Great Danes and Norse Legends: Names to know for the CFL Global Combine in Copenhagen

After a brief hiatus, Greg Quick and his staff are back on the final leg of the global combine circuit. On Saturday, the crew will be in Copenhagen for the final European testing event.

The Danish combine is a smaller affair, with just 15 athletes from Denmark or Norway attending. That said, the top-tier of talent is as good as anywhere and the impressive size on display will have scouts licking their lips.

In my continuing mission to make CFL 2.0 accessible to everyone, I’ve investigated all the prospects and highlighted a few of my favourites. Here are eight names to watch in Denmark this weekend.

Joachim Christensen, OL, Denmark, Frankfurt Universe [Germany] (Wagner)

Formerly a bit player at Wagner University, Christensen left college as a junior and has carved out a career as one of Europe’s finest linemen. He certainly looks the part of a professional people mover at six-foot-four and 295 pounds.

Christensen plays with good technique and excellent positioning, easily keeping defenders in front of him. He has meat hooks for hands that are nearly impossible to escape. The massive Dane moves well but lacks ideal pop in the run game. Like most European lineman, how he’ll handle professional power and quickness is a question mark but he is polished in a way only possible through Division One experience.

Jonas Hagerup, OL, Norway, Kiel Baltic Hurricanes [Germany] (City College of San Francisco)

From polish to a mountain of raw clay. The six-foot-six, 310-pound Hagerup is an imposing athlete who returned to Europe rather than play at the Division Two level after a stint in junior college.

The Norwegian is an absolute mauler and shows impressive movement skills, but his technique leaves much to be desired. He’s got heavy hands and he explodes off the ball but has never faced an opponent that he couldn’t simply lean on and dominate. Hagerup needs top level coaching and, at 23, he is prime for development. The right teacher could uncover a diamond in the rough with all the tools to excel.

Leo Krafft, DE, Norway, Eidsvoll 1814s

At six-foot-four and 250 pounds, Leo Krafft wouldn’t look out of place in any professional locker room. He is a bull-strong end who bench presses offensive linemen with ease. On strength alone, he is unblockable at his level of competition. Krafft has a good get-off and the abililty to bend the edge, but isn’t yet a versatile pass rusher. The tools are there to work with, though, and he’ll be lethal with an arsenal.

Another development project, Krafft already has plenty of interest. He was one of nine players invited into the NFL International Player Pathway program this season, so he has a strong chance at an NFL practice roster spot next season. The only other player to be a member of the program and appear on a CFL combine list was Chris Mulumba of Finland, and he ultimately chose to forgo testing in favour of the NFL. We will see if Krafft actually does show up in Copenhagen and if his NFL opportunities affect his CFL chances.

Niko Lester, REC, Germany, Badalona Dracs [Spain]

Lester is a true European journeyman who has played in half the countries on the continent, largely because he is desired by teams. The six-foot-two, 210-pound play-maker makes an impact on both sides of the ball.

As a receiver, he excels in the slot and operates well in space. He is a yards-after-catch specialist who can turn a short screen into a long touchdown or a shallow crosser into a big gain. His experience on defence is valuable as well, playing as a physical defensive back. That bodes well for special teams, an essential element for cracking a CFL roster.

Phillip Friis Andersen, PK, Denmark, Berlin Rebels [Germany]

A handful of Global Combine invitees have previous NFL experience and Andersen is among them, having briefly signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year. He is a big-legged kicker who trains with special teams’ guru Michael Husted stateside. His coach once called him the best kicker in Europe.

Despite a known inclination for CFL teams to search for Global kickers, one hasn’t been invited to the national combine yet. Andersen could be the first.

Ondrej Mastalir, LB/DE, Czech Republic, Triangle Razorbacks [Denmark]

A thick and stocky linebacker in Denmark, Mastalir doesn’t have the athleticism to play that position at the next level. He could be a natural defensive line convert, however, a strategy that has already worked for players like Thiadric Hansen.

Mastalir is strong and physical, with good tracking speed and a slight edge. He has the build to hold up against large tackles. He would also bring a versatile special teams skill set, excellent as both a blocker or cover man.

Kenneth Larsen-Ledet, DB, Denmark, Copenhagen Towers

A Dane with big aspirations, Larsen-Ledet played ball at a U.S. prep school but didn’t catch on with a college team. He has since become a very effective off-ball safety in his native land.

Larsen-Ledet’s intelligence and instincts define his game. He reacts well with his eyes in the backfield, playing with surprising physicality for a man of six-feet and 180 pounds. He’s a very reliable form tackler who will have special team’s value, but he could prove to be just a step slow for true consideration.

Anton Witmeur, RB, Denmark, Copenhagen Towers

A personal favourite, Witmeur is a bit of an odd prospect. At a thin six-foot, 175-pound frame, he has an unusual build for a running back but he is fast as lightning.

Witmeur plays with good vision and wins every track meet, easily weaving around entire defences. He doesn’t have great pad level and hasn’t learned to drive through contact, but you can’t teach fast. I’ll be intrigued to see how he tests.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.