Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: 2015 CFL Draft Primer

Today my coverage of the 2015 CFL Draft kicks off. In the coming days leading up to the draft I will be doing team analysis, mock drafts, etc… but I wanted to start off with a general introduction to what the draft is all about.

I have been actively following the draft since 2007. That predates pretty much anyone else’s interest in the event with exception of Duane Forde. Back then “coverage” of the event was limited to an on-line draft tracker that was supposed to be “live” but updated about as quickly as Anthony Calvillo runs the 40. Incidentally kicker Warren Keane went second overall that year in one of the biggest drafting gaffs I’ve seen (man I miss Danny Maccioccia). Thankfully since 2007 interest in the draft has grown exponentially, as has coverage.  We’ve slowly transitioned from online only to 1 televised round on a Sunday morning to multiple televised rounds on a weekday evening. Along the way more and more fans and media are talking and writing about it which is great.

For those of you who may be relatively new to this whacky event called the CFL Draft, I figured I would give a short primer on the key things you need to know.

1)    Fat Men Are King
Unlike the NFL where pretty-boy QBs are the hottest commodity, linemen are the gold of the CFL Draft. In the past three years, a lineman has gone first overall each time and 17 of 25 first round picks were linemen. A large chunk of the Canadian ratio will be filled by O-Linemen so they are always in hot demand. Stud Canadian DTs are a rare and sought after commodity. The best linemen are also generally attracting NFL interest these days, which further diminishes the supply of top end linemen and thus makes them a drafting priority… unless you are Winnipeg who have draft just 2 OL over the past 3 years (with predictable results).

2)    NFL Implications
The top prospects in the draft will not necessarily go first in the draft because of NFL interest. Teams want to ensure they are getting full value for their early picks so they will shy away from players who have been drafted by the NFL or garnered a tryout due to the risk the player may not come to the CFL for a year or 2, if at all. If a player is actually drafted to the NFL it tends to drop them to at least the 3rd round of the CFL draft. Examples include: DL Christo Bilukidi and TE Luke Wilson. Guys who aren’t drafted but get NFL looks are risky but less so than drafted guys. Drafting a player with an NFL tryout is a real crap shoot. Some pay off immediately such Shawn Gore who a few teams passed on in 2010 due to an invite to Packers camp but he signed with BC later that season… making teams that passed on Gore (like the stupid Sisco-loving Riders) look foolish. Some picks will pay off in time such as Cory Greenwood who the Argos had to wait 4 years on while he played in the NFL but now is likely to be a key contributor. Some picks never pay off such as Austin Paztor who the Esks used a first rounder on in 2012 (a 1st rounder that happened to be a key piece in the Ricky Ray trade) and is still down south playing for the Jaguars (meaning somehow that 1st round pick has provided less value than Steven Jyles to the Esks).

3)    This Isn’t A Grandiose Event
There is no live event. It’s a conference call between the GM’s (draft lore has it that Don Matthews once make a draft choice from the toilet). As much as they may say it, players’ dreams don’t actually come true on draft day. In 2012, Ben Heenan signed a record rookie contract at somewhere between $60-70,000… top NFL picks spend more than that on jewelry to wear to the draft.

4)    Scouting Is Not Perfect
Draft history is full of early round busts (Chris Bauman, Shomari Williams, Jade Etienne). It is also full of later round steals (second rounders like Brett Jones and Craig Butler; fifth rounders like Chris Getzlaf, sixth rounders like Luc Brodeur-Jourdain). Guys like Rob Bagg weren’t even drafted (7 other WRs were drafted that year, only two are still employed and only one has better stats).

5)    There is always surprises
The absence of Joe Mack will likely bring the volume of nonsensical moves back to normal levels but every year someone does something that makes you scratch your head. Like the Alouettes using a first rounder in 2011 on a kicker they didn’t need who wasn’t even the best kicker in the draft.

We will see what excitement and intrigue this year’s event brings on May 12th.

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