CFL draft tough to predict

Tyrone Crawford (right) is expected to be drafted by a CFL team even though he was already selected...

Tyrone Crawford (right) is expected to be drafted by a CFL team even though he was already selected by the NFL's Cowboys this past weekend. (Courtesy Boise State University)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:10 PM ET

TORONTO - Even in a perfect football world, the CFL’s annual draft is, at best, an exercise in predicting the future.

For some teams, the future never arrives. That’s the price of doing business when the allure of the NFL is too tempting to pass up as quality Canadians prefer not to play in the CFL.

This year’s draft, which takes place today, is no different, with a talent pool so diverse there’s as many varying opinions as there are scenarios.

When the best prospect gets taken by the Dallas Cowboys, it says a lot about the challenges CFL teams have to deal with.

Tyrone Crawford, whom many view as a stud defensive end out of Boise State, will get taken by some CFL team during Thursday’s draft, knowing full well that Crawford may never show his face in three-down football.

Football is more a game of politics than tackling and blocking, a cruel business where perception and optics overrule personnel moves.

When a team such as the Cowboys use a third-round pick on Crawford, you know the kid will be given every opportunity to play, no matter how difficult the transition from NCAA to the NFL involves.

As soon as Crawford went that high, it rendered the CFL draft far less predictable, an exercise that is so fluid many are expecting plenty of fireworks — or so they believe.

Whether it’s Christo Bilukidi, a highly touted defensive tackle who went to Oakland in the sixth round or Austin Pasztor, an offensive lineman who signed a free-agent deal with Minnesota, there’s talent to be had. But there are also risks.

In the last few days, additional CFL draft-eligible players such as receiving prospect Shamawd Chambers (Philadelphia) and defensive end Bo Adebayo (Detroit) have been invited to NFL mini-camps with no guarantees, their only hope of staying down south based on getting a fair shot, which is no sure thing in the big-money world that is the NFL.

Still, Thursday’s draft is being hailed as good, but there’s a shortage of what football people like to refer to as blue-chip prospects.

The depth is on offence, an area CFL teams annually tap into to develop depth and strength along the line of scrimmage and at receiver.

It would shock many if any quarterback gets taken, the list headed by Kyle Graves (Acadia), Billy Greene (UBC) and Kyle Quinlan (McMaster), three prospects who still have CIS eligibility.

The hope is that at least one will be offered an invitation to attend training camp later this month, which is about the only way a Canadian quarterback will get a look until the CFL gets serious about changing the rules to promote a Canadian pivot.

One rule the league must address — and the sooner the better — is the eligibility for the CFL.

As it stands, once a player enters college, he becomes eligible four years from the time of his enrolment, a tricky game when you consider the number of red-shirts in the NCAA system, creating a waiting game that often sees CFL teams on the losing end.

The case studies can be found in Montreal’s selection of Philip Blake, who was taken in the third round last year only to be drafted by Denver at this past weekend’s NFL draft.

B.C. used the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft to take Danny Watkins, who would go in the first round to Philadelphia last year.

Regardless of the uncertainty and the lack of predictability, draft day is when teams can address needs.

“You try to take the best player available that also fits your needs,’’ Lions GM Wally Buono said. “Are we going to be able to satisfy three of our four needs? It’s relative to what is our greatest need, what’s our next greatest need.’’Even in a perfect football world, the CFL’s annual draft is, at best, an exercise in predicting the future.

For some teams, the future never arrives. That’s the price of doing business when the allure of the NFL is too tempting to pass up as quality Canadians prefer not to play in the CFL.

This year’s draft, which takes place today, is no different, with a talent pool so diverse there’s as many varying opinions as there are scenarios.

When the best prospect gets taken by the Dallas Cowboys, it says a lot about the challenges CFL teams have to deal with.

Tyrone Crawford, whom many view as a stud defensive end out of Boise State, will get taken by some CFL team during Thursday’s draft, knowing full well that Crawford may never show his face in three-down football.

Football is more a game of politics than tackling and blocking, a cruel business where perception and optics overrule personnel moves.

When a team such as the Cowboys use a third-round pick on Crawford, you know the kid will be given every opportunity to play, no matter how difficult the transition from NCAA to the NFL involves.

As soon as Crawford went that high, it rendered the CFL draft far less predictable, an exercise that is so fluid many are expecting plenty of fireworks — or so they believe.

Whether it’s Christo Bilukidi, a highly touted defensive tackle who went to Oakland in the sixth round or Austin Pasztor, an offensive lineman who signed a free-agent deal with Minnesota, there’s talent to be had. But there are also risks.

In the last few days, additional CFL draft-eligible players such as receiving prospect Shamawd Chambers (Philadelphia) and defensive end Bo Adebayo (Detroit) have been invited to NFL mini-camps with no guarantees, their only hope of staying down south based on getting a fair shot, which is no sure thing in the big-money world that is the NFL.

