The Future is Now: The 2022 CFL Draft has arrived

TORONTO — On the tail end of a gruelling combine season that followed up a return to the football field for many Canadian university football players last year, the 2022 CFL Draft is upon us. The draft takes place on Tuesday, May 3, airing at 8 p.m. ET on TSN and it signals a big step toward normalcy for the game in Canada, after the pandemic disrupted the ebbs and flows of football in this country for the last two years.

“It’s more of a natural transition,” said TSN’s Duane Forde, who took part in a pre-draft media conference call with CFL.ca’s Marshall Ferguson on Monday afternoon.

“You’re coming out as a guy that’s played four years of university football and you’re continuing what you did last year just at a higher level as opposed to being a guy with three years’ experience and with a year off of football entirely.”

Challenges from the lost year of football may still linger, Forde pointed out. Some of this year’s rookie class will have to compete with incoming players that were chosen last year but opted to return for their senior years of collegiate football, which will mean increased competition in training camps.

“Certainly, psychologically, I think it’s a more natural transition as we slowly make our way, hopefully, back to normal here,” Forde said.

MORE CFL DRAFT COVERAGE
» Everything you need to know ahead of the 2022 CFL Draft
» 
View: 2022 CFL Draft order 
» Metchie leaps to top-spot in final Scouting Bureau 0f 2022

Edmonton Elks GM and head coach Chris Jones, along with assistant GM Geroy Simon, continue to weigh all of their options ahead of making the No. 1 pick in Tuesday’s CFL Draft (Liam Mahoney/CFL.ca)

As we move into this draft, all eyes will be on the Edmonton Elks and new head coach/GM Chris Jones, who holds the first overall pick and a plethora of options that come with it. After a strong showing at the CFL Combine presented by New Era in March, Syracuse linebacker Tyrell Richards has been speculated to be the Elks’ best option with that first pick.

The six-foot-three, 232-pound Brampton, Ont. native lined up all over the field at the combine, showing the versatility that Jones loves as a defensive coordinator.

“I look at the early part of the draft as find the unicorn,” Forde said.

“That’s basically what your your challenge is at the top of the draft. Of the top players, who is the most unique guy that I can’t get something like him later in the first round? Tyrell Richards…fits the bill as that unicorn, as a highly athletic guy with length who can play multiple positions. You’re talking about a guy that can play potentially in all three levels of the defence.”

While Richards almost certainly won’t have to wait until the 60th pick or later to hear his name, his messaging strikes an important note. Each pick, from the coveted first overall spot to No.74, the final pick of the Draft’s eighth round, is a foot in the door and an opportunity to begin a professional career. Most years you see much of the same cast of names through the Scouting Bureau rankings, but Tuesday’s draft will see more than six dozen players get their chance and the opportunity to step onto a CFL field this month when training camps open.

This year’s combine may have been the perfect example of seizing an opportunity. When the spring edition of the Scouting Bureau was revealed, there were seven debuts on the list of 20 players, showing just how important a good weekend of work in front of CFL personnel can be. University of Alberta offensive lineman Rodeem Brown and Bryant University running back Daniel Adeboboye, debuting at No.’s 12 and 13, respectively, are the two strongest examples of that.

Every year, we get reminders of just how significant those mid- and late-round picks can be. In an article he wrote a couple of weeks ago, Ferguson looked at some of the recent steals in the CFL Draft.

Just from last season, we saw a pair of impact receivers, in Kian Schaffer-Baker in Saskatchewan (fourth round, 30th overall, 2020) and Luther Hakunavnhu in Calgary (fifth round, 44th overall, 2021) emerge from the middle of their draft classes. On the defensive side of the ball there’s Kwaku Boateng (fifth round, 41st overall, 2017), who will bring his QB-chasing skills to Ottawa this year for his fifth season in the league.

The league’s reigning Most Outstanding Canadian player, Bo Lokombo, went in the third round, 21st overall, to the BC Lions in 2013. The combination of a deeply knowledgeable scouting department finding a player that’s ready to work and improve themselves is a potent mix and we see that sparked every year on draft night.

Waterloo QB Tre Ford showed off his athleticism through two different combines and could hear his name called early on Tuesday night at the CFL Draft (Thomas Skrlj/CFL.ca)

We could also see something interesting happen at quarterback this year.

Waterloo’s Tre Ford won the Hec Crighton award in 2021 as the top player in U SPORTS, capping a stellar four-year run in coach Chris Bertoia’s program. Ford took advantage of combine season with a blazing fast 4.45-second 40-yard dash at the University of Buffalo’s pro day. He rounded that out with the top finish in the three-cone drill at the CFL Combine (6.85 seconds).

In 2020, we saw Nathan Rourke go in the second round of the draft to the BC Lions, at 15th overall. After some headline-grabbing work through two combines, could we possibly hear Ford’s name called earlier than that?

Forde made it clear he’s not a projection expert, but figured that  Tre Ford would hear his name at some point in the third round, noting that Canadian QBs of the past have generally been taken between rounds three and five.

Ferguson sees Ford possibly breaking that trend on Tuesday night.

“I could see him being a late first rounder, I personally think at worst in the second round. If he goes in the third round there’s no shame in that,” Ferguson offered, quickly comparing him to other drafted QBs.

“Whether it be (Andrew) Buckley or (Brandon) Bridge, (Brad) Sinopoli, none of them have the electricity of Tre.

“And that’s, I think the difference. Two things, one would be he can change the game just by touching the football in whatever way you want to employ that. Second thing is we can put two quarterbacks on the field now.

“That rule change opens the door for flexibility for someone like Tre.”

There will no doubt be some surprises on draft night and there’ll be a share of things playing out the way they’re expected to. There’ll be a wave of assessments and breakdowns that follow what takes place Tuesday night. When it comes to the true results of a draft, though, we won’t truly be able to assess the good, the bad and the shrewd moves for a few years yet. Tuesday night will just mark the beginning of that process.

The comment system on this website is now powered by the CFL.ca Forums. We'd love for you to be part of the conversation; click the Start Discussion button below to register an account and join the community!