CFL combine report: risers, globals & answers

The CFL combine has come to a close and it’s time to discuss the action of the day. Click here for my observations from yesterday and stay tuned for a second installment of my mock draft coming soon.

Early risers

I wouldn’t say that any prospects saw their stock explode as part of Sunday’s combine, but a few players helped themselves with solid performances in testing and one-on-one drills.

Queen’s receiver Chris Osei-Kusi ran the combine’s fastest forty-yard dash at 4.47 seconds and led all receivers with 19 reps on the bench press. One defensive back I spoke to idenitified him as the best receiver in attendance, calling him a “bad, bad man.”

Concordia defensive tackle Michael Sanelli was strong in the one-on-ones, looking agile and quick off the line. Sanelli has dropped thirty pounds since last year’s East-West Bowl and that’s helping him. Laval’s Vincent Desjardins was impressive as well — for an interior lineman weighing only 260 pounds, he’s got a lot of power.

York receiver Nicola Kalinic ran 4.99 in the forty-yard dash, narrowly getting under the five second mark. Kalinic projects as an H-back in CFL who possesses solid athleticism for a guy who is 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds. Kalinic is also arguably the best special teams player in the draft, dominating on punt cover teams. That forty-time will help his stock.

Say what?

I always ask offensive line prospects which positions they’d feel comfortable playing at the professional level. Players who can slot in at multiple spots have added value — versatility is everything.

Most players will say they’re comfortable playing guard and centre, even if they rarely played there collegiately. Others will say they can play tackle, though few national prospects end up playing there in the CFL.

One prospect answered the question in a curious fashion on Sunday.

”Probably o-line,” the player said with a straight face. “But I’d be comfortable playing anywhere.”

Time will tell, but I’m guessing the player — who is well over 300 pounds — won’t be slotting in at defensive back anytime soon.

Euro trip

A few people asked me why the CFL would fly almost twenty “global” prospects to the combine when so many talented Canadians aren’t given the opportunity to attend.

The league did not cover travel expenses for any of the eighteen European players in attendance. The league paid for the players’ hotel rooms, meals, and ground transportation, but not flights.

All national attendees are flown in on the league’s dime.

About those Europeans…

If the goal of having European players participate in this year’s combine was to prove they can challenge for CFL roster spots, the experiment was largely a disaster.

German linebacker Thiadric Hansen tested well and looked somewhat comfortable in drills. French defensive end Valentinois Gnahoua, Finnish linebacker Roni Salonen, and French running back Asnnel Robo all tested respectably as well.

It should be noted that the players who competed at this year’s combine aren’t necessarily the best players in Europe. The money isn’t good enough in European leagues to keep many of the best prospects from pursuing other careers after they finish playing post-secondary football.

That’s why I think there’s a chance that Randy Ambrosie’s CFL 2.0 initiative could eventually pay dividends. If the best 18-year-old football players in Europe know that the CFL is a realistic option in the near future, they may put a career outside of football on hold to pursue a career in North America.

Otherwise, having European players participate in the CFL combine will be remembered as little more than a strange initiative that elicited a few nice human interest stories.

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