Mock draft season seems to be upon us with only two weeks remaining until the CFL draft on May 6. The NFL draft, coming up this week, gets more publicity, but it also factors into the CFL draft stock for a few players eligible for this year's import draft. With the level of football talent in Canada on the rise, many players are succeeding in the NCAA and garnering professional interest down south and that is reflected in this mock draft. Some players who should go higher may have fallen due to the risk of them potentially not coming north.
Also it must be noted that unlike the NFL draft, the CFL draft is not really a draft for today. Often, players are not expected to make an immediate impact like they are in the States. More stock in the Canadian draft is put into tangibles like speed, athleticism and other measurables of that nature. That is why you will see athletic players who had low stats in the CIS go sooner than more heralded athletes. An example of this is 2011 sixth-round pick Chris Hodgson who barely registered a stat and only had one season of CIS football under his belt, yet tested well and the Lions took him in the last round.
Another CFL draft wrinkle is that players who could potentially be a ratio buster (players who can play positions that are typically American, such as offensive tackle, corner, defensive end three technique, running back and short side recievers) usually are where the reaches happen.
1. Hamilton – Linden Gaydosh – DL – Calgary
With the addition of Brian Bulcke from Calgary, and after drafting Boise State nose tackle Michael Atkinson last season, the Tabbies look poised to start one of their seven Canadians on the defensive line. Adding Gaydosh would provide the Ti-Cats with the advantage of having a All-Canadian depth chart at nose tackle. This pick could also be McMaster offensive tackle Matt Sewell if Hamilton evaluates him as a potential ratio-busting OT.
2. Winnipeg – Mike Edem – LB/S – Calgary
All recent moves by the Winnipeg front office suggest that they will maintain their ratio down the middle of the defence: Cauchy Muamba was added in the off-season, and they look positioned to maintain that in this area. Edem poses some interesting options for the Blue Bombers, as he is such a versatile athlete. He is physical enough to play at the line of scrimmage and set the edge, but also on the next play be able to run stride for stride with a slotback in the seam. Edem has been projected many ways; however, if the Bombers were able to add him in the draft, they could model one of the best athletes in the draft into the player they want him to be. He could ultimately have an impact next season as a backup at a starting non-import (NIM) position, and contribute on specials with his athleticism. Edem is equally athletic as former No. 1 pick Henoc Muamba.
3. Montreal (via Edmonton) – Stefan Charles – DL – Regina
This pick may change significantly come April 25th, the first day of the NFL draft. Charles is an NCAA-type athlete playing in CIS. Montreal is in a position of power to dictate their draft however they seem fit since they already have a strong NIM nucleus, so the Als are able to wait on the uber-talented Charles for when he is ready to play in the CFL. Stefan Charles possesses CFL starting ability, which is something that cannot be taken lightly. With Montreal already having a solid base of non-import DEs, I see them selecting Charles here.
4. Saskatchewan – Ben D’Aguilar – DE/OLB – McMaster
The Roughriders signed the Argos' Ricky Foley in the offseason, suggesting that they will likely start a non-import defensive end. D’Aguilar would fit well in Saskatchewan where he can offer future starting potential as a backup to Foley, and he also possesses special teams potential as one of the most athletic players in the draft.
5. Montreal – Seydou Junior Haïdara – WR – Laval
If you could pick one weakness out on the Alouettes roster, it would be their lack of NIM depth. Haidara is a physically gifted receiver who possesses a diverse range of tools. He is athletic enough to see some starting potential in his near future, and can also contribute as a special team player, an area of his game where he takes pride. Haïdara does not possess the same risk to the Alouettes as other CFL clubs, as he would likely be more enticed to report to Alouettes training camp than go back to Laval for his last year.
6. British Columbia – Corey Watman – OL – Eastern Michigan
The Lions are consistently one of the strongest organizations, and some of their success can be attributed to their non-import nucleus. Watman is a battle-tested player, having started multiple years in the NCAA, eliminating some of the risk in drafting him. Watman would possess great value for the Lions next season as a backup interior o-lineman who could eventually take over at centre from Angus Reid.
