CFL draft holds own intrigue

CFL draft hopefuls work out for coaches and scouts during the league's combine last month at...

CFL draft hopefuls work out for coaches and scouts during the league's combine last month at Varsity Stadium in Toronto. The CFL draft is next Thursday. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/Toronto Sun)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

TORONTO - The intrigue isn’t as pronounced, the stakes certainly aren’t as high and the lies aren’t as rampant when compared to the big-time business that is the NFL.

At the same time, all the drama and speculation associated with any draft process can’t be dismissed, even if it is under the backdrop of the CFL.

The NFL’s imposing shadow will have an impact on the CFL, as it always does and forever will be as long as the allure of money hangs in the air.

With so much that can happen this weekend when the NFL conducts its draft business, a lot can’t be gleaned when the CFL handles its selection process a week this Thursday.

Even if a draft-eligible player in the CFL doesn’t hear his name called by an NFL club, there always remains the possibility of some four-down suitor dangling a free-agent deal, a scenario that changes every draft board in the CFL.

By everyone’s standard, the most pro-ready prospect to hail from Canada is Boise State’s Tyrone Crawford, a defensive end who may go as high as the second round in the NFL.

By the time CFL teams make their picks, Crawford’s future will be known, the unknown being whether any team north of the border would risk a pick on Crawford.

The betting is that someone will, at least knowing that Crawford’s CFL rights will be held, not knowing, of course, if and when his skills will one day surface.

And then there’s the case of Ben Heenan, who would seem like a natural fit to stay in his hometown province of Saskatchewan, where the beloved Roughriders hold the first overall pick.

During a conference call on Tuesday, Heenan acknowledged how NFL teams are interested in his services, his profile raised when he was selected to play in an all-star game this past off-season.

“Even up until this time, teams have shown interest,’’ Heenan, a strong and stout offensive lineman, said. “It’ll be interesting to see how this weekend plays out because it could have an impact on the CFL.”

Whether it was Shamawd Chambers, a receiver from Laurier, or Frederic Plesius, a linebacker from Laval who joined Heenan on Tuesday’s conference call, each understands how little control they have on the process, whether it’s the NFL or the CFL.

Chambers spent time working out with Cris Carter in Florida, his speed and athleticism attracting plenty of interest, while Plesius has a connection to Baylor, a program poised to send its second straight Canadian to the NFL.

“If you had asked me four or five years ago if I’d be here at this moment, I would have said yes but I’m not sure how much I would have believed,’’ said Chambers.

“Right now, I just can’t wait, no matter who drafts me. I’ll be happy for the opportunity, I’ll be able to provide for my mom and I’m excited about the future.”

GTA’S CHAMBERS NOT PICKY

With so much that could happen from now until next Thursday’s CFL draft, Shamawd Chambers understands how little control he has over his football future.

As a kid who grew up in the GTA, Chambers, who played his collegiate football at Laurier, is well aware of the off-season moves made by the Argos and Ticats, moves that have added some buzz to the area’s underwhelming pulse.

If he does end up in Hamilton, Chambers will be reunited with Andy Fantuz, the prize of this off-season’s free-agent class whom Chambers has worked with and watched closely.

If the Argos can get their hands on this intriguing receiver, Chambers will play for a franchise he’s followed for the last 10 years.

“If I do stay in southern Ontario, GTA, that would be nice because my family is here,’’ he said. “But in no way, shape or form do I have a preference. I’ll play anywhere.”

Saskatchewan holds the No. 1 pick, but will listen to offers.

If the Roughriders don’t take Saskatchewan native Ben Heenan, Edmonton, which acquired the No. 2 pick from the Argos as part of the Ricky Ray deal, has stated it would take the offensive lineman.

“For me, I just want to get to the town that takes me and get down to work,’’ Chambers added. “I feel there’s so much for me to develop and it can only be reached when you play this game as a full-time job.”


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