DRAFT COUNTDOWN – YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Over the last several days, I've asked you to send me your best draft related questions via Twitter (@DuaneFordeTSN). In today's article, I'll answer the best of those questions. If I don't address your enquiry today, it either means that I have already answered it or intend to answer it in one of the other articles in this series.
Question: Are the guys with the fastest 40-yard dash times more successful as professionals?
Answer: That depends entirely on what other assets the player has to offer. For example, an athlete who can run fast in a straight line will be very limited in pro football if he doesn't change directions well, or isn't strong enough to handle contact, or lacks position-specific skills (e.g. we've all seen the lightning fast receiver who can't catch), etc. I suspect that one reason why a lot of burners end up being busts at the next level is that, in college, they've been able to be successful just by being faster than everyone else and haven't been forced to develop other skills. At the next level, you can't be one-dimensional and their weaknesses are exposed. Overall though, to answer your question, no, the fastest guys don't necessarily make the best professionals.
Q: Are linemen from the CIS or NCAA more likely to make a smooth transition to the CFL?
A: Again, there's no hard and fast rule. You have to evaluate players as individuals. CIS trained O-Linemen have an edge due to their comfort level with defenders being a yard off the ball and the angles that rushers take to get upfield, while NCAA trained O-Linemen (assuming they've played Division 1 football) gain an advantage from having played more games in college against a level of competition that is high on a more consistent basis. One thing that I want to make 100 per cent clear is that the player from the NCAA program is not automatically better just by virtue of having played at a D-1 school. Think back to '08 when three rookie Canadian O-Linemen became instant starters. Brendon LaBatte, coming from the University of Regina, was just as ready to play as NCAA grads Dimitri Tsoumpas and Jesse Newman.
Q: Has a Mr. Irrelevant (last player chosen in the draft) ever started in the CFL?
A: Absolutely! The most recent to do it is the Montreal Alouettes current starting centre, Luc Brodeur-Jourdain. That should come as no surprise, given that he was part of the phenomenal 2008 draft class. To put it in perspective, five of the eight players chosen in the sixth and final round of that draft are still in the league...and, Jerome Messam, who was passed over completely in '08, was the CFL's Most Outstanding Canadian last year.
Q: What positions tend to bring the best return on investment in terms of draft choices?
A: That depends upon how you measure "return on investment". If it's based on the percentage of players drafted who end up making the roster, then the answer would be the more specialized positions like kickers and even quarterbacks because they're usually selected to fill a specific need on the roster. If you're looking for late (4th through 6th) round picks who become starters over the long term, I'd say offensive linemen. They can sometimes be tough for scouts to evaluate, which allows the occasional diamond in the rough to slip through the cracks. As well, they tend to take a little longer to develop than most positions so you can occasionally draft a guy in the latter rounds who ends up being a late bloomer.
Q: Which route puts a Canadian football player in a better position to have a successful pro career, Canadian university or American college?
A: I'll refer you back to my answer about CIS vs. NCAA trained O-Linemen. Each player is unique. Take a look at past winners of the league's Most Outstanding Canadian award and you'll see that they have come from schools on either side of the border. Taking this answer off on a bit of a different tangent, I find it interesting is that there has always been an assumption that a Canadian has a better shot of getting to the National Football League if he has attended an NCAA school rather than a CIS institution. Well, if you look in recent years, you'll see that the number of Canadians who are getting to NFL camps after attending CIS schools is rapidly increasing. In fact, over the last four years, more Canadian CIS products have signed NFL contracts than Canadians from NCAA programs. In other words, the scope of NFL scouting has become so expansive that, if you're a good prospect, you'll be noticed regardless of where you play your intercollegiate football.
Q: What is the typical salary difference between the first overall pick and the last overall pick?
A: The last overall pick could expect to receive the league's minimum base salary of $44,000 with no signing bonus. If he became a starter, he could earn up to another $7,000 in bonuses. The first overall pick could earn around $60,000 between his base salary and a signing bonus, with the possibility of up to $10,000 more in bonuses, if he became a starter.
Q: With a particular eye to the "Game Film vs. Combine Testing" debate, what are the most important elements of being drafted?
