The 2022 CFL Draft is barely one week away and there are a number of teams looking to acquire the first overall pick, according to Edmonton Elks’ head coach and general manager Chris Jones.
“There’s been a lot of people calling,” said Jones via videoconference. “There’s going to be some very good players that we can potentially choose from so to give that up, it’s going to have to be something pretty good.”
The consensus among talent evaluators around the league is that this year’s prospect pool lacks depth, making the top picks all the more valuable. Edmonton traded their second-round pick to Toronto in exchange for quarterback Nick Arbuckle in October 2021, which has left the club with only one selection in the top eighteen picks.
Despite a report that Syracuse linebacker Tyrell Richards will be taken with the first overall pick, Jones claimed that there are still multiple players in consideration for the selection.
“We actually have about three or fours guys that we feel like can be picked first. The top part of the draft is really strong, so we’ve got our guys ranked how we want to have them ranked. We’ve watched a ton of film, we’ve asked a lot of questions, we’ve made a lot of phone calls, so we have our guys where we feel like are early on in the draft,” said Jones.
“There’s some good guys at the top of the board and again, I think the top end of the draft’s got some really solid picks. We’re just kinda going back and forth. (Assistant general manager) Geroy (Simon) and I are making tons of calls and looking at a lot of film. We’ve already evaluated and now we’re in the reevaluation process to make sure we’ve got them graded like we feel like they should be.”
Jones saw Richards perform at the CFL Combine and, per sources, had dinner with him in March. The six-foot-four, 232-pound linebacker has the ability to rush the passer, drop back into coverage, and play special teams, possessing the type of versatility that Jones has historically coveted.
“Tyrell’s a great player,” said Jones. “I haven’t got to spend a ton of time with him but he’s got everything that you look for in a player. He’s going to be able to be a ratio guy. He should be an immediate four-teamer for you, so with those things being mentioned he’s certainly a solid option.”
Alabama receiver John Metchie III and Penn State linebacker Jesse Luketa will be selected in this week’s NFL draft, which is why they won’t be taken until the mid-to-late rounds of the CFL draft. Other prospects will fall down CFL draft boards if they sign in the NFL as undrafted free agents with the strongest candidate to do so being Waterloo quarterback Tre Ford.
“If you’ve got a high draft pick, it’s tough to spend that on a guy you may never see. Everything’s hunky-dory right now because we’ve not played a game and we’ve not lost a game, but it doesn’t take very long in pro sports for people to sour on you,” said Jones.
“To sit there and think you’re going to draft a guy especially early that could spend a couple of years in the NFL, that’s kinda tough to say. We’ve made a lot of phone calls and things of that nature to try to figure out exactly who’s going to get a shot and who’s not.”
Jones said his coaching staff ranked the top ten players at their respective positions, followed by the personnel staff ranking the players at every position. This was done in advance of the combine so the club could focus on the interview process and seeing how well each prospect meshed with the club from a personality standpoint.
Draft day is unpredictable, so the veteran CFL coach and talent evaluator is sure to be ready for whatever his team needs to do come May 3.
“You have to be prepared because you never know who’s going to come with what. They try to surprise you on draft day, so you to have to have your guys ranked one through seventy-five.”