Still, Thursday’s draft is being hailed as good, but there’s a shortage of what football people like to refer to as blue-chip prospects.

The depth is on offence, an area CFL teams annually tap into to develop depth and strength along the line of scrimmage and at receiver.

It would shock many if any quarterback gets taken, the list headed by Kyle Graves (Acadia), Billy Greene (UBC) and Kyle Quinlan (McMaster), three prospects who still have CIS eligibility.

The hope is that at least one will be offered an invitation to attend training camp later this month, which is about the only way a Canadian quarterback will get a look until the CFL gets serious about changing the rules to promote a Canadian pivot.

One rule the league must address — and the sooner the better — is the eligibility for the CFL.

As it stands, once a player enters college, he becomes eligible four years from the time of his enrolment, a tricky game when you consider the number of red-shirts in the NCAA system, creating a waiting game that often sees CFL teams on the losing end.

The case studies can be found in Montreal’s selection of Philip Blake, who was taken in the third round last year only to be drafted by Denver at this past weekend’s NFL draft.

B.C. used the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft to take Danny Watkins, who would go in the first round to Philadelphia last year.

Regardless of the uncertainty and the lack of predictability, draft day is when teams can address needs.

“You try to take the best player available that also fits your needs,’’ Lions GM Wally Buono said. “Are we going to be able to satisfy three of our four needs? It’s relative to what is our greatest need, what’s our next greatest need.’’

WHO WILL RIDERS SELECT?

And with the first pick in the 2012 CFL draft, the Saskatchewan Roughriders select ...

Other than the obligatory introduction, the first selection in today’s CFL draft is far from routine. There’s so much up in the air, anything is possible.

In terms of needs, the Green Riders can use a shot in the arm when it comes to Canadian receivers, especially in the wake of Andy Fantuz’s free-agent move to Hamilton.

If that’s the route Saskatchewan wants to take, then it’s almost a given that Laurier’s Shamawd Chambers will end up on the prairies.

But Chambers is by no means the best available talent, which gives Saskatchewan the option to trade down and still address its obvious need for a Canadian receiver.

As many as two teams have contacted the Roughriders about the first overall pick.

And as much as fans of the team would prefer it take Saskatchewan native Ben Heenan, the Roughriders have gone to great lengths and expense to solidify their offensive line.

Edmonton has already gone on record as saying it will take Heenan, a guard who is considered the best available offensive lineman, with the second overall pick.

In 2010, the Roughriders moved up to the first overall slot to select Queen’s linebacker Shomari Williams.

Last year, six trades involving 15 picks and four roster players took place on draft day.

DRAFT SELECTION

Order of Selection

First round

1. Saskatchewan

2. Edmonton via Toronto

3. Hamilton

4. B.C. via Montreal

5. Calgary

6. Edmonton

7. Winnipeg (forfeited by Kito Poblah selection in 2011 supplemental draft)

8. B.C.

Second round

9. Saskatchewan

10. Toronto

11. Hamilton

12. Montreal

13. Calgary

14. Edmonton (forfeited by Ted Laurent selection in 2011 supplemental draft)

15. Winnipeg

16. B.C.

Third round

17. Saskatchewan

18. Winnipeg via Toronto

19. Hamilton

20. Montreal

21. Calgary

22. Edmonton

23. Winnipeg

24. Hamilton via B.C.

Fourth round

25. Saskatchewan

26. Toronto

27. Hamilton

28. Montreal

29. Calgary

30. Toronto via Edmonton

31. Winnipeg

32. Calgary via B.C.

Fifth round

33. Calgary via WPG and SSK

34. Toronto

35. Hamilton

36. Montreal

37. Calgary

38. Edmonton

39. B.C. via WPG

40. B.C.

Sixth round

41. Saskatchewan

42. Toronto

43. Toronto via HAM

44. Montreal

45. Calgary

46. Montreal via EDM

47. Calgary via WPG

48. B.C. (forfeited by Alex Ellis selection in 2011 supplemental draft)

Head of the class

A look at the top prospects as compiled by the CFL’s scouting bureau

1. Tyrone Crawford DE Boise State

2. Ben Heenan OL Saskatchewan

3. Shamawd Chambers WR Wilfrid Laurier

4. Austin Pasztor OL Virginia

5. Frederic Plesius LB Laval

6. Christo Bilukidi DL Georgia St.

7. Ameet Pall DE Wofford

8. Jabar Westerman DL Eastern Michigan

9. Simon Charbonneau-Campeau WR Sherbrooke

10. Matt Norman OL Western

11. Ismael Bamba WR Sherbrooke

12. Johnny Aprile WR Queen’s

13. Justin Capicciotti DL Simon Fraser

14. Keenan MacDougall DB Saskatchewan

15. Kirby Fabien OL Calgary


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