Combine Preview: Defensive Backs Outshine Receivers

The tables have turned since the 2015 CFL combine.

Last year’s combine saw a loaded group of receiver talent give the defensive backs everything they could handle, as names like Nic Demski, Lemar Durant and Jake Harty auditioned in front of dozens of CFL scouts. This season, however, the tale of the tape seems to favor one of the best defensive back classes in awhile.

The following is a brief run-down of each receiver and defensive back at the national scouting combine, with some questions about each player that could be answered over the weekend.

Receivers: 

Missing: WR Tevaun Smith, Iowa (declined invite), WR Juwan Brescacin, Northern Illinois (declined invite)

1. SB Doug Corby, Queens (6’3″, n/a)

Corby is likely the most pro-ready receiver at the combine with his clean route-running ability and soft hands. He uses his size to his advantage and could really catch a lot of scouts attention with his shuttle time. Despite only playing in five games due to injury, the Burlington, ON. native caught 30 passes for 592 yards, 5 TDs and an OUA-leading 19.7 yards/catch.

2. WR George Johnson, Western (6’3″, 188-lbs)

Johnson’s expected to test well in the 40-yard dash and in one-on-ones, but a solid shuttle drill time could really see his draft stock improve. Johnson already has great explosion, control and agility, and if just breaks down on his routes a little faster, he could be viewed as a top-3 receiver in the draft. He’s already dynamic after the catch and sound at creating space in zones and finding soft spots in coverages, as well as using change of speed to create leverage against the DB to run his route.

3. SB Joshua Stanford, Kansas (6’1″, 200-lbs)

Injuries have hampered Stanford’s college career after a promising start as a freshman. With Virginia Tech in 2013, Stanford had 40 catches for 640 receiving yards and a TD, but took a 4-game leave to attend to off-field issues in his sophomore campaign and struggled to get back on the field after that, transferring to Kansas for his junior season, where he only appeared in two games.

He displayed great yards-after-catch ability as a freshman as an elusive runner that’s hard to bring down. He has tons of football smarts, creating space in zones and finding soft spots in coverages, but he has some flaws, such as a small catching radius, limited route running ability and release off the line-of-scrimmage. This is all based off his redshirt freshman campaign, however, exemplifying exactly how crucial this upcoming weekend is for Stanford to show that his hiatus from game action hasn’t stunted his growth as a football player.

4. SB Brett Blaszko, Calgary (6’4″, 215-lbs)

Blaszko has a rare combination of size and speed that is highly coveted at the professional level. Averaging only 56.0 yards-per-game, Blaszko had a disappointing season for the Dinos, but there’s only one football to go around in an offense loaded with talent. I really think he’s going to surprise a lot of people with his testing numbers at the combine.

5. WR Llevi Noel, Toronto (6’2″, 200-lbs)

Noel supplies great speed from the outside and big-time yards-after-catch ability. In terms of running a full route-tree, he appears to be far from a complete receiver, but it should be noted that he didn’t have, for example, Andrew Buckley or Will Finch as his Quarterback. He appears to be incredibly athletic on tape with good hands, but we’ll see how he fares after spending the 2015 season with the Windsor AKO Fratmen.

6. SB Mike Jones, Southern (6’0″, 185-lbs)

I still don’t know if Jones can run half of the route tree to save his life, but he can sure fly. Jones has the ability to take the top off any defense with phenomenal speed and can track the ball well in the air. While his 40-yard dash time will be something very, very special, I’m more curious to see his 3-cone shuttle time. All that speed isn’t as useful if his ceiling is as a wide-side WR – a position he’s undersized to be play given his style – because he can’t get in and out of breaks fast enough to play slot.

7. WR Shaquille Johnson, Western (6’0″, 195-lbs)

Johnson, who broke Andy Fantuz’s CIS record for receptions as a freshman with McGill in 2013, has taken quite the path to the national combine. He spent the 2015 season with the London Beefeaters, earning himself an invite to the Toronto regional combine. And although he posted a 4.39 40-yard dash time in Toronto, Johnson certainly doesn’t play like a 4.39 guy, but has some nice attributes like tracking the ball in the air and soft hands. Johnson, who ran a 4.83 40-yard dash time in December, has his work cut out for him at the combine. The interview process will likely be hard on him, and he also needs a strong performance in one-on-ones after playing Junior Football last season.

