After two years of virtual testing — all of which was no doubt extremely accurate — the CFL National Combine returned to the real world last weekend in Toronto, bringing the best and brightest prospects from across the country in front of league decision-makers.
For all the glitz and glamour, Combine performances matter less inside team’s front offices than some fans might assume, but the chance to see best-on-best in a controlled environment is a great way to smooth out the wrinkles in a complex draft process.
Some players will exceed expectations and rise to the occasion, others will falter in unexpected ways. The end result for scouts is the same either way: a prompt to dive deeper into a prospect’s film.
Here’s a look at some players who will have teams doing exactly that after last weekend, 13 risers and fallers from the 2022 National CFL Combine.
Tyrell Richards, DL/LB, Syracuse
It’s awfully hard to be a riser when you enter the weekend as the odds-on favourite to go first overall, but Richards had some major questions to answer after off-the-field issues cost him his senior season.
He did so in commanding fashion, putting up elite testing numbers and becoming the first prospect to participate in drills with the defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs. Not only did Richards dominate the one-on-ones with multiple position groups, he verged on being untouchable, putting to bed many concerns around his spotty college tape.
Tyrell Ford, DB, Waterloo
CFL scouts already knew that Ford was a world-class athlete, but inconsistencies on film mostly left him out of first-round conversations. Notching the fourth fastest laser-timed forty-yard dash in CFL Combine history won’t be enough to get him out of his quarterback twin brother’s shadow, but the apples-to-apples comparison the event provided should erase any doubt he’s a top nine talent in this class. Coverage one-on-ones skew to the offence, but Ford had some lockdown reps and moves with special fluidity.
Daniel Adeboboye, RB, Bryant
A late add to the Combine after passing on Bryant’s pro day, Adeboboye entered the weekend with far less hype than an NCAA back with his level of production deserved. He won’t be leaving that way after winning the bench press with 28 reps, while posting an impressive 37.5-inch vertical and 10-foot, three-and-one-quarter-inch broad jump.
Adeboboye backed that up with an on-field performance that included some impressive reps in all three phases, as a runner, receiver, and stout pass blocker.
Rodeem Brown, OL, Alberta
Despite All-Canadian status in 2021, hardly a whisper had been spoken about Alberta’s undersized guard entering the Combine. More than a few around the league will have to admit to overlooking the short-armed six-foot, 280-pounder due to his lack of key measurables, because he was nothing short of spectacular in the one-on-ones.
Brown didn’t lose a single rep in a drill that the defence is designed to win, getting two full-value pancake blocks and completely stonewalling Canada’s top lineman Deionte Knight with his surprising anchor and natural leverage.
Keaton Bruggeling, REC, Carleton
In a shallow receiver class, the Combine was guaranteed to earn at least one under-the-radar prospect some money. Looking at his measurables, it would be hard to argue that Bruggeling wasn’t that guy.
The six-foot-three, 212-pound big man ran an impressive 4.55 forty for his size, with a 37.5-inch vertical, 10-foot, three-and-five-eights-inch broad jump and solid change of direction numbers. He was good in the one-on-ones as well, drawing comparisons to another large OUA receiver who suffered through poor quarterbacking: Luther Hakunavanahu.
Gavin Cobb, REC, Manitoba
I hesitate to call Regional invitees risers given that the biggest jump in their stock occurs prior to the National, but I will make an exception for Cobb. The pint-sized receiver edged out current LA Charger Tevaughn Campbell to claim the eighth best broad jump in CFL history at 10-foot, nine-and-seven-eight-inches and looked stunning in his one-on-one reps.
At just five-foot-nine and 170-pounds, Cobb’s uphill CFL battle is just beginning, but he looked to be the most explosive separator at the Combine — and frankly, I don’t think it was even close.
Eric Sutton, DB, Texas State
Though Sutton’s five-foot-nine, 172-pound size was always a concern for scouts, his big school experience and genetic pedigree made him one of this draft’s most fascinating prospects. However, after talking a big game about his potential testing numbers to 3Down’s own John Hodge, Sutton stood on the relatively pedestrian showing at his college pro day.
He only attempted the bench press in Toronto, where he was pinned under the bar after a single rep. There would be no redemption on the field either, where the NCAA nickel corner’s stock took a beating against U Sports prospects and Globals alike.
Zack Fry, OL, Western
No one thought Western’s standout right tackle would be an athletic freak, but his lower body stiffness got alarm bells blaring as soon as he made a lock-knee’ed 23.50-inch vertical jump on Saturday.
He followed that up with just nine reps on the bench, a normally disqualifying number for an offensive lineman that fueled whispers of a lack of commitment to the weight room. Fry may have spearheaded Western’s dominant ground game in 2021, but he got soundly whooped in a couple of one-on-ones and showed some red flags that would give even the biggest fan of his tape pause.
J.P. Cimankinda, RB, Ottawa
If you are a big back with any type of moderate college production, the Combine should be the time for size-hungry scouts to fall in love with you. The 237-pounder from Ottawa just didn’t have the athletic ability to make that happen, with a slow motion 4.88-second forty somehow being his best on-field result.
With a 7.73 second 3-cone and 4.63 second shuttle, Cimankinda ranked behind a couple of offensive linemen when it came to change of direction and showed a real lack of explosiveness with a 28-inch vert and nine-foot, one-inch broad. He managed to surprise a better athlete on at least one-on-one, but that won’t make up for all the traits that are missing.
Peter Kozushka, OL, Alberta
No one expects CFL offensive linemen to set Combine testing records, but even the hoggies need to meet certain benchmarks. Kozushka’s six-foot, eight-and-seven-eights-inch broad jump was about as bad as it gets (editor’s note: the CFL has since updated Kozushka’s broad jump to seven feet and five-eighths of an inch), the first time a player has failed to hit seven-feet in that test of lower body explosiveness since Manitoba defensive lineman Adam Hindley in 2012.
The 328-pound Alberta tackle bowed out of the much less important forty-yard dash to save himself from a time of four-ever and took just three average one-on-one reps against late round competition. That’s hardly the performance you want from a guy once mocked in the first round, though Kozushka was battling through a calf injury per sources.
Gordon Lam, REC, Waterloo
The 2022 draft is shallow and weak, but in any normal year a five-foot-nine receiver who benches four reps, runs a 4.97 forty and jumps under 30-inches or nine-feet would be taken off every draft board in the league. Lam’s saving grace is his fast 3-cone and burst out of cuts, which allowed him to show surprisingly well in one-on-ones despite his other limitations.
However, it should be noted that the Waterloo product only took one rep against a DB who wasn’t either Global or a fellow member of the fallers list, killing any pipe dream of him being the third-ranked receiver in this class.
Jalen & Tyson Philpot, REC, Calgary
Don’t get it twisted, it’s still almost impossible to imagine a reality where the Philpot twins aren’t first-round picks. Nevertheless, their status as the draft’s offensive golden boys took a hit in Toronto. Teams knew about their slight frames already, but fears about the rest of their athletic measurables manifested in testing numbers that ranged from average in the forty to concerning in the jumps.
The elite flashes shown in the one-on-ones were as good as the hype, but every good rep seemed to be matched by a route in which an obscure safety from Mexico with 4.8 speed erased one of this country’s brightest collegiate stars. At the end of the day, Combines are a crosschecking exercise to confirm what you saw on tape. Neither Philpot looked like a day one impact player this weekend and now every team will be going back to the film to ask themselves why.