Five players with the most to lose at the CFL combine

With the CFL Combine about to get underway, here are five players who could see their stock fall should they fail to meet expectations this week in Winnipeg.

OL Dakoda Shepley, UBC

Currently ranked eleventh on the CFL scouting bureau rankings, Shepley has more than enough size and athleticism to be a productive offensive lineman at the pro level. The question is how many positions in the trenches he’ll be able to play.

This year’s combine roster features a number of talented offensive linemen, but very few — if any — who have the build to play offensive tackle. Darius Ciraco (Calgary), Justin Lawrence (Alberta), and Mark Korte (Alberta) project as CFL centres, while Peter Godber (Rice), Andrew Pickett (Guelph), and Ryan Sceviour (Calgary) project as CFL guards. Shepley, a Canada West all-star at tackle in 2017, has a shot to play tackle at the pro level.

A strong performance at tackle in the combine’s one-on-one pass rushing drills would solidify Shepley’s ranking as a top offensive lineman. Should he struggle at tackle, Shepley’s stock could fall when lumped in with the glut of this draft’s other interior hogs.

DB Godrey Onyeka, Wilfrid Laurier

Onyeka currently sits sixth in the CFL scouting bureau rankings and hasn’t shied away from pumping his own tires. Telling 519 Sports Online that he should be the first overall selection in this year’s draft, Onyeka will have the chance to prove his skills at the combine later this week.

Scouts know that Onyeka will be able to play safety and contribute on special teams at the CFL level; what’s up for debate is his ability to contribute elsewhere in the secondary — cornerback, halfback or even strong-side linebacker. If he wants to be in serious consideration for the draft’s top selection, Onyeka will need to perform well in the 40-yard dash and one-on-one cover drills against the combine’s top receivers.

Canadian defensive backs who can play in a number of positions — think Arjen Colquhoun (Edmonton) or Anthony Thompson (B.C.) — have tremendous value compared to their one-dimensional counterparts. We already know Onyeka is the top defensive back available in this year’s draft; the question is how much can he separate himself from the pack.

DL Julien Laurent, Georgia State

Laurent is a solid nose tackle prospect who currently sits fifth on the CFL’s scouting bureau rankings. The honour student has a body that is ready for professional football — the problem is that it’s ready for professional American football.

Weighing in at 325 pounds during his senior season with the Panthers, Laurent is simply too heavy to play in the CFL. Western’s Rupert Butcher — the last “oversized” defensive tackle prospect to appear at the CFL combine — performed well in the one-on-ones two years ago, but still slid to the sixth round of that year’s draft. Cut by Winnipeg in training camp (twice), Butcher has yet to find a CFL home since June of 2017.

Laurent would do himself a big favor by showing up to this week’s combine between twenty-five and forty pounds lighter than his playing weight from his final collegiate season at Georgia State. The issue is that Laurent, like many of the CFL’s top prospects, is still hoping for a shot at the NFL and taking off the weight could inhibit his chances of getting a look down south.

DL Kene Onyeka, Carleton

Onyeka had an outstanding senior season with the Ravens, recording 10.5 sacks in eight games en route to winning the J.P. Metras Trophy. The Metras is awarded to the most outstanding offensive or defensive lineman in USports and has previously been awarded to Israel Idonije, Dominic Picard, Chris Best, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and David Onyemata.

There’s no taking away the success Onyeka enjoyed as a senior, but the fourteenth-ranked prospect still has plenty to prove this week at the combine. Onyeka had just one sack as a junior in 2016, meaning his dominance as a pass rusher has been short-lived. There’s also the added pressure of Bo Banner’s late inclusion in this year’s draft class. Onyeka was the undisputed top defensive end in this year’s class until Banner’s addition — if Banner outperforms him, Onyeka’s stock will fall.

Onyeka should be a high selection in this year’s draft regardless of his combine performance, but a failure to establish himself as a can’t-miss pass rushing prospect may see him slide out of the first round (or two) of the draft.

REC Rashaun Simonise, Calgary

I know what you’re thinking — didn’t Simonise appear on yesterday’s list of the top five players with the most to gain from attending the combine? The answer is yes — that’s just how polarizing Simonise is. He belongs on both lists.

Simonise currently sits seventh on the CFL’s scouting bureau rankings, but his stock could plummet if he doesn’t appear interested in performing at the combine. Simonise is enigmatic, athletically-gifted, skilled, and unpredictable. Some have taken to calling him the ‘Canadian Duron Carter’ — when focused, he’s great; the problem is that he’s not always focused.

Simonise could see his stock rise (see yesterday’s piece) or fall depending on his attitude, level of focus, and on-field performance. He’ll be one of the most engaging players at this year’s combine and one who I can’t wait to see live.