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Ferguson: Breaking down the top 20 prospects

The third and final edition of the 2017 CFL Scouting Bureau Top 20 ranking is here with plenty of movement, including five players who were previously NOT RANKED!

While Justin Senior retained his No. 1 ranking for the third time in a row, there was plenty of juggling outside of that with Geoff Gray (3), Danny Vandervoort (4) and Faith Ekakitie (5) moving into the top-five for the first time.

Meanwhile, Braden Schram, Johnny Augustine, Fabion Foote, Dondre Wright and Connor McGough are the new additions to the ranking.

Here’s how it all breaks down ahead of the 2017 CFL Draft on May 7:

20. Calgary DE Connor McGough (NR -> NR -> 20)

Previously unranked, McGough had a really nice showing in 1-on-1s at the national combine and showed unique movement skills. At just over 6 feet tall and 247 pounds, it’s likely that McGough is a hybrid end and special teamer quickly.

19. Henderson State DB Dondre Wright (NR -> NR -> 19)

My top-ranked defensive back is making his first appearance on a scouting bureau list but still trails behind fellow DB Robert Woodson from Calgary at No. 14. Both are great players, but for my money I would want Wright for his physicality and mean streak.

18. McMaster DL Fabion Foote (NR -> NR -> 18)

Foote had the 11th best defensive line broad jump ever at a CFL combine and hit high numbers all around. Very good lateral movement skills for his 276-pound frame and an increased sense of urgency seen on tape in his 2016 season at McMaster.

In an apples to apples evaluation at the combine next to Kwaku Boateng, Foote was right there but the overall four-year production of Boateng leads the bureau to a lower ranking for Foote.

17. Guelph RB Johnny Augustine (NR -> NR -> 17)

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

Guelph’s Johnny Augustine parlayed a strong combine showing into a top-20 ranking (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

He didn’t run the 40 he wanted at combine but a great all-around athlete who surprised many with his route running and hands at the combine. Augustine wants to be a starter in the CFL and while that’s a lofty goal, his combination of hands, pass blocking fundamentals and solid physique makes you think it could be a realistic possibility within the next five years.

Augustine is a perfect fit for a team that wants to add ratio flexibility in the back field in a developmental second- or third-string running back.

16. Calgary OL Braden Schram (NR -> NR -> 16)

Solid, safe, rarely makes mistakes and showed more athleticism at the combine than many expected from his film. It seems like there is a rule in the CFL draft process that at least one Calgary Dinos offensive lineman must be involved in the top end of the draft. Jordan Filippelli began in that conversation as the rightful suitor but after a lacklustre combine comparative to Schram, Braden is the right fit.

Every time I watch him on tape all I can think is ‘solid’. Solid base, solid strong upper body, solid footwork, solid fundamentals.

15. St.FX DL Kay Okafor (17 -> 19 -> 15)

Okafor was 17th in the September rankings but fell to 19th after his sports season wrapped up with an injury in the Loney Bowl. As I have said many times throughout the evaluation process, Kay is raw but has the highest ceiling of any player in this draft. The only reason he does not land higher, in my opinion, on the final scouting bureau list is that potential guarantees nothing and all the physical gifts in the world need to be accommodated with effort, enthusiasm and technical knowledge.

After meeting Okafor at the combine and watching him in pads I have no doubt he will develop a complete game but for now he lands at 15th on the final pre-draft evaluation.

14. Calgary DB Robert Woodson (12 -> 17 -> 14)

Did exactly what he needed to at the combine.. ran well and carried himself in a way that says ‘I’m ready to be a pro’. Woodson is all about hustle, energy and explosion to the football.

13. McGill OL Qadr Spooner (9 -> 13 -> 13)

Arthur Ward/CFL.ca

Qadr Spooner remains a prospect worth watching after dominating one-on-ones at the combine (Arthur Ward/CFL.ca)

Spooner holds his ranking from December at 13 following a combine where he held his own in multiple padded reps and was significantly stronger than I anticipated. On film, Spooner loves to finish plays by tossing aside defenders with great ease and isn’t afraid to go for a jog to find a potential victim of his lower body blocking power.

