There are 3,500 NFL draft-eligible players every year, only 350-400 of whom end up being drafted or signing down south as undrafted free agents. Taking into account the added number of players who are cut from NFL rosters every year, the pool of international players available to CFL general managers is extraordinarily deep. This means international players face high expectations immediately upon traveling north, often being forced into action just weeks after signing their first CFL contracts. Outside of the quarterback position, internationals get signed and cut on a regular basis, often without receiving much of a chance to develop.
Conversely, national players are often given years to blossom into consistent players. Teams have no choice but to invest time and effort into developing nationals given the limited nature of the talent pool, particularly when almost half of all CFL rosters must be made up of such players. For this reason and more – including the fear of selecting a player who goes on to enjoy a successful career in the NFL – the Canadian Football League draft is by far one of the most bizarre in professional sports. Though there will always be selections that are sure-fire hits and misses in every draft, the career success of the vast majority of CFL draftees is sporadic and unpredictable.
As a diehard CFL draft junkie, I’ve decided to do a comprehensive grading of the 2011 draft. Four seasons have gone by since the draft took place on May 8, 2011, a period of time I feel is just long enough to grade this draft fairly. And though it is possible one or two late bloomers could improve their draft grades in years to come – players like Jabari Arthur (2007), Kamau Peterson (2001), and Dan Federkeil (2006) all made major career strides later in their careers – these grades will have to do for now.
As I will be breaking down the draft by team, feel free to check out the complete round-by-round results here.
5 = Perennial all-star
4 = Consistent starter
3 = Situational starter, strong depth player
2 = Special teamer and/or distant depth player
1 = Minimal contributor, has been released
0 = Never appeared in a CFL regular season game
It should also be noted that draft grades are only a reflection of the impact a player had with the team that drafted him. For example, if Joe Smith is drafted by Team A and released in training camp, only to go on to sign with Team B and become an all-star, the grade Team A would receive for drafting him would still be a 0, despite Smith’s later success.
|6||42||DL||Chris Hodgson||Saint Mary’s||0|
|6||SUP||DL||Alex Ellis||Wilfred Laurier||0|
Iannuzzi, a Jock Climie-like combination of receiver and attorney, has enjoyed a decent CFL career after being selected as the final of four wide receiver prospects in 2011’s first round. Though his career receiving totals equal just 73 receptions for 786 yards and 7 scores, Iannuzzi’s numbers have been suppressed due to the Lion’s inexplicable decision to regularly start the streaky Shawn Gore and the invisible Kito Poblah ahead of the 27-year-old Harvard graduate. Iannuzzi’s kick/punt return abilities are also a nice asset to the Lions’ ratio flexibility.
O’Neill, meanwhile, was drafted to take over from a soon-to-be retired Paul McCallum. As things worked out, McCallum didn’t retire, O’Neill didn’t play well and the CFL’s bushiest beard was cut early in the 2013 season. Since signing with his hometown Eskimos just three days after his release from the Lions, O’Neill has gone 31/42 (73.8%) in the kicking game, while his 2014 44.4 yard punting average was just 7th among CFL punters with more than 40 attempts.
The four remaining players were cut during training camp, with Sage and Ellis never signing another CFL deal. Hodgson, a remarkably athletic player who played just one year of football at Saint Mary’s after a long semi-professional hockey career, went on to get a look in Montreal’s 2012 training camp but didn’t stick. Carter, meanwhile, played in the CFL for three years, collecting ten special teams tackles with Hamilton (2011) and Montreal (2012-2013) over that span.
|2||SUP||DL||Ted Laurent||Ole Miss||5|
Mitchell was a huge bust at second overall, rarely managing to earn playing time on an Eskimo offensive line that routinely struggled during Mitchell’s tenure with the club from 2011-2013. Signing with Toronto as a free agent this past winter, Mitchell was a back-up with the Argonauts during the 2014 season and may earn a starting role with the club next season after fellow Ottawa native Tyler Holmes signs with the RedBlacks in February.
Coehoorn was a great pick at fifth overall. Selected after both University of Calgary teammate Anthony Parker and the University of Saskatchewan’s Jade Etienne, Coehoorn has gone on to register more than double the receiving output of both receivers (60 receptions, 666 yards, 6 touchdowns and 20 receptions, 276 yards, 2 touchdowns, respectively). Having just completed his third season as a regular starter, Coehoorn has chalked up 148 receptions for 1,734 yards and 4 touchdowns. In a league that sees national receivers Andre Durie, Andy Fantuz, and Chris Getzlaf get a lot of media attention, Coehoorn deserves more.
