Menu
May 7, 2017

Primer: What you need to know about the 2017 CFL Draft

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

TORONTO — For prospects and talent evaluators alike, all that’s left to do is wait.

Countless hours of testing and breaking down film all come down to the 2017 CFL Draft, which kicks off on Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET in Toronto.

With 71 players each set to join one of nine Canadian Football League teams, we look at what you need to know going into Sunday:

1. What is the priority draft order?

The priority draft order was set in reverse order of the 2016 CFL Standings, with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers holding the first overall pick (via the Toronto Argonauts as a result of a trade) and the Grey Cup Champion Ottawa REDBLACKS capping it all off.

The selection order for Round 1 is as follows:

PICK TEAM
1 Winnipeg Blue Bombers (via TOR)
2 Saskatchewan Roughriders
3 BC Lions (via MTL)
4 Hamilton Tiger-Cats
5 Edmonton Eskimos
6 Winnipeg Blue Bombers
7 BC Lions
8 Calgary Stampeders
9 Ottawa REDBLACKS

 

The Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes head into the draft without their first round picks following trades during the 2016 season. As a result, Winnipeg and BC each own a second first round pick.

2. Walters holds the keys

In a reversal of last year, when the Bombers were without a first round pick, Kyle Walters holds two first round picks in Sunday’s selection process — including first overall. The top pick in the draft initially belonged to the Argos but was traded to Winnipeg on Sept. 11 as part of the trade that sent Drew Willy to Toronto.

Should Walters keep the pick, Sunday will mark the sixth time in seven years Winnipeg has held a top-three pick. Henoc Muamba (1st, 2011), Tyson Pencer (3rd, 2012), Andy Mulumba (2nd, 2013), Matthias Goossen (2nd, 2014) and Sukh Chungh (2nd, 2015) were all Bombers top-three draft picks since 2011.

Will the Bombers trade the pick? So far the feeling is they won’t — Walters said Friday he hasn’t received any offers close to his liking and the expectation is that he’ll stand pat at No. 1. Still, things can change and moving the first pick close to the draft wouldn’t be unprecedented. It happened as recently as 2014, when Ottawa traded first overall to Calgary in exchange for Jon Gott.

3. Gotta have Faith

As the draft draws closer, word out of Winnipeg is Iowa defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie will be the first player picked in the draft. A little background on Ekakitie:

The 24-year-old is considered a strong fit as an interior defensive lineman in the CFL after taking some time early in his career at Iowa to find his niche. He originally made the transition from 3-4 defensive end to an interior lineman in a conventional defensive configuration.

While some top prospects have signed deals south of the border, Ekakitie is expected to be available for training camp as a player that can contribute in year one. In Winnipeg, he would fit into a rotation with Jake Thomas and Rupert Butcher while filling a void left by the departed Keith Shologan.

Iowa Hawkeyes Athletics

Faith Ekakitie is the expected first overall pick in Sunday’s CFL Draft (Iowa Hawkeyes Athletics)

“Faith possesses a prototypical defensive tackle body and a has a quickness to his game that will fit the CFL perfectly,” CFL.ca’s Marshall Ferguson said of the 6-foot-1, 304-pound tackle. “His movement tests were equally impressive considering his body make up and his strength were everything they needed to be — one of the many reasons he has raised his stock on every scouting bureau list since September.”

A native of Brampton, Ont., Ekakitie raised his ranking from 11th to fifth on in the final CFL Scouting Bureau rankings. He’d be the third Iowa player picked in the first round since 2002 and the first taken at No. 1. Ekakitie would also be the third straight first overall pick out of an NCAA school.

4. Also keep an eye on…

Geoff Gray — After a dominant showing at his pro day, the Manitoba native signed a priority free agent contract with the Green Bay Packers immediately following the NFL Draft. Gray might be the biggest prize in Sunday’s CFL Draft, but the question is whether or not he ever makes it north of the border.

Justin Senior — The only player picked in last weekend’s NFL Draft after going in the sixth round to the Seattle Seahawks, Senior was the top-ranked prospect in every CFL Scouting Bureau ranking released this year. With the ability to develop as a rare Canadian tackle on this side of the border, the potential gain is high for any team willing to be patient and take a gamble.

Matt Singleton — The brother of Alex Singleton, Matt clearly has pedigree on his side. Alex was a late entry in last year’s draft but that didn’t deter him from becoming a first round pick and eventually one of the CFL’s top rookies. Matt isn’t expected to go in the first round but teams should keep him in mind given his brother’s success.

