Sean McEwen's eligible for second-straight NFL draft, one of few loopholes left

Calgary Dinos' guard Sean McEwen, the third-overall pick in last year's CFL draft, is eligible for his second-straight NFL draft this year. (University of Calgary.)

One of the major challenges with the CFL's old draft-eligibility system was that it had many players eligible for the Canadian draft a year before they were eligible for the NFL draft thanks to the CFL not counting the common NCAA practice of a redshirt freshman year. That meant that top players like Bo Lokombo and Philip Blake were drafted very late by the CFL based on presumed NFL interest in them, and some high CFL draft picks, like Danny Watkins, wound up picking up much more NFL interest in their senior year of college and going high in that league's draft. However, that loophole was largely closed ahead of the 2014 CFL draft, meaning that the CFL generally doesn't draft players a year before the NFL does these days. It does in some circumstances, though, and that's the case with Calgary Dinos' centre Sean McEwen.

McEwen was eligible for the 2015 NFL draft last April, but went unselected, and while he (along with many other CIS players) did get a NFL tryout with the New York Giants, he didn't wind up signing with them. Normally, that would make him a prime CFL candidate, and that was part of why he was chosen by the Toronto Argonauts with the third-overall pick in last May's CFL Draft. However, he elected to return to school for a fifth year of eligibility rather than join the Argonauts, and as Dan Ralph of The Canadian Press writes, that means he's again eligible for the NFL draft:

NFL rules stipulate players at Canadian schools offering five-year participation in football are eligible for the draft after four. McEwen played at Calgary from 2011 to 2014 to qualify for last year's selection process.

Players can become eligible for a subsequent NFL draft if they return to school for a fifth season. Doing so last year made McEwen eligible for this year's event, slated for April 28-30.

Clouding matters was McEwen attended a New York Giants' mini-camp last year following the draft. However, the six-foot-three, 297-pound Calgary native never signed an NFL contract and participated as a tryout player, leaving his CIS eligibility intact and allowing him to return to school.

"I was just as surprised as anyone when I found out in December I'd be eligible for the draft," McEwen said during a telephone interview. "It's nowhere close to a guarantee I'll get drafted but it's definitely a possibility.

"Seeing how I compare to everybody else is pretty interesting to me. Regardless of whether it's in the late rounds (of draft) or free agency afterwards, I think I'm going to get a good opportunity at another shot in the NFL."

McEwen's situation isn't actually as rare as it may sound, as there have been plenty of players in recent years who opted to return to CIS for a fifth year after being chosen in the CFL draft, frequently with the goal of trying to improve their NFL stock. However, in most of those cases, the NFL didn't wind up drafting or signing them after an extra year, and they came to the CFL anyway. McEwen may have a better shot than most thanks to his showing at Giants' mini-camp last year and his play against NCAA players in this year's East-West Shrine Game. We'll see if he actually gets picked in the NFL draft or not, but his case certainly shows off an interesting possibility of how Canadian players can still be NFL draft-eligible twice thanks to CIS' fifth-year provision. That's something CFL teams will have to consider in their own draft preparations; guys who indicate they plan to head back to school for a fifth year may have the chance to use that as a NFL springboard that could take them away for longer than just a year.

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