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TORONTO – Now three seasons removed from their draft year, the 2010 draft class – deemed by many to be one of the strongest in recent years – is fulfilling many of the expectations garnered around the league.
With the rookie season and the window for a ‘sophomore jinx’ now closed, CFL.ca takes a look at some of the highly-touted picks from 2010 that are now making a significant impact on their respective teams.
Top Selections Rounding into Form
Originally a pick of the Toronto Argonauts that was sent to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on a draft day trade, Shomari Williams was the prize of the 2010 draft after going first overall. Three years into his pro career and Williams has helped shore up a Saskatchewan pass rush to the tune of 90 defensive tackles, 32 special teams tackles and 5 quarterback sacks. The Toronto ON. native and Queen’s product is set to enter free agency for the first time on February 15 if he does not re-sign with Roughriders.
Saskatchewan’s pick was followed by Toronto selecting Joe Eppele. The hulking 6-foot-8, 304-pound offensive lineman was drafted by the Argonauts with their first pick following the trade with Saskatchewan and it seems as though the 25-year-old is rounding into form after two years backing up veterans that included Rob Murphy, Dominic Picard and Taylor Robertson.
Thanks to a combination of injuries and by seizing an opportunity, Eppele worked his way back into Toronto’s starting lineup at the guard position throughout their stretch drive and was a key part in both protecting Ricky Ray and opening up holes for Chad Kackert in the Argos’ 100th Grey Cup victory.
After an injury-plagued 2011 season, the fifth overall selection, Rob Maver, bounced back in 2012 with his best season yet, earning both division and league All-Star nods as a punter. Many questioned the decision to take a kicker in the first round but the Guelph product has proven skeptics wrong, punting for an average of 42.3 yards and netting 4,224 yards.
Arguably no team has benefited most from the 2010 class than the BC Lions on both sides of the ball. Shawn Gore and Akeem Foster, who were drafted 10th and 25th overall respectively have added unmatched Canadian depth at the receiver position. The two have combined for 182 receptions for 2,505 yards and 15 touchdowns in three seasons alongside vets such as Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce lll.
Defensively, the Lions have started to develop 34th overall pick Cauchy Muamba into a reliable defensive contributor in the back end of their secondary. Meanwhile, 16th overall selection Joash Gesse has become a key contributor on special teams and in defensive rotations at the linebacker spot.
The Year of the Receiver
Alongside the aforementioned Gore and Foster, a small group of other receivers have made their mark since being selected.
An athletic threat in the passing game, Cory Watson (9th overall) just finished his third season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as a part of an offence that has seen its fair share of turnover. Still, the Dollard des Ormeaux native has contributed a solid 121 receptions for 1,414 yards and 3 touchdowns despite fighting off injuries for the better part of last season. He also averages 11.3 yards-per-reception.
Meanwhile Spencer Watt (18th overall) has slowly started to become a bigger piece of the Toronto Argonauts aerial attack with Ricky Ray at the controls and Jordan Sisco (8th overall) has shown signs that he could be a factor in the Saskatchewan offence but fought injuries in his first two seasons.
Along the Line
Williams and Eppele went one and two but other prospects from 2010 have made an impact along the offensive and defensive line. Notables include Calgary’s J’Micheal Deane (21st overall), Hamilton defensive tackle Eddie Steele (22nd overall) and Montreal’s Ryan Bomben (31st overall), who has not only seen time in short yardage situations but has become a threat at the tight end position.
Also worthy of mention is Argonauts offensive lineman Joel Reinders, who after trying his luck down south and battling an injury has finally made his way to the team that drafted him. He could very well turn into a lineman they depend on in the future after solidly backing up in the playoffs and Grey Cup.
Finding a New Home
Three prospects from the ’10 draft have gone from depth players to key contributors with a different team than they were selected at the kicker position. Hamilton selected K Justin Palardy before he found a home in Winnipeg as one of the most reliable placekickers in the game. Another kicker, Grant Shaw, began his career as a kicker and linebacker but has become Edmonton’s field goal kicker after being dealt in the Ricky Ray trade.