7. Calgary – Matt Sewell – OL – McMaster
If someone evaluates Sewell as a potential ratio-buster at offensive tackle, he will be long gone by this point. He may not be as effective in the CFL if he has to move to guard, as he will have to battle leverage issues. Sewell is one of the best CIS offensive lineman produced in the last few years and should have a great career regardless of where he ultimately ends up on the offensive line.
8. Toronto – Matt Vonk – OL – Waterloo
Vonk, whom Duane Forde called one of the most athletic offensive lineman in CIS, and one of the best at the combine, combines positional versatility (I think he ends up playing center at the next level), with years of starting experience. Vonk does not present the same risk to the Argos as drafting redshirt junior NCAA guys, since they know he is limited to the CFL, however he does possess a very similar ceiling as the NCAA guys. He is a natural knee bender and a phenomenal athlete on the offensive line. The perfect example of swinging for a double: you know exactly what you're getting with Vonk, and, once he adds the necessary strength and mass, could be the best offensive lineman when we look at this year's class five years down the road.
9. Ottawa – Connor Williams – DL – Utah State
I believe this selection will be between Williams and Craighead (see #10, below), both NCAA guys with solid track records and both natives of the Ottawa area. I fully expect the Ottawa franchise to select the Ottawa native they believe has the best chance of playing in the CFL. Craighead is a multiple year starter at UTEP with prototypical NFL size, so I see them going the safer way with this selection.
10. Edmonton (via Hamilton) – Brander Craighead – OT – UTEP
Edmonton has made several moves to suggest they would love to go with a non-import at offensive tackle: the addition of Carson Rockhill, and a depth chart that already contains Matt O’Donnell and Dylan Steenbergen. They look poised to go with four non-imports on the O line this year. Craighead possesses the physical capabilities to play on the edge in the CFL and if the Eskimos' Canadian tackle trio develops, he will give them some interesting options in 2014.
11. Winnipeg – Elie Ngoyi – DL – Bishop's
One of the most physically gifted individuals in the draft, Ngoyi is still extremely raw as a defensive lineman. However the skills are there for a defensive-line coach to work with. Immediately Ngoyi offers unique ability as a 260-plus-pound special team player. Ngoyi has a great motor, and even if he never fully develops as a defensive end, he will still be worth this selection based on what he contributes to special teams.
12. British Columbia – Hunter Steward – OL – Liberty
A big future offensive lineman to add to the Lions' collection of non-import depth. While Steward is not the player that McMillan (see #18) is, he possesses a much higher probability of playing in the CFL. McMillan at the very worst will kick around NFL camps next season even if he is not drafted, as Iowa offensive linemen (especially those who are 6-6 and athletic) are extremely appealing to NFL teams.
13. Calgary (via Saskatchewan) – Alex Anthony – WR – Laurier
Calgary is in need of non-import receiver depth and Anthony is an interesting player who possesses all the physical tools needed to succeed as a NIM receiver at the next level. He has experience as both an inside and outside receiver, but he earns this pick at 13 over some of the small receivers as a result of his speed and size and future special team potential.
14. Montreal – Carl-Olivier (C.O.) Prime – LB – Wagner College
Prime is a big physical body that offers great special team value. He could initially offer some depth behind Shea Emry while also adding an upgrade to some of the larger positions on the return units. Has also played fullback in the past and could pose some interesting options for teams at that position.
15. Hamilton (via Edmonton through BC) – Natey Adjei – WR – Buffalo
The Ti-Cats have done a good job of adding talent the last couple of years through the draft, having Mike Atkinson, Fredi Plesius and Arnaud Gascon-Nadon all waiting in the wings. This gives them the luxury of not having to select a player for this year and instead gamble on an NCAA future. Adjei has bounced around the States the last handful of years, but one thing remains constant: he is a great athlete. Adjei, who has yet to make an impact in the NCAA, would be a safe bet to play in the CFL at some point. He has starting non-import potential, which is always worth it with this selection in the 2nd round.