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

Alex Singleton (left) and Matt Singleton (right) during the 2017 CFL Combine in Regina (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

Mathieu Dupuis — More family bloodlines to watch out for: Montreal defensive lineman Mathieu Dupuis is the younger brother of former NHL forward and two-time Stanley Cup Champion Pascal Dupuis. If he gets drafted, the younger Dupuis would join Jordan Reaves and Chris Getzlaf as CFL players with NHL ties.

Mason Woods — The draft’s eighth-ranked prospect, Mason Woods would be difficult to miss. The 6-foot-9 guard could immediately become one of the biggest players in the CFL and has drawn comparisons to Eskimos guard Matt O’Donnell. Expect him to be drafted within the first two rounds.

5. The horses up front

The offensive line remains a priority when it comes to Canadian content. Offensive linemen have gone first overall three straight years and four of the last five while nearly a quarter of all draft picks (24.6 per cent) since 2002 have been O-linemen.

Even more telling: Of all first round picks since 2002, 48 have been offensive linemen — 38.7 per cent. That’s even spiked over the last two years, over which O-linemen have made up 11 of 17 selections (64.7 per cent).

This year, Mason Woods, Geoff Gray, Dariusz Bladek, Qadr Spooner, Braden Schram and Jean-Simon Roy are Marshall Ferguson’s top-ranked offensive linemen in what’s considered a weaker class at that position.

Is 2017 the year the trend reverses?

6. Laval dominance

It’s no secret that Laval has set the gold standard when it comes to producing talent for the next level. The school has produced 50 draft picks dating back to the year 2002, seven more than the next closest competition (Calgary, 43).

Last year, Laval set a draft record with eight selections including three in the first round alone (offensive linemen Jason Lauzon-Seguin, Charles Vaillancourt and Philippe Gagnon).

David Chidley/CFL.ca

Philippe Gagnon was one of three Laval players picked in the first round in 2016 (David Chidley/CFL.ca)

Laval has seen at least one player drafted every year dating back to 2002 and the streak is expected to continue this year, although the question is to what extent. Tight end Antony Auclair and Jean-Simon Roy are almost sure to be drafted while Ed Godin’s name has also been mentioned — the only three Laval players listed in Marshall Ferguson’s final mock draft.

In the same mock draft, Ferguson has 10 University of Calgary players earning selections on Sunday.

7. Behar, Vandervoort well-received

The receiver position has been another staple of the CFL Draft, ranking third among draft picks over the last 15 years. Dating back to 2002, 200 offensive linemen have been picked, 147 defensive linemen and 143 receivers. After that there’s a significant drop-off to 114 linebackers chosen.

Even more revealing is the way receivers have been chosen in the first round. While offensive linemen have dominated the opening round of the draft, receiver has been the position of the second-highest frequency with 19.4 per cent of first round picks since 2002 playing receiver.

Since 2011, however, when four receivers were taken in the first round alone, the draft’s opening round has been devoid of pass-catchers. Over the past five seasons, five receivers have been taken in the first round (Brian Jones, Tevaun Smith, Nik Demski, Devon Bailey, Shamawd Chambers).

Could Nate Behar and Danny Vandervoort earn first-round selections? Duane Forde believes it’s possible.

“This is a year where it’s not the same situation on the offensive line and I can see a couple of receivers getting the looks in the first round of this draft,” said Forde. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of those guys go within the first nine picks.”

8. Recent draft trends

– Dating back to 1952, 78 per cent of draft selections have come from USPORTS schools, the other 22 per cent coming from the NCAA. Over the past 15 years, 69 per cent of draft selections have come from Canadian universities.

– In 2014, 98 per cent of draft picks were from Canadian universities (all but one of 65 players), the largest margin since 1970 when all 76 players came from Canadian universities.

– In 2012, 47 per cent of draft picks came from NCAA schools, the highest percentage in 15 years (including four picks from Simon Fraser University, which now competes in the NCAA).

Bethune-Cookman University

Bethune-Cookman’s Dariusz Bladek is among several highly-touted NCAA prospects going into Sunday (Bethune-Cookman University)

– At least 10 offensive linemen have been selected in every draft dating back to 2002, when only eight offensive linemen were chosen.

– Last year, 17 offensive linemen were taken in the draft — the most at the position since 2005 when 18 were selected. The most offensive linemen ever recorded in a single draft: 26, in 1987.

