With the 2014 CFL Draft set to take place next Tuesday in Toronto, CFL on TSN analyst Duane Forde breaks down the top prospects. Today, he looks at the offensive line.
1. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (OT, McGill)
You Should Know: Over the course of his university career, Duvernay-Tardif's commitments to medical school and the family business frequently limited him to one practice per week, yet he was still the Metras Trophy winner as the Top Lineman in CIS football in 2013.
The Good: His combination of size, athleticism, strength, intelligence, and untapped potential make him the most intriguing offensive line prospect produced by the CIS since Mike Schad in 1986.
The Bad: He's projected as a 4th round pick in the NFL Draft so whoever picks him won't have him for at least another year - if ever - especially considering his desire to finish med school.
2. David Foucault (OT, Montreal)
The Good: At 6'7 and a relatively lean 320 lbs., he moves well, making him a potential ratio-breaking offensive tackle.
The Bad: Despite all of his obvious tools, Foucault has yet to be consistently dominant at the university level.
3. Matthias Goossen (OC/OG, Simon Fraser)
The Good: Combining toughness and intelligence, this three-time All-GNAC selection has played every position on the O-Line during his four years as a starter.
The Bad: Despite having always played in Canada, he has never faced defenders who are a yard off the ball, as SFU and British Columbia high schools both play under American rules.
4. Pierre Lavertu (OC, Laval)
The Good: Quick, strong and smart, he was a three-time All-Canadian and four-time All-RSEQ selection while anchoring the nation's best collegiate O-Line.
The Bad: His ceiling likely isn't as high as those ranked ahead of him. That said; he's as CFL ready as any prospect in the Class of 2014.
5. Tchissakid Player (OG, Northwestern State)
The Good: Although he played at a smaller school, this 6'6, 300 lbs. guard is the only NCAA Division 1 player in the entire draft class. The Winnipeg-born, Texas-raised lineman was a three-year starter for the Demons.
The Bad: A hamstring injury suffered at the Toronto Regional Combine prevented him from participating in the main CFL Combine, which kept scouts from comparing him head to head with other top prospects.
- Jas Dhillon (OG, British Columbia) - 2013 Canada West All-Star; former DL, 2013 was his only year on offence
- Terry Hart (OG, St. Francis Xavier) - 2013 AUS All-Star; 32 bench press reps tied Lavertu atop O-Line group at CFL Combine
- Kyle Paterson (OG, Regina) - from same hometown (Weyburn, SK) and college as CFLers Brendon LaBatte and Brett Jones; 5.22 second 40-yard dash and 30 bench press reps at CFL Combine
- Quinn Everett (OG, Mount Allison) - college defensive lineman shows potential as a guard; dominated the O-Line testing at the Montreal Regional Combine
- Aaron Wheaton (OG, Toronto) - 6'5", 295 lbs.; participated in 2013 East West Bowl
Also On The Radar (alphabetically): Ahmed Abusafeyeh (Tiffin/Windsor AKO Fratmen), Kwinton Albino (Manitoba), Stephen Armstrong (Mount Allison), Lane Bryksa (Saskatchewan), Renaud Lafrance-Longtin (Sherbrooke), Fréderik Landry-Simard (Concordia)
Analysis: During the 2013 season, the CFL made two significant changes to the league's draft eligibility rules. Under the old system, all players became draft eligible four years after joining a college program. Now, prospects at U.S. schools become draft eligible upon completion of their college eligibility, eliminating redshirt juniors ("futures") from the draft. Those at Canadian schools now become draft eligible three years after using their first year of CIS eligibility. In other words, if a player redshirts in his first university season, his draft year gets postponed by a year (i.e. he'd now be draft eligible after his fifth year instead of his fourth). In this "transition year", no position group was impacted more by the rule changes than the offensive line. No fewer than five NCAA Division 1 O-Linemen, including outstanding UNLV tackle Brett Boyko, and a handful of top CIS hogs, like Calgary's All-Canadian guard Sukh Chung, were reclassified from 2014 to the 2015 draft class. In addition, a CFL policy requiring "non-resident" Canadians to apply for their non-import status (even when they clearly qualify) led to Penn State's Winnipeg-born star guard John Urschel also being excluded from this draft class. As a result, what would've been a bumper crop of high end offensive line prospects was reduced to just four (Duvernay-Tardif, Foucault, Goossen, and Lavertu), followed by a lot of uncertainty about the next tier of prospects.
Bear in mind that while the eligibility rules have changed, the CFL's need for non-import offensive linemen hasn't, and the effect on this year's draft process will be twofold. First, with Duvernay-Tardif most certainly NFL-bound, the demand for the other top linemen will be intense. For teams whose need is more immediate, they'll look to Lavertu and Goossen, as their learning curves won't be as steep as Foucault's. Regardless of the order, those three could easily be the first three players off the board and will surely all be Top Five selections. Secondly, with the league's constant need for non-import O-Linemen, teams looking for OL depth will be forced to reach for lower ranked prospects (i.e. draft them earlier than their ability suggests they should be picked).
As for Duvernay-Tardif, the gap between the top four or five O-Line prospects and the rest of the class means that his NFL interest shouldn't cause him to fall as far as he would have in a deeper draft pool. As a precedent, I'll point to the 2005 CFL Draft. Much like the Class of 2014, there weren't a lot of "can't miss" offensive line prospects. A few days before that draft, the clear No. 1 prospect, Toledo tackle Nick Kaczur, had been selected in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft. Despite the limited supply of upper echelon O-Linemen, the demand for non-import blockers remained the same, as eight of the first nineteen selections were offensive linemen, including Kaczur, who went 9th overall. Simply put, the Toronto Argonauts, who chose him, felt that the likelihood of Kaczur returning to Canada within a few years was greater than the likelihood of the linemen who were still available developing into quality starters within the same time frame. In the same draft a similar line of thinking led to the second-ranked O-Lineman, Chris Best, going 4th overall despite having already committed to a Master's degree program that would keep him from turning pro until two years later. Godfrey Ellis was chosen 10th overall even after measuring in at 5'10 at the Combine. The fact that Jeff Keeping, a college tight end, had never played O-Line didn't stop him from being drafted - as a guard - 18th overall. John Comiskey went one spot later even though he hadn't played a single snap in the previous season.
Fast forward to 2014, where the point is this. The top offensive linemen will be snapped up early. Once Lavertu, Goossen, Foucault, and Player are gone, teams will have to evaluate the likelihood and timeline of Duvernay-Tardif becoming a CFL lineman vs. the likelihood and timeline of the same happening for the remaining O-Linemen on the board. The "tipping point" could be reached by the end of Round 1 and probably no later than Round 3.