12. Laurier DL Kwaku Boateng (2 -> 6 -> 12)

The curious case of bureau opinion on Kwaku Boateng continues. Kwaku is down six spots from December and 10 spots from the initial September rankings — despite playing a key role on a Yates Cup Championship Laurier squad and testing well. Perhaps his value has lowered as scouts get a closer look at his stature and wide edge rusher technique, possibly devaluing his stock as there aren’t many teams employing that type of edge attacker.

Regardless of ranking, Boateng’s a great football player and I still believe a late first round pick.

11. Montreal DL Junior Luke (13 -> 9 -> 11)

Luke did not show the same speed around the edge or pure power I expected after watching his game film but he has remained a top end prospect due to that type and his traditional tackle size.

10. Bethune-Cookman OL Dariusz Bladek (NR -> 15 -> 10)

Bethune-Cookman University

Dariusz Bladek is one of the CFL Draft’s more intriguing offensive line prospects (Bethune-Cookman University)

Bladek has been training and waiting for the chance to play in the CFL for over a year now after barely missing the deadline to qualify for the 2016 supplemental draft after acquiring national status. He’s a well rounded, thick wrecking ball between the tackles who should make any team that drafts him May 7 happy.

9. Carleton REC Nate Behar (8 -> 12 -> 9)

Behar’s talent has never been in doubt since Carleton’s season ended in early November, but his ranking has. Behar has jumped from eighth, back to 12th and now down to ninth. The 6-foot, 200-pound London, Ont. native showed his strong hands and elite route running at the CFL’s national combine in a way that demanded he return to the top 10.

8. Idaho OL Mason Woods (15 -> 10 -> 8)

The big man from Port Coquitlam, B.C. continues to rise in the rankings after starting 15th back in September. Despite struggling in one-on-one’s in Regina, his frame and game tape while at Idaho are undeniable.

I am surprised there wasn’t more of a drop for Woods after the combine. While having him unranked would be ridiculous off one weekend of evaluation, I did think he would land somewhere in the mid-teens with others such as McGill offensive lineman Qadr Spooner taking his spot in the top end of blocker evaluation.

7. Laval TE Antony Auclair (10 -> 2 -> 7)

In hindsight, it feels like the December ranking of Auclair at No. 2 was a bit of a reach but the natural ebb and flow of off-season evaluation now has him in the right region. A late first round talent with a possibly lower landing spot due to NFL interest.

6. Maine LB Chris Mulumba (6 -> 8 -> 6)

University of Maine Athletics

Chris Mulumba remains the top-ranked linebacker in the scouting bureau’s ranking (University of Maine Athletics)

At six feet tall, 237 pounds, Chris Mulumba ran a 4.77 40-yard dash at his Maine pro day showing a nice combination of size and speed required to be a highly-rated interior linebacker in the Canadian football League. Unfortunately, that pro day conflicted with the CFL’s national combine so Mulumba was not in Regina allowing full evaluation but it shouldn’t hurt his draft stock as the top rated linebacker in the 2017 draft.

5. Iowa DL Faith Ekakitie (14 -> 11 -> 5)

One of the few consistent risers among all three scouting bureau rankings, Faith moved from 14th to 11th and now fifth due to a couple of really nice pro day numbers and the fact he’s a little bit smaller than some other NCAA prospects and more likely to be seen in the CFL.

I watched some Iowa games live on television this year to check him out as he was more than serviceable as a rotational defensive lineman against top end opponents such as Michigan. I think he’d be a great fit for the Canadian Football League if and when he does arrives and dons the colours of whatever team drafts him.

4. McMaster REC Danny Vandervoort (3 -> 7 -> 4)

Vandervoort put everything on display at the national combine. The natural hands and ability to high point the football, which won him 2013 CIS Rookie of the Year, haven’t gone anywhere and he rises from seventh in December to fourth ahead of the draft.