A: Testing gets a lot of attention because the numbers provide something ible to discuss and compare regarding prospects. However, scouts tend not to split hairs with questions like "How fast?" or "How strong?". Instead, they're more likely to ask "Is he fast enough?" or "Is he strong enough?" to fill a certain role. In other words, testing just gives them an idea of what kind of athlete they're looking at and what his upside might be. The game film is critical...and I emphasize that scouts look at game film, not highlight tapes...as it reveals not just what a player offers in terms of skills and technique but also how effectively he executes assignments, how well he understands the game, and how hard he competes on every single play. The latter is something that I can't emphasize enough to up and coming prospects, as I frequently see scouts downgrade highly talented and ridiculously athletic kids because they take plays off.
Q: Where would last year's Supplemental Draft selections, Winnipeg WR Kito Poblah and Edmonton DT Ted Laurent, be selected if they were part of this draft class?
A: I give the teams that drafted those guys a lot of credit because they did a nice job projecting the value of those players relative to the 2012 draft class. Both were chosen in the correct round. The other important point is that both teams benefited from the Supplemental Draft because they went from being the two worst teams in the league in 2010 to being two of the best in 2011. Here's what I mean. The Supplemental Draft is kind of like an auction, where the worst team always has the opportunity to top the highest bid. As the worst team in the league in 2010, Winnipeg was able to grab the highly coveted Kito Poblah ahead of every other team. However, as a result of doing well last season, the "actual "cost" of acquiring Poblah was only the seventh overall pick in this year's draft, in which he never would've remained on the board at No. 7. Similarly, Edmonton might have been able to draft a decent defensive tackle prospect at No. 14 but probably not a guy who was ready to play as many snaps right away as Ted Laurent did last year.
Q: Who is available for this year's Supplemental Draft?
A: The Supplemental Draft has received a lot more attention over the last few years because there have been more high profile players involved than in the past. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most misunderstood areas within the draft process. To answer the question, at the moment, no one is eligible for the Supplemental Draft, as it is only for players who are deemed draft eligible after the Canadian Draft eligibility list is finalized. This occurs three weeks before the date of the Canadian Draft so, this year, the cutoff date will be Thursday, April 12. Typically, the players who end up being eligible for the Supplemental Draft are those who have applied for non-import status (i.e. players who spent only a portion of their time in Canada while growing up) but their applications aren't approved until it's too late to add them to the Canadian Draft list. One potential candidate would have been Western Kentucky defensive lineman Bo Adebayo (6'3", 257 lbs.), who was born in Edmonton and lived there for eight years. He had his non-import status approved on Tuesday, and will be entering the regular draft. His results from a WKU Pro Day generally would've ranked him among the Top 3 defensive linemen in terms of E-Camp testing, including a 4.79 forty, which would've topped all E-Camp D-Linemen.
The format of the Supplemental Draft is almost like a silent auction, where teams are asked, starting from Round 6, how high a pick they'd be willing to use on a given player. If, for example, every team said that they'd be willing to use a sixth rounder, then they'd be asked confidentially, one club at a time, if they'd be willing to use a fifth round pick. This would continue until only one team said "yes" in a given round, in which case that team would get the player's rights. If there were never a round where only one team was interested in a given player then his rights would go to the team (among those still "bidding") with the higher waiver priority (i.e. higher position in the draft order). This would be this case if there were multiple teams still bidding in Round 1, or if there were multiple teams bidding in Round 6 but none willing to go to Round 5.
Q: Are there any CIS programs that excel at producing CFL players at a particular position or positions?
A: There have historically been a few but I'll focus on a couple of current trends involving programs in Canada West. First, there's the University of Regina, dubbed by the Rams quarterback Marc Mueller as "Receiver U." It began with two-time CFL Most Outstanding Canadian Jason Clermont and has continued with the likes of Chris Getzlaf, former No. 1 overall pick Chris Bauman, and 2010's eighth overall pick, Jordan Sisco. Watch for current Rams slotback Jared Janotta in the Class of 2013. While the University of Saskatchewan has traditionally done well (and still does well) producing O-Linemen, the Calgary Dinos are giving them a run for their money right now. The Dinos had Dylan Steenbergen taken in the first round in '09, three more OL drafted last year, and will have Kirby Fabien and Carson Rockhill selected in a few weeks.
Q: Who are some of the best undrafted players in the CFL?
A: Last year's Most Outstanding Canadian, Jerome Messam (now with the NFL's Miami Dolphins), was undrafted. Saskatchewan receiver Rob Bagg missed all of 2011 due to injury but, prior to that, he had been the league's poster boy for undrafted Canadian players. Last year, undrafted rookies Jeff Hecht (Montreal) and Mike Miller (Edmonton) were on their respective teams' active rosters all season and made an impact. Hecht started a number of games in the Alouettes secondary, while Miller finished among the CFL leaders in special teams tackles. Calgary kicker Rene Paredes was another undrafted rookie who enjoyed success in 2011. Overall, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers probably lead the CFL in undrafted Canadians, led by veteran safety Ian Logan.
