Six fallers from the 2024 CFL Combine in Winnipeg

Photo courtesy: Andrew Mahon/CFL.ca

The CFL Combine is over, giving us the chance to reflect on which prospects improved their stock and which prospects could be sliding down draft boards.

There is precedent for players who struggled at the annual talent showcase to go on to highly productive professional careers, so not all hope is lost for those listed here. With that being said, they didn’t do enough to help themselves in Winnipeg.

Below are six players who fell following their performance at the CFL Combine. They are listed alphabetically by last name. Click here for our six risers.

REC Ajou Ajou, Garden City Community College

The native of Brooks, Alta. was a four-star recruit coming out of high school at 224 pounds and committed to Clemson University, which had the No. 3-ranked recruiting class in the country that year.

Ajou struggled to produce in college, transferring to the University of South Florida before finishing his collegiate career at Garden City Community College. He made only 27 catches for 309 yards and three touchdowns over 28 games with his three teams, even taking some reps at tight end.

The six-foot-two target had a lot of questions to answer at the CFL Combine and failed to do so. He weighed in at 211 pounds, far lighter than he was during his days with the Tigers, yet ran a 4.85-second forty-yard dash, the worst among receivers. Though he has an infectious personality and is still likely to be drafted, Ajou will likely be a relatively late-round pick after his display in Winnipeg.

LB Ryan Baker, UBC

The two-time Canada West all-star was a leader and a versatile defender for the Thunderbirds the last few seasons, helping stop the run, rush the passer, and drop back into coverage on passing downs.

Though they were far from disastrous, Baker’s testing numbers call into question how his game will translate to the professional level. His 5.03-second forty-yard dash was the second slowest among linebackers ahead of only UBC teammate Mitchell Townsend, while his inability to change directions quickly was noticeable during team drills.

Baker might still be an effective player on special teams at the CFL level but it doesn’t appear he has enough raw athleticism to play a significant role on defence.

DB Tyshon Blackburn, Alberta

The two-time Canada West all-star was one of the top testers at last year’s East-West Bowl but didn’t stand out from the crowd at the CFL Combine.

The Calgary native managed only two reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, which was disappointing given that he measured in at six-foot-two and 203 pounds. He also only marginally improved on his forty-yard dash, clocking in at 4.66 seconds, while regressing in the short shuttle and vertical jump.

Blackburn has some legitimate cover skills from his main position at halfback but didn’t interview overly well, per sources, as scouts questioned his preparation and physicality. To his credit, he made a nice interception on the third day of practice.

DL Justin Sambu, Baylor

The six-foot-two, 282-pound defender barely saw the field this past year after transferring to the Bears and would have benefitted from participating in drills and one-on-ones, though he missed most of the on-field work due to injury.

The Calgary native posted an impressive shuttle time for his size at 4.56 seconds but the rest of his testing was mediocre at best, including only 11 reps on the bench press. After a year at a school with an elite strength and conditioning program, scouts were undoubtedly expecting better from Sambu.

Fortunately for him, Sambu’s collegiate career strongly resembles that of Lwal Uguak, who also played sparingly after transferring to a major power-five school for his final collegiate season. Uguak didn’t post eye-popping testing numbers either, yet he was still a first-round pick to the Montreal Alouettes and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following an impressive rookie CFL season.

OL Daniel Shin, Alberta

The Golden Bears have become a centre factory over the past few years with players like David Beard, Mark Korte, Justin Lawrence, and Rodeem Brown earning opportunities to start at the CFL level. Shin entered this week as a two-time U Sports All-Canadian after helping Matthew Peterson dominate along the ground in 2023.

Despite being the lightest offensive lineman in attendance at 286 pounds, Shin ran by far the slowest forty-yard dash at 5.82 seconds and placed bottom-five in the entire event in the vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone, and shuttle.

Offensive linemen aren’t expected to be top testers but there’s still a baseline of athletic ability that teams want to see. Shin also struggled in the one-on-ones, further raising questions about whether or not his dominance in U Sports will translate to the CFL.

RB Anthony Soles, Queen’s

The son of late CFL fullback Michael Soles struggled badly during the testing at the CFL Combine, finishing last in each category among running backs and fullbacks except for the three-cone drill, where he placed second-last ahead of only Matthew Peterson.

Soles was a productive runner as a member of the Golden Gaels but took on a reduced role in 2023 following the emergence of Jared Chisari, who also participated this past week in Winnipeg. It’s now clear that Soles won’t get a chance to carry the ball at the CFL level, which means he’ll have to double down on his blocking and special teams play.

The native of Pointe-Claire, Que. measured in at six-foot-one and 224 pounds, which means he can’t realistically shed weight as a CFL fullback. Teams weren’t expecting Soles to have blazing speed but his 5.19-second forty-yard dash was certainly disappointing.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.