16. Calgary – Jesse Joseph – DL – UConn
Joseph has had some trouble with injuries, but he remains supremely talented. Eligible for the 2013 NFL draft, he will likely get overlooked for medical reasons. He would be an immediate upgrade for Calgary once he returns to health.
17. Toronto – Hosam Shahin – DL – Rice
A potential CFL game-changer, Shahin has NFL potential so obviously there is some risk in this selection. The Argos are not desperate to add non-import talent, having just come off a Grey Cup victory with a strong non-import base. Shahin gives the Argos a nice lottery ticket in case the NFL does not work out for him next season.
18. Ottawa – Nolan McMillan – OL – Iowa
I would be surprised if McMillan didn’t kick around the NFL for a year or two after leaving Iowa. He possesses size for the league and comes from a great program pedigree. Of all the red shirt juniors in this years draft McMillan has the best NFL chance outside of outside of Boseko Lokombo. Ottawa is in the position to take this gamble with their second-round selection, with McMillan a potential ratio-buster at offensive tackle.
19. Hamilton – Yannick Morin-Plante – WR – Laval
Hamilton needs to address some of their non-import depth issues, especially since they routinely went with three NIM receivers last season. Morin-Plante offers CFL size/speed and has special teams experience at Laval. And for what it's worth, le Noir et Or have not shied away from Laval talent in the past.
20. Winnipeg – Mike DiCroce – WR – McMaster
DiCroce is an interesting prospect that could go much higher than this, as he offers the ability to backup both the slot and REC position and is a slightly more polished Canadian WR then the others I have taken before him. While DiCroce hasn’t shown much value on return units as a blocker, his ability to catch the football has drawn comparisons to Andre Talbot. He could be a real wild-card come draft day.
21. BC (via Edmonton) – Patrick Chenard – DB – Sherbrooke
With the Lions losing Muamba in the offseason, they need to address some of the depth issues associated. They do not necessarily need to add a starting-calibre player at free safety, as they look poised to go non-import at defensive tackle with Jabar Westerman, but Chenard fits the bill required of CFL FSs. He will offer an immediate value as he brings his speed and open-field tackling ability to the coverage units for BC.
22. Saskatchewan – Isaac Dell – FB – Laurier
Dell is one of the most interesting players in the draft, really the definition of what the Canadian full-back position has developed into. He is a capable receiver, athletic enough to contribute on special teams and has the physical capability to develop into a good blocker in time. Has the frame and athleticism to be able to add even more lean mass, which will help aid his transition as a blocker. Really reminds me of a poor man’s Patrick Lavoie who was drafted by Montreal 11th overall in 2012 and had a fantastic rookie campaign. With Saskatchewan rostering two of the oldest fullbacks in the league, the selection of Dell would make sense on so many levels.
23. Montreal – Stephen Alli – WR – Florida
Another physically gifted player, Alli looks like a NFL WR coming off the bus, however for one reason or another he has yet to put it all together down south. Montreal, who possess many draft picks, can take the calculated gamble with this selection in hopes that Alli develops (but not too much!) next year for the Gators. He looks like a good bet to play in the CFL at some point.
24. Edmonton (via Hamilton via BC) – Kalonji Kashama – DL – Eastern Michigan
Kashama comes from strong CFL history (three brothers in the league) and looks extremely likely to play in the CFL at some point. While he could go much higher than this, the threat that he realizes his potential next season and ends up in NFL camp is a real possibility, thus the fall in the draft.
25. Calgary – Andy Mulumba – DL – Eastern Michigan
The Stamps diversify their investment in NCAA players here by pairing Joseph at 16 with Mulumba at 25. It is likely at least one of them plays in the CFL next season. The NFL risk for Mulumba is; if he does not end up in NFL camp, he will likely get selected much higher.
