Recapping & Grading The 2015 CFL Draft

The 2015 CFL draft wrapped up just after 11:00 PM ET on Tuesday evening. Boasting the deepest draft class the CFL has seen in a decade, football fans across the country were champing at the bit to see who their favorite teams would take over the draft’s seven rounds. And while drafts cannot be fairly judged for several years after its completion (as far as the CFL draft is concerned, I’d say four full years are required to draw any hard conclusions about drafted players), here are my early thoughts on the Bombers’ selections, followed by a brief grading of the draft classes assembled by the CFL’s nine teams.

1. The Bombers had three selections in the draft’s top fifteen spots and three distinct needs: offensive line, receiver, and a player who could contribute at defensive line or defensive back. Winnipeg’s first pick, Calgary’s Sukh Chungh, was an absolute slam-dunk at second overall. Chungh, known for playing with an edge, was the top player on the Bombers’ draft board and should be a stalwart CFL guard for the next decade. The Bombers’ next two picks, however, came at somewhat of a surprise. Addison Richards out of Regina (11) and Brendan Morgan out of Queen’s (15) were both selected above their projected rounds and with highly talented positional alternatives still on the board (SFU receiver Lemar Durant, thought by many to be the draft’s top athlete, fell to 18, while speedy Regina cornerback Tevaughn Campbell fell to 22). Richards reminds me of Edmonton’s Nate Coehoorn – a tall, lanky receiver best suited to the z-option position, while Morgan compares well to Winnipeg native Donovan Alexander as a player who can slot in at field side corner or safety. Given the players Winnipeg overlooked to select these two, expectations will be high in Bomberland.

2. Bomber fans were very disappointed in the club’s failure to draft former University of Manitoba Bison Nic Demski. Though I also would have liked to see Demski in blue and gold, there’s simply nothing Winnipeg could have done to move up high enough to select the former Oak Park Raider. Let’s just hope Demski signs with the Bombers when his tenure in Saskatchewan is over.

3. Since becoming the Bombers’ general manager, Kyle Walters has repeatedly talked about the importance of drafting two offensive linemen every year, one high enough to contribute right away and another to send back to school and develop over a longer period of time. With Chungh being the lone offensive lineman selected by the Bombers, look for the club to sift through this year’s undrafted offensive linemen to find an extra hog to bring to camp.

4. The Bombers’ three late-round selections – Laval full Christophe Normand (33), Ottawa DL Ettore Lattanzio (38), and Bishop’s LB Justin Warden (46) – are the types of players Joe Mack would never have selected. While Mack would have overvalued skill players like Laval’s Matt Norzil and Saint Mary’s Melvin Abankwah in the draft’s second and third rounds, Walters picked these three players to fill small, yet important roles on the club’s roster. Normand compares closely to current Bomber fullback Michel-Pierre Pontbriand (a fellow Laval grad, to boot) both in size and skill. Expect Normand to make an immediate impact on special teams and on offense, where back-up fullback Carl Fitzgerald struggled mightily in blocking duties last season. Lattanzio and Warden, meanwhile, project as pure special teams guys. Warden put up excellent testing number at the Montreal Regional Combine, while Lattanzio, vastly undersized for the defensive tackle position at 5’11, 245, compares well to current Bomber CEO Wade Miller as a guy who should be able to light it up on special teams despite possessing a diminutive stature.

5. What the heck happened to Idaho’s Maxx Forde? I thought Forde had a solid combine. I liked his tape. He was projected to go as high as tenth overall. Instead, he fell to BC with the 58th overall pick. Talk about a free fall.

6. It was nice to see so many fullbacks selected in such a deep draft. TSN draft guru Duane Forde really liked Sherbrooke’s William Langlais (drafted by Calgary at twenty-seventh overall) and I expect Normand, Michigan State’s Matt Rea, and Utah State’s Jefferson Court to contribute with their new teams in Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, and Ottawa, respectively. Contrary to popular belief, the fullback position is still an important one in the CFL. Any CFL coach will tell you about the types of positive impacts players like Rob Cote and Rolly Lumbala can have on special teams and in blocking roles. It was nice to see some young players get rewarded with solid mid-round draft spots.

