May 09, 2011
The CFL's annual draft is always intriguing for a variety of reasons. A lot of the attention is centred on the first round, which is generally the subject of most of the mock drafts (including my own) and most of the television coverage (the first and second rounds were aired live on TSN, while the remainder were only webcast), but what happens in the later rounds can be just as important. Players fall for all sorts of reasons, and many of them have nothing to do with talent, but are rather based on the position they play, how soon they'll be available and the amount of NFL interest in them.
For example, Baylor offensive lineman Philip Blake was one of the top players in this year's draft by sheer talent; he topped the CFL's prospect rankings both in September and December and only fell to fourth in the final April rankings. However, he was taken 23rd overall by Montreal, thanks largely to concerns about his remaining NCAA season and the growing NFL interest in him, which could turn him into another Danny Watkins. Another interesting situation was that of Vaughn Martin, who might be the most talented guy in this draft class, but currently is with the NFL's San Diego Chargers; he also was chosen by Montreal, but fell all the way to 39th overall, the final pick in round five. If Martin and Blake eventually do wind up making it to the CFL, they could be some of the most notable players from this draft class despite their low overall selection. It's stories like those that make the later rounds worthy of plenty of analysis on their own, so that's what we'll do here. You can also find the whole complete list of picks over on CFL.ca. Below the jump, some point-form thoughts on five of the most notable late-round picks:
— Brad Sinopoli, quarterback, sixth pick of fourth round (29th overall) to Calgary: Sinopoli, had long been seen as one of the top prospects to crack the CFL as a Canadian quarterback, never an easy thing. No one was really sure where he'd go in this draft, though; Sinopoli's physical skills, CIS statistics from the University of Ottawa and time at CFL training camps made him seem like clearly the best Canadian quarterback in this class, but teams aren't really in the habit of drafting many Canadian quarterbacks. The fourth round seems about right for Sinopoli as a guy with plenty of potential but no certain CFL future, but that slot does show that there was more than one team interested; you don't take somebody in the fourth round if you think you can get them in the fifth or sixth. It was also interesting that he went to Calgary, as most had him likely heading to Hamilton, where he'd attended training camp before. That, combined with Sinopoli (pictured above right raising the 2010 Hec Crighton Trophy, given to the CIS MVP) going in the fourth round, might represent that more teams are interested in Canadian quarterbacks than have been in the past.
— Paul Swiston, offensive line, first pick of fourth round (24th overall) to Winnipeg: Swiston's an intriguing addition, particularly considering where the Bombers got him. He hadn't received a huge amount of buzz for most of the draft period, but there was a lot of talk about him in the last few weeks (and he did crack the rankings at #15 in December and April). Swiston was a key part of the Calgary Dinos' run to the Vanier Cup final this year, and helped pave the way for their offensive success. He could be a nice addition to a team looking to get more Canadian depth.
— Matt Walter, running back, third pick of fifth round (34th overall) to Calgary: Walter didn't get as much press heading into the draft as Dinos' teammates Anthony Parker and Nathan Coehoorn, but he was also a key part of Calgary's success over the last few years. His lower draft position is at least partially due to his position, as Canadian running backs aren't generally as valued as Canadian wide receivers. The Stampeders probably got plenty of looks at him over the last few years, though, as both teams play out of McMahon Stadium, so they know what kind of player they're getting. Another notable thing with Walter is that he's their second Canadian running back behind Jon Cornish (third if Jesse Lumsden is able return from injury), which could lead to interesting things down the road; import back Joffrey Reynolds and Cornish are likely the go-to guys for this moment, but Cornish and Walter could give them the chance to run an all-Canadian backfield at some point in the future, which could be tremendously helpful from an import ratio perspective.
— Carl Volny, running back, first pick of fifth round (32nd overall) to Winnipeg: Volny's another intriguing backfield addition, and one that comes with some question marks. He was Central Michigan's offensive player of the year last season, doing everything from rushing to receiving to returning kicks, but his career totals aren't all that impressive. He's joining a sizeable Mid-American Conference contingent on the Bombers, so he might fit in well, and the team has had success with NCAA non-import running backs before (see Oregon State's Yvenson Bernard, who just left for Montreal in free agency). He could be an important contributor for them down the road.
— Michael Knill, offensive lineman, fourth pick of sixth round (43rd overall) to Toronto: Much of the discussion around Knill has focused on the E-Camp bench-press record he set this year (47 reps at 225 pounds), but it's worth noting that he's recorded some pretty notable accomplishments on the field over the years with Wilfrid Laurier as well. He's also listed at 6'6'' and 350 pounds, so he definitely has the size to play tackle. He's not as ready to play right away as some of the guys who went earlier, but he could be a nice project for them down the road, especially learning from the likes of Rob Murphy. Canadian depth on the offensive line is essential, and Knill could be quite important to the Argonauts' future despite being one of the last picks in the draft.