CFL Draft 2017: Ranking, Evaluating the Defensive End Class

With the combine now in the rear view mirror, CFL talent evaluators can now begin to come to conclusions with their prospect rankings.

It’s once again an indifferent class at the defensive end position. Although slightly better than last year, its been a long time since the last dominant defensive end draft class.

A lot of stock was put into combine measurables for the defensive end prospects – more so than any other position group. The fact is that most defensive end prospects are drafted to be special-team players, so their tape on defense isn’t as valuable. Combine times and measurables just happens to be a somewhat reliable way of projecting special-teams value.

With that in mind, here are the top-4 defensive end prospects in the 2017 CFL Draft.

1. Kwaku Boateng, Wilfred Laurier

Kha Vo/Laurier Athletics

Height: 6’0.4″
Weight: 233-lbs
Eligibility: 4th
Scouting Bureau ranking (September): 2
Scouting Bureau ranking (December): 6

Boateng’s name is well known throughout Canada at this point of the CFL Draft process. A two-time second team All-Canadian, Boateng is Wilfred Laurier’s All-Time sack leader with 20.5 sacks in four seasons. He’s been a J.P. Metras Trophy nominee, and a consistent favorite to win defensive player of the year.

Positives

There’s a lot to like about Boateng when watching him in action. The flexibility shown in his hips and knees when turning the corner at the top of the arc is exceptional. Further to that, he has an excellent hump move to take advantage of offensive tackles cheating to take away his outside rush. Boateng has a broad pass-rush repertoire, with a eye-opening amount of finesse moves with his hands. He takes on pull blocks well, and can quickly locate the quarterback or ball-carrier.

Negatives

Boateng’s draft took a steep fall at the combine. He weighed in surprisingly small at 233-lbs, and despite being undersized, Boateng failed to crack the low 4.8s in his 40 time, clocking an official 4.901. Its quite unlikely Boateng played his senior season at Laurier at that weight, which begs the question: did he drop that weight before the combine just to run better, and can he put that weight back on before training camp opens?

Bottom Line

Boateng will be a tough prospect to avoid over-thinking. The bottom line is that he’s been regarded as a top prospect for a reason, and the repertoire behind his university production is translatable to the CFL. Boateng is a mid-to-late first round talent.

2. Connor McGough, University of Calgary

Height: 6’0.6″
Weight: 247-lbs
Eligibility: 4th
Scouting Bureau ranking (September): N/R
Scouting Bureau ranking (December): N/R

McGough was an integral part of the Hardy Cup-winning defensive line, seeing time as a three-technique, five-technique, 3-4 outside linebacker and off-ball linebacker. He also played up-back on Calgary’s punt unit – a testament to his athleticism – and was a top performer at the CFL Combine. The Medicine Hat, AB native is a two-time Canada West All-Star recipient.

Positives

McGough is easily the most athletic defensive end in the class. Despite weighing significantly more than his two closest counter-parts, Evan Foster and Kwaku Boateng, McGough posted the best 40-yard dash (4.73s) and short shuttle (4.25) of the four defensive ends at the national combine. He was also a close second in the bench press (23 reps), vertical jump (32.5″) and 3-cone (7.14s) categories. He’s the most athletic defensive end in the last two draft classes according to national combine results.

As a pass-rusher, McGough has shown the ability to convert speed to power on his bull-rushes. He’s quick off the line and threatens outside before shooting his hands into the chest-plate area of the offensive tackle and walking him back into the quarterback. McGough has quick hands and strikes accurately with his rip/swim moves and with his hand placement on offensive linemen. McGough is a high-motor player that chases plays down from the back-side, and at times flashes some of the coveted flexibility around the edge.

As a run defender, McGough has quick run recognition, rarely putting himself too far up-field and opening up a massive hole through the B-Gap. He has the power to stack offensive linemen at the point of attack as well as the upper-body strength to shed his blocker to make a play on the ball-carrier. McGough has good change of direction skills, which he really flashes when playing the read option and, as a pass rusher, on hump moves.

