If you ever take time out to follow the goings on in a draft, whatever the sport, you are likely to pick up on the idea that it is all one great big lottery. It is rare to find that ‘sure thing’ that will succeed in the pro leagues. Time and time again judgement calls are made and some will never work out, but some will be hugely successful. It is the dream of finding the latter that keeps coaches, general managers and fans so motivated around draft time.
The other key point you will no doubt note, when delving into the wonderful world of drafting players, is that you cannot know how successful a draft has or has not been for at least 2-3 years when you see if players have had the impact the team selecting them was hoping for. This can be even more relevant in the CFL draft where players may be selected who never make an appearance for the team – usually because they are plying their trade south of the border in the NFL. Even so, it can still make sense for teams to draft a player provisionally signed elsewhere in case they don’t make it – then a least they have the rights to them north of the border.
So, with all that in mind let’s review, as best we can, the top 10 picks in this years CFL draft. (The top 10 as that covers all nine teams, with Toronto not picking until the first selection of round two).
Round 1 Pick 1 – Winnipeg Blue Bombers – Faith Ekakitie, DL (Iowa) – No surprise here as Ekakite was rumoured to be in talks with the Bombers leading up to the draft. This was an area of need for Winnipeg and Ekakite is considered pro ready for the Canadian game with his combination of size and athleticism. He should fit into their defensive rotation nicely.
Round 1 Pick 2 – Saskatchewan Rough Riders – Cameron Judge, LB (UCLA) – Judge could add depth on the defensive side for the Riders and start on special teams straight away. For now though, Judge is still focused on getting into the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He is attending a Houston Texans rookie mini camp and stated to CBC News, “If things don’t work out … it’s nice knowing I have somewhere to go,” adding, “If I don’t make an NFL team I’m definitely coming up there to play and prepared to give it everything I got”.
Round 1 pick 3 – British Columbia Lions – Daniel Vandervoort, WR (McMaster) – Vandervoort had a great performance at the CFL combine which may have elevated him to this pick. After the retirement of Shawn Gore who is now a police officer with the Vancouver police department, this does fill an area of need for the Lions.
Round 1 pick 4 – Hamilton Tiger-Cats – Conor McGough, DL (Calgary) – According to CFL.ca Hamilton wanted to trade up to draft Danny Vandervoort — but the deal fell through. McGough then was something of a surprise pick but he may slide into the Ti-Cats D – line, although some CFL teams did envision him more as a linebacker – he could also add value to special teams.
Round 1 – pick 5 – Edmonton Eskimos – Nathaniel Behar – WR (Carleton) – Nate Behar should be in the Esks training camp later this month and competing at receiver. Scouting report notes on 3DownNation suggested he was a strong character with good leadership qualities.
Round 1 pick 6 – Calgary Stampeders – Randy Colling DL (Gannon) – Five years after graduating from Gannon University the 26-year-old defensive lineman whose father and grandfather were born in Hamilton was granted Canadian Citizenship and became available in this draft. Not many people had him slated to go this high, but the 300 lb plus lineman could be a real presence. He spent four years in the Arena League and very briefly suited up as a Buffalo Bill.
Round 1 pick 7 – BC Lions Junior Luke, DL (Montreal) – Junior Luke could slot into the Lions defensive rotation. He was reported to be a dominant presence in the trenches for Montreal in college. Luke had a great showing at the CFL Combine, the 6 foot 9, 290 lb lineman doing particularly well in the one on one drills. This is the fifth consecutive first round where the Lions have gone either defensive or offensive line with one of their selections.
Round 1 pick 8 – Geoff Gray, OL (Manitoba) – Gray was a top line prospect but at the moment he is headed to Green Bay. He was slated as a possible number one pick before signing as a free agent with the Packers, so there is a lot of talent here but there is a real risk now that he might not ever take a snap in the CFL.
Round 1 pick 9 – Ottawa Redblacks – Evan Johnson, OL (Saskatchewan) Another mobile, agile offensive lineman who could fit into the CFL style of play. Hardly inspirational quotes from Redblacks General Manager Marcel Desjardins on the team site though stating, “You’re not always going to get your top guys…We’re happy with what we were able to get” when reflecting on their draft.
Round 2 – Pick 10 – Toronto Argonauts – Mason Woods, OL (Idaho) – Woods was a pick with a lot of potential for the Argos. The 6 foot 9 lineman was a full-time starter during the past two seasons and saw action as a sophomore and freshman for Idaho. He has the physique to line up a tackle too. It wasn’t that long ago he was projected as a potential top pick in the CFL draft so to find him here was a real bonus.
So there we have it – 10 picks each with their own story. We won’t know which are the most successful for some time to come – but, as ever, it will be intriguing to watch it all unfold on the field.