Thu Mar 03 03:22pm EST
The CFL's annual evaluation camp for top prospects starts Friday and runs through this weekend. It's always an interesting time in the CFL, with teams descending on Toronto to watch many of the top CIS and NCAA players eligible for the league's Canadian draft go through the paces in various workouts and drills. Much like the NFL combine, a strong performance at E-Camp can shoot players up CFL draft boards, while a disappointing camp showing can severely damage their draft stock. It's certainly not the only factor in who goes where, as career stats and game tapes are also heavily considered when evaluating each player's CFL potential. Still, the camp has a role to play. With that in mind, here are five players to keep an eye on this weekend; not necessarily the top five prospects out there, but five intriguing guys who could boost their CFL stock with an impressive showing. Players are listed in alphabetical order.
— Scott Mitchell: Mitchell, who came in at second in the CFL's most recent prospect rankings, will be the top-ranked prospect at the combine (#1-ranked prospect Philip Blake will not be in attendance). Mitchell had a very solid NCAA career at Houston's Rice University, making 38 straight starts for the Owls (mostly at left tackle) before a foot injury forced him to miss their final four games. He could solidify his hold on one of the top draft slots with a good showing at the camp.
— Henoc Muamba: A St. Francis Xavier product, Muamba was the top linebacker in the CFL's December prospect rankings (10th overall). He earned the President's Trophy in 2010 (which he's pictured raising at right above) as the top CIS non-line defensive player, and was a pretty good choice; his 63.5 total tackles put him fourth in the country, and he also recorded three and a half sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. At 6'0'' and 230, he's got plenty of size; if he can show off some of the agility and speed he also displayed during his time with the X-Men at the camp, he could move up many teams' draft boards.
— Matt O'Donnell: Seven of the 15 players ranked by the CFL scouting bureau in December were offensive linemen, a position frequently targeted during the CFL draft. O'Donnell is one of the most intriguing, coming in at number eight on that list, the highest of any CIS offensive lineman. Listed at 6'11'' and 340 pounds, he's got tremendous size, but he also has considerable agility and has notably refined his technique over the course of his career. He was one of the two CIS players selected to the NCAA's Shrine Game this year, and was picked as a first-team OUA all-star and the OUA's top lineman. O'Donnell's size made him a dominant force at the CIS level, but he'll need more than that in the CFL. If he can show off his agility and flexibility as well this weekend, he may be one of the top draft picks.
— Anthony Parker: Parker and the University of Calgary Dinos may have come up short in the Vanier Cup against Laval in 2010, but he and teammates Matt Walter and Nathan Coehoorn may still make a substantial impact at the next level. Parker only played five regular-season games this season thanks to injury, but still hauled in 22 passes for 367 yards. Along with O'Donnell, he received a Shrine Game invitation. At 6'2'' and 215 pounds, he's got a powerful mix of size and speed that could serve him well in the CFL. A strong performance at this weekend's camp could help him firm up his hold on one of the top draft slots.
— Brad Sinopoli: Despite winning the 2010 Hec Creighton Trophy as the top player in CIS, the Ottawa Gee-Gees' quarterback won't be found among any lists of the top prospects for the CFL draft. In fact, he may not be chosen at all, and he may not even receive a free-agent offer if he isn't drafted. That's mostly thanks to the position he plays and a bizarre CFL rule that doesn't reward teams for trying to develop Canadian quarterbacks. Still, things are starting to change, and Sinopoli may be one of the first quarterbacks to benefit. He's already participated in training camps with the Tiger-Cats through a quarterback internship program, and his CIS stats are pretty impressive; this past year, he threw for 344.5 yards per game (his closest competitor there was Regina's Marc Mueller, the other quarterback at E-Camp, who put up 304.6 passing YPG), notched 22 touchdowns against 13 interceptions, ran for 534 yards on 42 carries and took his team to the Yates Cup final. He also fared pretty well in advanced opponent-adjusted stats. Sinopoli may never get a shot in the CFL regardless of his performance this weekend, but a strong camp might make teams take a deeper look at him.