For many Canadian Football League draft picks, it takes time to develop before reaching their full potential. However, in each class there always seems to be a handful of players who make their presence felt in the professional ranks right away.
Through six games of the schedule a number of rookies have made immediate impacts on their respective teams. So lets countdown the top five performers from the 2013 Canadian Draft to this point of the CFL season.
1) Mike Edem, 1st round, 3rd overall pick, FS, Alouettes
2013 stats: 6 games, 19 tackles, 1 special teams tackle, 1 sack, 1 interception
Montreal drafted the Calgary Dino product with the belief he was pro-ready and had the ability to be a ratio-breaker on defence. Edem hasn’t disappointed, as he’s been practicing with the first-team defence since the opening day of training camp.
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Edem has all the skills required to play defensive back in the CFL. He can cover man-to-man, is a sure tackler who can deliver a big blow and makes plays on the football when the opportunity presents itself.
The Alouettes defensive coaches have been impressed with his attention to detail, study habits and work ethic in the film room and on the field. All of the effort has paid off for Edem who has started every game, so far, for the Als at free safety.
2) Brett Jones, 2nd round, 16th overall pick, OL, Stampeders
2013 stats: Started 6 games at centre
Calgary took a gamble on drafting Jones because he had his sights set on going to medical school, but when he didn’t get into the University of Saskatchewan his focus shifted back to football. The Stampeders were able to sign Jones after his med school dream was put on hold.
The 21-year-old fought hard all training camp to win the starting centre job to open the regular season. Jones has kept a strong grip on his starting position, lining up at centre in all six games for Calgary to date this season.
Stampeders head coach and general manager John Hufnagel hasn’t been surprised with how quickly Jones has made the jump to the pro game. Jones, the University of Regina grad, has used his intelligence to pick up all of the blocking schemes quickly and be able to make the correct calls at the line of scrimmage for the rest of the unit. Also, his strength and athleticism has helped him hold his own against CFL defensive lineman. Based on his early success, it looks like Jones is the type of lineman who will be in the league for a long time.
3) Michael Klassen, 4th round, 32nd overall pick, DL, Alouettes
2013 stats: 6 games, 6 tackles, 1 sack
Klassen put himself on CFL radars with an impressive showing at the Edmonton regional combine and earned himself a trip to the national combine in Toronto. In the Big Smoke the 6-foot-5, 275-pound lineman showed he had the strength, 26 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, and football skills, strong performance in the on-field drills, to compete at the pro level.
Montreal took notice of Klassen and drafted him in the fourth round. Expectations for a player selected as low as Klassen are usually small, but he has not let his draft position affect his level of play.
The 22-year-old showed well enough in training camp to earn a roster spot and has become a part of the Als defensive line rotation. Klassen has already recorded his first career sack, taking down Buck Pierce in just his second game, as he continues to display the athletic ability required of a big man to spar in the trenches week in and week out at the pro level. Related Links
2013 stats: 6 games, 3 tackles, 7 special teams tackles
It wasn’t the easiest of roads for Gabriel to realize his CFL dream. There were days growing up where he had nothing to eat, but he never allowed any possible excuses to hold him back.
Gabriel wasn’t initially invited to the national CFL Combine in Toronto earlier this year, so he went out and earned one with a strong showing at the Edmonton regional combine. In Toronto, Gabriel ripped off a 4.50 40-yard time, the second fastest of all invitees and shot up draft boards.
The Argos selected Gabriel in the second round of the 2013 draft and he has made an instant impact on special teams for the Double Blue. The 5-foot-10, 193-pounder is proving to be an excellent cover team man with seven tackles on the season. Gabriel has seen some time on defence as well, lining up at free safety. He has shown the type of physicality, to go along with his pure speed, to flourish into a starter on the back end of the defence in the future.
5) Levi Steinhauer, 5th round, 40th overall pick, DL, Riders
2013 stats: 6 games, 4 special team tackles
Even though the Riders scouted and selected Steinhauer in the 2013 draft, management and coaching staff has been surprised with the level of play from the Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan native. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Saskatchewan Huskie product has been a special teams demon so far in his rookie year.
Along with his duties on the coverage and kick teams, Steinhauer is the Riders back up long snapper, a very useful skill and provides non-import depth along the defensive front behind Canadian starter Ricky Foley.
Steinhauer made headlines around the CFL when he speared Ticats returner Lindsey Lamar on July 27. He was slapped with a fine from the league for the dangerous hit, but don’t let one bad play fool you, Steinhauer has made more than his fair share of good plays on the Rider special teams in his young career.
Other Rookies to keep an eye on down the stretch in 2013:
Seydou Junior Haidara, 2nd round, 12th overall pick, REC, Lions
Haidara is playing special teams and backing up at the slot back position for BC. He could see more reps on offence based on how he continues to learn the playbook and develop a comfort level with quarterback Travis Lulay.
Corey Watman, 1st round, 4th overall pick, OL, Riders
Watman has been dressing as a backup offensive lineman for Saskatchewan and could see action if any of the non-import Rider linemen were to suffer an injury.