May 2, 2007

CFL Canadian Draft For Dummies

By Josh Bell-Webster,

Today is one of the most important days on the CFL calendar.

The CFL Canadian Draft allows teams to stockpile their non-import talent with players nearing the end or having finished their university careers. It’s a mechanism that gives weaker teams the first opportunity at selecting the top prospects.

But like most aspects of the CFL, the Canadian Draft is unique compared to other drafts in professional sports. Even the most knowledgeable CFL fans may scratch their heads as to how the draft works.

The following is a list of questions fans may have about the CFL’s version of D-Day.

1. Why is it called the CFL Canadian Draft?

Players that are selected in the CFL Canadian Draft are exclusively non-import players who are predominantly Canadian. Americans are not eligible for the draft unless they are considered non-import players.

2. Who is classified as a non-import?

Players that live in Canada seven years prior to their 15th birthday are considered non-imports. Status has nothing to do with where a player plays his high school or university football.

3. How many non-imports are required on a CFL roster?

Each team must dress 20 non-imports in a game, including seven starters.

4. When does a player qualify for the Canadian Draft?

The draft is for non-imports who played at least one year of university football. Players in their fourth year of university, or turned 25 years old in 2006, are eligible for today’s draft.

5. I never played university football. Can I be selected in the draft?

No. However, any CFL team can sign you as a free agent.

6. The CFL holds an Evaluation Camp prior to the draft. How many of these participants will be selected on Wednesday?

All are eligible for the draft. This past March, 52 of this year’s 910 eligible draft prospects performed in front of CFL football personnel. Last year, 48 players participated, with 25 getting selected in the 2006 draft.

7. How does the draft work?

Each team gets a turn selecting a prospect for six rounds.

8. How is the order of teams determined?

Teams are ranked by their records the previous season. The team with the worst record selects first, the second-worst record second, etc. The Grey Cup champions are given the last pick in a round (eighth). Hamilton had the worst record in the CFL last season, and will pick first.

9. Why is one team allowed to select multiple times in a round? Conversely, why do some teams not have a selection until later rounds?

Teams can use draft choices in trades with other clubs. Calgary, for example; acquired Winnipeg’s and Toronto’s first round picks in 2007 in trades. Along with their own first round pick, the Stampeders select three times in the opening round. Toronto traded away their first three picks in earlier deals, and will not make its first selection until the fourth round.

10. If there are eight teams and six rounds, why are there only 47 picks? Shouldn’t there be 48?

The Edmonton Eskimos forfeited their sixth round choice this year with the selection of Jermaine Lee in last year’s CFL Supplemental Draft.

11. What is the Supplemental Draft?

The Supplemental Draft is for players who were eligible for the CFL Canadian Draft but their non-import status was unknown until after the draft. These players are made available to CFL teams through a bidding process. Clubs bid one of their Canadian Draft choices the following season; whichever team makes the top offer gets the player and forfeits their draft pick.

12. How long does a club hold a drafted player’s rights for?

A club holds a player’s rights for as long as he is in school or playing in another professional football league. Once a player is no longer in school or playing professional football, a team loses his rights one full calendar year following his graduation. For example, a player who graduates in April, 2008 and doesn’t remain in school or play professional football would become a free agent January 1, 2010.

Josh Bell-Webster is the Online Editor for