8. SB Brian Jones, Acadia (6’4″, 230-lbs)

Jones projects more as an H-Back in my eyes, as he has the size and athleticism that you want him on the field and to get touches, but not as a slot-back – he’s far too slow in and out of his breaks for that. Jones could line up all over as a tight end, full back, slot back and running back with the skills he possess’ while being a solid special-teams player.

9. WR Jamal Kett, Western (6’5″, 215-lbs)

Kett, a transfer from Simon Fraser University, managed to get an invite to the national combine despite mediocre testing numbers at the Toronto regional combine. CFL scouts are clearly enamored by his size, as he only ran a 4.87 40-yard dash, jumped 27.5″ in the vertical and had a three-cone shuttle time of 7.37 seconds. While only recording just 331 yards and 2 TDs with Western in 2015, Kett productively put up career totals of 85 catches for 1004 yards and 10 TDs with SFU.

10. SB Felix Faubert-Lussier, Laval (6’0″, 215-lbs)

Faubert-Lussier is just a smaller version of Acadia’s Brian Jones – a guy you hope can add some mass and transition to more of a fullback, as long as he remains athletic enough to play special-teams.

Defensive Backs:

Missing: CB Arjen Colquhoun, Michigan State (declined), HB Elie Bouka, Calgary (injured)

1. S Taylor Loffler, UBC (6’3″, 220-pounds)

While Loffler, a Boise State graduate, isn’t the most athletic safety available in the draft, he could be the most intelligent. He routinely reads route combinations, reacts quickly on the fly and isn’t easily fooled by any motion that offenses throw at him. He has a fantastic combination of size and speed – remember, he’s pushing 220 pounds – and is an excellent, sound tackler. Loffler has future-starter written all over him after a dominant, All-Canadian “rookie” campaign.

2. S Anthony Thompson, Southern Illinois (6-1″, 208-lbs)

Thompson is more of a raw, developmental safety with pro-calibre speed and agility. He’s displayed poor awareness in zone-coverage as a safety, but was able to make up for it in college with his athleticism. Thompson is, however, an big hitter – he really needs to wrap up more, though – and has so much talent in terms of his speed, quickness and ball skills that he could warrant a top-15 selection.

3. S Mikael Charland, Concordia (6’4″, 215-lbs)

Charland, an absolute tackling machine, was extremely productive with Concordia, amassing 52.5 tackles and three interceptions last season. With his football I.Q. and terrific speed, Charland is projected to be a great special-teams player for years to come.

4. DB Maiko Zepeda, Montreal (5’8″, 200-lbs)

While scouts probably wish Zepeda stood taller than 6’0″, he’s still 200-lbs, runs a 4.57 40-yard dash and hits like a missile. Zepeda, who displayed excellent football I.Q. with Montreal, should development into a real solid special-teams players with his athletic gifts.

5. CB Josh Woodman, Western (6’1″, 195-lbs)

As an overall pass defender, Woodman is probably better than Anthony Thompson, but still doesn’t have Thompson’s raw athleticism. But he’s still a smart player who’s aggressive, yet fundamentally sound. He looked especially good at corner throughout his tenure at Western in their zone-heavy defensive scheme.

6. DB Dominique Termansen, UBC (5’11”, 180-lbs)

Termansen reassured just how athletic he is with great numbers at the Edmonton regional combine, posting a 4.65 40-yard dash, 39.5″ vertical jump and a 7.24 3-cone time. He’s a surprisingly physical player, but is still undersized. Termanson was still a great special-teams player with UBC that should be a mid-to-late round pick. And if he tests as good as he did in Edmonton for a second time, as well as holds his own in one-on-ones, Termansen’s draft stock could keep climbing and climbing.

7. S Malcolm Brown, Western (6’0″, 190-lbs)

Brown is very gifted from an athletic standpoint, with great hips and quick feet. He might not run super well in the 40-yard dash, but change of direction skills are what matters most, and Brown possess’ the needed attributes. He’s also a very strong zone-coverage player, but I have big questions regarding his physicality to handle big receivers and his tackling skills.

8. DB Brennan Van Nistelrooy, Okanagan (6’0″, 200-lbs)

Van Nistelrooy tested very well at the Edmonton regional, posting above-average results in every category. He still doesn’t impress me at all on tape as a safety, but, for what it’s worth, can also punt.

loff-guns
Richard Lam: UBC Athletics (I DO NOT OWN THIS PHOTO)

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