The CFL invited 18 “global” players to the CFL combine last weekend, giving talent evaluators and media their first good look at the potential talent pool from countries other than Canada and the U.S. of A.
So how’d they do?
Well, their testing numbers were, generally speaking, middle of the pack (or worse) with some exceptions. The league separated the Global players from the Canadian kids in the numbers they posted at CFL.ca but we have them included in our positional rankings.
There were some ugly numbers – Global quarterback Sonny Weishaupt got pinned under the bar without managing a single rep – but some good ones, too. Defensive lineman Marc Anthony Hor finished tied for second in the bench press with 28 reps and Thladric Hansen’s 38 inch vertical would have tied him for third overall. Running back Asnnel Robo’s 4.59 in the 40 would have been third overall as well (Robo has played four seasons of USports ball for the Montreal Carabins.)
In the one-on-ones, again the performances were mixed. But when it came time for the general managers and scouts to put in their requests for individual matchups – which happens at the end of the session – the global players were generally spectators: not a single offensive or defensive linemen took a rep after the initial random matchups that are allocated equally.
But the biggest difference for the Global players (other than having to pay their way to the combine)? Their age.
The average age of the Global players at this weekend’s event was 25.3 years and though the CFL doesn’t provide dates-of-birth for the USports players, it’s likely around the 22 or 23 mark. Two or three years may not seem like much but at this stage of physical development, it’s significant.
In some cases, the gap was pronounced. Three global players, including both offensive linemen were 29 and two 28 year-olds in the group. Hansen, who was probably the best and most pro-ready of the group, is 26 and has been playing semi-pro ball for seven years.
One of the most challenging elements of any draft evaluation process is projecting how a young player with no professional experience will develop in the coming years. But there should be development. With an older player, however, that development curve is obviously shortened: the older global players won’t necessarily get much better than they are now.
It’s also important to note that this combine was missing eight of the top-10 ranked players from the last edition of the CFL scouting bureau. While that document has its flaws, there’s no question that much of the top-tier talent elected not to attend – mostly due to the CFL’s asinine rule that all players who attend the combine must do the testing and compete in the one-on-ones. That kept players like No. 1 ranked Mathieu Betts, who already posted solid numbers at his Laval pro day and has four years of dominant film, away from the event. In a league desperate for homegrown stars, not bringing Betts in to get measured, interview with teams and do media is a missed opportunity – one the NFL shrewdly capitalized on with Kyler Murray.
Anyway, commissioner Randy Ambrosie said all the predictably complimentary things and even the football operations guys played nice for their on-the-record interviews. Here’s what Ambrosie told Dan Ralph of the Canadian Press.
“I think it’s been a great success. I watched the offensive and defensive linemen do their drills and there were some kids there that were very impressive and our coaches were talking about how well some of them did.”
OK, sure. But holding your own against a Canadian draft class missing their top prospects and going up against the best the CFL has to offer is a different deal. And that’s the biggest challenge when it comes to evaluating global prospects right now: nobody knows where they will fit on the roster because the league hasn’t figured that out.
If these global players have to compete as internationals versus American players it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to crack a roster, at least based on what we saw this weekend. If they have their own category or are allowed to play as nationals, as some have suggested, then it seems plausible that they could be in the mix for roster spots – likely at the expense of still-developing Canadians.