7. It was also nice to see Canadian-born QBs Brandon Bridge (Montreal, 31) and Andrew Buckley (Calgary, 62) get selected. Watch for undrafted U of M quarterback Jordan Yantz to get a look in a CFL training camp.

8. My top three draft steals (in no particular order): Idaho DE Maxx Forde (BC, 58), Simon Fraser WR Lemar Durant (Calgary, 18), and Michigan State G James Bodanis (Montreal, 24).

9. My top three draft reaches (in no particular order): Wilfred Laurier DT Ese Mrabure-Ajufo (BC, 5), Calgary WR Jake Harty (Ottawa, 10), and Alberta G David Beard (Edmonton, 16).

Top Grades

Calgary Stampeders

1 9 OL Karl Lavoie Laval
2 18 WR Lemar Durant Simon Fraser
3 19 RB Tyler Varga Yale
3 22 DB Tevaughn Campbell Regina
3 27 FB William Langlais Sherbrooke
5 44 DB Dexter Janke Saskatchewan
6 53 OL Aaron Picton Regina
7 62 QB Andrew Buckley Calgary

The Stamps simply had an outstanding draft. Lavoie should develop into a solid CFL guard, while Durant and Campbell offer huge upside. Langlais and Janke will make immediate impacts on special teams, while Varga, should he ever come north, could be the next Jon Cornish.

Montreal Alouettes

1 4 DB Chris Ackie Wilfred Laurier
1 8 OL Jacob Ruby Richmond
2 13 LB Nick Shortill McMaster
3 24 OL James Bodanis Michigan State
4 31 QB Brandon Bridge South Alabama
4 36 WR Alex Charette Guelph
5 40 WR Mikhail Davidson Montreal
6 48 DL Quinn Lawlor BYU
7 57 DB Anthony Coady Montreal

Chris Ackie brings versatility to an Alouette defensive backfield that already features solid contributors in Marc-Olivier Brouillette and Mike Edem. Ruby and Bodanis should develop into starter-quality players at the guard position, while Bridge has the athleticism to become a venerable CFL pass catcher should things not work out at quarterback. Shortill is an underrated special teamer who may eventually be able to contribute on defense.

Medium Grades

Edmonton Eskimos

1 7 OL Danny Groulx Laval
2 16 OL David Beard Alberta
3 25 LB Adam Konar Calgary
4 34 WR Andrew Johnson Fort Lewis
7 60 LB Blair Smith Angelo State

The Eskimos desperately needed to restock the cupboard with young, national offensive linemen and did so with the selections of Groulx and Beard. I would have liked to see the Eskimos opt for Michigan State’s James Bodanis over Beard, but the fact that Beard is a local product (and that is name is literally Beard) helps. Konar will make an immediate impact on special teams.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

1 2 OL Sukh Chungh Calgary
2 11 WR Addison Richards Regina
2 15 DB Brendan Morgan Queen’s
4 33 FB Christophe Normand Laval
5 38 DL Ettore Lattanzio Ottawa
6 46 LB Justin Warden Bishop’s

The Chungh pick is a homerun, while Richards and Morgan could eventually develop into starters at the z-option receiver and field-side corner spots. I’m still not sure about the decision to pass on Lemar Durant, though. The Normand pick was a hit with CFL media-types across the country, while Lattanzio and Warden should be able to make an immediate impact on special teams.

Toronto Argonauts

1 3 OL Sean McEwen Calgary
2 13 DL Daryl Waud Western
3 21 DL Cameron Walker Guelph
4 30 WR Matt Norzil Laval
5 39 RB Dillon Campbell Wilfred Laurier
7 55 WR Kevin Bradfield Toronto
7 56 LS Dan MacDonald Guelph

There was nothing remotely sexy about Toronto’s draft class, but it’ll get the job done. McEwen adds some much-needed youth to an aging Argonaut offensive line, while Waud and Walker should be ready to fill rotational roles alongside current national starters Cleyon Laing and Ricky Foley. Norzil could be a sleeper pick if he’s able to stay healthy at the professional level.

