The CFL Draft is unlike anything in sports.
You want to draft a good player, but not too good of a player. The NFL has been keeping tabs on Canadian Football more than it ever has, while football in the North is producing better and better prospects each year. Draft too good of a player, and the NFL will lure them away in an instant for a couple years (or for their career – just ask Bombers’ fans).
The top-ranked players in the CFL Scouting Players often spend at least their first year of professional football in the NFL – and sometimes longer. Mississippi State OT Justin Senior, the top-ranked player in both the September and December rankings, will be no different. CFL on TSN colour commentator Duane Forde began nicknaming late-season match-ups between the league’s basement-dwellers the “Senior Bowl” in reference to them competing for the number one overall pick and the opportunity to draft Senior, but that won’t be the case. Senior is NFL-bound, and could be a late-round pick in the NFL Draft if he shows well in the upcoming East-West Shrine Game.
Senior has not been given the hype he deserves for just how good of a prospect he is. The Montreal, Que. native started three seasons at right tackle in arguably the top college football conference in the NCAA, and was the 2016 recipient of the Kent Hull Trophy, awarded annually to the top offensive lineman in the state of Mississippi. Senior was selected as one of two offensive tackles on Pro Football Focus’ 1st-team SEC All-Star team.
The 22-year-old is a tackle prospect through and through, which increases his NFL stock even more. Legitimate Canadian tackle prospects are usually scooped up quickly by the NFL – see Boyko, Brett and Foucalt, David.
I’ve watched four of Senior’s games – Auburn, BYU, LSU and Texas A&M. He’s a complete player by CFL draft standards, although his functional strength, hand speed and run-blocking technique will be detractors for his NFL stock. But as a witness of just how dominant of a player he was during his time at Mississippi State, and just how weak of an offensive line class it is, it’s hard to imagine Senior not joining an NFL club on day-3 of the draft.
Senior held his own against two premier SEC pass-rushers in Auburn’s Carl Lawson and Texas A&M’s Daeshon Hall. Senior had no problem using quick-sets against Lawson, who’ll likely be a first or early second round pick in the 2017 draft – despite the defensive ends quickness and burst. It was hard to tell that Lawson is a highly-coveted edge-bender with the way Senior consistently arrived on time at the junction point in regular pass-sets. The 22-year-old dealt with the power of Hall – the sixth ranked EDGE in the 2017 draft – quite well in Mississippi State’s huge upset win over the Aggies, too.
With ideal size and build at 6’5″ and 310-lbs, Senior is undoubtedly the top player in the 2017 CFL Draft class. But that’s not to say he’s a guaranteed first round pick. Senior will likely be drafted later than UNLV’s Brett Boyko was in 2015 (round 2, pick 14), especially if he performs well at the Shrine Game.
Like many recent no. 1 rated Canadian prospects, Senior is just simply too good to warrant spending a first-round pick on a player with no timeline projecting when he’ll actually come to the CFL.