On Tuesday, the CFL announced an expanded list of Global players invited to the National Combine in Toronto. This was nothing new, they’ve expanded the list once before, but there was an intriguing difference about the players receiving invites. For the first time this draft season, ten players who haven’t attended a Global Combine have been invited to Toronto.
This is a natural next step to CFL 2.0, ensuring they can get the best international NCAA talent without forcing students to fly across the world in the middle of the semester. Indeed, each of the players invited are among the best players available in this Global cycle.
Having been shedding light on the best prospects at each of the Global Combines, I figured I should find out who each of these new invitees was as well. Here are some new names to watch in Toronto.
Note: Japanese kicker Takeru Yamasaki also received an invite on Tuesday but he was already one of my players to watch at the Japanese Combines and will therefore not appear on this list.
Joseph Zema, PK, Australia, Incarnate Word
Its rare to find a veteran of professional football in the Global scouting process, but that is exactly what we have in Zema. He excelled as a punter for the San Antonio Commanders of the now defunct Alliance of American Football, posting a net average of 47.6 yards per kick.
Zema showed off a big leg in college, as well. In his lone season with Incarnate Word, he was named a first team FCS All-American. Remarkably he had 31 punts of over 50 yards that year, including a career long of 75.
Jan Philipp Bombek, DE, Germany, Colorado State
Bombek has become a top pass rusher through two season at Colorado State, notching five sacks in his senior season. He has long arms and a near perfect CFL frame, standing at six-foot-three 255-pounds.
The German wins with a lightning quick get-off to routinely get the edge. His leverage needs work and he can often get moved off his mark in the run game, but Bombek gets up-field like few others. On third downs he was often allowed to rush from depth, showing a burst of speed that will make him a star on special teams.
Steven Nielsen, OL, Denmark, Eastern Michigan
The first thing that jumps out about Nielsen is his massive size. Six-foot-eight 310-pound individuals are certainly few and far between. He has turned that into a stellar college career as EMU’s top offensive lineman. He was a stalwart left tackle, playing directly beside Canadian Sidy Sow.
Nielsen isn’t athletic enough to stay at tackle in the CFL, but his feet are plenty quick for a guard. He slides well and uses his reach at the second level. Like most big men, he still struggles to bend but the size upside is huge, literally.
Tyron Vrede, LB, Netherlands, North Dakota
North Dakota is slowly establishing itself as a hot bed for CFL talent and Vrede will be their second Global alumni at the Combine, in addition to top Canadian prospect Mason Bennett.
Vrede played a impactful rotational role for the Fighting Hawks, a stout presence against the run. The six-foot 225-pounder is built solid and likes to get his nose dirty. He’ll fit right into any CFL special teams’ unit.
Jonas Schenderlein, PK, Germany, Concordia-St. Paul
Schenderlein has the distinction of being a two-time finalist for the Fred Mitchell Award, given to the best kicker outside of the FBS. He is the second 2020 draft prospect to have that status and the only Global, joining Canadian Dante Brown.
Schenderlein’s big leg earned him that acclaim the old fashioned way. His career field goal percentage of 69% doesn’t exactly jump off the page but he routinely hits it cleanly from outside of 50. His career long is from 58 and he has been known to score from longer than 70 in practice. That resume was good enough to earn him a tryout with the Minnesota Vikings last year.
Joel Whitford, PK, Australia, Washington
Ranked as the #15 punter in the 2020 NFL Draft, Whitford has wisely turned his attentions north. An All-PAC12 honourable mention as a senior, the Aussie has excelled in big time college football.
His gross career average is 43 yards and he’s booted it as far as 67. Over three years as a starter he’s hit 22 balls longer than 50 yards. He has also excelled as a kickoff specialist.
Misiona Aiolupotea-Pei, DT, New Zealand/Australia, Washington State
Born in New Zealand, Aiolupotea-Pei picked up the gridiron game as a teenager in Australia. He has become a well-respected member of the Washington State team and an important rotational player.
In the NCAA, the six-foot-three 270-pounder often struggled against the power of interior offensive linemen. He has a lighter, CFL type body that will excel with more space. He’s a bit slow out of his stance but I think he has more pass rushing ability than he was able to show with the Cougs.
Jake Ford, PK, Australia, Ouchita Baptist
Another Aussie leg, Ford transferred from Oregon and immediately led Division II in net average as a junior. He regressed slightly his senior year but was still able to show off a career long 66 yard boot. He was an all-conference punter and a kick-off specialist.
Aaron Donkor, DE, Germany, Arkansas State
A former 3-star JuCo recruit, Donkor wasn’t really able to establish himself during his lone season at Arkansas State and only played six games. I still believe the German has more to give, however.
The six-foot-two 245-pounder plays fast and loose. His technique needs a lot of refinement but his obvious athletic traits show sky high potential. He’ll be a valuable special teamer and potentially a situational pass rusher.
Ryan Meskell, PK, Australia, Hawaii
I hope you aren’t sick of Australian kickers because there is one more, although this one kicks field goal. Meskell posted a respectable field goal percentage of 71% through his junior and senior seasons, but he has never hit from longer than 50 yards. He’s been a solid kickoff specialist but this is the biggest projection of any of the invited kickers.