New Combine format a hit for players, evaluators

EDMONTON — More football is never a bad thing.

After three days of practices, player interviews and a day each of testing and measurements, all nine teams have left the CFL Combine presented by New Era with a very complete understanding of the prospects that they’ll draft on May 2.

The league unveiled a new format for this year’s combine, adding on the three days of practice after the standard measurements and testing were conducted. The players broke into offensive and defensive groups and were led by CFL coaches through a simulation of a buildup to a game. The combine wrapped up on Sunday morning with light 12-on-12 play.

“Seeing some real football stuff and not just the testing and three or four one-on-ones, but to see some drill work and taking our time,” Edmonton Elks general manager and head coach Chris Jones said.

“Is it a little bit long? Yeah, it’s probably a little bit long, but we’ve been used to getting in and getting out and having to make those quick evaluations. This is so foreign to just about everybody in this room that you know, yes, maybe next year they tweak it or whatever. I can only speak for us and my staff but it’s been really good to see the testing and then see the football aspect.”

CFL COMBINE presented by New Era
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Saskatchewan Roughriders offensive coordinator Kelly Jeffrey worked as the quarterbacks coach for the CFL Combine (Christian Bender/

For the players involved, this year’s combine presented an opportunity to show more than what they’ve been able to in years past. If your testing didn’t go the way you’d hoped, or you felt you didn’t get enough one-on-ones to show what you could do, the extra three days helped remedy that.

“It’s definitely nice to get out here and have some time to get used to running routes and stuff like that,” said Guelph receiver Clark Barnes.

“Also just having a lot of reps to prove yourself. Of course, some people don’t have a great day or a bad couple of hours, but you always have the time to make it back up. Or if you have a good day, you got to come out and prove yourself again and that makes it even better.”

“I like it,” Ottawa REDBLACKS GM Shawn Burke said.

“I think getting to see guys come back after days and review film and get some teaching points and then just allowing them if they have an off day to correct that, or maybe someone had a great day and they come back down to Earth. The more time you get to spend with them, the better,”

“I don’t think after this, you can say that you don’t know who somebody is,” REDBLACKS’ offensive coordinator Khari Jones said.

“After watching them on film for the time that we do and then seeing them in the seven-on-sevens and a little bit of teams and stuff, and just all the individual stuff, you really get to find out about them.”

He added that seeing prospects have good moments and bad through the week can be especially revealing in this setting.

“It’s fun to kind of see them have to fight through something and see what they’re about,” he said. “The only time you get to see what a player really is about is going through a little adversity sometimes.”

Queen’s offensive lineman Theo Grant came into the week wanting to lap up as much attention as he could from scouts. The revamped format was a benefit for him, as he was named a coaches’ pick for top offensive player on Saturday.

“It gives me more opportunity to do stuff,” he said. “Especially, I know a guy like me, I wasn’t invited (to the Combine), it was Invitational first. (I’m) not really a super well-known prospect so it gives me more time in front of scouts and more time to do stuff.”

The new format was brought about through teams providing the league feedback after last year’s combine. That process will continue into 2024. Team feedback on this year’s event will help shape what future combines look like.

Burke had suggested small improvements for next year related to timing of events and some more downtime for everyone involved in the event. That was something Khari Jones echoed, saying he may have seen everything he needed to in two days of practice rather than three.

“If they can get a full field that would be awesome, so at least you can have everybody on the field at the same time,” he said. “Other than that they’re just small things but you’re able to see the guys, which was great.”

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