Preview: Prospects take centre stage at the 2020 CFL Draft
TORONTO — For the first time in weeks, there’s a live sporting event on TV tonight across Canada.
The 2020 CFL Draft gets underway at 8 p.m. ET on TSN1, 3 and 5 and is available on TSN Direct and will stream at TSN.ca. After the first two rounds of the draft, you can jump to CFL.ca, where Brodie Lawson and Marshall Ferguson will steer you through Rounds 3-8.
This year’s draft will be like no other for football personnel people across the country and for the players that are about to join the league. The COVID-19 pandemic has the vast majority of us firmly planted on our couches. Whereas teams would normally meet at their respective facilities across the country and call in to the league office to take part in the draft, this year the entire process will be done remotely.
“It’s going to be unique,” Calgary Stampeders director of player personnel Brendan Mahoney told Stampeders.com this week.
“We’ve had virtual meetings since almost St. Patrick’s Day, so we’ve had a lot of practice with it. The CFL has been very accommodating…we had a test draft and we got to test out some internal communications and the conference call, so it may come with some hiccups but I think we’re well prepared and we’re confident in our technical staff. Communication is the most important thing but I think with the practice that we’ve had, we’re good to go.
“But it will be interesting to do the draft from my house.”
MORE ON THE CFL DRAFT
Thanks to an off-season trade, the Stampeders hold the first overall pick in this year’s draft. Calgary went 12-6 last year but sent the expiring contract of QB Nick Arbuckle to the 3-15 Ottawa REDBLACKS and swapped first-round picks in the process, while also picking up Ottawa’s third-round pick. Ottawa GM Marcel Desjardins got his quarterback and Calgary GM and president John Hufnagel gets the opportunity to add a valuable piece of Canadian talent to his roster.
What he does with that pick isn’t crystal clear, but there have been rumblings in the days leading up to the draft that he could have his eyes on Eastern Carolina University linebacker Jordan Williams.
Williams, six-foot and 230 pounds, grew up in the U.S. but his mother is a Canadian from Toronto. He made a big impression at the Ontario regional combine last month — the only combine that escaped cancellation as the pandemic forced a shutdown of the remaining events — and has the advantage of performing in front of scouts and having fresh tape.
“He’s a great athlete,” Stampeders president/GM John Hufnagel told The Canadian Press.
“He’s a baller, he’ll play. He can run sideline to sideline. He’s an excellent prospect.”
Hufnagel has said he’d listen to trade offers but admitted earlier this week that he hasn’t had any serious conversations with teams on that front.
Along with the REDBLACKS, draft night should be a big one for the other two non-playoff teams from the 2019 season. The Toronto Argonauts pick second overall and the BC Lions will pick third. Both teams have seven picks. The Argos will get four picks in the first two rounds (second, ninth, 11th and 20th overall) and the Lions pick third, 12th and 23rd overall through the first three rounds.
In his second and final mock draft, CFL.ca’s Marshall Ferguson sees the Argos taking Buffalo o-lineman Tomas Jack Kurdyla. He pegged Southeastern Louisiana d-lineman Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund going to the Lions.
“It doesn’t have to be a draft for need. It doesn’t have to be about somebody’s individual rankings. There’s a method and a way to come out of this with guys that can contribute immediately,” Argos VP of player personnel John Murphy said of the organization’s approach to this draft.
“Having three picks out of the first 11 and four out of the top 20, we’re engaging on having what should be three to four players that are contributing to your team for the foreseeable future.
“We want each pick to end up being the best player that we could have gotten there and more important, the combination of those picks and the possibility of trading up or down or out or the ability to take a future (pick). I think you have a lot of open doors that you might not have had before.”
“We need to all be on the same page — coaching staff, scouting department — as far as where the players fit,” Hervey told the Vancouver Province this week.
“And more importantly, there has to be consistency in what we’re asking (the players) to do play-wise. Sometimes, if there’s a difference in philosophy from year to year…a player fits one year and then the next year, they don’t quite fit. You get caught sometimes.
“So I think it’s important for us to ensure that we’re giving ourselves the best chance at drafting the best players that have the ability and versatility to play in multiple schemes, whether it’s on offence or defence. And once we have that list prepared and we’re all on the same page, then regardless of who you select we will feel good about that player.”
Edmonton (fourth), Hamilton (fifth and eighth), Ottawa (sixth), Saskatchewan (seventh) and the Argos (ninth) make up the rest of the first-round picks.
Despite heading into the draft without a first-round pick this year, the Montreal Alouettes have a league-best 10 picks. Edmonton, Calgary and Hamilton have nine picks, Ottawa has eight and BC, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Toronto have seven.
It’s been a tumultuous spring for all of us. The draft won’t look the same as it has in years past, where teams sometimes held events for season ticket holders, or introduced the first overall pick to the media in-person. It will, however, provide a sense of normalcy for sports fans that have had the rug pulled out from under them by the pandemic.
“From the personnel side of things since everything happened, besides the combine being cancelled, everything else has felt normal,” Hamilton Tiger-Cats senior director of personnel and co-manager of football operations Shawn Burke said.
“This is our time of the year to make the impact on the organization. When the players get here and the coaches get here (for training camp), it’s their time. This is our time to help solidify the team for this season and moving forward. All of us in the personnel department take that seriously.
“We’re looking thoroughly forward to Thursday and the Canadian draft.”