Three steals and three reaches from the CFL draft
Monday's CFL draft (full results here) didn't have a surprise at the top, but there were still plenty of unexpected picks. The draft, expanded to seven rounds for the first time, saw 60 different players chosen by nine teams. In addition to the eight teams that will be playing this year, the Ottawa expansion team set to start in 2014 was allowed to select NCAA players with eligibility remaining in each of the first four rounds. Some selections looked like exceptional value, while other players were taken taken long before most expected them to be. Here's a breakdown of three steals and three reaches from the draft.
—Matt Sewell (offensive lineman, McMaster, picked eighth overall (first round) by Toronto): Sewell was the fourth-ranked prospect in the most recent edition of the CFL's prospect rankings, and second-ranked in the one before that. From this corner, he looked like the best offensive line prospect in the draft; at 6'8'' and 345 pounds, he has the size to play the traditionally-American tackle position, and he has an excellent mix of agility and power. He also performed well both on the field and at the combine. His free-agent deal with Tennessee may have scared off some teams, but the 90-man NFL camp roster means one-third of each team isn't making it to that league's regular season (on the active roster or the practice squad).
An NFL contract is no guarantee, and Sewell may well be available before the offensive linemen taken above him who still have NCAA eligibility left (and perhaps the NFL after that). Corey Watman, Hunter Steward and Bander Craighead all have their own advantages, but none seems as potentially dominant as Sewell, and only Watman (who didn't redshirt at Eastern Michigan, and thus appears to have exhausted his NCAA eligibility) seems likely to show up in the CFL before the McMaster product. This is a bit of a risky pick by Argos' GM Jim Barker given that Sewell does have a NFL deal, but it's not really more risky than the offensive linemen taken earlier, and Sewell's upside appears much higher.
— Ben D'Aguilar (defensive lineman, McMaster, taken 13th overall (second round) by Calgary): D'Aguilar was an incredibly effective pass rusher at the university level, setting a CIS regular-season record with 12.5 sacks over eight games this past fall and helping take the Marauders to the Vanier Cup game. He also claimed the J.P. Metras Trophy as the top CIS lineman (offensive or defensive). D'Aguilar showed well at the combine and looked to be one of the first defensive ends taken (he went with the fourth pick overall in my mock draft), so it's surprising that he slipped to #13. He could be an exceptional find for the Stampeders.
— Elie Ngoyi (defensive lineman, Bishop's, taken 51st overall (sixth round) by Edmonton*): Ngoyi put up one of the most impressive performances at this year's combine, notching an event-high 40 reps (at 225 pounds) in the bench press. That's remarkable, considering that he's only listed at 6'2'' and 270 pounds; he clearly has the strength to take on bigger guys. He has plenty of quickness off the end as well, recording a 4.94-second 40-yard dash at the combine (third-best amongst defensive linemen). Ngoyi also had a solid year with the Gaiters, recording 4.5 sacks and 38.5 tackles in nine regular-season CIS games. None of that will necessarily make him a CFL star, but he has intriguing potential, particularly for the 51st player taken in this year's draft.
—Andy Mulumba (defensive end, Eastern Michigan, taken second overall (first round) by Winnipeg): Mulumba's a solid player, but the second-overall slot seems very high for him. He only recorded 4.5 sacks in four years at Eastern Michigan, only notching one last season, and while his 73 total tackles were impressive, he's not a proven pass-rusher. He also doesn't have a lot of size (he's listed at 6'4'', 263 pounds here, which is workable for a CFL defensive end, but not overwhelmingly impressive). Mulumba would have been a worthy pick lower in the first round or early in the second round, but taking him at #2 over the likes of Mike Edem, Matt Sewell and Ben D'Aguilar is a curious move.
—Corey Watman (offensive lineman, Eastern Michigan, taken fourth overall (first round) by Saskatchewan): Watman's far from a bad player, and he's impressed at centre with Eastern Michigan. He's a curious pick in this slot, though, as his upside is extremely limited. At 6'2'' and 294 pounds, Watman really only has the size to play centre, and he's no guarantee to be successful there in the CFL. Yes, the Riders could stand to develop a backup who can eventually take over that role from Dominic Picard, but Watman's ceiling seems much lower than that of other prospects who were still on the board at this point, including Sewell, D'Aguilar, Stefan Charles and Kris Robertson. It's a safeish pick, but not an imaginative one, and not one that will necessarily work out all that well.
—Steven Lumbala (running back, Calgary, taken fifth overall (first round) by Montreal): Lumbala has been a decent CIS player with an impressive pedigree (brother Rolly is one of the CFL's best fullbacks with B.C.), and he may well be the best running back in this draft The Alouettes also perhaps have more need for another non-import running back than most teams, as they picked up Canadian Jerome Messam earlier this offseason: if Messam beats out Brandon Whitaker, Lumbala could be a crucial ratio-maintaining backup. Still, this is very early to pick him. No other running back was selected in this year's draft (fullbacks Isaac Dell and Smith Wright were taken in rounds five and seven, respectively), so there was no chance of a run on tailbacks (and not many teams were really interested in picking up a Canadian running back). Lumbala also didn't always overwhelm at Calgary, and his 2012 stats were highly inconsistent (two games with 200-plus rushing yards, but also games with 39, 60, 67 and 67 rushing yards); he never really shone as a receiver out of the backfield, either. He could well be a good CFL player, but he seems like an underwhelming first-round selection, as Montreal likely could have nabbed him in rounds two or three.
*Correction: This post initially had Ngoyi taken by Montreal. Edmonton chose him. Thanks, Cliffy!