April 30, 2019

How will NFL aspirations impact Thursday’s draft?

Yan Doublet/Laval

We are a few days out from the CFL Draft and still stocks continue to rise and fall. You know that the draft is near because we just finished watching the NFL Draft take place down south which does indeed impact the selection process north of the border.

A number of possible CFL Draft selections have dipped their toes into the NFL waters since the party in Nashville ended Saturday. Let’s take a look at who has signed a deal so far and how it could affect their CFL Draft stock.

Arkansas State REC Justin McInnis – Tennessee Titans

The shifty receiver likely received several rookie camp offers and settled on Tennessee. I still project him as a top 20 pick in the CFL.

Laval DL Mathieu Betts – Chicago Bears

Betts was signed as a priority free agent after – unsurprisingly – going undrafted in the NFL over the weekend. Being a priority free agent shows a heightened level of interest which in unsurprising from an NFL franchise that displayed a greater level of interest in CFL products this winter.

I should probably change my projection of Betts in Mock Draft 3.0 (coming soon!) thanks to this signing, but I’ve decided to stand pat with Betts as a first rounder in Thursday’s CFL Draft because I had a CFL scout present it to me as Betts’ earning a chance, but not having good odds to make a roster: “they can find a D2 guy down there who runs faster and has more size if they just want a special teamer, and he won’t get time as a rusher there so he’ll likely be pushed out sooner rather than later.”

» Draft Boards Ready: What are the biggest needs?
» Rewind: Five years of first round picks
» Canadian quarterback ready to be drafted

Mathieu Betts is pictured during a game against Carleton in 2018 (Yan Doublet/Laval)

Queen’s REC Chris Osei-Kusi – Cleveland Browns

Getting a unique NFL experience couldn’t happen to a better guy than Chris Osei-Kusi. He is viewed as an exceptional athlete in the CFL Draft capable of being a first round pick Thursday if not for some slightly more refined route runners in Kaion Julien-Grant and Kurleigh Gittens Jr.

With that being said, the NFL is more likely to embrace saw athletes and try to craft them later. Good for Osei-Kusi to get his chance to prove he’s more than just a fast 40 at the CFL National Combine.

Kansas OL Alex Fontana – Kansas City Chiefs

I’m beginning to wonder how great a CFL offensive line would be if it was made of just Canadian Kansas City Chiefs. Ryan Hunter, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and now possibly Alex Fontana?

With short arms and a smaller frame than the NFL standard at centre, the odds aren’t in his favour for a league that values highly the pure metrics of measurement, so Fontana’s CFL Draft stock shouldn’t change too much. I have a hard time imagining him getting past the second round for a centre-needy team.

New Mexico REC Brayden Lenius – San Francisco 49ers

Lenius is a supremely interesting prospect at the NFL level because an improved ability to get involved in the run game would slot him into an athletic tight end or H-back role down south more than it would in the CFL, but he is a tweener as it stands now. Part big man, part wide receiver.

I, like you, am excited to see how this one shakes out, but believe he should be in Canada come June.

UBC QB Micheal O’Connor – Seattle Seahawks

Being invited to an NFL camp as a quarterback is a different situation than we’ve seen in recent memory covering the CFL Draft. I do wonder if this is an IMG Academy connection or a UBC connection that got O’Connor the chance, not that he isn’t qualified but there are just so many passers vying for a limited number of jobs that being invited is either the ultimate sign of respect or a well-postured move to create buzz leading into Thursday.

Either way it’s a fantastic accomplishment for a Canadian quarterback and should only help O’Connor’s draft stock north of the border.


Concordia OL Maurice Simba – Kansas City Cheifs

See above about the Chiefs..

If they want size they’ve come to the right place.

Windsor OL Drew Desjarlais – New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers

My top overall pick in Mock Draft 2.0, I have to imagine that Desjarlais will impress Giants brass the same way he did anyone in attendance at the CFL National Combine but the Giants are notorious – in the most positive way – for bringing in plenty of Canadians to get a look at rookie mini camps thanks to front office man Kevin Abrams’ Canadian connections.

Desjarlais should go, learn, gain some unique experiences and bring them back to be a CFL difference maker.

Wilfrid Laurier DL Robbie Smith – New York Giants

As I said above for Desjarlais, getting an invite from the Giants is a sign of respect, but less of a realistic threat to CFL Draft stock than being invited by a different NFL team. Visiting the big apple shouldn’t hurt Smith from remaining a top-15 pick.