With the 2018 CFL combine set to get underway on Friday, a new generation of Canadian talent is ready to strut their stuff in front of scouts, coaches, personnel people, and fans. Here are five players who have the opportunity to see their stock rise with a solid performance in Winnipeg.
DL Bo Banner, Central Washington
Banner is a recent addition to the draft after receiving his Canadian citizenship in January. Had Banner been awarded citizenship a month prior, the pass rushing specialist would almost certainly have been featured on the CFL’s latest scouting bureau rankings.
Banner recorded twelve sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss in twelve games with the Wildcats as a senior, numbers which compare favorably to those that Kwaku Boateng — last year’s top pass rushing prospect — put up at Wilfrid Laurier during his senior season.
Banner has a pro-ready body, rushes the passer well, and can contribute on special teams. He’s somewhat off the radar right now, but he won’t be after this week’s combine.
REC Mark Chapman, Central Michigan
Chapman already has a spot on the CFL scouting bureau rankings (10), but he sits third among receivers behind Calgary’s Rashaun Simonise (7) and Montreal’s Regis Cibasu (8). With that said, there are some scouts who believe Chapman is the best receiver available in this year’s draft class and a strong performance this week in Winnipeg could help grow that consensus.
Chapman led the Chippewas in both receptions (54) and receiving yards (805 yards) as a senior last season. A high school quarterback with quickness and agility, Chapman may just have the physical and mental attributes needed to stand out from the pack this weekend. A strong performance in the one-on-one receiving drills would go a long way to elevating Chapman’s draft status.
Already 24, Chapman will need to prove that he’s pro-ready in order to see his stock rise. Don’t be surprised if that happens at this year’s combine.
OL Justin Lawrence, Alberta
Lawrence was the only offensive lineman initially invited to the combine without a spot on the CFL’s scouting bureau top-twenty rankings. A Canada West all-star at guard as a senior, Lawrence projects as a CFL centre.
He may not be as athletic as some of his peers in the 2018 draft class — teammate Mark Korte is expected by many to be the top tester among offensive linemen — but Lawrence was still a key part of an Alberta offensive line that paved the way for Hec Crighton Trophy winner Ed Ilnicki to rush for a jaw-dropping 1,468 rushing yards in 2017. Having Chris Morris, a 14-year CFL offensive lineman, as a collegiate head coach doesn’t hurt Lawrence’s stock either.
Lawrence won’t be a top-ranked selection, but he has a chance to establish himself as a legitimate prospect for a team looking to bring along its next starting centre. A solid performance in the bench press, one-on-one blocking drills, and interview room will help Lawrence achieve just that.
RB Atlee Simon, Regina
I’m expecting Simon’s stock to skyrocket at this year’s CFL combine. After being somewhat overshadowed by teammate and star quarterback Noah Picton during his collegiate career, Simon could earn a selection within the first two to three rounds of the draft with a good day of drills and testing in The Peg.
A dual-sport athlete between track and football, Simon has the right frame (6’0, 205) and physical tools for the CFL game. He’s a proven ballcarrier and receiver — Simon recorded 1,207 yards from scrimmage with the Rams in 2017 on 152 carries and 27 receptions — who could also look to contribute early in his CFL career as a return specialist (ala Nic Demski or Tunde Adeleke).
Voted club MVP by his teammates a season ago, Simon could be seen as a legitimate ratio-breaking running back of the future by more than one CFL team.
REC Rashaun Simonise, Calgary
Simonise is almost certainly the most physically-gifted athlete who will be participating in this year’s CFL combine. At 6’5, 205 and boasting 4.6-speed, Simonise has the combination of length and speed that scouts drool over. Provided he’s in shape, testing and one-on-one drills shouldn’t be a problem for this member of the Okanagan Sun.
Where Simonise can see his stock rise is through the interview process. Simonise tested positive for a banned substance during his time with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2016, an infraction that delayed his CFL draft eligibility by a full year. It’s safe to assume that Simonise will have to address his failed drug test in each of the interviews he conducts; how well he manages to navigate those questions will have a major impact on his draft status.
Simonise has a reputation for being an enigmatic young player who has a hard time accepting criticism. Should Simonise be able to shed that label, his draft stock should climb right into the first round where a player of his talent level belongs.