Steinberg’s MMQB: Plenty of intrigue after the CFL Combine
The 2023 CFL Combine presented by New Era is in the books and it sets the stage for a fascinating next few months. Between now and the start of training camp, we’ve got the release of the CFL Scouting Bureau’s final 2023 rankings, the NFL Draft, and finally the CFL Draft on May 2. Buckle up for a fun few weeks.
With many of the highest ranked prospects from the Bureau’s winter rankings opting not to take part in the CFL Combine, a huge opportunity existed for a number of prospective picks, mainly from U SPORTS schools. That said, it was one of the few NCAA products participating who interests me most going into the next few weeks.
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That would be Southern Utah defensive lineman Francis Bemiy, who many were raving about coming out of the five-day Combine. Named as one of Marshall Ferguson’s three stars at the conclusion of the event, Bemiy seems destined to be a high pick with his combination of power and speed. All scouting reports suggest Bemiy is the prototypical CFL pass rusher, so I’m curious to see how much he rises the ranks after being slotted 12th in the Bureau’s winter rankings.
Many of those listed in January’s rankings are getting significant interest ahead of the NFL Draft, which goes for three days between April 27 and 29. That includes the Brown brothers at Illinois, with defensive back Sydney and running back Chase both projected to be selected on day two or three.
As we know, players selected in the NFL typically fall down the CFL Draft order due to the uncertainty of their availability down the road. Syracuse offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron is also projected by some draft watchers as a late round NFL pick, while many other top ten prospects from January’s rankings will likely be in line to sign as priority free agents.
Whether it’s Bemiy, Guelph receiver Clarke Barnes, or Alberta defensive back Jacob Taylor, I’m curious to see how many Combine prospects rise the ranks when the final rankings come out. After that, it’s mock draft season, draft day, and the start of training camp.
Ready to bounce back
We’re in the off-season home stretch, friends.
We’re less than two months from the start of 2023 trainings camps, which means the off-season is cruising along. As free agency and player movement starts to wind down, we’ll start to shift our focus to the coming season.
In that spirit, we’ve identified three players in store for big bounce back campaigns this year.
William Stanback – Montreal Alouettes, running back
Stanback didn’t have a down 2022 season by any fault of his own. The 2021 East Division Most Outstanding Player sustained a broken ankle in Montreal’s Week 1 game in Calgary and wasn’t able to return until Week 18. And, with that much time missed, it’s hard to read too much into Stanback’s 153 rushing yards and one touchdown in five regular season appearances.
You know what you can read into? Stanback’s 150 yards and one touchdown in two playoff appearances with the Als after getting back up to speed. He racked up those totals on just 22 carries for an impressive 6.8 yards per carry, which is way more in line with what we expect from Stanback. Still just 28, a fully healthy Stanback should be back to dominant form in 2023.
Bo Lokombo – BC Lions, linebacker
Injury was also the main reason Lokombo’s numbers were down in 2022 after capturing Most Outstanding Canadian honours the year prior. Lokombo missed five games mid-season due to an elbow injury, which helped bring his totals down to 42 defensive tackles in 13 appearances.
But things are shaping up nicely for Lokombo in 2023. With last month’s Jordan Williams trade with Toronto, Lokombo and fellow Canadian Ben Hladik look to be BC’s starting linebacker duo in 2023. It was Lokombo’s injury that helped Hladik emerge as a full-time starter last season, and they’ll likely lineup at the WILL and MIKE positions, respectively.
Jake Wieneke – Saskatchewan Roughriders, receiver
A change of scenery, something to prove, and familiarity with a quarterback. That’s the combination we’re counting on for Wieneke to return to pre-2022 productivity this season. A high-profile free agent signing by the Riders last month, Wieneke saw his targets, yards, and touchdowns all drop dramatically last year, which would end up being his final one in Montreal.
Prior to last year, though, Wieneke was a dominant red zone threat with eight and 11 touchdown catches in his first two seasons. He joins Saskatchewan from the Alouettes along with quarterback Trevor Harris, which gives him an instant leg up in the chemistry department. Plus, with receiver departures like Kyran Moore, Shaq Evans, and Duke Williams, the Riders are going to be counting on Wieneke in a big way this year.