Everything to know about the quirky CFL draft

San Diego Chargers' defensive tackle Vaughn Martin (92) gets up after knocking down Indianapolis...

San Diego Chargers' defensive tackle Vaughn Martin (92) gets up after knocking down Indianapolis Colts' quarterback Peyton Manning during the fourth quarter of their NFL game in Indianapolis this past season. Martin, a Canadian, is eligible for Sunday's CFL draft but will any team risk taking him? (REUTERS/Brent Smith)

Mike Ganter, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:08 AM ET

“Only in the CFL.” 

It seems those words come up at least a handful of times each season. 

And now Toronto Argonauts GM Jim Barker is using them again, only this time to describe the 2011 CFL draft. 

Call them quirky or quaint, unique or whatever description you like, but there are just some things about the CFL that make it different from just about every other professional league out there.

The 2011 draft is even a little more quirky than usual. 

For instance, league front offices will decide today whether to draft a guy who has already been toiling in the NFL for two years — but just this year is eligible for the CFL draft.

His name is Vaughn Martin and the former University of Western Ontario defensive tackle is, while an enticing prospect what with all that advanced mentoring already under his 6-foot-4, 330-pound frame, may not necessarily even be a first-round pick.

Martin has already played 20 games with the San Diego Chargers. And we’re pretty sure that if he were selected first overall, he won’t be leaving the near-perfect climate of San Diego, not to mention a healthy NFL salary, for Winnipeg or any other CFL team that might draft him.

Martin only became eligible for the CFL draft in 2011, four years after his first year of university. He was eligible for the NFL draft in 2009 because he had finished high school three years earlier and came in as an underclassman.

Martin still has two years left on his Chargers contract, but some CFL team will draft him and put his rights in their back-pocket in the hopes that down the road the ready-made defensive tackle needs a job.

“Signability” is a huge factor in the CFL draft and that more than the unique eligibility rules makes this such a challenge.

“The Canadian draft is so different,” Toronto GM Barker said. “It’s not like the NHL draft. It’s not like the NFL draft. You don’t go out and say this guy is the best player. You can look at our draft this year and to me it’s a great example of that. You have some guys (eligible) Philip Blake (out of Baylor) could be Danny Watkins (a first-round NFL selection this year) next year. 

“He’s a guy you could potentially take first overall, but you have a player like Henoc Muamba, is another guy who could be the first-pick overall and he has the same agent as (Argos first-round selection in 2010 Cory Greenwood who bolted for the K.C. Chiefs) so you wonder, are we going to be able to sign him or are we going to hold him out.”

Greenwood’s agent Johnathan Hardaway also represents Muamba and for him, it’s far more lucrative to send a client to the NFL than it is the CFL. Barker used a first-round pick (third overall) on Greenwood last year. Knowing the history and the agent’s focus, would the GM be as willing to gamble another high pick on a Hardaway client?

Unlike the NFL or even the NHL, it’s really not necessarily the best players that will be chosen in the early rounds.

 

 

Q&A WITH CFL DRAFT EXPERT DUANE FORDE

(Forde is a former CFL all-star turned television commentator on CFL broadcasts)  

Q: What is the single best thing about the Canadian Football League draft? 

A: The unpredictability of it. You’ll see more variation between the eight CFL teams’ draft boards than you’d see between those of the (32) NFL teams. As a result, outside of a handful of early picks, you never know how things will unfold.

 

Q: Name the single best pick in the past 20 years of the CFL draft (you can’t pick the No. 6 overall pick in the 1991 draft — where Forde was picked):

A: I have two favourites, both made by Calgary, sixteen years apart. In 2005, it was a terrible draft class but, in the sixth and final round, Calgary picked Brett Ralph. He had been to three different schools and actually sat out his draft year. The Stamps had done their homework though, as Brett ended up as the leading rookie receiver in the league that year. My other favourite was Harald Hasselbach, chosen in Round 5 in ’89. Harald was the most impressive physical specimen and athletic freak you can imagine ... but he was buried on U. of Washington’s depth chart between two future NFL first rounders — so he rarely played. Anyway, he became an All-Canadian in four years up here, then played seven more in the NFL.

 

Q: Your all-time deepest CFL draft? 

A: I’ll stay recent and go with 2006. The first three rounds produced a lot of current CFL starters, including Andy Fantuz and Ricky Foley, the last two winners of the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian award.

 

Q: Worst blunder in the history of the CFL draft. If you count the Rough Riders drafting the dead guy, give me your top two.

A: Well, if I count Ottawa drafting the late Darrell Robertson in the 1995 Las Vegas dispersal draft, then I also have to count Montreal drafting the late James Eggink in the 1996 Canadian draft. That’s two ... but CFL scouting has improved light years since then.

 

Q: Who is the sleeper in the 2011 draft class? 

A: Concordia defensive tackle Maurice Forbes, who is from Mississauga. He’s not being talked about a lot but I like his size, power, and skill set. If he ends up in the middle rounds, I think the team that drafts him will be getting good value.

 

Q: As an admitted draftaholic, what draft selection since your own draft completely blew you away? 

A: In 2005, Montreal drafted an offensive lineman named Richard Yalowsky in the first round. He was a very good player when healthy but it was well known that he had missed a lot of the two previous seasons with knee injuries ...and was already working at an engineering internship that was paying him much more than the CFL could realistically offer. He never signed with the Als.

 

Q: What would you change about the CFL draft to make it better? 

A: I actually have a list of ten things to improve the draft stored on my BlackBerry but I’ll just pick one. Players at American schools shouldn’t become CFL draft eligible until their college eligibility is done. It would eliminate some of the guessing game for scouts.

