2017 CFL Draft: What Happened?

ekakitie-draft

The new crop of CFL talent is now officially part of the league as the new generation of talent has heard their name called by their potential new homes.

This year the draft went a little different than usual and that all started days before the draft when a major PED scandal broke out.

The league has had these issues before as they have seen multiple players fail drug tests and blow their shot at a spot in the draft.

It was usually only a few in any one draft year though as there were always a couple of players who failed the tests and were removed from eligibility.

This year it was a significant number as a total of five players were removed due to failed drug tests this year.

Only days before the draft Kain Anzovino, Moy McDonald, Daniel McNicholl and Rashaun Simonise were all removed from the draft.

They will all be able to enter the draft again in 2018 but they missed their shots this year due to their failed drug tests.

It certainly threw a wrench into some plans as Simonise was ranked among the best prospected in the draft as early as December.

His failed test forced him to wait another year before he makes the CFL and it also puts some doubt in his off-field personality.

Teams prepared for that and they adjusted their plans accordingly and for another year they looked to find the best players that could help in their biggest needs as soon as possible.

The challenge of doing that is always tough with great players headed to the NFL after their draft a week earlier and unlikely to contribute to the CFL anytime soon.

With that in mind, the CFL teams tend to look at certain positions as the lowest risk picks because they are produced well in Canada and only a few ever get noticed south of the border.

There are a lot of great Canadian offensive lineman but usually only a few will get the attention of NFL teams leaving plenty more for the CFL teams to take.

Therefore they become the popular picks because they are that low-risk option but also because there is no team that doesn’t need extra help on offensive line.

They are the most important and least talked about group on the field as everything starts with them and without a good line no offence can get anything going.

Adding more good big bodies on the line is always a good idea but it is not necessarily the thing that everyone wants to see.

It isn’t sexy and a draft full of offensive lineman doesn’t get a lot of people excited because they are not the most visible or exciting players.

Yet every year the CFL continues to take offensive lineman near the top of the draft while they wait to take the skill players in later rounds.

Some of the top skill players in the country usually wait for a few rounds before they hear their names called.

There has been a bit of a change in recent years though as teams are starting to look for those Canadians to contribute in big positions.

With the quotas, the way they are it is essential that there are Canadians in important positions.

They always used to be able to find those players later in rounds because they were rarely a major part of any offence.

Lately, that has changed though as the league is seeing more important Canadians taking bigger roles on every team.

Players like Andrew Harris have been doing it for years but the Ottawa REDBLACKS just did it with some big contributors including Brad Sinopoli.

Teams are realising this and with the level of talent for skilled players in Canada rising every year they are gaining ground.

It was seen perfectly this year as the draft saw some of the skill players rise through the ranks and be taken earlier than most thought.

That included the top two receivers in the draft that some had going later in the first round and at the start of the second round.

Instead, they went both in the first round to teams that some thought weren’t looking at receivers this year.

BC took the first shot as they drafted the top receiver in Danny Vandervoort while two picks later Edmonton drafted Nate Behar.

It showed immediately that the teams were looking at this draft slightly different than the years before.

Instead of offensive lineman being the prizes of the draft it took seven picks before the first one was taken.

The Blue Bombers made that first lineman pick but once again it was surprising as they took a risk with their choice.football-sidebar

They drafted Geoff Gray who was a top prospect but is also headed to the NFL with the Green Bay Packers.

He might not ever step on a CFL team and the Bombers had their choice of lineman to draft but they took a chance on the now Green Bay prospect.

That pick began a run on lineman with mostly predictable outcomes as the top lineman prospects went away quickly after that.

There were, even more, surprises as Connor McGough was drafted by Hamilton while Randy Colling was taken by Calgary.

The surprising part of those picks is that neither of those players were considered top picks and yet both were taken in the first round.

Both teams must have known something but it is still tough to think that they could have both picked their guy later and taken a more talented player in with their first picks.

Not everything was a surprise though as the top prospect in the draft wasn’t taken until much later in the draft as Justin Senior wasn’t taken until the 40th pick thanks to his status as a Seattle draft pick.

Meanwhile, the first overall pick was the least suspenseful when Winnipeg predictably took Faith Ekakitie with the first pick.

The CFL draft has long been a predictable night where the best players wait for a while and lineman take precedence.

That is beginning to change though as teams are becoming far less predictable in what they see in players and what they consider to be important.

Clearly, the skill player talent is getting better and teams are noticing while linemen remain important but might start to slip further down, depending on the talent in any given year.

The new crop of CFL players will all look to earn their spot aside from a few who have already headed to the NFL to try to get their spot in that league.

The balancing act is over for the GMs now but the work on the field is just beginning as the pursuit of the Grey Cup is just beginning.

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