TORONTO — Godfrey Onyeka thought he should have been the first overall pick, but on draft day it was a quiet fall from grace for the Laurier defender.
Onyeka fell out of the first round and into the hands of the Edmonton Eskimos at 10th overall, but for former CFL defensive back Davis Sanchez, that’s no reason to sleep on the draft’s top-ranked defensive back.
Sanchez weighed in on the Eskimos’ first pick in the draft on the 2018 CFL Draft recap edition of The Waggle presented by Sport Clips.
“He’s the guy that you look at and you ‘wow’ over his physical attributes,” said Sanchez. “He goes what, 10? You’re telling me there are nine guys that are better football players than Godfrey Onyeka? That’s a joke. There’s no chance.”
Listen to the full episode right here:
Episode 106: Tying a Bow on CFL Draft + Andrew Buckley 1-on-1
James and Davis break down last week’s CFL Draft with CFL.ca’s Jeff Krever and then speak with backup QB Andrew Buckley on his recent retirement announcement.
The first round saw a CFL record seven offensive linemen picked in the first nine selections. Central Michigan receiver Mark Chapman and Georgia State defensive tackle Julien Laurent were the only first round picks that don’t play on the O-line.
A day after trading down in the draft, the Eskimos were happy to land a player of Onyeka’s calibre at 10.
“The reason there were nine guys drafted ahead of him is because teams need to fill their ratio with linemen,” said Sanchez. “Godfrey Onyeka’s a top-three talent in this draft.
“I think he’s in a great spot there in Edmonton,” he added. “It’s important to allow him to make mistakes and develop. Barron Miles is there. [Mike Benevides] is the defensive coordinator — I know Benny’s going to love him — and Barron Miles is a Hall of Fame defensive back.
“If there’s a coach that trusts him and allows him to make mistakes and allows him to grow, he’s going to be a player. He’s the guy that could be the best player in this draft class if he gets put in that situation.”
If history is any indication, draft position is not typically indicative of career success. Consider last year, when the first-round picks struggled to make an impact while later-round picks Kwaku Boateng, Tunde Adeleke and Dondre Wright made arguably the most significant contributions as rookies.
As far as immediate impact goes, Sanchez weighed in alongside James Cybulski and CFL.ca’s Jeff Krever on three names to look out for in 2018.
Krever: Godfrey Onyeka, DB, Eskimos
While Sanchez can see Onyeka making a significant long-term impact, Krever says the Eskimos’ new DB should find his way onto the field often in his rookie season.
“He’s strong, he’s athletic, he’s a really big playmaker,” said Krever. “All he’s done is make plays, but it’s also that confidence that he plays with. He’s brash. His ability to play multiple positions — from corner to safety — I think that’s going to allow him to make more of an impact.
“This is a guy that, throughout his career . . . he started playing late. The sport just comes easy to him — he’s a natural at it.”
Godfrey Onyeka put his physical ability on full display during one-on-ones at the combine (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)
Cybulski: Micah Teitz, LB, Roughriders
While the Riders lost one of their top ratio-breakers in Henoc Muamba, that could lead to an opportunity for linebacker Micah Teitz to fight for playing time.
Teitz adds an athletic, high-motor linebacker to the Riders’ linebacker corps, making him an easy choice for Cybulski for most impactful rookies.
“I just love this guy’s motor and I feel like this is a guy that Chris Jones is going to get his hands on and have some fun with and address a need on that side of the football with Saskatchewan in 2018,” said Cybulski. “He can just play. Twenty-two years old. Just looks the part, too.
“I love his tenacity,” he added. “He showed he’s a straight up baller during his final season with the Calgary Dinos with the number of tackles he racked up. He just finds ways to make plays.”
Sanchez: Dakoda Shepley, OL, Roughriders
Questions surround Dakoda Shepley’s availability in the CFL this year, but for Sanchez, if the Riders’ fifth overall pick makes it north of the border at any time in 2018, he’ll make a very strong impact on Chris Jones’ team.
“The reason Shepley can be a big impact guy is because they need an interior Canadian for their ratio,” said Sanchez. “The Saskatchewan Roughriders are deep in talent, but they aren’t deep in Canadian talent. If he does happen to come back, and he can come in there and be a Canadian starter in the interior of the offensive line, he will have a huge impact on the Riders’ season, adding some flexibility ratio-wise and some depth on the O-line.”
Shepley is one of several offensive linemen who have received NFL interest from this year’s draft, but time will tell whether the UBC product, and arguably the top performer at the CFL Combine in Winnipeg this year, will play in Canada this season.
For more 2018 CFL Draft talk, listen to The latest episode of the Waggle, in which James and Davis discuss some of the draft’s biggest surprises and more.