Q: If the Saskatchewan Roughriders wanted to trade down, what would the first overall pick be worth...and who could make a decent offer?
A: The current trend in dealing draft picks on or approaching Draft Day has primarily involved moving picks, not veteran players. With that in mind, I would normally expect a deal for the No. 1 overall pick (and possibly No. 15 as well) to require a pair or package of picks that fall between No. 1 and No. 15 to come back the other way. However, as I've said before, highly regarded prospect Ben Heenan's Saskatchewan roots make him even more valuable to the Roughriders than he would be to any other team. As a result, the Riders would need to receive something more than usual market value in order to move that pick and I'm not convinced that anyone will pay an inflated price. At this point, I don't really expect a trade involving the No. 1 selection. After all, ask the Edmonton Eskimos if they regret trading Dimitri Tsoumpas (who went second overall in '08) - a local boy, who also happened to be a stud O-Line prospect - four years ago on Draft Day. On a more serious note, I'll share something that a well respected CFL scout told me a few years ago. He suggested that O-Linemen are to the CFL Draft what quarterbacks are to the NFL Draft in that they are usually the highest profile prospects and, in general, the most important puzzle pieces that you can get through the draft. I agree with the theory and when you look at this draft class, Heenan and Austin Pasztor are the only two true first round O-Line prospects...and that could be down to Heenan depending on what transpires with Pasztor's NFL opportunities. As such, in this particular draft class, it would take a lot for any team finding itself in a position to draft Heenan to pass him up.
Q: If the Saskatchewan Roughriders are rebuilding an aging offensive line, why would they consider passing on top rated O-Line prospect Ben Heenan and trading down?
A: Playing Devil's Advocate to my last answer, I can think of a couple of reasons why they would consider making the move. First of all, the Roughriders just committed a ton of money during free agency to Brendon LaBatte and Dominic Picard to shore up their offensive line. They might not be in a hurry to add another O-Lineman who, within a couple of years, could also be a big ticket guy. Also, the Roughriders had two rookie Canadian offensive linemen make their roster as backups last year in Alex Krausnick-Groh and Patrick Neufeld. If they decide that they have enough pieces in place for the rebuilding of their O-Line and they get a great offer for the top pick, they might consider dealing it.
Q: Who are the prospects from this year's National Invitational Combine with the best chance of being drafted?
A: For those who don't know, the National Invitational Combine is a scouting event for draft eligible players who have been overlooked for E-Camp invitations. The most obvious participant from this year's NIC to have a shot at being drafted would be Mike Filer (OL, Mount Allsion), as he earned an E-Camp invitation based on his NIC performance. Among other draft eligible participants who should be on teams' radars are (in no particular order) defensive linemen Jordan Spence (Eastern Oregon), Kyle Bridge (Hamilton Hurricanes), and David Rybinski (Saskatchewan), defensive backs O'Shane Daley (Bishop's), Philippe Dubuisson-Lebon (Sherbrooke), and Josh Sultana (Queen's), receivers Quincy Hurst (Manitoba) and Saxon Lindsey (Guelph), linebackers Filipe Fonseca (Sherbrooke), Shane Beaton (McMaster), and Jake Reinhart (Guelph), offensive lineman Austin Partridge (Waterloo), snapper Aaron Crawford (Saint Mary's), and kickers Derek Williams (Savannah State), William Dion (Sherbrooke), and Anthony Alix (St. Francis Xavier).
Q: Besides quarterback, at what position is it most difficult to make the jump from CIS to the CFL?
A: In terms of making a team's active roster, I think that CIS trained defensive backs face the toughest battle. With many CFL clubs starting five imports in the secondary and backing them up with one of their designated imports, it just doesn't leave many jobs for Canadian DBs in general. If you're asking the question more in reference to positions where Canadians are hard-pressed to become starters, perhaps in part due to a perception that they're a little bit behind Americans with respect to their physical skills and football training (i.e. the long standing argument against Canadian quarterbacks), then I would say that CIS linebackers face a lot of challenges making the jump to the next level. While a handful of CIS grads have started at LB around the league over the last decade or so, the last one I can recall becoming a full-time starter as a rookie was Mike O'Shea in '93.