March 22, 2019

For Comparison’s Sake: Projecting the Combine’s top prospects

U SPORTS

Every year there are players at the CFL Combine presented by New Era, and eventually at the CFL Draft, who blaze their own path by bringing a new and unique skill set or approach to the evaluation process.

While these names below are more than capable of doing just that, they had me thinking about CFL players who have come before them that could be viewed as direct comparisons as we near the selection fiesta on May 2.

Jesse Gibbon
OL | Waterloo

Photo: U SPORTS

Gibbon is an extremely solid but athletically unspectacular tackle whose approach is built in consistency. His game film doesn’t overwhelm you with spectacular open field blocks or crushing double teams while getting to the second level with speed, but he quietly goes about his business and seems to win the majority of his one-on-ones.

Those one-on-one wins are something he did with relative ease compared to his West Team teammates in Quebec City last year while trying to handle the untameable Mathieu Betts from Laval.

Comparison: Western OL Sean Jamieson

The tall frame, strong hands and a quiet sensibility that allowed Jamieson to slide seamlessly into a CFL locker room. Gibbons could learn a lot from Jameson’s development in his young CFL career.


Matthew Boateng
DB | Fresno State

Photo: Fresno State

A couple of years ago I compared Robert Woodson to Argos safety Matt Black in this article thanks to his ‘slashing ball hawk style while slightly on the smaller side.’ Woodson ended up getting drafted by Toronto and joined Black in the Argos defensive backfield and continues to excel on special teams while getting the odd chance to strut his natural cover skills.

I see much of the same in Boateng. He is on the smaller side but has the ability to cover as well as any defensive back in this draft thanks to his quickness and reaction skills.

Comparison: Calgary’s DB Robert Woodson


Chris Osei-Kusi
REC | Queen’s

This was a toss up between Laval’s Tyrone Pierre and Western’s George Johnson. The reasoning being that Osei-Kusi displays the same natural playmaking ability shown by both his predecessors at the U SPORTS level.

What landed me on Johnson was Chris’ ability to burst in the screen game and naturally feel space in between coverage. That skill was something Johnson developed as he made the transition from a two-sport athlete at Western to focusing on football.

Comparable: Western REC George Johnson


Malcolm Lee
DB | UBC

Lee is long, physical and willing to take the odd risk knowing that his natural athleticism and ability to see the big picture defensively can make up for any missteps. Lee has so many of the traits that made Andrew Lue a difficult read while at Queen’s.

Despite his inevitable future as a free safety and special teamer, Lee’s length and physicality should show well in the naturally unnatural setting of pass coverage one-on-ones and special teams gunner drills.

Comparison: Queen’s DB Andrew Lue


Fraser Sopik
LB | Western

Photo: U SPORTS

Sopik is a slightly larger and more aggressive in the box player than former Mustangs teammate Jordan Beaulieu but both have the same downhill mentality. Sopik is in no way a natural fit at linebacker and likely won’t be the type to transition to any type of defensive back – although it might be wise for career longevity if he can pick it up – which makes him a difficult comparable.

What Sopik does have is a day one special teams role and the ability to impress coaches and teammates with effort immediately on any team smart enough to draft him.

Comparison: McMaster LB Jason Arakgi


Robbie Smith
DL | Laurier

Photo: Jeff Hutter

Everyone will want to compare Smith to Kwaku Boateng, and with good reason. Both donned the Laurier purple and gold with pride while wrecking havoc on OUA offensive lines with a variety of pass rush moves. Here’s the thing about Smith, however, he’s doing it heavier than Kwaku was at combine time and brings a slightly different set of skills especially against the run inside.

It’s not perfect, but Smith has a similar line flexibility to another Golden Hawk. I’m looking forward to getting a closer look at him this week to get a better sense of his true skill set.

Comparison: Wilfred Laurier DL Ese Mrabure-Ajufo


Micheal O’Connor
QB | UBC

Photo: Michel Bélanger/U SPORTS

You know I had to get a quarterback in here. I rarely get the opportunity to talk passers in the draft or combine stances of the off-season but O’Connor is for real in so many tangible and intangible ways.

He’s a leader with a big frame and has an arm that lets his play do the talking. What that arm said to me every time it whipped at the East-West Bowl practices last year was “I’m different.”

Don’t treat O’Connor like just another Canadian QB prospect. He’s the most well rounded and refined Canadian passer in the last couple years.

Comparison: Calgary QB Erik Glavic