Laurent demanded the attention of CFL fans and media across the country in 2014 in his first season with the Tiger-Cats. Finishing with an impressive nine sacks from his defensive tackle position, Laurent joined future Canadian Football Hall of Famer Doug Brown as just the second defensive lineman to win the Lew Hayman Trophy as the East Division Most Outstanding Canadian (for reference, Brown never had more than seven sacks in a single season). Laurent could very well end up being the best player selected in the entire 2011 draft, making him worth infinitely more than what Edmonton sacrificed to draft him (their 2012 second round pick). Makes you think Ed Hervey should have tried a little harder to re-sign the 2012 west division all-star after the 2013 campaign, huh?
Lopez played for the Eskimos for two seasons, accumulating eight special teams tackles before signing with the Argonauts in 2013 where he failed to register a statistic. After being released at the end of Saskatchewan’s training camp in 2014, Lopez is currently a member of the RedBlacks.
Pierre spent parts of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 CFL seasons with the Eskimos, though he failed to record a statistic in any of these campaigns.
|4||26||DL||Akwasi Antwi||Mount Allison||2|
By all accounts, Parker and Sinopoli looked like busts two seasons ago. Sinopoli was cut in 2012 after spending the 2011 season as the team’s fourth-string quarterback (#CanadianQBProblems), while Parker had more special teams tackles (7) than catches (6) in his first two campaigns. Parker’s numbers would have been acceptable for a late round selection, of course, but were nowhere close to the production teams have come to expect from a third overall pick. Since then, Parker has become more involved in Calgary’s offense, while Sinopoli, a converted receiver, has added 54 catches for 614 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Turner is a consistent interior defensive lineman who registered a career-high three sacks in 2014. With 2014 7th overall selection Quinn Smith and veteran Corey Mace rotating with Turner throughout games, the Stampeders have three talented players teaming up to fill a key national starter spot along the defensive line.
Antwi was a special teams demon for the Stampeders in 2011 and 2012, registering an impressive 28 special teams tackles over that span. Traded to Toronto in exchange for the rights to offensive tackle Dan Federkeil after the 2012 season, Antwi spent the 2013 season out of football before making a comeback with the Lions in 2014, registering 21 special teams tackles – good for 6th in the CFL.
Walter, an all-important national back-up to perennial all-star Jon Cornish, started seven games for Calgary in 2014, racking up 453 yards and 2 touchdowns off 79 carries, good for a 5.7 yard per carry average. A free agent as of February 10, 2015, Walter should get multiple juicy contract offers from teams around the league looking for a national player who is capable of starting at running back.
Manchulenko was released early in training camp.
Butler had the most impactful rookie season of all 2011 draftees, earning a West Division all-star nod at free safety in his first professional campaign. Racking up 11 interceptions, 135 tackles, and 6 fumble recoveries in three seasons with the ’Riders, the London, Ontario native signed as a free agent with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats prior to the 2014 season. Drafting Butler was a terrific move by Saskatchewan (he was an essential piece of a 2013 Grey Cup championship team, after all) but the ’Riders need to stop developing national talent on Hamilton’s behalf (#FantuzProblems).
O’Donnell, a mountain of a man at 6’9, 340 pounds, was traded to the Edmonton Eskimos midway through his rookie 2012 season in exchange for WR Greg Carr. Though O’Donnell was in tough to crack the Roughriders’ starting line-up after Saskatchewan acquired Dominic Picard, Brendon LaBatte and Ben Heenan prior to the 2012 campaign, trading a national offensive lineman in exchange for an international wide receiver is always bad business in the CFL. Carr, who was making in the neighborhood of $25,000 more per season than O’Donnell at the time, caught just 16 passes for 168 yards and 1 touchdown with the ’Riders in 2012 and 2013. O’Donnell, meanwhile, has developed into a decent starter who, had he stayed in Saskatchewan, would have received a draft grade of at least a 3.
Krausnick-Groh spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the ’Riders. Buried behind a plethora of veteran offensive linemen, Krausnick-Groh left for Edmonton via free agency in 2013 where he started a number of games at centre. Selected by Ottawa in the RedBlacks expansion draft, Krausnick-Groh spent parts of the 2014 season at guard, centre, and tight end. Regardless of what the future holds, Krausnick-Groh, a pending free agent, will live on in the hearts and minds of CFL fans for this catch and run he made working against Roughrider safety Tyron Brackenridge this past season.
