TORONTO — It may be a little early to start analyzing the 2012 CFL Entry Draft in its entirety, but as we enter October football, there are a number of this year’s draft picks that should be recognized for the impact they’ve been able to make with their teams.
This year’s class has already left a major mark on the current season, and with many rookies playing major roles before playoff time, it’s not out of the question that one of these gifted young prospects could make the difference in winning a championship this year.
A number of teams opted to go with futures for their top picks – players who may not be available in the next season or so, or may even possibly never play a CFL down in their life – and while those picks are certainly warranted given the talent out there, here we’ll take a look at some of this year’s most impactful players from the latest draft class.
When the mammoth 22-year-old offensive lineman was picked first overall by the Riders, he wasn’t expected to step into a prominent role with the o-line right off the bat. But, when injuries plagued the Green and White through training camp, Ben Heenen was called upon to step in.
It was no big deal for the Regina native, who’s now gone on to start the majority of games at right guard for the Riders, providing strong run blocking for outstanding rookie Kory Sheets and helping to keep Darian Durant standing upright.
Head Coach Corey Chamblin’s noted a few times that as far as he’s concerned, his first overall pick isn’t even a rookie. That’s high praise for a kid straight out of university, going against every day stars on opposing defensive lines.
Despite some stiff competition in a defence loaded with the league’s greatest defensive superstars, second overall pick Jabar Westerman found a way to crack the starting lineup back in mid-August.
That fact alone is impressive enough, but so far he’s rewarded his coaches for their faith in the rookie, as the Brampton, Ontario native has fit in just fine on the Lions interior line. The 23-year-old has three sacks already this season, and while he continues to compete for playing time with the likes of Khalif Mitchell and Eric Taylor, he’s had no issue making an impact.
Westerman looks every bit as intimidating as anyone else on the Lions’ defensive line, and with his team looking like the favourite to appear in the 100th Grey Cup game in Toronto in late November, don’t be surprised to be hearing his name all through the playoffs.
Drafted as a running back, who could’ve imagined that 11th overall pick Patrick Lavoie would be making a major impact in the league’s most celebrated offence of the last decade and a half?
The Alouettes became a bit of a trend-setter of sorts in 2012 so far, using the tight end as an important part of their offence, especially in the red zone. The 24-year-old has played a big role in letting that happen, building chemistry with Anthony Calvillo to become a go-to guy in the red zone. Lavoie has four touchdowns and 211 yards on 23 catches this season, and is quickly emerging as a household name for a Montreal Alouettes offence that continues to find new ways to be effective and score points.
The numbers aren’t going to blow anyone away, but the role Shamawd Chambers has played in the Eskimos’ offence can’t be ignored.
Since the 23-year-old native of Markham, Ontario joined the Eskimos, he has somehow found a way to make an immediate impact. Used sparingly in the opening couple of weeks, he was called upon to play a bigger role when Adarius Bowman went down in game number two with a season-ending knee injury.
Chambers didn’t seem to miss a beat with his added responsibility, making key catches for the Esks and scoring his first career touchdown in the third week of the season against the Bombers. This year he has 23 catches for 217 yards and a touchdown plus his own partial highlight real.
His ability to fit in on the Edmonton offence likely also made receiver Greg Carr expendable, allowing the team to move him to Saskatchewan in exchange for offensive line help.
The Calgary native was picked 12th overall in the CFL Entry Draft, right behind Lavoie, and despite not being a starter has found a way to make a steady impact in the Riders’ lineup.
At 22 years old, Hurl is one of the youngest players in the draft, and appears to have a bright future in Riderville thanks to his quick hustle and 6-foot-1, 225-pound frame.
This season the University of Calgary grad has three tackles and a sack on defence, to go along with 13 special teams tackles. He should one day figure into the team’s starting lineup weekly on defence.