John Murphy has seen his fair share of CFL Drafts, but this one is a little different.
Like most CFL front office decision-makers, the Toronto Argonauts’ vice-president of player personnel is struggling with the ramifications of a canceled 2020 season in Canada and the continuing uncertainty of 2021.
“We do not know roster size as of today. We do not know exactly how training camp will look for 2021 and then you look at it and every team had a full draft class last year,” Murphy explained in an appearance on The Rod Pedersen Show.
“Now when you are drafting players this year, it’s not only how do they fit on your roster, it’s how do they fit and compete with the players you drafted just a year ago who have yet to be evaluated by your coaching staff? In our case and a few other teams that made changes in the front office or coaching staff, you have guys from the 2019 draft that have yet to be evaluated by their new staff.”
NCAA eligibility extensions and a top-heavy class loaded with NFL talent makes that even more unpredictable and Murphy believes teams will attack the process with very different philosophies.
“It’s going to be a mix and match. There are going to be teams that need players and those will be the ones that go after the ones that will be available and there will be teams that might say it’s not a bad year to take a future and just sit on it,” he said frankly.
For the majority of players who will make their way to training camps this year, scouts have an entirely different issue. Without the benefit of a 2020 U Sports season or even the East-West Bowl all-star event last year, most players simply haven’t put anything on tape in a year.
For players who have been suspended or suffered injuries in 2019, that is even longer.
“You are really unsure. The film you are watching for the most part is pretty old. Just look at Kyle Borsa, for example. What that kid looks like today compared to the last time he was on the field is night and day,” Murphy said of the Regina Rams running back.
“Is that an arrow that is trending up or is that a guy who has taken advantage of all this time to just hit the weight room and groom himself into being a much better athlete?”
In 2018, the six-foot, 193-pound playmaker amassing a total of 1,340 all-purpose yards, but earned a 16-month suspension after testing positive for a banned substance.
His blazing 4.46 forty yard dash was the best among Virtual Combine participants, but how do you evaluate a player who’s been out of football two years when you don’t get to work them out in person?
“You have a lot of questions like that in this draft and you have to ask is what these guys have been able to do in their downtime the reason why you saw so many plus scores in terms of forty times and verticals and shuttles and bench press?” Murphy queried.
“Is that because guys were just able to put all their efforts into the training aspect of things?”
They say the eye in the sky never lies, but in the 2021 CFL Draft no one knows if that will remain true.
“Unfortunately, if you are going to default to the film, which is what you should do, the problem is you’re looking at a lot of old film,” Murphy admitted.
“What these guys look like now and how they’ll perform, you’re probably going to have to really lay into the saying ‘trust my eyes’ and maybe the only thing you can trust is how that guy was playing last time he was on the field.”
While that will be a headache for evaluators, it should make the annual pick fest just that much more intriguing for fans.