Milo has been an inconsistent performer through his four season with the ’Riders. His punting has been an adventure – he lost the ’Rider’s punting job in 2013 to Ricky Schmidt and again in 2014 to Josh Bartel – and his field goal percentages are wildly erratic, posting numbers of 84.6, 64.7, 88.5, and 71.4 over the past four seasons, respectively. It’ll be interesting to see how long Brendan Taman and company continue to put their trust in Milo.
Exume has had cups of coffee with the Roughriders (2011), Tiger-Cats (2011), and Eskimos (2013), but has yet to dress for a CFL game.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
|1||1||LB||Henoc Muamba||St. FX||5|
|1||SUP||WR||Kito Poblah||Central Michigan||2|
|5||32||RB||Carl Volny||Central Mich||1|
Muamba was such an immense talent coming out of St. Francis Xavier that not even Joe Mack could screw up the first overall selection of the 2011 CFL draft. Though Muamba’s value has been diminished by his ability to earn a contract with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, Muamba’s ability to dominate at a position played almost exclusively by international players makes him the best player to come out of the 2011 draft. Winning the Lew Hayman Trophy in 2013 as the East Division Most Outstanding Canadian at the age of 24 on a 3-15 football team is a truly magnificent accomplishment, even for a player who made 124 total tackles over an eighteen game schedule. If Muamba’s NFL opportunities ever dry up there are sure to be nine CFL teams clamoring to sign this phenom.
Etienne was drafted with the selection the Bombers procured from Toronto in the Steven Jyles trade made just after the 2010 season. With two highly touted receivers still available in Harvard’s Marco Iannuzzi and Calgary’s Nate Coehoorn, Joe Mack acquiesced to head coach Paul LaPolice’s request to draft 21-year-old Jade Etienne out of Saskatchewan. Despite possessing impressive speed and a lanky 6’4 frame, Etienne was never able to translate his physical abilities into production, finishing his three seasons in Winnipeg with just 20 receptions for 276 yards and 2 touchdowns. Traded to Saskatchewan just days before becoming a free agent in February of 2014, Etienne was cut by the ’Riders in training camp. Etienne now works as a bartender in Regina.
Poblah, traded to BC after the 2013 season, caught 53 passes for 536 yards and 1 touchdown in three seasons with the Bombers. Even in a league that’s seen its quality of national players decline sharply since the reintroduction of Ottawa, Poblah is a borderline starter at best.
Dunn and Swiston – both giants at 6’7 and 6’9, respectively – were drafted with the hope that one or both would develop into ratio-breaking offensive tackles. While Dunn, who had played just one year along the offensive line at Western before being drafted, washed out with the Bombers after just one year with the team, Swiston lasted almost four years with the club, eventually being cut midway through the 2014 season. Dunn, who went on to spend time on practice rosters in Saskatchewan and Ottawa, respectively, never dressed in a regular season game for the Bombers. Swiston, meanwhile, started just three games in his career: two at right guard, in an ill-advised coaching decision that saw him start ahead of a healthy Steve Morley; and one at tackle in the opening game of the 2012 regular season at BC Place. The Bombers lost the game 33-16, giving up four sacks in the process. The Bombers’ leading running back that night was Bloi-Dei Dorzon who had five carries for four yards.
Volny, a pending free agent, has accumulated just 41 carries for 168 yards over his four-year career with the Bombers. A player who is rarely asked to play special teams (he has just five career special teams tackles) or fill a blocking role on offense, Volny isn’t expected to be back in blue and gold in 2015.
Mahoney was cut in training camp but went on to spend the balance of the 2011 season on Hamilton’s practice roster. Mahoney also got a brief off-season look with Ottawa prior to the 2014 campaign.
|5||36||TE||Tyrell Francisco||Weber State||0|
A centre from St. Laurent, Quebec, Petrus signed with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers prior to the 2012 season. He has since spent the past three seasons out of football after being cut in training camp. With the Tiger-Cats certain to have made Petrus a number of contract offers over the past three seasons, it appears the 28-year-old has moved on from football.
Fortin just completed his third season with the Ti-Cats, though he’s tallied just two special teams tackles over the past two seasons. A pending free agent, Fortin will hit the open market on February 10, 2015 if he’s not re-upped before then.
Forbes (2011), Jean-Mary (2012), and Baillargeon (2012) each spent one year with the Tiger-Cats. Forbes and Jean-Mary are now out of football, while Baillargeon has been a member of the Montreal Alouettes since July of 2013.
