April 20, 2023

The Art of the Steal: 10 hidden CFL Draft gems

Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca

“The steal of the draft.” “He’s a steal.” “I can’t believe he was still around when we picked him.”

These are all things general managers have said following a CFL Draft.

With that in mind, let’s look back through the advantage of time to see which picks could actually be called “the steal of the draft.”

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Now, what constitutes a steal?

A steal is someone who makes a considerable move up the draft board if you were to re-draft today based on what we know now, or has taken their late-round pick, most are whom are out of the league, and morphed into a regular contributor.

Now here are 10 “steals” over the last 10 years.

Kian Schaffer-Baker
Round 4 | Pick 30 | 2020

The Roughriders receiver being picked in the fourth round is absolute robbery by general manager Jeremy O’Day in Saskatchewan. Kian Schaffer-Baker had all the physical intangibles you could want in a player and may have been one of the few on this list that had people claiming “steal of the draft” at the time he was selected and now it’s come to fruition.

He was the team’s top rookie and top Canadian in the first two years of his career, and there’s more expected.

Kurleigh Gittens Jr.
Round 3 | Pick 23 | 2019

Kurleigh Gittens Jr. had an excellent 2022 campaign, earning him the East Division’s Most Outstanding Canadian nod (Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca)

If there is a debate between who is the top Canadian receiver right now it’s between the first two players on this list. Kurleigh Gittens Jr. needed some time, but did he ever become a household name in the CFL in 2022. When you look back, he was the seventh receiver taken in the draft.

Want to guess how many above him have 1,000-yard seasons? ZERO!

Nick Hallett
Round 7 | Pick 61 | 2019

He’s not an All-Star player but Nick Hallett is one of those extremely late round picks who has found himself a decent role and two Grey Cup rings to go along with it. The Bombers are seeing him play more on defence, while still holding it down on special teams as well.

Justin Lawrence
Round 5 | Pick 39 | 2018

Justin Lawrence was an offensive lineman every general manager would have had on their free agent list this off-season. Before that, however, all nine general managers skipped on Lawrence until Calgary selected him in the fifth round. He’s found a home at centre with an East Division All-star nod in 2022 and Montreal is happy to have him to solidify their offensive line.

Tunde Adeleke
Round 3 | Pick 25 | 2017

Tunde Adeleke has become one of the best safeties in the CFL (Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca)

Like Gittens Jr., it’s hard to have a guy at 25th overall on this list but if you were re-drafting today, the safety would easily be a first round selection in 2017, if not a top three, or heck, maybe No. 1 overall. Although, Cameron Judge would likely have something to say about that.

Sean Thomas Erlington
Round 8 | Pick 66 | 2017

How many eighth round picks have nine touchdowns in their CFL career? Well, considering the CFL didn’t even have eight rounds in the draft before 2016, it’s telling that Thomas Erlington is a unicorn to be able to be as productive as he has been. His over six-yards per carry has me eager to see Thomas Erlington get a better chance to be a lead back, though it doesn’t look like that will happen.

Kwaku Boateng
Round 5 | Pick 41 | 2017

I’m hoping Kwaku Boateng can get back from injury and become the dynamic pass rusher we saw in Edmonton. The fact that the Elks were able to pick up a player who can gather 25 sacks in four years in the fifth round is quite impressive.

David Menard
Round 4 | Pick 32 | 2014

David Menard had nine sacks in 2022 in his return to BC after a year in Montreal in 2021 (The Canadian Press)

Talk about a late bloomer but my goodness, when you look back at the 2014 draft, you see Menard as a legitimate steal. There were plenty of defensive linemen taken before Menard, but he now has 35 career sacks and while he had 16 in his first six seasons, he’s had 17 in the last two.

Shane Bergman
Round 6 | Pick 48 | 2013

Shane Bergman is another offensive lineman who looking back should have been selected MUCH earlier. Bergman retired recently but carved out a great career in Calgary including an All-Star nod in 2019. He was the 13th offensive linemen selected in 2013 and in retrospect, he’d go down as a top three or four offensive linemen from that draft with Nolan MacMillan, Hunter Steward and Brett Jones, who were all selected in the first two rounds.

Alex Singleton
Round 1 | Pick 6 | 2016

Okay, I saved the most controversial pick for last. But re-drafting the 2016 draft, Singleton should have been top two. He was a late addition to the draft list, but if anyone would have been paying attention to Singleton, there was no one more talented on the list.

But he ended up landing in the lap of Calgary at sixth overall. And while he was off to the NFL a few years later, everyone could have used Singleton to solidify the middle of their defence for two to three seasons.

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