3. Manitoba OL Geoff Gray (11 -> 5 -> 3)

Jeff Miller/Bison Sports

Is Manitoba’s Geoff Gray the top candidate to go first overall in the draft? (Jeff Miller/Bison Sports)

After a strong showing at both the East-West Shrine Bowl and his unicycle-riding pro day, Geoff Gray continues to impress scouts on both sides of the border. Despite his NFL interest, it might be worth the risk for Winnipeg to take Gray with the first overall selection on May 7 in hopes that they can solidify their offensive line for years to come with a home grown product ready to play immediately.

2. UCLA DL Eli Ankou (5 -> 3 -> 2)

The Ottawa native did exactly what he needed to at his UCLA pro day to stay in the NFL conversation and has the type of burst off the line of scrimmage at 6-foot-3, 331 pounds that says he might not be seen in a CFL uniform for a while.

1. Mississippi State OL Justin Senior (1 -> 1 -> 1)

Senior finishes where he started back in September when he was originally ranked first on the central scouting bureau’s list of top 2017 draft eligible prospects. After competing at the NCAA’s Senior Bowl and attending the NFL combine, look for Senior to be drafted on the second or third day of the NFL draft as that will directly affect his stock for the CFL draft on TSN May 7.

After watching Senior with a close eye I think he has very real trouble with a couple of things, mainly interior pass rush moves and quickness off the ball in the run game. That isn’t enough to remove him from being the top man though due to his size and ability to dominate pure edge rushers.

OUT OF THE RANKINGS

Calgary REC Rashaun Simonise (7 -> 4 -> NR)

Rashaun Simonise’s draft year has been deferred from 2017 to 2018 due to a positive performance-enhancing drug test while in the NFL last summer.

Simonise was released by Cincinnati at the end of training camp 2016 but not before the NFL suspended the Calgary Dinos product the status quo four games.

Laval OL Jean-Simon Roy (18 -> 14 -> NR)

Matt Smith/CFL.ca

Jean-Simon Roy’s performance on the bench press wasn’t enough to keep him ranked (Matt Smith/CFL.ca)

Despite being the 2017 national combine bench press hero and proudly wearing the UL cresting of the Laval Rouge Et Or, Jean-Simon Roy is unranked for the first time in the three scouting bureau reports.

Simon Fraser LB Jordan Herdman (NR -> 16 -> NR)

Herdman didn’t run the way he wanted to while at his Simon Fraser pro day. So he came to the national combine to improve himself. It didn’t really happen, so his trip was likely more about explaining himself than anything else. He’s a hell of a football player on film and despite being unranked I believe will be productive if he gets a chance.

Laurier LB Nakas Onyeka (16 -> 18 -> NR)

Nakas Onyeka is a very difficult player to evaluate. The type of guy who feels like he could completely ruin a game plan — as he did against my McMaster team — or be relatively quiet for an entire afternoon. I have always loved his game with first hand experience of playing against him. Nakas is always around the football and plays with great pace.

It seems like the final scouting bureau rankings have devalued linebackers as a whole with Herdman and Onyeka both falling out of a favour. Tough to argue with that after the combine.

Regina REC Mitchell Picton (NR -> 20 -> NR)

Arthur Ward/CFL.ca

Mitchell Picton showed well at the combine but fell out of the top 20 rankings (Arthur Ward/CFL.ca)

Picton is taller in person than on film and has the route running ability to play almost immediately with some refinement. The issue – as always – is how much can he contribute on special teams early in his career and will his body hold up against the CFL grind? I personally hope he gets a chance because his skills are pure and his top end speed is special.

Carleton OL Kwabena Asare (19 -> NR -> NR)

Asare has great natural size and length but he did not test well in Regina and showed an inability to bend and move in the way a CFL offensive tackle prospect needs to. His guard skill set is limited unlike other tall linemen in the 2017 draft which could mean Asare gets shuffled to the back of the big man deck by early May.

Toronto LB Corey Williams (20 -> NR -> NR)

Williams is a solid all-around prospect with good special teams film and a great drive around the edge in pure pass rush situations. With Mulumba being the top-ranked linebacker and other hybrid ends standing out in pads during the combine, it was inevitable for Williams’ brief stay in the top twenty to come to an end.