Why Canadian OL Liam Dobson getting drafted by the USFL is a big deal

Photo courtesy: Texas State Athletics

The New Orleans Breakers of the USFL selected Canadian offensive lineman Liam Dobson in the 23rd round of the USFL draft on Wednesday and that’s a big deal for the CFL.

All players had to sign a contract with the USFL in order to be eligible for their draft. The contract is a one-year deal but includes a team option for 2023, which means Dobson is now tied to the USFL for two seasons unless he is released.

The only other way Dobson could get out of his contract is if an NFL team wants to sign him. All USFL contracts allow players to sign with NFL teams, which is one of the primary reasons players are joining to the league. The USFL season concludes on Sunday, July 3, leaving almost a month before NFL training camps get underway for the 2022 season.

Dobson’s decision to join the USFL makes sense on a lot of levels. He’s already accustomed to playing four-down football — he played collegiately at Maine and Texas State — and now has the chance to make some money and get film ahead of the NFL season.

Compensation in the USFL is $4,500 per regular season game plus $1,000 each time your team wins. Players are also paid $600 per week during mini-camp and training camp, bringing total pay for the year to approximately $50,000 USD.

Dobson would make more playing in the CFL with a salary of approximately $75,000 CAD (approx. $59,000 USD) as a rookie. The issue is that the CFL schedule is almost twice as long as the USFL schedule — eighteen games versus ten games — and it overlaps with the NFL season, eliminating the possibility of earning an NFL contract for 2022.

A number of former CFL players were selected in the first ten rounds of the USFL draft on Tuesday, including quarterback Shea Patterson, offensive tackle Tyler Catalina, centre John Yarbrough, defensive back Channing Stribling, and defensive back David Rivers. None of these players had much (if any) interest north of the border, meaning their selections in the USFL draft had little to no impact on the CFL.

Dobson is a different story. The Ottawa native if a blue-chip offensive line prospect, the type of player the CFL desperately needs to protects its quarterbacks. Losing him to the USFL isn’t the same as a random third-strong defensive back. This one hurts the CFL — especially the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who used a first-round pick to draft him last year.

It’s still possible that the USFL will suffer the same fate as the AAF and XFL and fold before its first season comes to a close, in which case Dobson could choose to sign north of the border. In the meantime, however, his selected by the USFL has hurt the CFL.

The USFL did not publicly release the pool of players who had registered for its draft, meaning we will have to wait and see if more Canadians are selected. If more are chosen — remember, many top prospects from the 2021 CFL Draft remain free agents — it will hurt the quality of young Canadians in the CFL in 2022.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.