For the second year in a row, Noah Picton was the best quarterback at the CFL combine but whether that will translate into a bonafide professional opportunity remains to be seen.
The difference this time around is that Picton, who threw at the event in Regina last March, was a full participant as it’s his CFL draft year. The Regina native, LeBoldus High School and University of Regina star has drawn attention from CFL scouts because of his video game-like numbers put up with the Rams.
Picton won the Hec Crighton Trophy in 2016 after setting a USports single-season record with 3,186 passing yards. He followed that up with a first-team All-Canadian selection in 2017. Picton is already the Canada West conference’s all-time leading passer (9,840).
Canadian quarterbacks Brandon Bridge and Andrew Buckley have given the nationals coming through the ranks more hope, especially given Bridge’s initiative to change the ratio rules around Canuck signal callers.
“What Bridge is doing right now is definitely helping us out… It’s really become a hot topic on the front burner,” Picton said.
But whether Picton gets a legitimate chance to play quarterback in the pro three-down league – he spent 2015 training camp with the Saskatchewan Roughriders as part of the CFL’s Canadian quarterback internship program – is the major question mark. He checked in at just over 5-foot-8 and 177 pounds at the CFL combine – undersized for a prototypical professional quarterback.
“He’s what you see on film, there’s a reason he’s so productive in college. He can sling the ball around all over the park. Obviously, his size is going to be the negative to his game, but boy he can make throws and compete,” Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Kyle Walters said.
Ottawa Redblacks general manager Marcel Desjardins believes Picton understands the Canadian game and came away impressed by what he saw in Winnipeg.
“Obviously, he’s got some ability as a quarterback, he’s a smart guy. He has the arm strength to maybe not make all the throws on a consistent basis but certainly to potentially have some degree of success,” Desjardins said. “His stature is always going to be a challenge for him. It’s easy to say take the size away but how do you do that because it is a factor in that position. It would be the same with an American kid.”
Picton has heard concerns about his size throughout his football career.
“They said I was small coming into university too, so I’ve had some success there. They said the same thing in high school. I’m treating this no different. I’m not too concerned about it. You don’t need everybody to believe you just need someone to give you a shot and I feel confident that if I get that shot I’ll be alright,” Picton said.
Doug Flutie starred in the CFL while playing at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds and some scouts have loosely compared Picton to the hall of fame quarterback.
“I haven’t watched a whole lot of Doug Flutie but just from the clips he was a gamer – he’s probably a little more athletic than I am – but I think that I can make some plays with my legs just like he did and find some throwing lanes and rip the ball out there,” Picton said “He looked like he had a lot of fun playing football and I have a lot of fun playing football. There are definitely some similarities I’m sure.”
There were three teams that interviewed Picton at the combine: the Ticats, Bombers and Argos.
“I feel comfortable with the mental side of it. Talking some schemes, I can keep up at that level and hopefully, I got that across as well. Hamilton had me up on the board. It’s neat being in a room with Kent Austin, you can tell he’s a cognitive guy,” Picton said about the legendary Riders quarterback.
“[Paul] LaPolice is a bright guy so you soak in some information and just realize what these guys know and what they can teach you. Toronto got to know you as a person. They were all a little bit different, but they were all positive I thought.”
Regardless of what happens in the CFL draft, Picton will be playing football in 2018 as he has one season of USports eligibility remaining. There are a number of university records in reach, but Picton would rather be getting a real CFL chance.
“If someone thinks I can compete and give me an opportunity that would be great, if not that’s there decision,” Picton said.
“But I think I’ve worked just as hard as a lot of guys who have made it so I think I can play some football and I think some people think that I can as well.”