Six players to watch at the Eastern Regional Combine (and one wild card to shake up the draft)

Photo courtesy: Kyran Thicke/Concordia Stingers

Most Outstanding Rookie Jordan Williams. Olympian Jacob Dearborn. Starters like Shaq Johnson, Jordan Hoover, Jermaine Gabriel and Shai Ross, as well as special teams difference-makers like Nigel Romick, Kerfalla Exume and Ante Milanovic-Litre. All these players have become recognizable names and all share one thing in common.

Their road to the CFL began at a Regional Combine.

CFL Draft season kicked off in earnest today with the first of three regional testing events, a chance for prospects on the fringes to earn an invitation to the National Combine in Toronto on March 25-27 or make a team fall in love with them enough to take a chance on draft day.

While these events are a chance for those completely under-the-radar to shock the league, 3DownNation will be looking ahead to each Combine with a list of the top prospects to watch and one wild card with a chance to surprise everyone.

Here is who you should know about at the Eastern Regional Combine in Baie-d’Urfé tomorrow.

Photo courtesy: Greg Kolz/GeeGees Athletics

Zach Pelehos, OL, Ottawa (Gananoque, ON)

How good is Zack Pelehos? So good that 3Down draft guru John Hodge has him going ninth overall to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in his first 2022 mock.

A first-round pick coming from a Regional Combine is highly unusual, but the 2021 OUA all-star right tackle flew under the radar after missing the 2019 season with academic issues. That won’t be the case much longer, as Pelehos has everything you look for in a CFL guard.

The six-foot-six, 300-pounder is quick to reach and establish leverage, rolls his hips through contact for a nasty finish, and is an absolute menace in space. His level of dominance up front reached unique heights this season, when Pelehos was named the GeeGees’ team MVP — almost unheard of for an offensive lineman.

Photo courtesy: NFL Draft Diamonds

Tristan Fleury, DB, McGill (Deux-Montagnes, QC)

Safeties that possess both range and physicality will always have value in the CFL game. Add in size and you have the recipe for a potential draft day riser.

Listed at six-foot-two and 196 pounds, Tristan Fleury has shown all that and more over the past four years at McGill. Fleury’s eye discipline and instincts make him a playmaker over the top, but it’s his special teams ready frame that will most intrigue teams. He’s a thumper who’s equally capable of separating a receiver from the football or stopping a runner in his tracks.

Photo courtesy: Carleton Athletics

Jonathan Edouard, DB, Carleton (Orlando, FL)

Approved in the last CBA, the 2022 CFL Draft marks the first time that non-Canadian players will be eligible for selection — provided they have spent four years at a U Sports institution and will be graduating. Among the group of foreign-born prospects who will be taking advantage, American Jonathan Edouard is one of the most intriguing.

A transfer from Division 2 Henderson State, the six-foot, 170-pound corner has been in the college ranks since 2014 and is a proven starter on both sides of the border. An elite cover man, Edouard has some length and all the athletic traits you look for, including great recovery speed.

The Floridian is also a special teams standout as a gunner and plays with obvious veteran savvy, but CFL teams may have concerns about how much more a 26-year-old can develop.

Photo courtesy: St. FX Athletics

Isaac Fagnan, REC, St. FX (Bonnyville, AB)

2021 AUS all-star Isaac Fagnan lacks elite size at a listed five-foot-eleven, 190-pounds, but you’d be hard-pressed to find much else wrong with his game.

The St. FX standout is fast, sudden out of breaks and sets up his routes beautifully, with a very reliable set of mitts to boot. He’s dynamic with the ball in his hands, but sometimes shines more away from the play with his second effort and never-quit hustle.

Playing in the AUS will lead many teams to second guess even exceptional tape, but Fagnan might be the most complete receiver in the Atlantic this millenia.

Photo courtesy: Mathieu Belanger/Laval Athletics

Vincent Forbes-Mombleau, REC, Laval (Quebec City, QC)

Stocky and stout at five-foot-ten, 190-pounds, the 2018 RSEQ Rookie of the Year has a physique that will pass the eyeball test at the underwear Olympics and a skillset to match.

A physically built possession receiver with reliable hands, Forbes-Mombleau fits a mold of pass catcher that Laval has produced in spades as of late. He has pedigree and some pop to his game, with a frame you aren’t afraid to ask to do the dirty work.

Photo courtesy: Concordia Athletics

Jacob Salvail, REC, Concordia (Quebec City, QC)

The unfortunate reality is that if Salvail measures in at his listed five-foot-seven and 165 pounds, his chances of getting drafted will drop to next to zero. Still, if you were to gamble on who will put up the fastest forty time on Friday, bet the house on the Concordia speedster.

Salvail came out of nowhere in a high-powered Stingers offence in 2021, posting 40 catches for 637 yards and 8 total touchdowns. The mighty mite is blazing fast and twitchy to the extreme, able to leave any DB flat-footed at the top of the route and show off his explosive separation.

Photo courtesy: Montreal Carabins

Wild Card: Claude-Adler Joseph, LB/DB, Montreal (Montreal, QC)

You generally want to draft productive college players, but in the end traits trump all — especially in a league hungry for special teams contributors.

While an inconsistent player on defence, Joseph has a tantalizing six-foot-two, 197-pound frame with long arms and a good build. He should check all the measurable boxes and has proven to be a difference maker on kick coverage for the Carabins.

In a weak draft class, that might be all he needs to get an invite to the National Combine and follow in the footsteps of fellow Montrealer Kerfalla Exume to CFL special teams stardom.

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.