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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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!