26. Edmonton (via Toronto) – Brent Urban – DL – Virginia
While Urban will likely get NFL looks next season as a 3-4 defensive end, he could eventually see himself playing in the CFL. He has the potential to be a Doug Brown clone on the inside, and if the Eskimos want to maintain their ratio at defensive tackle in the future he would be a fantastic stash pick here.
27. Ottawa – Tolu Akinwumi – DB – Rice
Tolu gives the Ottawa franchise a nice free safety option for next season; he gets the nod over Oregon’s Boseko Lokomko who will likely never play a snap in the CFL.
28. Calgary – Cam Redl – OL – Saskatchewan
Would have likely been a much higher pick than this if not for health concerns. Redl has size that, as the saying goes, cannot be taught and offers the Stamps a great risk/reward with this selection.
29. Winnipeg – Brett Jones – OL – Regina
An accomplished CIS offensive lineman, Jones is the Canadian version of Corey Watman. He may fall in the draft as teams pigeonhole him as a centre-only prospect. The potential is there for a long CFL career.
30. Montreal (via Edmonton) – Kris Robertson – DB – Concordia
Robertson offers rare physical ability, and once he learns the nuances of playing DB in the CFL, he could add some unique depth possibilities to his game. With many backup defensive backs being Canadian, Robertson would offer the team the luxury of getting out of a game if an import gets injured. Robertson is one of the rare CIS athletes that is athletic enough to play corner in the CFL.
31. Edmonton (via Saskatchewan) – Simon Le Marquand – WR – Ottawa
Edmonton added a big-time player in receiver Shamawd Chambers last season, however they still need some non-import depth behind Chambers and Nate Coehoorn. Le Marquand meets the athletic standards for the position and at this juncture of the draft would be a great addition, with potential to make the roster in 2013.
32. Montreal – Chris Mercer – OL – Regina
A big athletic body that has only scratched the surface of his potential and could eventually develop into a starting quality offensive lineman. Montreal adds Mercer to a deep stable of Canadian offensive linemen.
33. BC – Kyle Norris – LB – SMU
Norris passes the eyeball test when it comes to Canadian linebackers, a good athlete that could come in immediately and fight for playing time on special teams. Norris’s physical tools will be attractive around this juncture of the draft. The Lions lost James Yurichuk to Toronto in the off-season and need to restock their non-import linebacking cupboard.
34. Calgary – Nicolas Boulay – LB – Sherbrooke
A big-hitting linebacker that isn’t a stranger to playing in space, Boulay would offer some depth to a relatively thin Stamps non-import linebacking crew. He also could battle immediately for special teams playing time after Calgary traded Akwasi Antwi to Toronto in the off-season. There is a glaring need on the Stamps depth chart for a couple more physical Canadians, and I fully expect them to address this in the draft.
35. Hamilton – Matt Albright – OL – SMU
Really a very similar prospect to Regina’s Chris Mercer: big guy, potential. Well put together, athletic linemen always seem to be in high demand in the CFL. Hamilton welcomes that added depth to their roster with Albright at 35.
36. Ottawa – Boseko Lokombo – LB – Oregon
At this point Ottawa throws up a Hail Mary with their final selection in the 2013 draft. Lokombo will likely never play in the CFL, but if he does he could be among the best players in the league.
And some other interesting names, in no particular order:
- Steven Lumbala – RB – Calgary: Offers an interesting skill set for teams that are structured to start a non-import RB. Using Canadian RBs can be kind of linked to the “moneyball” philosophy, of taking advantage of a situation when it is too good to ignore. Possible landing place in BC or Calgary.
- Stephen Adekolu – WR – Bishop's: Another WR that looks great coming off the bus but has yet to realize his potential. Some teams will likely see Akeem Foster when they evaluate him; size/strength/speed guys usually go much higher than you anticipate when it comes to CFL draft day. Intriguing prospect.
- Shane Bergman – OL – Western: Another big body, though he is still raw, and needs to continue to work on becoming a better athlete. However the potential is there and he should intrigue more than just a few teams.
