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Keeping the Faith – a look at how the CFL 2017 first rounders fared in year one.

For football fans one of the highlights of the off-season is the draft. Those wanting to see a successful team bolster their ranks live in equal hopes with those who want to see a poor team put together the pieces for improvement. Free agency, trades and the draft are the key elements of team construction.

For fans the draft is a chance to dream that a key piece might appear that will make a notable difference. Whenever the draft does come around the focus tends to be on the first round as the glamour picks. Even though many greats have been picked up in later rounds or as drafted free agents.

Still, we are naturally drawn to those who are picked first. It has been said you can’t evaluate a draft until 3 years after the date, for then you will have a real idea of its impact. Putting that aside however, let’s take a look at if any of the 2017 first rounders had an immediate impact for their CFL teams. Neither Toronto or Montreal had first round picks in 2017 so they are not on this list.

Number 1 – Winnipeg Blue Bombers Faith Ekakitie DL (Iowa)  via Toronto

Being picked first brings an extra level of pressure and expectation. Ekakitie played 14 games in 2017 and registered 5 defensive tackles. Ekakitie signed a 3 year contract before his rookie season and he sounds ready to make a move in year 2 when admitting to his struggles in his first year in the CFL.

Number 2 – Saskatchewan Roughriders Cameron Judge LB (UCLA)

Where to start? Judge responded to being selected 2nd overall by saying he was glad to hear his name called but he still had eyes for the NFL and if a Texans mini camp didn’t work out then he would give Saskatchewan everything he had. This was later followed by a twitter  announcement of stepping away from the field for rehab to shoulder surgery and focusing on an off field opportunity.

In the end Judge played 3 games for the Riders in 2017, recording 4 special teams tackles.

Number 3 – BC Lions Danny Vandervoort Rec (McMaster) via Montreal

Vandervoort dressed for all 18 regular season games for the Lions in 2017. His time was spent primarily on special teams while also backing up at wide receiver. He caught one pass for 25 yards.

Number 4 –  Hamilton Tiger-Cats Connor McGough DL (Calgary)

McGough dressed for 18 games for Hamilton in 2017 and recorded 3 defensive tackles and 18 special teams tackles.

Number 5 – Edmonton Eskimos Nate Behar Rec (Carleton)

“Je suis un esclave” Behar will probably be remembered more for tweeting this back in June (and later deleting it) during contract negotiations with the Esks. He eventually dressed for 12 games for the Esks in 2017.

Number 6 – Calgary Stampeders Randy Colling DL (Gannon) via Winnipeg

Colling played two games and had five tackles and one QB pressure. He made his CFL debut in Game 17 against Edmonton and recorded one defensive tackle and one QB pressure. He dressed for both post-season games (including the Grey Cup) and had one quarterback pressure in each contest.

Number 7 – BC Lions Junior Luke DL (Montreal)

Luke dressed for 5 games for the Lions, recording 5 defensive tackles and 2 sacks. Luke is clearly enjoying the idea of a developing pro career, “To play at the professional level is another opportunity just like any opportunity in life. It’s a blessing.”

Number 8 –  Winnipeg Blue Bombers  Geoff Gray OL (Manitoba) via Calgary

This feels like more of a future potential pick for the Blue Bombers. So far Gray is still pursuing the NFL dream having been signed and waived as an undrafted free agent by the Packers, he was briefly on the Jets practice squad and is currently signed to the Browns practice squad.

Number 9 -Ottawa REDBLACKS Evan Johnson OL (saskatchewan)

The Ottawa Redblacks rookie offensive lineman, was really effective after getting an opportunity to start due to an injury to Jon Gott. Redblacks offensive line coach Bryan Chiu was certainly impressed saying Johnson graded out very high when he played.

So there we have it, nine first year first round picks with some very different experiences of year one in the CFL.  It is far too early yet to come to any conclusions. We can only hope that we will see some of them develop into the kinds of players that were envisaged when they were picked up.

It will certainly be fun to see how it all pans out & I for one cannot wait to see how they and the next crop of picks do in the 2018 CFL season.




Image from 3downnation

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