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May 6, 2016

Blog: CFL Combine

Next week is a huge one for so many young Canadian football players and for all CFL teams, as everyone convenes in Toronto for the annual CFL Combine. After three days of regional camps in Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto, our General Manager Kyle Walters and his staff will gather in Toronto for the National combine which begins Friday and runs through the weekend. These three days are a culmination of months of prep work for the invite-only list of prospects from across Canada and the US who will be eligible in this year’s CFL Draft.

“You prepare so long in advance for a draft, the Combine weekend really solidifies a lot in terms of what your plans are heading into the draft,” Walters told me. “It’s funny, sometimes you go in and are expecting a lot from a certain individual who maybe doesn’t test or interview as well as you would’ve liked or hoped, but then another young man will pique your interest who was previously someone you maybe weren’t expecting to do so well.”

The interviews take place Friday and Saturday; Kyle and his staff choose who they would like to speak with and spend 15 minutes with each player. Testing is done Saturday, with the on-field portion taking place Sunday to conclude the weekend.

“The number one thing we are looking for is passion. Do you absolutely love the game? That’s the first thing for us, and it is much easier to distinguish than people may think.” – Kyle Walters

Kyle will often put on game film of the player, and along with our scouting department and Head Coach Mike O’Shea, he will run through the tape with the player. “It’s very evident quite early on whether there is that passion we are looking for, and obviously the knowledge that is needed to play at this level.”

I brought up Sukh Chungh, who was the player we wanted at second overall in the 2015 Draft from day one. