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The team here at CFL.ca will and already do have you covered for all your needs for the CFL Combine presented by New Era. Next week the next generation of CFL players will be put through the rigours of testing and drills and interviews to make one final impression on the nine teams before the names start being called on May 2 at the CFL Draft.
Marshall Ferguson already has some great run downs on who to look for and there will be more to come leading into the Combine, during and after.
I’m here to assess the nine teams’ depth and if they could only scout one position group, who that group could/should be.
By default, they all get the offensive line. They all want more of them. They all want the next one. While it may not be a high priority for some, we all know they’ll likely all take at least one.
CFL COMBINE presented by New Era
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WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
Winnipeg didn’t take an offensive lineman last year but I’m going to take a wild guess and say they will this time.
In fact, they should start feeling a little bit of urgency to make sure they have better depth after losing Drew Desjarlais and Michael Couture over the last two off-seasons. Patrick Neufeld’s age has to be taken into account as he’ll turn 35 at the end of the year.
But I’m going to start with the Bombers and land on receiver, after they get all the information they can gather on offensive linemen.
For a team that uses a lot of Nationals on the offensive side of the ball at receiver and running back, they’ll always need the depth necessary to make it work.
Receiver is a spot that could turn into a steal, as there is only one in the top-20 rankings that will be at the combine, in Guelph’s Clark Barnes. But there are 15 total receivers to assess.
I never know what to say about the Elks and Chris Jones because I know what Chris Jones will be looking for: athletes. Tre Ford is a great athlete and Jones made him a rare QB taken in the first round of the 2022 CFL Draft.
Now for Edmonton, I’m cheating right away. I’m going to say they can’t take a session off. I know nobody does, but the Elks really need to fill out their National depth.
But with a huge contingent of defensive linemen at the top of the CFL Draft, I’m imagining Jones watching closely at all their combine scores to ensure he’s drafting a solid athlete. Their are six defensive linemen currently ranked in the top-20 going into the combine.
If I’m Jeremy O’Day, I’m planting myself down with Chris Jones at the defensive linemen showcase.
The Riders could be looking to go full four Americans along the defensive line but I don’t believe that should be a long-term plan. With the amount of talent in the upcoming draft, including University of Regina product Anthony Bennett, the Riders and Elks will have plenty to choose from with the third overall pick.
Montreal is in a similar boat as the Riders, being in need of an injection of depth along the defensive line.
CALGARY STAMPEDERS/BC LIONS
In Calgary, as much as you know they’ll also need to be tracking all offensive linemen available with only four Nationals at that position on the roster right now, they also should be tracking defensive backs.
They have three young defensive backs led by Nick Statz, but neither of them have really made an impression on defence yet. The Stampeders need a ratio breaker in the back end. It could be anyone.
With Syndney Brown likely to be taken in the NFL draft, the options of top end talent at DB isn’t quite there for this combine, but Siriman Harrison Bagayogo out of Guelph has an opportunity to jump up some draft boards with a good showing. With 13 defensive backs attending the CFL Combine, it’s the second-largest group outside of the receivers to assess.
So WR/DB one-on-ones will be an interesting session.
The Lions’ trade of Jordan Williams really reduces the need to make sure they have a stacked National linebacking room if they’re shifting their ratio, but having only two National defensive backs is a big surprise. And the two they have are inexperienced.
Rick Campbell had the recently retired Antoine Pruneau locking down a starting spot for his defences in Ottawa and I’ll be shocked if he wouldn’t look at defensive back as a position to grow National depth. I’m not saying the Lions could be looking to draft a starter this season but at the very least could be finding more options to play Nationals than they already have.
I’ve always said if you have the top National depth in the CFL, you’re immediately a contender for the Grey Cup and the Argonauts still have some of the best.
They acquired Jordan Williams but the loss of offensive linemen Philip Blake and Justin Lawrence will hurt, so you can add them to the list of teams with their eye on the offensive line. All in all, though, the Argonauts have done a great job to put themselves in the position to draft the best players available all night long with no one position that has an urgent need.
If you were forcing me to pick a position, it would be receiver. Aside from Kurleigh Gittens Jr., you don’t see the next great National receiver on the depth chart behind him yet.
Gittens is a great example of finding value after the first two rounds, as the 2019 third round pick showed Toronto they can’t take him off the field in his second and third seasons in the CFL.
OTTAWA REDBLACKS/MONTREAL ALOUETTES
This is cheating but…defence.
The REDBLACKS need to find more playmakers and athletes that give Bob Dyce some things to think about in training camp and to determine who deserves time in the starting rotation. That, or at least find more special teams athletes who get their feet wet chasing downfield on coverage before earning a spot on defence.
I’m not saying they’re void of it. Adam Auclair, Kene Onyeka and Alonzo Addae are good young football players. They just need more depth when injuries happen.
In Montreal, they do have some decent linebackers and did draft Tyrell Richards first overall last year, but the Alouettes lack depth for defensive athletes at the other two spots on defence.
You have to think Danny Maciocia will be trying to find value in a deep defensive line draft class and then pick up some steals in the later rounds with defensive backs and linebackers.
I mentioned earlier that the 13 defensive backs and 15 receivers taking part in the Combine next week will be fascinating to watch when they go head-to-head.
That’s where I’m planting myself for Orlondo Steinauer and Co. They are in need of both.
Could Harrison Bagayogo and Clark Barnes just square off against each other as teammates from Guelph all day to try and impress the CFL team just down the road? Why not!