- Guillaume Rioux – WR – Laval: A short, shifty, athletic slot receiver. He made a lot of hay in the return game at the CIS level, routinely being one of the most dangerous return men in the country. There is a market for WRs like him in the CFL, however the big question is how valuable is he once you take away the return ability? It is pretty rare for non-import returners in CFL. Would be a nice selection for the Argos to battle with 2012 draft pick Quincy Hurst.
- Cayman Shutter – QB – Hawaii: Is he the Canadian to finally get back under center? American-trained, Shutter has deep CFL roots that may appeal to some CFL teams in the mid-rounds. Only problem is, there is no incentive ratio-wise. He may be limited if he cannot play QB as he isn’t a special athletic specimen that could easily transition to another position.
- Mike Spence – DB – Western: A DB that isn’t afraid to mix it up on special teams and isn’t afraid to lay the lumber on WRs. Spence is athletic enough to make a serious contribution on special teams immediately, and possesses the skills that could appeal to non-import free safety teams as a potential starter down the road. Has potential to get drafted much higher.
- Brent Wheeler – DL – Western: Western has done a great job of producing rotational/special team type d-lineman the past couple years in the CFL. It seems like they are all cut from the same cloth. Wheeler offers a skill set that is very attractive to teams looking for NIM depth and special team potential. Add in the strong program pedigree and it would be easy to see Wheeler making an impact.
- Cameron Wade – DB – Acadia: A rangy, smart defender who is also a proven CIS special teams player. Wade offers interesting value for CFL clubs as he is larger than most of the other defensive backs in this year's class. Could go off the board much sooner depending on how teams evaluate the other free-safety candidates.
- Jakob Piotrowksi – OL – Guelph: Was one of the toughest offensive linemen to play against in the OUA prior to missing the 2012 season with a shoulder injury. Had started for multiple seasons on the Gryphons' offensive line and would have likely been one of the first CIS offensive lineman taken in this year’s draft had he played in 2012. Played left tackle for the Gryphons but projects easily as a CFL guard. Possesses the size/speed/strength/nastiness and natural knee bend that you desire in Canadian offensive linemen. He is positioned to be one of the steals of the 2013 draft.
- Matt Burke – FB – Bishop's: One of the more interesting players in the draft and could really go anywhere depending on what you see when you evaluate him. Burke gets projected as a CFL fullback, however he has limited college tape of doing so. If he commits himself to being a CFL fullback he could be valuable. An intriguing athlete that looks like a potential CFL special team contributor.
- Brett Lauther – K – SMU: A dual-threat kicker, equally talented as former Huskie Justin Palardy and should entice CFL clubs. Is used to kicking in the elements, as Maritime winds are known to be less than friendly to kickers. The leg talent is there.
- Michael Klassen – DL – Calgary: An athletic defensive lineman, Klassen comes from a program that is known to put players in the CFL. He has had plenty of exposure to CFL scouts and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him drafted in the mid-rounds. Again, another guy with the size/speed/special teams potential to be drafted higher than you might expect.
- Kareem Ba – DL/LB – UBC: An enigma who made a great impression at last year's East/West Bowl, making several tackles in the game. However he failed to build on that momentum during his CIS 2012 season. The lack of 2012 production will surely be a red flag. Will be a true wildcard in the draft.
- Matt McGarva – S – Windsor: A missile on defense that isn’t afraid to throw his head in the blender to make a play. Tested well enough at the combine to back up what he has shown on film, and should appeal to teams looking for a gritty special team player. Good fit as a "hot to the ball" guy on coverage units. Similar build to Mike Miller.
- Cameron Thorn – OL – Guelph: Thorn, a former defensive tackle, offers some intriguing athletic value. He has never played the position but possesses great physical tools that could be projectable to playing tackle in the CFL. I could see the Alouettes drafting Thorn, teaching him some of the finer points of playing OL as a non-counter in training camp, and sending him back to Guelph to hone his skills on the offensive line. Thorn would eventually add to the Alouettes considerable stable of non-import lineman in 2014.