December 20, 2010
One of the problems with following or covering the CFL is it's often tough to get a handle on potential player movement in the offseason. I recently wrote about the issues with keeping free agency and negotiation lists secret; secrecy around the former makes it tough for fans and media to tell which of their teams' players are coming back and what other CFL players might be intriguing targets, while secrecy around the latter makes it tough for fans and reporters to try and figure out what NCAA or NFL players might be headed to which CFL team.
The CFL's since remedied the first problem, releasing a comprehensive list of free agents, but secrecy is still prevalent around teams' negotiation lists. Fortunately, Football Reporters of Canada reporter of the year Ed Tait is on the case, and he's somehow come up with a list of many of the NCAA quarterbacks on each CFL team's negotiation lists and what bowl games they're playing in.
There are some interesting names in that piece, but keep in mind that all these lists represent is the CFL's internal priority in case players do decide to come up north. A player's presence on a team's list at least suggests they think there's a chance he'll eventually head to the CFL, but many of the players on these lists never wind up playing a down of three-down football. One such case (at least so far) is Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young, who was revealed to be on the Argonauts' negotiation list last season. Young has had his ups and downs, at times looking like he was on his way out of the NFL and at other times looking like one of the game's most promising quarterbacks, but it seems likely that another NFL team would at least take a chance on him if the Titans decide to let him go. Any CFL future for him would probably be well down the road, and only if things collapsed south of the border.
A similar name on this year's current list is Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner who's going to lead the Tigers against the Oregon Ducks in the BCS national championship game on Jan. 10. He's on the Toronto Argonauts' negotiation list, but if he does decide to come out of school this year (he's a junior, but the scandal around his recruitment might give him incentive to jump), he's likely going to be a top-15 pick in the NFL draft. That would probably ensure he'd be around the NFL for a couple of seasons at least, even if he doesn't do well initially, and that in turn means putting him on this list seems reasonably optimistic at the moment.
There are several quarterbacks on Tait's list who may have a good chance at playing in the CFL in the next few seasons, though. Part of success in the CFL as a quarterback can come from specific talents like mobility or the ability to run a spread offence, but the problem is that the NFL is adapting to favour those tendencies as well and the CFL is generally limited to the players overlooked by the American game. There are still some quarterbacks that are generally undervalued by the NFL (especially shorter guys who run spread offences), but by and large, CFL quarterbacks come from the ranks of those who are good but perhaps not good enough to earn an NFL chance.
Thus, projecting who might come north depends not just on the quarterback's inherent skill, but also predicting what the NFL opinion of them might be. With that in mind, here's a breakdown of some of the more promising CFL names on Tait's list, divided by seniors (who are definitively finished their NCAA careers) and underclassmen (who may or may not be leaving school; juniors have the option to declare for the NFL draft) along with information on the bowl they're playing in. Their current school is listed with them, with the team that holds their CFL rights lifted in brackets.
—Taylor Potts, Texas Tech (Montreal): The Red Raiders' quarterback survived the transition from Mike Leach to Tommy Tuberville quite nicely, putting up even better numbers this year than he did in Leach's Air Raid offence. He threw for 3357 yards and completed 65.9 per cent of his passes, recording 31 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. Much like his predecessor Graham Harrell, though, Potts (pictured above) doesn't seem to be drawing a ton of NFL buzz so far. He could be a very interesting addition to the CFL quarterbacking stable. He and Texas Tech will take on Northwestern in the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas on January 1.
—Colin Kaepernick, Nevada (B.C.): The WolfPack had a tremendous year, even knocking off undefeated Boise State, and Kaepernick was a huge part of that. He threw for 2830 yards and 20 touchdowns with a 65.3 per cent completion rate and just seven interceptions. He also ran for 1091 yards and 20 touchdowns. He and Nevada will face Boston College Jan. 9 in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
—Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech (Edmonton): Taylor had a pretty impressive season for the Hokies, carrying them to an 11-2 record, an ACC championship and a BCS berth. His passing stats are pretty solid; he threw for 2521 yards and 23 touchdowns with a 60.6 completion percentage and just four interceptions. He's also known for his rushing abilities; he picked up 451 yards and five touchdowns on 130 carries this season. He and Virginia Tech will face Stanford on Jan. 3 in the Orange Bowl.
—Kellen Moore, Boise State (Hamilton): Moore's had a great career with the Broncos so far, and led them to a 14-0 season and a Fiesta Bowl victory last season. Although Boise wasn't able to come up with another undefeated season this year thanks to an overtime loss to Nevada, Moore might have been even better on a personal level. He recorded an incredible 71.0 completion percentage and threw for 3506 yards and 33 touchdowns with just five interceptions. He was also a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He's probably going back to school this coming year and may wind up in the NFL after that, but several other successful Boise quarterbacks (Jared Zabransky, Ryan Dinwiddie) have been undervalued by the NFL and wound up playing three-down football. We'll see if Moore follows them or not. He and the Broncos face Utah in the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas on Dec. 22.
—Bryant Moniz, Hawaii (Saskatchewan): Moniz is another promising junior in a pass-first system. He threw for 4629 yards and 36 touchdowns this year with a 66.3 per cent completion percentage and just 11 interceptions. He also recorded four rushing touchdowns. He and the Warriors face the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
—Dan Persa, Northwestern (Edmonton): Persa, also a junior, started regularly for the first time for the Wildcats this year, and the results were encouraging. The team went 7-5 with big wins over Iowa and Indiana, and Persa completed an amazing 73.5 per cent of his passes. He threw for 2581 yards and 15 touchdowns with just four interceptions, and added another 321 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. Persa and the Wildcats are up against Texas Tech in the Ticket City Bowl in Dallas on Jan. 1.
As mentioned above, it's far from a certainty that any of these guys will ever play in the CFL. Knowing that they're on CFL negotiation lists provides some extra fuel for debate about them, though, and it gives fans and media an idea who different teams may be going after down the road. That's why it would be great to see these kinds of lists released for all players in the future, not just quarterbacks. For now, though, this list gives CFL fans a bit of an extra interest in some of the great college football played at this time of the year, and that's a good thing on its own.