– Laval and Calgary each hold the record for the most first round picks in one year with three. In 2013, Calgary players Linden Gaydosh, Mike Edem and Steven Lumbala were all first round picks while Philippe Gagnon, Charles Vaillancourt and Jason Lauzon-Seguin were first round picks for Laval last year.

– Laval and Calgary have each had two first round selections in the same draft two other times.

9. Trades that impact the CFL Draft

ROUND 1

1st overall – Winnipeg Blue Bombers via Toronto Agonauts

Winnipeg acquired Toronto’s 2017 first round selection (1st overall) along with international defensive back TJ Heath and a third round selection in the 2018 CFL Draft for international quarterback Drew Willy.

3rd overall – BC Lions via Montreal Alouettes

BC acquired Montreal’s first round selection (3rd overall) in exchange for the negotiating rights to international quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.

ROUND 3

Third Round Selection – Saskatchewan Roughriders

Saskatchewan forfeited its original third round selection after selecting national linebacker Kevin Francis in the 2016 CFL Supplemental Draft.

ROUND 4

28th overall – Calgary Stampeders via Saskatchewan Roughriders

Calgary acquired Saskatchewan’s fourth round selection (28th overall) in exchange for national defensive back Tevaughn Campbell.

30th overall – Saskatchewan Roughriders via Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Sakatchewan acquired Hamilton’s fourth round (30th overall) and seventh round (57th overall) selections along with national defensive lineman Linden Gaydosh and international wide receiver Tommy Streeter in exchange for national defensive lineman Justin Capicciotti and international offensive lineman Xavier Fulton.

32nd overall – Saskatchewan Roughriders via Montreal Alouettes via Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Saskatchewan acquired Montreal’s fourth round selection (32nd overall – originally Winnipeg’s) and a conditional selection in the 2018 CFL Draft in exchange for international quarterback Darian Durant. Montreal originally acquired Winnipeg’s best 2017 fourth round selection (32nd overall) in exchange for international quarterback Kevin Glenn.

ROUND 5

38th overall – Hamilton Tiger-Cats via Montreal Alouettes

Hamilton acquired Montreal’s fifth round (38th overall) and sixth round (47th overall) selections along with international defensive back Khalid Wooten in exchange for international defensive end Denzell Perine, international running back Cierre Wood, and Hamilton’s fifth round (39th overall) and sixth round (48th overall) selections in the 2017 CFL Draft.

39th overall – Montreal Alouettes via Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Montreal acquired Hamilton’s fifth round (39th overall) and sixth round (48th overall) selections along with international defensive end Denzell Perine and international running back Cierre Wood in exchange for international defensive back Khalid Wooten and Montreal’s fifth round (38th overall) and sixth round (47th overall) selections in the 2017 CFL Draft.

41st overall – Edmonton Eskimos via Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Edmonton acquired Winnipeg’s best 2017 fifth round selection (41st overall) in exchange for international quarterback Matt Nichols.

ROUND 6

45th overall – Montreal Alouettes via Toronto Argonauts

Montreal acquired Toronto’s 2017 sixth round selection (45th overall) and a conditional selection in the 2018 CFL Draft in exchange for international slotback S.J. Green.

47th overall – Hamilton Tiger-Cats via Montreal Alouettes

Hamilton acquired Montreal’s fifth round (38th overall) and sixth round (47th overall) selections along with international defensive back Khalid Wooten in exchange for international defensive end Denzell Perine, international running back Cierre Wood, and Hamilton’s fifth round (39th overall) and sixth round (48th overall) selections in the 2017 CFL Draft.

48th overall – Montreal Alouettes via Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Montreal acquired Hamilton’s fifth round (39th overall) and sixth round (48th overall) selections along with international defensive end Denzell Perine and international running back Cierre Wood in exchange for international defensive back Khalid Wooten and Montreal’s fifth round (38th overall) and sixth round (47th overall) selections in the 2017 CFL Draft.

ROUND 7

57th overall – Saskatchewan Roughriders via Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Sakatchewan acquired Hamilton’s fourth round (30th overall) and seventh round (57th overall) selections along with national defensive lineman Linden Gaydosh and international wide receiver Tommy Streeter in exchange for national defensive lineman Justin Capicciotti and international offensive lineman Xavier Fulton.

58th overall – Hamilton Tiger-Cats via Edmonton Eskimos

Hamilton acquired Edmonton’s seventh round selection (58th overall) in exchange for international offensive lineman Brian Simmons.