University of Saskatchewan Athletics
The CFL National Combine presented by New Era is here!
The players are ready for their 40-yard dash, one-on-one drills and of course the interview process that can be rather interesting, as Don Landry featured on CFL.ca already this week.
But I’m going to give some unsolicited and extremely unwanted advice to the general managers, scouts and coaches gathering in Toronto.
The premise is this: Which position group should each team be focused on, if they could only focus on one during the weekend. Of course, the challenge is to not say offensive line. We all know they’re all going to be focused on the o-linemen, as it’s the position that needs the most Canadian depth across the board in the CFL.
So without further adieu…
Yes, the Lions will be zoned in on the offensive line, as that is a top priority after the struggles of their group over the last two seasons protecting the quarterback. But I’m not going to break my premise this early, as they have some other needs and might be able to pick up some great offensive linemen in the second round and third round.
With how the Lions have shifted their ratio, they should be huddled around the linebackers to continue to ensure they have the next guy ready with two of their Canadian starters at the position. That’s a rarity in the CFL, to have your two interior linebackers have Canadian passports. Of course Tyrell Richards out of Syracuse headlines the group of the linebackers invited to the combine, but the combine can definitely show off the athletes at the position that could impress the Lions to take them.
I’m also putting the Lions as extremely interested in the local twins, as Jalen and Tyson Philpot would feel right at home in BC, where their father was a CFL star and is currently a local junior coach.
If we’re talking Lions and Canadian players, let’s throw in quarterback Tre Ford for good fun. The Lions already have Nathan Rourke and Michael O’Connor leading the depth chart as Canadian quarterbacks. Why not keep a close eye on if that QB room needs more Canadian flare?
Defence, defence, defence.
The top end of this draft is loaded with defensive players and I can’t pick just one position for Chris Jones to zone in on, as he needs athletes across the board on the defensive side to impact his ratio. One of Jones’ best picks when he was the GM of the Saskatchewan Roughriders was linebacker Cameron Judge.
Edmonton needs to hit with the first overall pick. Western defensive lineman Deionte Knight and Waterloo defensive back Tyrell Ford are two of the top defensive prospects that will be in Toronto to impress.
The other aspect that will be interesting is the Philpots at first overall, if Jones goes with best player available. What Jones can’t do is swing and miss with the first overall pick. He had it with the Riders in 2016 when he arrived there and used in on Josiah St. John, who remains a depth piece as a back-up. Brandon Revenberg and Alex Singleton were selected in that first round behind St. John.
You never want to make the same mistake twice.
While I’m going away from specific position, I might as well continue the trend and that’s where we land on the Roughriders.
GM Jeremy O’Day has already said when it comes down to it and they’re debating who they should pick and it’s not obvious sometimes, they’ll go with the Saskatchewan guy if there is one in the debate.
So, bet on the Riders really zoning in on the four top prospects who hail from the home province. Two of them are offensive linemen, in Noah Zerr and Peter Kozushka but you also have defensive lineman Nathan Cherry and running back Adam Machart rated highly going into the combine.
While O’Day is never going to push a guy up the draft board too high because of his place of birth, the Riders will do their due diligence to ensure where these players should land on their board. Of course they’re not the only Saskatchewan guys at the draft, with Ryder Varga and Riley Pickett among others looking to move up draft boards at the combine.
I could follow geography here but I’m moving the REDBLACKS here to really focus in on the Philpot twins.
The two University of Calgary wide receivers should go in the first round and early. That’s where we find the second overall pick and if I’m Paul LaPolice and Shawn Burke trying to build up the talent level around quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, picking one of these twins is extremely intriguing.
So I’m not saying the REDBLACKS are hanging out with the receivers but really zoning in on the two dynamic playmakers who can play all around the offence. Wouldn’t it be something if the twins went 1-2 in the CFL draft?
Now that I’ve mentioned Adam Machart, the star running back from the University of Saskatchewan, I better rattle off the position the Argonauts should be looking at. If they’re going Canadian at running back with Andrew Harris, they better learn from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and have the depth to back him up.
Right now they do not, but Machart headlines the running back prospects in this draft in a not-very-deep pool of running backs going into this draft.
So as Toronto likely gets to know Machart a little better at this draft, they’ll also hang out with a much deeper pool of defensive players.
Calgary Stampeders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Speaking of that deep defensive pool of players, I’m thinking the Tiger-Cats and Stampeders should be focused in on this talented group of defensive backs at the National Combine.
We’ve already mentioned Tyrell Ford but also attending the combine are other top ranked prospects like Zach Herzog and Jayden Dalke.
Both the Stampeders and Tiger-Cats are pretty thin at the defensive back position heading into this draft year for their Canadians. And with Tunde Adeleke as a starter in Hamilton, they need to ensure some depth at the position.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes
If the Stampders are in on the defensive backs, they’ll definitely be where the Bombers and Alouettes should be to take a deep look at the defensive linemen at the combine.
The Alouettes lost David Menard to the Lions and all of a sudden are thin in their depth on the defensive line.
The Bombers are light across the board on some depth but none more so than having a back-up for the veteran defensive tackle Jake Thomas.
For both the Als and Bombers, this would be a draft year and a class at the combine to really refine your draft board on who you might take in the first or second rounds.
Deionte Knight out of Western is going to get a lot of attention this week from across the board but there is plenty of depth with Nathan Cherry out of the University of Saskatchewan, Anthony Federico from Queen’s and Joshua Archibald from McGill.
Of course the one-on-one OL/DL drill will be a fantastic place to be this weekend but especially for the Als and Stampeders.