CFL draft offers receiver Mark Chapman another path to a pro football career

Mark Chapman shouldn’t have to wait long to hear his name called at the CFL draft Thursday night.

The speedy Central Michigan receiver is one of a handful of players the Montreal Alouettes are considering to take first overall once the draft begins. Even if Chapman doesn’t go No. 1, he’s projected as a early selection.

“I have a lot of faith in my game and I know I’m one of the top guys out there so I do anticipate (going) high,” he said. “But whether it’s No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter much to me.

“Just being considered as a top guy is surreal. I’m just taking it all in . . . but if I did go No. 1 that would be real amazing to me.”

On Monday, Alouettes GM Kavis Reed identified Chapman as one of five players he was considering to take first overall. Reed also included Trey Rutherford, of Markham, Ont., an offensive lineman at UConn, in that group.

Two CFL sources said Wednesday that Laurier defensive back Godfrey Onyeka is also a player of interest for Montreal. The six-foot-two, 200-pound Brampton, Ont., native can contribute both on defence and special teams.

Then again, there’s no guarantee Montreal will make the first selection. Reed said he’s fielded inquiries about the pick and is open to trading it for the right price.

The dealing began Wednesday with Winnipeg sending its 2018 first- and second-round selections – the seventh and 16th overall picks – to B.C. for the Lions’ 2019 first-round pick and ’18 second-round choice (No. 12 overall). The Hamilton Tiger-Cats acquired the sixth overall pick and a fifth-round selection (No. 37 overall) from the Edmonton Eskimos for 2018 second- and third-round picks (the 10th and 20th overall, respectively).

That gives Hamilton nine picks in this year’s draft, including two in the first round (second and sixth). The moves weren’t overly surprising as Winnipeg GM Kyle Walters said Tuesday he felt there was much more serious trade talk leading up to this draft than in past years.

The six-foot, 180-pound Chapman was Central Michigan’s leading receiver last season with 59 catches for 875 yards and five TDs. Over four seasons at the school, Chapman had 147 receptions for 2,035 yards and 10 TDs.

After performing before 32 NFL scouts and Reed at Central Michigan’s pro day, Chapman excelled at the CFL combine. He posted a time of 4.69 seconds in the 40-yard dash and had a 36-inch vertical jump, broad jump of 10 feet 7 1/4 inches and his shuttle time of 4.12 second was second-best overall.

Then just for good measure, Chapman went on to shine in the one-on-one competition. He’s been called one of the most pro-ready players in the draft.

“I think that’s an accurate assessment,” Chapman said. “I had really great coaching coming up through college and I think that’s a testament to my coaches and the way we worked the last couple of years at Central Michigan.”

A resident of Port Huron, Mich., Chapman is deemed a national player in the CFL because he has dual Canadian-American status as his mother is a native of Sarnia, Ont. It wasn’t until his senior season at Central Michigan that Chapman learned he could be eligible to play north of the border as a Canuck.

“I had no idea that could happen,” he said. “My brother (Jarret, a defensive back) played with Hamilton but didn’t have his citizenship worked out so he made sure I had mine worked out.

“By the end of my senior season that’s when the interest came from the CFL.”

Chapman was bypassed in last weekend’s NFL draft but accepted a rookie mini-camp invitation from the New York Giants. Being selected Thursday by a CFL team would provide him with yet another avenue to a pro football career.

“I always dreamed of playing pro ball so it always was on the radar,” he said. “But I had no idea I’d have two ways, two routes to go play professional football.

“I’m in a really unique situation. It’s wild, man, it’s wild.”

Hamilton heads into the draft in an enviable position. They have five of the first 20 picks, including the second overall and three in the second round. That gives GM Eric Tillman plenty of ammunition to improve his roster with blue-chip draft prospects, via trade or both.

The remainder of the first round, in order of selection, includes: B.C.; Ottawa Redblacks; Saskatchewan Roughriders; Hamilton; B.C.; Calgary Stampeders; and Grey Cup-champion Toronto Argonauts.

The draft will go eight rounds with 69 players to be selected.

Dakoda Shepley of Windsor, Ont., a six-foot-five, 315-pound offensive lineman at the University of British Columbia, was projected as a first-overall selection. But the native of Windsor, Ont., joined the NFL’s New York Jets as an undrafted free agent Saturday.

Ryan Hunter of North Bay, Ont., a six-foot-five, 318-pound offensive lineman at Bowling Green University, was another highly regarded draft prospect. However, he agreed to terms with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent Saturday.