Negatives

At times it appears as though McGough lacks the balance and lower center of gravity to really dip his shoulder, lean into the tackle and bend around the corner on speed rushes. McGough struggles to react to traffic in the backfield, such as motion, misdirection and pulling offensive linemen. He often loses his positioning in these situations, allowing the play to get outside of him. McGough will get squeezed down the line too often before being sealed, putting far too much stress on his outside linebacker to make a play.

McGough (#75, Left Defensive End) poorly takes on pulling OL.

Bottom line

McGough has all the athleticism to be a staple on special teams units for many seasons to come. He also has the development traits to become a sold rotational pass-rusher in his prime years. McGough would be a good value pick in the early third round, but could sneak into the bottom of round two.

3. Mark Mackie, McMaster University

Height: 6’1.1″
Weight: 255-lbs
Eligibility: 4th
Scouting Bureau ranking (September): N/R
Scouting Bureau ranking (December): N/R

Mackie had a productive four-year career as a Marauder, amassing 14.5 sacks and 74 total tackles in 31 games. Similarly to McGough, he’s played downs at every position on the defensive line, and at 255-lbs, possesses ideal weight for a defensive end in the CFL. Mackie didn’t test particularly well at the national combine but had a solid session in the 1-on-1s.

Positives

Mackie is a strong, powerful player with a low center of gravity. He’s tough to move off the line, and it almost seems as though chip blocks from receivers and running backs bounce right off him. Mackie is a very explosive player on tape, beating offensive lineman off the snap and winning the battle for inside hand placement. For proof of his explosiveness, Mackie recorded the best broad jump of all defensive ends with a 9’5.75-ft leap. He eats up a lot of ground with his get-off, displaying excellent closing speed. He isn’t as stiff as one would think when running the arc on speed rushes, showing some flexibility to turn the corner.

Negatives

Mackie is one of those high floor, low ceiling prospects. He has many good traits and was a productive player in university, but has limited athletic potential left to fulfill. He can, however, expand and refine his pass rush repertoire, which is quite minuscule at this point.

Bottom Line: 

Mackie has more developmental upside as a pass-rusher in the CFL than Evan Foster based on the skills he already possesses, but is likely being mostly evaluated as a special-teamer. Mackie looks to be a fourth-to-fifth round pick come May.

4. Evan Foster, University of Manitoba

Winnipeg, Manitoba – Bisons Football vs Regina Rams October 2. Jeff Miller-Bison Sports-

Height: 5’11.3″
Weight: 225-lbs
Eligibility: 5th
Scouting Bureau ranking (September): N/R
Scouting Bureau ranking (December): N/R

Foster is one of the more athletic defensive linemen in the class, but his underwhelming weight of 225-pounds limits his ceiling. Despite often playing off-ball linebacker on passing downs, Foster still amassed 4 sacks, 8 TFL and 1 FF in his fifth-year season. With 3 solo tackles, 2 TFL and a sack, the Chilliwack, BC native was named the defensive MVP of the 2016 East-West Bowl.

Positives

Foster’s testing numbers translate onto the field. He had the best 3-cone time of all defensive ends (7.11s) and flashes great inside moves as a pass-rusher and change of direction skills against the run or as an off-ball linebacker. He’s fairly good with his hands as a pass-rusher, and flashed an effective spin move during combine one-on-ones. Foster is a high-motor player that tackles well and can play on several special-teams units.

Weaknesses

Listed at 245-lbs on the Bisons’ website, Foster weighed in at 225-lbs in Regina, quickly tarnishing his draft stock. For an undersized player that projects strictly as a special-teamer in the pro ranks, Foster’s 4.981 40-yard dash was also disappointing. Beyond the measurables, similarly to McGough, Foster can get lost in backfield traffic rules, and doesn’t consistently display the power that’s coveted from Canadian pass-rushers.

Bottom Line

Foster projects as a 5th-to-late-round pick.

 

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