Every CFL team has football executives in Toronto for the annual national combine.
43 Canadian prospects were invited and 18 global players are joining the group to be evaluated by personnel men.
Let’s get you set with a fly-by of what you need to know.
Missing in action: Eight and of the top 10 prospects on the December scouting bureau aren’t performing in Toronto for various reasons: pro days, injury and one suspension. The list: Laval defensive lineman Mathieu Betts, Arkansas State receiver Justin McInnis, Tennessee defensive lineman Jonathan Kongbo, Kansas offensive lineman Alex Fontana, UConn receiver Hergy Mayala, Laval receiver Alex Savard, Ohio running back Maleek Irons, North Dakota running back Brady Oliveira, Concordia offensive lineman Maurice Simba and University of British Columbia receiver Trivel Pinto.
Opportunity arises: Those 12 spots were filled by other prospects who could use the full combine to boost their draft stock. Eight players outside the top 20 jump out as young men who could point the stock arrow up.
Offensive linemen are always sought by CFL teams. Windsor’s Drew Desjarlais and Waterloo’s Jesse Gibbon both have a chance to ascend in the rankings. Each big man is strong and agile with the film grades to backup the physical abilities.
Lining up across from the O-lineman, UBC’s Connor Griffiths trying to cement his status as the best interior defensive lineman in the draft. The Thunderbirds product is built to disrupt with a sleek powerful frame.
Two big-bodied receivers, Brayden Lenius-Dickey and Nicola Kalinic could make a splash. Lenius-Dickey oozes athletic ability, but must prove he can be consistent making plays despite limited playing time the last few seasons. Kalinic would be the first guy walking off the bus to make a statement to the opposing team in university – impressive specimen. Scouts want to see how fluidly Kalinic can move to help decide where he fits best at the pro level.
Defensive backs covering the pass catchers include Fresno State’s Matt Boateng and UBC’s Malcolm Lee. Boateng must have a strong performance when the pads come on. Lee is a rangy and brings football bloodlines from father Orville – 1988 first overall pick – and brother Jamall – first rounder in 2009. The next Lee is aiming to join the other Lee’s as a first rounder.
Going global: 18 players from international countries are in Toronto to compete and really see how the athletes can stack up. The glow of the spotlight is about to be on the global prospects and there are many curious to see how the talent matches up.
Back to the six: After two years of the combine being on the road – Regina and Winnipeg – the event has returned to Toronto. The Varsity Stadium bubble is site the scouts prefer because it’s known. The turf is the same each year, which means there won’t be slipping issues as happened in Winnipeg on a surface that was laid down on concrete floor days prior to the combine.
Power and speed: The two most anticipated testing events each year – bench press and 40.
Guelph’s Jaylan Guthrie recorded 29 reps on the bench at the Ontario regional which could challenge for the top at the national. Desjarlais and Griffiths should challenge for the bench press title belt.
Boateng lit up watches at his pro day running a 4.38 40-yard time making him the favourite to claim the speed crown. Lee, St. FX receiver Kaion Julien-Grant, Mount Allison target Malik Richards and Queen’s pass catcher Chris Osei-Kusi provide the competition.
Looking out for No. 1: The Toronto Argonauts currently hold the first overall choice in the CFL draft – 1997 was the last time the Argos had the top selection (offensive lineman Chad Folk). Rival scouts believe the double blue could draft an offensive lineman as the national group is aging in Toronto. There is lots to sort through between film, pro days and test results but the No. 1 pick could be uncovered at the combine.
Canadian quarterbacks: Michael O’Connor is a name you need to know. There are scouts who feel O’Connor is already better than some of the third-string pivots in the CFL. O’Connor is set to spin it on Sunday.