CFL relaxes combine rules, allowing top players to attend without testing (which is good)

Photo courtesy: University of Montreal

The CFL is making a change to its national combine eligibility rules.

In past years, prospects were ineligible to attend the event unless they planned to fully participate. Players were required to be measured, interview with teams, perform one-on-ones, and complete six physical tests: bench press; 40-yard dash; vertical jump; broad jump; three-cone drill; and shuttle. The refusal to participate in any portion of the combine (barring injury) would result in the player’s immediate dismissal.

Last year saw two players — first-round pick Shane Richards and second-round pick Matthew Boateng — sent home for refusing to complete testing. Boateng wanted to forgo one testing event, while Richards declined the testing altogether.

There are legitimate reasons for players not to test at the combine.

Boateng ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at his pro day at Fresno State one week prior to the 2019 national combine. That’s an excellent result, particularly for a player hoping to draw NFL interest.

Running the 40-yard dash again at the CFL combine could have lowered Boateng’s draft stock if he were unable to match his previous time. That’s why he wanted to participate in the rest of the event — measurements, one-on-ones, interviews — but not run the 40-yard dash.

This is a positive change for the CFL and one that I suggested during last year’s national combine. Prospects who have already scheduled their own pro days can now attend without fully committing to every portion of the event, allowing them increased flexibility.

Southeastern Louisiana defensive end Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund won’t test at the national combine in March (which is why he wasn’t listed on Thursday’s roster) but still plans to measure and complete interviews. Under the old rules, this would not have been permitted.

A trio of top RSEQ prospects are in the same boat. Laval offensive tackle Kétel Assé, Laval linebacker/defensive back Adam Auclair, and defensive back Marc-Antoine Dequoy all plan to attend the event, though they may not participate in testing.

Alberta offensive tackle Carter O’Donnell also plans to attend the combine without completing testing. The six-foot-five, 305-pound blocker is a top candidate to be the first overall pick in this year’s draft depending on his NFL interest. Were he not able to attend the event without testing, he would have declined the invitation.

A year ago, these players would have been unavailable to the teams, fans, and media in attendance at the national combine.

Defensive end Mathieu Betts, receiver Justin McInnis, and receiver Hergy Mayala all passed on last year’s event specifically because of the testing requirement. Had the new rule been in effect last March, it’s possible all three would have been at the national combine in 2019.

This year we will see more highly-touted prospects in Toronto for the national combine because of the CFL’s new eligibility rule.

I’d call that a win for all parties involved.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.