The CFL's draft rankings underwent one of their biggest shifts ever with the April list released Friday, as Rice defensive tackle Christian Covington moved into the new top spot despite not appearing on the September or December lists. There's a good reason for that, though. Covington was well on the radar of CFL teams, but just finished his junior year, so he normally wouldn't be draft-eligible. He declared for the NFL draft in January, making him eligible for the CFL draft (May 12, 8 p.m. Eastern,TSN/RDS) as well, but that came after the previous scouting bureau lists. Thus, while it's unusual to see someone go from outside the top 20 to the top spot, it seems like a perfectly valid move in this case, even if it's highly unlikely that Covington's name will actually be called first during the CFL's draft.
Covington seems like an excellent candidate for the top spot here, as he might be the top pure talent in this draft. The son of Canadian Football Hall Of Fame defensive end Grover Covington, Christian was born and raised in Vancouver. Although he initially had to sell his dad on following in his footsteps, he wound up winning a provincial high school championship with Grover as his coach at Vancouver College. Covington's since shone at Rice, and he was seen as one of the top Conference USA prospects heading into 2014, but injuries limited him this past year. Declaring for the NFL draft early may still be a good decision for him, though; many projections have him going between the third and fifth rounds in that draft. If that happens, there's no way Covington will go first overall in the CFL draft, but these rankings are more about talent than who's likely to actually top the CFL draft. (It's also notable that these rankings are merely an average of rankings from the CFL's various teams; a high ranking for an obvious talent like Covington who's unlikely to actually be picked first thanks to NFL interest has merit as a way to disguise who you're actually interested in as well.)
Covington's case is analogous to what we saw with Bo Lokombo a few years back, who was ranked the top CFL prospect, but not taken until the third round (and the 21st overall pick) of the 2013 CFL draft. Lokombo stood out from the pack heading into that draft, but only dropped thanks to NFL interest. His case also shows the value of patience for CFL teams; that NFL interest didn't wind up leading to anything, and Lokombo eventually wound up with the Lions last summer.
It's quite possible a similar situation could play out with Covington. He seems likely to land in the NFL as either a draft pick or an undrafted free agent, so whatever CFL team drafts him probably won't get to use him right away. However, he could be an excellent bet for future value down the road. He's a worthy top-ranked prospect, even if he's not likely to go first overall, and watching where exactly he does wind up may be one of the most interesting parts of this year's CFL draft.