Loaded with draft picks, Ticats have a combine shopping list

For Drew Allemang, the CFL Draft always has a bit of Christmas-morning feel and this year there are plenty of boxes under the tree.

The Ticats have three picks in the top 11 spots of the 2018 CFL Draft and five selections among the first 20. Allemang, the team’s assistant general manager and director of Canadian scouting, has an opportunity to super-charge a roster already decently stocked with national talent.

With the CFL Combine taking place in Winnipeg this weekend, Allemang and the rest of the football operations staff will be window shopping the more than 50 prospects in town for series of interviews, testing sessions and football drills. The rest of the Ticats’ scouting line up includes vice president of football operations Kent Austin, general manager Eric Tillman, assistant head coach Orlondo Steinauer, assistant GM Shawn Burke and football operations assistant Spencer Boehm.

Allemang, the son of former Ticat offensive lineman Marv Allemang, has been involved in scouting Canadian talent for the Ticats since 2009 and has played a central role in the draft since 2012. Much has changed in the intervening years: the combine used to be the beginning of the process, where players could put themselves on the map with a good performance. Now it’s at the end of a long and detailed process that sees teams scouting players long before they show up at the combine.

“You’re looking one last time to confirm things you’ve already learned or to see how players have improved since you last saw them – have they worked on their weaknesses?” Allemang said. “But a lot of it is just confirming what you’ve seen on film.”

The Ticats will interview almost 50 players at the combine using two separate rooms and scripted set of questions that can be adjusted on the fly if necessary. Then there’s the testing – bench press, broad and vertical – as well as on-field testing that concludes with one-on-one football drills that pits players against each other.

Allemang says the team is looking for players to meet certain testing benchmarks based on their position group – an offensive lineman who posts five reps on the bench would be a red flag – but that he also keeps an eye on the intangibles.

“How do they handle the pressure of the one-on-ones? Who do they go up against, do they go up against a teammate or do they pick the best guy there? Are they the first in line for drills?” Allemang says. “For the testing, they have to be in a certain window based on their position. But you’re also looking at how they test, does it look like they’ve practiced and prepared? Can they follow instruction and how do they interact with the people running the drills and their fellow competitors?”

The Ticats head into the 2018 draft with a roster already teeming with Canadian talent. They have seven clear-cut starters – a league requirement – a solid group of back-ups and some flexibility to make roster adjustments if and when injuries strike. They also have some promising young players in various stages of development.

With that in mind, the Ticats don’t have to draft to fill an immediate need, but can take the best players available or even gamble on a guy with NFL interest who might show up for a year or two.

“We feel comfortable with our depth and gives us some freedom to do some different things,” Allemang said of the May 3 draft. “Some positions are deeper than others, but it’s a quality group and it’s high end at the front of it.”

Allemang says his approach would be the same if the team had just a single pick given that the draft day trades are commonplace in the CFL can change things in an instant. But he acknowledges that this year could be something special.

“You never know, things can change but it’s pretty exciting if it stays this way,” Allemang said.

Sounds like a kid on Christmas Eve.