TORONTO — While some teams opted in the 2012 CFL Entry Draft for players that could contribute right away, either as a starter or on special teams, other clubs selected players that might not be available yet, but have high potential.
These are higher-risk draft picks because while some remain in CIS and likely have a future in the CFL, others remain either in the NCAA or with NFL teams and could have a future south of the border.
This year’s crop
CFL.ca’s Prospects columnist Justin Dunk gets the latest on the Scouting Bureau’s Top 15 Prospects, saying there’s plenty of talent to go around.
Jesse Lumsden was an example of a player with high potential but also high risk because of interest from NFL teams, but the Ticats took a chance and it paid off as he eventually landed in the CFL.
Other times, though, these picks never do see the light of day in the CFL, and an example of that is offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, who was drafted ninth overall in 2005 by the Argos but enjoyed a six-year NFL career with the New England Patriots and never did wind up suiting up in Canada.
Of course, when these picks do work out they tend to pay off. Here are some 2012 draft picks that we could see paying off for teams in the coming years, who were elsewhere this past season:
Six-foot-seven, 308-pound guard Austin Pasztor was selected fourth overall by the Edmonton Eskimos, who hope the Langton, Ont. native will eventually enjoy a long CFL career.
But for now it seems the Esks will have to wait at least a little while, as the 22-year-old pursues his NFL dreams. After going undrafted south of the border, he was scooped up by the Minnesota Vikings but released before the start of the regular season. Before finding a new team, Pasztor attended an Eskimos game at Commonwealth Stadium in September, cuing rumours that he might be close to signing a contract.
The BC Lions have a couple of intriguing prospects they’re waiting for on the offensive line, and Kirby Fabien is one of them.
The 22-year-old was drafted seventh overall by the Lions in 2012, but after failing to sign a contract he returned to the University of Calgary Dinos.
With the future uncertain for aging linemen Dean Valli, Jon Hameister-Ries, and Jesse Newman, along with last season’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Jovan Olafioye, who could pursue NFL options, Fabien could be expected to play a key role for the club in 2013.
Similarly, 2012 third round pick Matt Norman could also see more playing time with the Lions after limiting his rookie year in order to pursue teaching studies at the University of Western Ontario. Courtney Stephen
Brampton, Ont. native Courtney Stephen was drafted eighth overall by the Ticats this past draft, but returned to Northern Illinois to play his senior season for the Huskies, the school he transferred to after spending two years with Wilfrid Laurier.
He currently has 13 tackles in nine games played for the Huskies, and will get a chance to showcase his skills during the Orange Bowl on January 1st in a marquee game against Florida State.
Next season, the six-foot, 194-pound safety will be expected to be in Ticats’ training camp with a chance to make an impact on a defence that could use some help in the secondary.
After trading their first round pick to the Edmonton Eskimos as part of the Ricky Ray trade, the Argos didn’t pick until the top of the second round, electing to go with Cleyon Laing of the Iowa State Cyclones.
The six-foot-three, 290-pound defensive tackle was set to return to Iowa for his senior season, before getting a shot with the Boatmen in 2013.
Laing has 39 total tackles and three sacks in 12 games with the Cyclones so far this season, and is schedule to compete with his team in the Liberty Bowl versus Tulsa on December 31st.
After drafting him 10th overall last year, the Ticats expected Frédéric Plesius to be in their lineup right away. But following a tryout south of the border, Plesius opted to return to the CIS for his final season of eligibility so that he could get another shot at the NFL the following year.
The 24-year-old accomplished great things in 2012 with the Laval Rouge et Or, eventually earning CIS Top Defensive Player en-route to a Vanier Cup win over McMaster.
Plesius finished the season with a team-high 34.5 tackles and two sacks in eight games played, and while he’ll likely pursue another shot at the NFL, he’d most certainly be a welcome addition in Ticats’ training camp next season.