 

 

MIKE GANTER" DRAFT RANKINGS 

1. Scott Mitchell, OL

Rice, 6-foot-4, 295 pounds

Ottawa native started at left tackle at Rice midway through his freshman season and held the spot through his college career until a foot injury in Week 8 of this past season brought his playing time at Rice to a close. Began his senior year No. 2 on the CFL Prospects list but took over the top spot in April. Only a so-so Evaluation Camp grade but extremely versatile on the O-Line.

 

2. Anthony Parker, SB

Calgary, 6-foot-2, 215 pounds 

Was the Western representative at the East-West Shrine game at the Citrus Bowl, two-time Canada West all-star selection and top CIS prospect in the draft. Missed three games in his senior year due to injury. His exposure at the East-West Shrine game could mean a better chance of a free-agent NFL contract if the lockout mess is ever cleared up.

3. Henoc Muamba, LB

Saint FX, 6-foot-0, 230 pounds 

Strong showing at the CFL Evaluation camp in addition to winning the President’s Trophy as the top defensive player in Canadian university football moved him from the 10th-best prospect to No. 3 overall. On Friday, the Winnipeg Sun reported that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will make Muamba the first-overall selection on Sunday.

 

4. Philip Blake, OL

Baylor, 6-foot-3, 215 pounds 

Shifted to centre in his senior year at Baylor and handled the move flawlessly, the former alumnus of Toronto’s Henry Carr is one of those guys whose success could hurt his CFL draft stock. Got plenty of attention playing on the same O-line as Kelowna’s Danny Watkins who was a first-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. Concern is a free-agent NFL contract may be waiting.

 

5. Tyler Holmes, OL

Tulsa, 6-foot-4, 330 pounds 

Another Ottawa product, Holmes started all 20 games he appeared in over two years at Tulsa. His father Richard played for the Ottawa Roughriders, Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Broke his leg in 2009 and missed six games. Still has one year of college eligibility remaining and a good bet to have plenty of NFL interest when he is done college.

 

6. Vaughn Martin, DL

Plays for the San Diego Chargers, 6-fooot-4, 330 pounds

Already well immersed in the Chargers locker room, Martin is only this year eligible for the CFL draft and that’s following two years with San Diego. Chances are slim that the former University of Western Ontario Mustang ever finds his way north of the border again, but someone will draft him in the event that does occur.

7. Nathan Coehoorn, WR

Calgary, 6-foot-2, 220 pounds 

Out-produced teammate No. 2-ranked Anthony Parker (who missed three games). Coehoorn was the team’s leading receiver with 28 catches for 416 yards on the season. He led Canada West in punt return yards with 494 on 42 attempts and led the Dinos and finished fourth in the conference in all-purpose yards with 1,025 on the year.

 

8. Hugh O’Neill, P/K

Alberta, 6-foot-2, 185 pounds 

O’Neill is a three-time CIS all-Canadian. He averaged just under 40 yards a punt this year and was successful on 72% of his field-goal attempts. Led the Canada West conference in punting in three of his four seasons at Alberta. Placekicking is improving, but his strength is his punting. 

 

9. Marco Iannuzzi, WR

Harvard, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds 

A true Harvard grad with a degree in architecture and environmental science, Iannuzzi’s first wish is to have a career in the CFL. A gifted receiver as well as a return specialist, Iannuzzi is Harvard’s all-time leader in kickoff return yardage. He missed seven weeks of his senior year with a broken clavicle.

 

10. Moe Petrus, OL

UConn, 6-foot-2, 292 

After red-shirting in 2007, Petrus started at left tackle and helped future Indy Colts back Donald Brown become the nation’s top rusher. The following year he moved over to centre where he started all 13 games. Will return as one of five UConn captains this coming season. Like Hughes, has one year of college eligibility remaining and likely NFL interest in his future.

 

11. Matt O’Donnell, OL

Queen’s, 6-foot-10, 329 pounds

Joined Calgary’s Parker as the two CIS invitees to the East/West Shrine games this year. Also one of only two players in the CIS to earn All-Canadian offensive honours in back-to-back years. Initially pegged in as the No. 6 prospect in the draft, O’Donnell’s stock slipped first to eighth and is now down to 11th. O’Donnell started every game Queen’s played in his four years there.

 

12. Junior Turner, DL

Bishop’s, 6-foot-3, 230 pounds 

Brampton native and cousin of Argos fourth-round pick of a year ago Steven (Afterburner) Turner, Junior Turner put on a show of his own at the CFL Evaluation camp that bumped his status to No. 12 on the CFL Scouting Bureau top 15 list. Prior to the Evaluation camp, Turner was not among the top 15 ranked players.

 

13. Anthony Barrette, OL

Concordia, 6-foot-5, 320 pounds

Another solid offensive lineman out of the Concordia program following in the footsteps of Kristian Matte. Barrette grew up a Montreal Alouettes fan and hopes to join 2010 draftee Kristian Matte there. But there has also been interest from the NFL. Those teams cannot sign free agents until after the lockout is resolved.

 

14. Matt Walter, RB

Calgary, 5-foot-10, 210 pounds

Running back is (at least lately) not a traditional spot for non imports in the CFL, but Walter could be the exception. Reports out of Calgary suggest any team that does select him will likely have to wait until 2012. He has already decided to return to Calgary for a fifth year.

 

15. Paul Swiston, OL

Calgary, 6-foot-9, 342 pounds 

The Canada West nomination for the J.P. Metras Trophy as down lineman of the year, Swiston was also named a second-team All-Canadian. He started all eight conference games at left tackle and anchored a Calgary O-line that gave the Dinos easily the best rushing team in the country.

 


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