2016 CFL Draft Grades: Early Thoughts on Each Team’s Draft Picks

The 2016 CFL College Draft was one of the most lopsided drafts in recent memory. As a direct result of the bad teams doing really bad, the good teams did exceptionally well.

While it is impossible to come to any final conclusions on a CFL draft for three to four years, it is reasonable to come away with an early, preliminary judgement of each team’s draft class using the consensus draft-stock of a prospect to discover reaches and value-picks; the balance of a team drafting for positional need and via best player available – there needs to be a balance of both; and some personal thoughts on select prospects.

Elite Grades

1. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

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The Bombers simply sat back, took the best player available and had an outstanding draft. Tenth overall pick Michael Couture, who needs time to develop, but will be a versatile starter down the road, fills a positional need and was also likely the best player available, similarly to Trent Corney. Corney and Taylor Loffler, who supplies excellent value in the third-round, are both relatively pro-ready defenders that could develop into elite Canadians. Loffler’s knees In the meantime, they can both make an immediate impact on special-teams, as will Laval linebacker Shayne Gauthier, who was one of the top pure special-teamers available. Sixth-rounder Rupert Butcher, who reaked havoc on the Combine, could be a steal in the sixth-round, while Zach Intzandt is the perfect project for Bob Wylie.

2. BC Lions

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Wally Buono looked like a genius when he traded back in the 1st round only to have the player he thought would be gone in the top-2, Charles Vaillancourt, fall to him at fifth overall. Buono’s intentions all along were to likely trade back and get local product Michael Couture at five, but Vaillancourt can – and will – immediately step in and start at centre for the Lions. Although I don’t believe he was the top player at his position, Anthony Thompson fills a huge need at safety with the 12th pick and could be a solid special-teams contributor right away while pushing incumbent starter Eric Fraser for playing time. The Lions got Dillon Guy a round later than expected, while Brennan Van Nistlerooy, an underrated CJFL prospect, and Brett Blaszko fill needs and were taken in the appropriate round. BC came away with two solid picks in the closing rounds as well in Nate O’Halloran and Boyd Richardson.

3. Hamilton Tiger-Cats

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Brandon Revenberg is a perfect fit for the Ti-Cats after bulking up his playing weight to 298-pounds over the off-season. Mercer Timmis has a very bright future as both a running back and a slot-back in Hamilton’s receiver-needy offense, while Mike Jones is a speedster who I believe is the most likely of another receiver drafted to develop into an effective starter. A former NCAA running back who only has one season as a starting linebacker under his belt, Terrell Davis is one of the draft’s best developmental players, while Felix Faubert-Lussier in the fifth round is one of the best value picks in the draft. One of the most underrated prospects in the draft, this testing monster will, at the very least, be a solid special-teamer and pass-catching fullback, but don’t rule out the potential of him becoming an effective, role-playing slot-back.

Middle Grades:

4. Calgary Stampeders

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No current NFL aspirations for Alex Singleton means the Stampeders likely drafted Juwan Simpson’s immediate replacement at sixth overall. Juwan Brescacin might be close to his ceiling already – I don’t really see him developing into anything more than a field side wideout – but that’s not bad value at fifteenth overall. Roman Grozman in the fourth-round is far more acceptable than the 1st and 2nd round hype he was receiving, while Michael Kashak and Quinn Horton are both excellent value picks in the 7th and 8th rounds.

5. Ottawa Redblacks

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With Canadian lineman Nolan Macmillan moving back to right tackle in the final year of his rookie contract, the Jason Lauzon-Seguin pick was perfect. The Laval product has quick, nimble feet as well as a future as a rare Canadian right tackle. The Mikael Charland selection was for need and strikingly reminds me of the Jake Harty selection last year – and that pick is starting to look good. He’ll be in the NFL next season, but Mehdi Abdesmad should come North soon after inking a priority free agent deal with the Tennessee Titans. He fills a need at defensive end with Arnaud Gascon-Nadon potentially starting this year, but he better projects in my view as a defensive tackle in my view, as the additional yard off the ball could affect his ability to turn the corner on pass-rushes. The rest of Ottawa’s picks were underwhelming, though.

6. Saskatchewan Roughriders

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Saskatchewan needed immediate improvements to their league-worst Canadian talent, and they did exactly the opposite. With 25 picks in between their first and second choices, Saskatchewan made two “futures” picks despite having no business with drafting players that can’t come help their Canadian depth immediately. Elie Bouka will spend at least a year with the Arizona Cardinals, while David Onyemata may never come north. Saskatchewan didn’t exactly make up for it with the selection of Quinn Van Gylswyk, as even though he’s an excellent prospect and the Riders needed a punter, they had far too many holes to address elsewhere to select a kicker with their third pick. I really like the value of Alex McKay and Josh Stanford in the later rounds, however. Stanford could have a future in this league if he fixes his attitude, which was reportedly a big red-flag at the Combine.

Poor Grades:

7. Montreal Alouettes

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I love the Philippe Gagnon pick. While his technique is unbelievable, Charles Vaillancourt’s slowness is worrisome, especially when disengaging off blocks to shift over and take a blitzing linebacker or stunting defender. Gagnon’s technique is slightly less refined, and he might not have all of Vaillancourt’s physical tools (but almost), he’s significantly quicker with his feet. The Wayne Moore pick, however, really hurts the Alouettes – it screams Steven Lumbala and the 2013 CFL Draft. Moore performed magnificently in the Combine one-on-ones as both a blocker and receiver, but tested quite poorly and projects as a fullback. Sean Jamieson would’ve been a nice third or fourth rounder for some teams, but the Alouettes have 10 offensive lineman under contract; yes, a handful are upcoming free agents, but the Alouettes already picked up Gagnon. Maiko Zepeda was a good value-pick at 56 – he runs a 4.57 and hits like a missile – but George Johnson was drafted too early and should not have been picked before Doug Corby.

8. Toronto Argonauts

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The Argos’ best picks came in the fourth round. Both products of southern Ontario, Noel’s floor is as a capable special-teams contributor, while Cross was the far and away the class’ best fullback. Toronto’s decision to pass on Trent Corney in the first round could be a mistake, as the Argos have no depth for soon-to-be 34-year-old Ricky Foley. It was also head-scratching to not see Jim Barker look for a defensive end such as McMaster’s Michael Kashak in the later rounds instead of stocking up on huge-project offensive linemen. I’ve made it clear that I don’t really think Brian Jones will develop into anything special, and even while dismissing those beliefs for the consensus thoughts on Jones, it’s a slight reach to select him in the top-5. Selecting DJ Sackey in the second round was certainly a reach, though, seeing as he would’ve been available much later in the draft. A third consecutive reach, Jamal Campbell also would’ve been available later in the draft, I’m sure. Although I believe he has a high ceiling, the York product has some of the most under-developed technique I’ve seen. After spending a third-round pick on him, the Argonauts must be committed to developing Campbell without losing their patience and cutting him.

9. Edmonton Eskimos

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Despite winning a Grey Cup, Edmonton’s Canadian content was middling. Yet Ed Hervey spent his first two picks on NFL-bound players, which is even more inexplicable when you consider the Eskimos had no picks in the third and fourth round. Tevaun Smith could bounce around practice rosters for awhile, and the Eskimos simply did not need need a receiver, with Devon Bailey, Nate Coehoorn and Chris Getzlaf around town. Arjen Colquhoun, similarly to Smith, could spend more than a year in the NFL, but it was a positional need for the Eskimos. Despite a porous first three selections that included selecting Josh Woodman, who I think will be cut in year one, the Eskimos may have closed the draft better than anyone else.

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