Canadian football talent is fully on the rise, making for an ever-appetizing array of prospects for the 2023 CFL Draft.
There’s hulking Syracuse offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron topping the spring edition of the CFL Scouting Bureau’s list of draft-eligible Canadians
How about athletic Illinois twins Chase Brown and Sydney Brown — the running back and defensive back rated second and third on the board?
And don’t forget linemen Tavius Robinson — on defence from Ole Miss — and Sidy Sow — on offence from Eastern Michigan — rounding out the top-five prospects as can’t-miss first-round selections for Tuesday’s CFL pick-em (6 p.m., TSN).
“But is your first-round pick going to come up here?” said Calgary Stampeders GM/head coach Dave Dickenson. “That’s the million-dollar question. And I think that’s the thing you’ve got to get answered.”
With all five having just been plucked in the NFL Draft, that answer is likely ‘no’ … at least in the short-term.
Same goes for Nos. 6 and 8 on that list — Pittsburgh receiver Jared Wayne and Penn State DB Jonathan Sutherland — both of whom signed on with NFL clubs immediately after the weekend lottery.
“These are the very, very best players you know, in our draft,” said Stampeders CFL Draft coordinator Dwayne Cameron. “But because they’re such high-level prospects for the NFL and unlikely to — right now and in some cases never — step foot in on a CFL field based on their NFL status, it kind of changes the dynamic of your board. You have to look in other directions, even though you get really, really excited about the potential of having some of those guys in your building.”
So where then do CFL teams — including the Stampeders themselves with the fourth-overall pick — turn to for impactful choices in the here and now?
“I think you’re always looking to get the best player available,” answered Cameron. “I think every team has to consider what — out of that assortment of three or four players that you know you have an opportunity to get at your position, assuming you don’t have the No. 1 pick overall — is the best fit for your team. So I think there’s a combination of both best player and where does it fit your team needs.”
It would seem Fresno State’s offensive lineman Dontae Bull — the seventh-ranked talent on the bureau’s board — might then be the guy headed to the Ottawa Redblacks, who own the top choice Tuesday.
“There’s Cole Tucker, too,” continued Cameron. “He’s a recent addition to the CFL Draft from Northern Illinois University. But some teams really are gonna have to make a decision of whether it’s worth investing a first-round pick, potentially, in these young men.”
Because, like most high-profile Canadians at NCAA programs, the dream of playing on the NFL is still an attractive possibility.
Even those attending U SPORTS schools north of the border might be thinking four-down football, although attendance for many at the CFL combine in March likely says otherwise.
But that’s why the annual national draft is a crap-shoot.
Still, there’s the promise of players in this pick-em helping to positively change the future of teams, with the Stampeders themselves owning eight picks — including two in each of the third and sixth rounds and one in each of the fourth, fifth and eighth rounds — in the eight rounds of the draft.
“It’s a really heavy draft, from a U SPORTS standpoint, at the defensive line positions, specifically,” Cameron said. “I think it’s a draft that’s going to provide you with a really good handful of starters and some very high quality depth players.”
COVID, however, has kept this year’s pool from being deep for long — with a drop-off, says Cameron, coming after the second or third round, “because some kids that would have begun their eligibility in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, when COVID hit and football ceased to exist at the U SPORTS level up here for a year, never returned to the game. And so I think that this is really the first year where you start seeing that now.
“But there are certainly still some very talented players in this draft, for sure.”
“We do feel like there are some good players here,” agreed Dickenson, sitting in for his first draft as GM. “Your best (play) is when you evaluate the talent and pick the best player, and if it’s equal and it’s good in an area of need, then great. But I’m of the opinion you take the best player and fit him into your team. When we’ve had picks maybe we weren’t high on but trying to force-feed a position, I think we’ve learned from that.”
The Stampeders moved up two spots in the first round of the CFL Draft in the trade of QB Bo Levi Mitchell to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats … The Stamps forfeited their second-round choice this year after taking DL T.J. Rayam in last year’s supplemental draft. “We feel T.J. Rayam would’ve been a first-rounder this year, so there you go,” Dickenson said. “I’m happy with that pick. I see him as a guy who can make an impact this year.” … Among Calgarians tabbed to go in the draft are DB Jacob Biggs (Calgary Dinos), DL Kwadwo Boahen (Alberta Golden Bears), TE Sebastian Howard (Saint Mary’s Huskies), WR Daniel Perry (Saskatchewan Huskies) and DL Alexander Fedchun (St. Francis Xavier Rams). Dinos DL Josh Hyre, of Vernon, B.C., could also be part of the pick-em.
STAMPS’ DRAFT POSITIONS
ROUND 1: 4th overall (via Hamilton Tiger-Cats)
ROUND 2: None (selection forfeited, used for 2022 supplemental draft)
ROUND 3: 22nd overall (via Hamilton Tiger-Cats); 24th overall
ROUND 4: 33rd overall
ROUND 5: 42nd overall
ROUND 6: 49th overall (via Hamilton Tiger-Cats); 51st overall
ROUND 7: None (traded to Saskatchewan Roughriders)
ROUND 8: 69th overall
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