In most recent cases, it takes several seasons of development before CFL draft picks are given large roles, and that trend is still holding up. However, an interesting development this season is just how many picks from the 2012 draft are already excelling in the limited roles they've been given, particularly notable considering that many top picks elected to return to school rather than play in the CFL this year. That suggests that this was quite a deep draft, and it also might be yet another indication that Canadian talent and the quality of CIS play is on the rise. Even more importantly, though, these players' remarkable success in limited roles could predict that they'll become bigger stars down the road.
One player that's particularly true for is Saskatchewan linebacker Sam Hurl, drafted 12th overall out of the University of Calgary this season. Hurl shone on special teams in the preseason and has continued that impact in regular-season games; his six special-teams tackles have him tied for second in the league. Hurl's currently only listed as a second-string linebacker on the Riders' defensive depth charts, but with his ability to fly around and make punishing tackles, it wouldn't be too surprising to see him get more action on that side of the ball before too long.
Hurl's far from the only 2012 pick who's done well in a limited role so far, though. Another shining example is Montreal fullback Patrick Lavoie, selected 11th overall out of Laval this year. Lavoie was promising enough for the Alouettes to release five-year veteran Kerry Carter almost immediately after drafting him, and he's already earned the starting fullback's job with the team over longer-tenured players like Martin Bédard and Dahrran Diedrick. As a fullback, he's mostly blocking for quarterback Anthony Calvillo and running back Brandon Whitaker, but he's shone with the ball when given an opportunity too, scoring the game-winning touchdown on a short pass late in Montreal's win over Calgary Thursday. Lavoie's already made a substantial impact with the Alouettes, and that impact could grow as time goes on.
There are plenty of other notable 2012 picks finding ways to shine so far, too. First-overall pick Ben Heenan (drafted out of the University of Saskatchewan) is settling in nicely as the Riders' right guard, a major step up from the backup role he was initially expected to have, while Edmonton receiver Shamawd Chambers (the sixth-overall pick out of Wilfrid Laurier University) had two catches for 37 yards and a touchdown Friday night against Winnipeg. Ryan King (the 38th pick out of Saint Mary's) has grabbed the Eskimos' starting long-snapping job, while Keenan MacDougall (15th overall out of the University of Saskatchewan) made some nice plays as Calgary's starting safety while Eric Fraser was injured early in the season, and those are just a few of the picks out there making an impact. It's too soon to tell exactly how these players will do in the long term, but early indications certainly suggest they'll be solid contributors both now and down the road, and that also makes it likely that the 2012 draft class will be making its mark on the CFL for years to come.