Francisco was released in his first training camp with the club, while Wagner never signed a CFL contract.
|6||43||OL||Michael Knill||Wilfred Laurier||0|
The Argonauts were forced to wait on Holmes for two seasons while he played out his senior season at Tulsa before spending the 2013 season with the Minnesota Vikings. Despite the wait, Holmes has developed into a dominant CFL left guard. Holmes is the best offensive lineman to come out of the 2011 draft and, as a pending free agent, is going to get a boatload of cash this February. Look for him to sign with his hometown RedBlacks.
Converting to fullback in his first training camp, Robinson has registered 18 receptions for 195 yards and 3 touchdowns to go along with 25 special teams tackles in his four seasons with the Argonauts. He won’t make headlines, but Robinson the type of solid national contributor every CFL teams needs.
Gardner (2011) and Kouame (2011-2012) spent one and two seasons with the Argonauts, respectively, though neither receiver registered a statistic.
Alexandre (2011) and Feoli-Gudino (2012-2013) were in and out of the line-up in their time with Toronto. Modest contributors with the club, Alexandre and Feoli-Gudino went on to have success with other CFL clubs in 2014. Alexandre had five sacks in Chris Jones’ defensive scheme with the Eskimos, while Feoli-Gudino made 24 receptions for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns in Winnipeg. Drafting two players who can contribute in the fifth round of the CFL draft is great – just not when the contributions are made while wearing enemy colors.
Knill, who smashed the CFL combine record with an unbelievable 47 bench press reps, was cut in the Argos’ 2011 training camp. He has not signed a CFL contract since.
The selection of McKnight raised eyebrows across the league on draft day. McKnight turned out to be a colossal bust – he never registered a statistic with any of the five teams with which he spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons – the Alouettes were inexplicably able to unload McKnight for a king’s ransom midway through the 2012 season. In a move that sealed the fate of Edmonton GM Eric Tillman, the Eskimos acquired McKnight in exchange for K/P Derek Schiavone and 2013 1st and 4th round picks. The Alouettes went on to use the picks to select special teams dynamo Nicolas Boulay and 2013 CFL all-star safety Mike Edem, making the decision to draft McKnight, ultimately, a good one. With that being said, McKnight’s draft grade is still a 0.
Blake and Martin, both of whom were drafted late due to the NFL interest they’d garnered, are currently free agents. It is highly unlikely Martin, a defensive tackle who spent the 2009-2013 regular seasons between San Diego, Miami, and Detroit, will ever sign in Montreal given the amount of money he made down south. Blake, on the other hand, played just two seasons at centre between Denver and Arizona. With just two years of service under his belt, Blake does not qualify for the NFL pension program and, at age 29, probably has a lot left to offer.
Barrette spent parts of the 2011-2013 seasons with the Alouettes before signing with the RedBlacks in January of 2014. Four months later, Barrette retired.
Sageese got training camps looks with Montreal and Saskatchewan in 2011 and 2012, respectively, but was released both times.
Alexander and Ruttan were cut in their first training camp with Montreal in 2012.
|Team||Tot Grade||Avg Grade/Pick||Picks still w/ Team|
|4||Winnipeg Blue Bombers||10||1.43||1|
As we can see, the clear winner of the 2011 CFL draft is and was the Calgary Stampeders. Though they failed to draft any of the four players who received a perfect grade of 5 (Henoc Muamba, Tyler Holmes, Ted Laurent or Craig Butler), the 2011 draft yielded four consistent players for Calgary, all of whom are good enough to start in the CFL on at least a situational basis (Anthony Parker, Junior Turner, Brad Sinopoli, Matt Walter). In a league that requires teams to start just seven national players, finding four in one draft is remarkable.
As reflected in the individual team write-ups, some teams were able to supplement poor drafts by signing 2011 draftees in free agency (here’s looking at you, Hamilton). Others saw good drafts become greatly diminished by losing players through free agency (Saskatchewan, Winnipeg). Others would have had better drafts had they realized the potential of some of the players they selected (Toronto).
As a final indulgence of CFL draft nerdiness, I thought it would be interesting to see what the first two rounds of the 2011 draft would have looked like had teams known then what they know now about player development, roster moves, and injuries. Please note that players taken in the 2011 CFL supplemental draft (ie. Ted Laurent, Kito Poblah, Alex Ellis) will not be included in this re-draft as they were not available for the main draft on May 8, 2011.
Round 1, Pick 1: MLB Henoc Muamba, St. FX – Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Original draft: Round 1, Pick 1 – Winnipeg Blue Bombers
There’s no need to fix what was never broken.
