We are now less than one month away from the Canadian Football League draft day (May 3).
And what do football nerds like me do leading into a draft? We look back at the old ones to reminisce about the hits and the misses of the players gone by.
It’s never to shame any general manager on the misses because they all have them. They ALL have them and in every sport that has a draft.
For every player that didn’t work out, there is a player later on in the same draft who excelled well above expectation.
Which brings me to some of my favourite draft picks from the last decade for every team. These aren’t necessarily the best pick they’ve made in the last decade but a player who has brought value and bonus points for players who have made a career with the team with which they were drafted.
But a favourite of mine is Shane Bergman. Bergman retired before the 2021 season but his last impression was a great one as the Stampeders nominee for Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman and his only All-Star selection.
Consider that he was the sixth round pick of the 2013 draft and then spent the next seven years in Stampeder red and contributed to two Grey Cup Championships. There were 12 offensive linemen taken before him and not many of those are able to say they had the career Bergman was able to have in the CFL.
In 2014, the BC Lions looked to a defensive end from the University of Montreal to help along the defensive line.
In the fourth round they selected David Menard, who was a consistent presence though in a rotational role. He had 18 sacks over his first six seasons and found his way back home where he jumped to an All-Star calibre pass rusher for the Montreal Alouettes.
Well, the Lions clearly made a good impression, as this off-season he’s back with BC with a well deserved pay raise to help the team that drafted him solidify a defence to contend in the West Division.
For the Montreal Alouettes pick, this is by no means a ‘steal’ pick at all. In fact, my favourite pick is a selfish one because I talk highly of this player it seems every off-season or in-season when it comes to top Canadians or guys I’d love to have on my team.
My favourite pick of the Als is Chris Ackie. I know, he was fourth overall but he was also ranked going in as a borderline first or second round pick but the Alouettes knew the player well as he went to Wilfrid Laurier and taking him a little higher than he was ranked has paid off for them.
While he played one year elsewhere, the Als have gotten everything they’ve needed out of the fourth overall selection as he can play all over the defensive side of the ball.
My favourite pick for the REDBLACKS is their first one; ninth overall in 2013, Nolan MacMillan. He’s been a mainstay along the offensive line for the REDBLACKS and has one All-Star nod to his name.
The REDBLACKS couldn’t afford many misses early in their time building Canadian talent and MacMillan was definitely not a miss, although we’ll wait to see if he’s back for another season.
Either way, he’s been everything they’ve needed him to be over the course of the last seven seasons.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
If you’re going to re-draft the 2012 CFL Draft, the Bombers fourth round pick would end up going in the first round.
Jake Thomas is the most underrated football player in Canada. Period. The defensive tackle has been good for a while in the middle of that defence, plugging holes and stuffing running backs and every so often fighting off double teams to get to the quarterback.
And the reason he’s become the most underrated is because he does everything quietly and consistently.
I’m seeing a trend of fourth round picks. Maybe a team should just trade down to take over the entire fourth round because they’ll find some damn good value, apparently.
And the trend continues here for the Roughriders, although this one is much more recently than the ‘12, ‘13 or ‘14 drafts.
How about 2020? That was the draft that the players had to wait over an entire year to prove their worth. It also gave some players a lot of time to refine their game before their official first training camp. The work paid off for the Riders’ Kian Schaffer-Baker.
You know you have something special when local radio shows (mine) debate what your nickname should be. Shake’n’bake? Playmaker Schaffer-Baker? K.S.B.?
The rookie turned into one of Cody Fajardo’s favourite targets and had a stretch not seen by a rookie Canadian receiver in quite some time. Can’t wait for his sophomore season in the CFL.
I’m sure Adam Konar is happy to be back where it began for him in 2015. He was a third round pick of Edmonton and was with them for a Grey Cup run and then started to find more and more time on the defensive side of the year and had a break out season in 2017.
Konar could have easily been selected higher but had to wait a little while and he definitely started to prove the teams that passed on him should have regretted it.
Konar, for whatever reason, didn’t quite find the same production in his home town signing with the Lions but he hopes to find his game again with the Elks and a brass who helped draft him seven years ago.
I’m going back to a first round pick for this one and another guy I give a lot of ink to when talking about top Canadian offensive linemen; Brandon Revenberg.
The third pick of the 2016 draft is one of my favourite draft stories because he was a late add to the group of picks. So late in fact that he didn’t even register on the final rankings going in. The Tiger-Cats did a lot of homework on Revenberg and after the Riders picked Josiah St. John and the Alouettes went with Philippe Gagnon, the Tiger-Cats jumped at a player they loved from the start.
Now he’s a perennial All-Star candidate and a mainstay for the back-to-back East Division Champs.
While he by no means was a steal, he wasn’t a sure thing when the Tabbies picked him with a lot of other high quality talent still readily available.
This is the most recent pick of the bunch, last year’s seventh overall selection, Peter Nicastro.
Do you want to know how rare it is to have a rookie Canadian offensive lineman get nominated for Most Outstanding Rookie out of the East or West Division, in the last 25 years?
Three. That’s it. Nicastro, Brett Jones and Jason Lauzon-Seguin.
A standing ovation for the Argonauts believing in the hype of Nicastro, who was jumping up draft boards as the draft got closer and closer last season. If they can keep him long term, this won’t only be a favourite of mine but maybe the best pick of the first round of last year’s draft.