When Kyle Walters decided to forfeit his 2016 1st-round draft selection to pick up Dartmouth safety Garrett Waggoner in last year’s supplemental draft, there’s no doubt the Bombers’ GM didn’t anticipate his club missing the playoffs once again in 2015, earning the second-overall pick in this month’s draft.
Waggoner is now essentially the club’s 2016 first-round pick at second-overall. And while, if actually picking second overall this year, the Bombers would be selecting an offensive lineman, Walters should not necessarily regret forfeiting that pick to get Waggoner in the supplemental draft, as the 25-year-old would’ve been ranked quite well in this year’s class of draft-eligible players, too.
Last year, scouts said Waggoner would’ve been the best defensive player available in the draft had he qualified as a national earlier. And while last year’s draft class was much deeper than that of this year, there wasn’t quite the elite level of blue-chip defensive prospects that this year’s class possesses.
Hindsight is 20/20, and Walters should be content knowing the Bombers landed a really talented, young football in Waggoner. Sure, he wouldn’t have warranted a top-two pick, and he wouldn’t have even quite been the top linebacker this year – Montana State’s Alex Singleton is that guy – but there’s no point coming to any final conclusions about a player who’s only year into his career, and who has incredible potential, himself.
Although he’s not the top linebacker in the 2016 class, Waggoner would’ve been the top safety. It’s a strong class of safeties headlined by UBC’s Taylor Loffler and Southern Illinois’ Anthony Thompson, but Waggoner would’ve topped them all.
Waggoner is an athletic freak, clocking a 4.51 40-yard dash, 4.15 shuttle time, and recording a 43-inch vertical jump and 10’3″ broad jump at his Pro Day. He’s an exceptional player on film, and what really separates Waggoner from the pack is his quick, fluid hips, his exceptional football I.Q., his ability to play in the box as well as in the role of a center-fielder, and his tremendous, fearsome tackling skills. He has the size to weak-side linebacker, yet is more or less just as fast as Anthony Thompson, who’s 20-pounds lighter.
Take the best skills of both Thompson and Loffler and put them in the body of a linebacker, and you get Garrett Waggoner. As shown in my report below, Waggoner projects more as a weak-side linebacker than safety, but with his insane athleticism, he could probably play either position.
Waggoner, of course, already has a year of CFL experience under his belt, and I do believe he had a really good rookie campaign. Suiting up in all 18 games, Waggoner was one of the Bombers’ top special-teamers, playing several different roles, including many of the most important on coverage units.
For a player who the team gave up a first-round pick for, many fans were disappointing in Waggoner’s impact – or lack thereof – on defense in his rookie season. As expected, Waggoner saw very little snaps – which is completely normal for Canadian rookies – as the Bombers were loaded on Canadian linebackers – Sam Hurl, Jesse Briggs and Graig Newman were already established with the club. Regardless, as a result of Waggoner playing in all 18 games, as well as his stout play on special-teams, he was still probably the third-most productive Canadian in year one out of the 2015 draft behind Winnipeg’s Sukh Chungh and Saskatchewan’s Nic Demski.
Waggoner is still likely a first-round pick in the 2016 draft, and although he’d be a reach at second-overall, the Bombers still have the back-to-back picks to open up the second round.
The Bombers’ front-office shouldn’t – and doesn’t – regret forfeiting their 2016 first-rounder to pick up Waggoner. Very few really expected to Bombers to take a step back in the win/loss column from 2014 to be picking at second-overall, and the Sarasota, Florida native has the potential to develop into a starting linebacker, anyway. The Bombers still got, what would have been, one of the blue-chip prospects in the 2016 draft, and he’s only scratched the surface so far in his young career.