BC Lions

1 5 DL Ese Mrabure-Ajufo Wilfrid Laurier
2 14 OL Brett Boyko UNLV
3 23 RB Shaquille Murray-Lawrence UNLV
4 32 LB Adrian Clarke Bishop’s
5 41 OL Campbell Allison Eastern Michigan
5 43 DL Christian Covington Rice
6 49 DB Joshua Brinkworth Pacific
7 58 DL Maxx Forde Idaho

The Lions’ 2015 draft class is very high-risk, high-reward. BC has been burnt by selecting NFL-bound offensive lineman in the past (see: Watkins, Danny), but would immediately gain a plug-and-play national tackle should Boyko ever come north. Covington, the undisputed best player of the draft, would almost surely dominate with the Lions, though I doubt he ever signs a CFL contract. I like the value of Allison and Forde and the athleticism of Murray-Lawrence and Clarke. I just can’t get over the overvalued selection of Mrabure-Ajufo at fifth overall. For a club that desperately needed to add a high-quality offensive lineman, the Lions really missed the boat in the first round.

Low Grades

Ottawa RedBlacks

1 1 OL Alex Mateas Connecticut
2 10 WR Jake Harty Calgary
4 28 LS Tanner Doll Calgary
5 37 FB Jefferson Court Utah State
6 46 RB Kienan Lafrance Manitoba
7 54 OL Alexandre Leganiere Montreal

I love the Mateas pick, but things drop off quickly after that. Harty was drastically overvalued at tenth overall (the book on Harty is that he’s already close to his developmental ceiling; with Brad Sinopoli and Matt Carter already on the roster, Ottawa would have been wiser to select SFU’s Lemar Durant or Regina’s Addison Richards at tenth), particularly for a team with plenty of holes and just two top-25 selections.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

1 6 WR Nic Demski Manitoba
3 26 DL Roy Connop Western
4 35 FB Matt Rea Michigan State
5 42 DB Kwame Adjei Mount Allison
6 47 DL Tyler Langlais Calgary
6 50 RB/WR Melvin Abankwah Saint Mary’s
7 59 DL Brandon Tennant Laval

Roughrider general manager Brendan Taman really Taman’d this one up. Rather than invest in a depleted offensive line (Saskatchewan was the only team that failed to draft an offensive lineman in this year’s draft), Taman selected Demski with his first rounder after trading down a number of his other picks. Adjei and Rea should make solid contributions on special teams, though the ’Riders did nothing to buoy their depth behind Shea Emry at middle linebacker, something they’ll surely regret if he’s injured at some point this season.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

2 17 LB Byron Archambault Montreal
3 20 LB Jonathan Langa Saint Mary’s
3 29 LB Ron Omara St. FX
6 51 DB Everett Ellefsen McNeese State
6 52 WR Daniel English UBC
7 61 LB Preston Huggins Western

The Linebacker-Cats assembled one of the most peculiar draft classes in recent CFL memory on Tuesday. As much as the Alouettes did well with the two picks they got in the Ryan Bomben trade (Ruby at 8, Bodanis at 24), I think the Ti-Cats were wise to make the deal. Bomben brings some much-needed youth to an aging Ti-Cat offensive line and could provide the team with extra ratio flexibility should be prove capable of starting at tackle. With that said, the logic of selecting four linebackers in the same draft is beyond me. Archambault will be a solid CFL linebacker, but selecting him over SFU’s Lemar Durant (especially given Hamilton’s roster needs) is inexcusable. After ‘Arch’, the Ti-Cats have five special teamers to show for their remaining picks. And while accumulating special teamers is important, you’d hope to get a little more out of such a deep class of players.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk


John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.