TORONTO — With the 40-yard dash taking centre stage on the third and final day of the CFL Combine, it was late invite Kristopher Robertson stealing headlines for the second straight day.
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The Concordia Stingers’ defensive back set a mark of 4.423 to lead all participants, just a day after also setting the best broad jump and vertical.
Robertson first made an impression at the regional combine in Quebec, doing enough to earn an invite to this weekend’s combine, where he sent a clear message to those watching.
“He came here with a chip on his shoulder and did exactly what he was supposed to do: show up and open eyes for coaches,” said CFL.ca Combine insider and current Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ safety Cauchy Muamba.
“He worked hard to go to the regional and make it all the way here, and make an impact here – he wasn’t just a spectator but make an impact in every drill that he did.”
Fellow defensive back Jermaine Gabriel, another late invite, finished second in the 40 with a 4.508 – almost a full tenth of a second off of Robertson’s time.
Players like Gabriel and Robertson, who flew under the radar in the past, had the most to gain from the 40.
“The 40 on its own is just big for opening eyes,” explained Muamba, who ran a 4.50 in the same drill back in his draft year, placing in the top-10. “If you’re not a high-class guy it opens eyes for coaches to see that you’re fast, especially for skilled positions like receivers, DBs and linebackers.”
“And Kris Robertson showed that even though he’s small he plays fast, he plays big and he just proved that this whole weekend.”
Laval wideout Yannick Morin-Plante finished third with a mark of 4.534, while linebacker Mike Edem of the Calgary Dinos placed fourth with a time of 4.566, finishing with the best time of any non-defensive back or receiver.
Rounding out the top-five was speedy McMaster receiver Mike DiCroce, who posted a 4.583.
Defensive and offensive linemen were the first to take part in the 40 as well as the cone drill and shuttle, before finishing off with one-on-one drills with an opportunity to make one final impression before the CFL Draft.
Six-foot-eight, 335-pound offensive tackle Matthew Sewell, who grew up just down the road in Milton, Ont., garnered a good chunk of attention following the first workout, despite what he considered just an ‘average’ result through the weekend’s drills.
“It was OK,” reflected Sewell. “I wasn’t too happy with it, I wasn’t too upset about it. It was OK, just average.”
Sewell is the highest-ranked prospect taking part in this weekend’s combine, ranked second overall in December’s CFL Scouting Bureau rankings. Likely a sure-fire first round pick in the CFL, he said he’s out to prove he can play on the outside at the next level instead of being moved to guard.
“I know a lot of teams like to move tackles inside to guard,” he said. “I know that I can play tackle at the next level, but we’ll see what they think.”
“Most coaches have told me for my size I move my feet pretty well and I handle edge rushers pretty well, so I’m hoping to keep working on that and work on my strength a little bit.”
Sewell interviewed with all eight CFL teams, and is expected to go high in the draft; he’s considered an elite prospect heading into May’s draft, despite just an average showing at the combine.
“He probably wouldn’t be overly happy,” said Drew Allemang, Director of Canadian Scouting for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. “He did some things well but he’ll learn a good style and a good approach to block in the CFL.”
“He’ll learn how to cater to more of his strengths and keep you from the line of scrimmage with his strength and his actual length and size – he’ll learn some tricks but he’s got all the tools and talent to be a really good guy.”
Defensive lineman Ben D’Aguilar went from 10th to fifth in December’s CFL Scouting Bureau rankings, and it appears as though he could be on the rise once again following this weekend’s combine.
The product of McMaster put his athleticism on full display with the top 40 time among offensive and defensive linemen, setting a mark of 4.704 – better than even some skill players.
D’Aguilar also helped his cause with agility drills, finishing second among defensive linemen in the cone drill with a 7.374, and second and fourth respectively in the right and left pro agility drills.
His results today alone drew praise from Argonauts’ Head Coach Scott Milanovich.
“I’m not sure how old he is at this point, but he is a very athletic kid – very athletic,” said the second-year head coach, fresh off a win in the 100th Grey Cup.
“At first look when I saw him on the field today I thought that he’d be a d-end in the CFL. I think he has a really good get-off, he’s versatile enough to use natural different moves, and he was able to show that he has a good lean on the bend. I definitely think he’s strong enough and I think his stock’s raised a lot after today.”
» Combine Insider Henoc Muamba
One concern some people raise with D’Aguilar is his size, questioning whether he’s strong enough to get through the tackle. But as Milanovich pointed out, size isn’t as big an issue as it’s made out to be in the CFL – especially for his Argos.
“Size isn’t something that is as big to us,” he said. “I don’t know how much he’s played linebacker, I haven’t studied the defensive guys as much as the offensive guys, but a kid that athletic – you will [find a spot].”
CFL.ca combine insider Henoc Muamba, a linebacker with the Bombers himself, said that while D’Aguilar has the versatility to play linebacker, he doesn’t see him being moved.
“At first look when I saw him on the field today I thought that he’d be a d-end in the CFL,” said Henoc. “I think he has a really good get-off, he’s versatile enough to use natural different moves, and he was able to show that he has a good lean on the bend.”
“His speed and get-off was good to see,” he continued. “I definitely think he’s strong enough and I think his stock’s raised a lot after today.”
Also on the way up
Another player that may have raised his stock on the final day of the combine was Calgary linebacker Mike Edem, who finished fourth in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.566. The biggest question surrounding Edem was his strength and toughness, but according to Henoc, he may have put those questions to rest on Sunday afternoon.
“A lot of people have said that he’s a little under-sized for a linebacker, questioning his strength and physicality,” said Henoc. “He really defended himself very well in terms of one-on-one drills with the running backs, against a pretty good class of running backs.”
Laval receiver Guillaume Rioux may have helped his stock as well, taking home the top time in the shuttle at 3.914. Meanwhile, Ottawa receiver Simon Le Marquand proved to be the quickest receiver in the three-cone drill, topping all participants with a mark of 6.843 seconds.
Today may have also been the most important day for the running backs, who had to show off their quickness and explosiveness in various drills, including one-on-ones.
With non-import backs seemingly featuring more prominently in CFL backfields, GMs and scouts are looking for the next Jon Cornish or Andrew Harris.
Whether one of those exists in this year’s draft is a whole other question.
“It’s going to depend on how fast they’re going to be able to learn and pick up the game at the next level, but I definitely see the potential in terms of picking up the lead role for a few of them,” said Henoc. “Steven Lumbala impressed me. The Laurier running back was good himself, Isaac Dell, and he put up some good numbers yesterday and today he was moving as well.”
“It’s going to depend on how fast and how well they’re going to be able to pick up the game at the next level.”