Round 1, Pick 2: OL Tyler Holmes, Tulsa – Edmonton Eskimos
Original draft: Round 1, Pick 7 – Toronto Argonauts
The Eskimos still select an offensive lineman, this time undeterred by the possibility of Holmes playing in the NFL.
Round 1, Pick 3: WR Nathan Coehoorn, Calgary – Calgary Stampeders
Original draft: Round 1, Pick 5 – Edmonton Eskimos
In our 20/20 hindsight re-draft, the Stampeders don’t overlook Coehoorn for his Dino teammate Anthony Parker.
Round 1, Pick 4: S Craig Butler, Western – Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Original draft: Round 2, Pick 12 – Saskatchewan Roughriders
With veteran safety Ian Logan’s career winding down, the Bombers select Butler to keep the safety position in the hands of a fellow future all-star national player.
Round 1, Pick 5: WR Rory Kohlert, Saskatchewan – Edmonton Eskimos
Original draft: Undrafted
With Nate Coehoorn off the board, the Eskimos draft next best receiver available. Despite going undrafted in real life, Kohlert has put up 89 catches for 1,187 yards and 6 touchdowns over the past two seasons in Winnipeg, almost double the career totals of 2011 first rounders Anthony Parker and Marco Iannuzzi.
Round 1, Pick 6: OL Matt O’Donnell, Queen’s – BC Lions
Original draft: Round 2, Pick 15 – Saskatchewan Roughriders
With a devastating injury to 2012 draftee Kirby Fabien ruining his 2013 and 2014 seasons, the Lions draft this Comox, BC native to preemptively shore up the offensive line.
Round 1, Pick 7: WR Marco Iannuzzi, Harvard – Toronto Argonauts
Original draft: Round 1, Pick 6 – BC Lions
Unable to select stalwart guard Tyler Holmes, the Argonauts select Marco Iannuzzi to serve as depth behind national starters Andre Durie and Spencer Watt.
Round 1, Pick 8: DL Junior Turner, Bishop’s – Montreal Alouettes
Original draft: Round 2, Pick 9 – Calgary Stampeders
Turner moves up into the first round to go to Montreal where he shares a national defensive tackle spot with veteran J. P. Bekasiak.
Round 2, Pick 9: RB Matt Walter, Calgary – Calgary Stampeders
Original draft: Round 5, Pick 34 – Calgary Stampeders
The Stampeders still end up drafting Dino running back Matt Walter, they just don’t wait until the fifth round to do it.
Round 2, Pick 10: WR Anthony Parker, Calgary – Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Original draft: Round 1, Pick 3 – Calgary Stampeders
Always a team looking for national talent at wide receiver, the Tabbies select Vancouver native Anthony Parker 10th overall.
Round 2, Pick 11: DL Akwasi Antwi, Mount Allison – BC Lions
Original draft: Round 4, Pick 26 – Calgary Stampeders
This time around, the Lions don’t wait until the 2013-2014 off-season to acquire Antwi, one of the CFL’s best special teams tacklers.
Round 2, Pick 12: QB Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa – Saskatchewan Roughriders
Original draft: Round 4, Pick 29 – Calgary Stampeders
With Craig Butler off the board, the ’Riders select CIS QB Brad Sinopoli before converting him to wide receiver.
Round 2, Pick 13: OL Alexander Krausnick-Groh, Calgary – Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Original draft: Round 4, Pick 27 – Saskatchewan Roughriders
With major injuries coming to interior offensive linemen Marwan Hage and Peter Dyakowski, Alexander Krausnick-Groh provides the Tiger-Cats with some solid depth at both centre and guard.
Round 2, Pick 14: K Chris Milo, Laval – Edmonton Eskimos
Original draft: Round 4, Pick 30 – Saskatchewan Roughriders
With the Eskimos going on to make ridiculous trades to acquire kickers Grant Shaw and Brody McKnight in 2011 and 2013, respectively, they select Chris Milo out of Laval to preemptively take care of their needs at kicker.
Round 2, Pick 15: WR Jade Etienne, Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan Roughriders
Original draft: Round 1, Pick 4 – Winnipeg Blue Bombers
For a team that always starts two national receivers, Etienne provides support down the depth chart. The fact that he’s a local boy also doesn’t hurt.
Round 2, Pick 16: Marc-Antoine Fortin, Laval – Montreal Alouettes
Original draft: Round 3, Pick 20 – Hamilton Tiger-Cats
The Alouettes draft the Quebec-born defensive end to shore up special teams and serve as a rotational pass rusher.