabure and Guy are "cheap for a reason", what does it say about the Stamps that they acquired both of them from us this past year? Hughes was an all-star last year and Messam rushed for 1000 yards. It's starting to become clear that a number of veterans haven't been happy in Calgary and they seem to be moving people out to try to change the chemistry, but if the problem is DD that's not going to help. This will be an interesting year in Calgary. Btw, we're talking Canadians here and the average age of our Canadian OL starters is 28, and our two main backups (two high draft picks I might add) are 24 and 25.

And yes, sustained success is most definitely achieved by bringing in key vets. This has been shown by the Patriots in the NFL, but also by our season last year. We brought in some key vets for leadership last year (Johnson, Dyakowski, Owens) and we went from 5 to 10 in the win column. Sustained success comes from a balance of young guys and veterans, and from being able to recognize and acquire talent many different ways. This is why Chris Jones' teams will always be near the top.

And tying things together, Bailey is an example of several things we've talked about here. He is a top tier athlete but like many players in the CFL draft he needed time to develop, but because of the short contracts by the time he started "getting it" he had already left the team that drafted him. But lucky for us we have a GM with a great eye for talent and a record of developing players (see Leonard, Antigha, Francis, etc.) and we signed him as a FA for cheap, so it now looks like we're going to have an excellent backup for Bagg and possible future starter in Bailey. And behind he we have Jake Harty, another high draft pick who actually played pretty well in Ottawa, but when his first contract was up he wanted to play for Chris Jones, and then another one of our draft picks in Mitchell Picton. On the flip side the Bombers offered Demski a huge contract, way more than he would have been worth to us, and so he moved from the Riders to the Bombers. And all of this shows the interplay between free agency and the draft.
PP