- FREE AGENCY
With the 2018 CFL season completed and another team full of great Canadian talent crowned Grey Cup champions, it’s time to look towards the next generation of Canadians ready to help improve a franchise in 2019.
This is a long and winding process for prospective draftees that often involves the East-West Bowl week of evaluation last spring before a senior season and a winter full of meetings, combines and phone calls with teams as general managers, coaches and scouts try to find the next difference maker to separate them from the competition.
The next step in that process is the December Central Scouting Bureau rankings which have been released on Thursday.
This second Scouting Bureau list – the second of three, including the final version in April – features eleven U SPORTS athletes and nine NCAA standouts. 2018 Vanier Cup champions Laval leads the way with three athletes on the list. The 2015 Vanier Cup champion UBC Thunderbirds have some graduating players making their way onto the list including the rare appearance of a quarterback inside the top 20 of draft rankings with Micheal O’Connor (19th overall) being crowned with the next best shot to put a Canadian pivot behind centre on the game’s grandest stage.
Defensive lineman Nate Andersen of Missouri and fellow Thunderbird Trivel Pinto have made their first appearance on the Scouting Bureau list. Andersen recently classified as a national and will likely continue to rise as teams become more acquainted with his unique skill set while Pinto worked his way onto teams’ radars throughout the 2018 U SPORTS campaign, which saw him amass 75 catches for 1,040 yards and seven touchdowns.
The biggest riser of from the original September rankings to now is Concordia’s Maurice Simba, a 2017 East-West Bowl standout from Laval, Quebec who stands at an NFL worthy six-foot-eight and 323 pounds.
Expect Simba to get some serious interest as a priority free agent after the NFL Draft if the buzz surrounding his size and raw skill set continues to grow.
Simba is joined on the list by four other offensive lineman with only two residing in the top ten of the December rankings. That’s a stark difference from 2018, which saw a top heavy group of NCAA offensive lineman dominating the rankings including Ryan Hunter of Bowling Green, David Knevel of Nebraska and UCONN Huskies Trey Rutherford who was the highest drafted player to take a CFL snap in 2018.
Oklahoma State’s Shane Richards made the jump up two spots from September to be the December rankings highest rated lineman while Alex Fontana of Kansas raised his stock by four spots and should be a hot commodity as an experienced interior lineman with a centre’s skillset.
There is a new number one in the December scouring bureau rankings as Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Jonathan Kongbo falls from first to fourth following a season ending ACL injury suffered against Auburn on November 13th. Taking his place is Laval Rouge Et Or defensive lineman Mathieu Betts.
Betts is a freak in the best sense. I watched him closely during the East-West Bowl practice in Quebec City last spring and he was routinely head and shoulders better than anyone else in attendance. With the success of former Laval Tight End Antony Auclair in Tampa Bay, one has to wonder whether Betts will get a look down south. The one true difference between the two, outside of position, is the fact that Auclair fit the pro game in America perfectly as a true blocking tight end while Betts would be considered a bit of a tweener. Perhaps a blessing for CFL Draft fans – such as myself – hoping to see the drafts top prospect focus on the CFL and combine processes.
Speaking of Laval tight ends, another has made his way into the Scouting Bureau top ten in the form of Alexandre Savard. While the Auclair comparisons will run heavy this winter, Savard is very much his own man with a unique skill set who I can’t wait to watch through combine season.
All in this is a predictably excellent crop of prospects with a bit more emphasis on offensive skill positions than we have seen over the last couple years, including the appearance of a legitimate quarterback prospect.
It should be a great winter to dive in on fall game tape and find out whose who in the next generation of great Canadian talent.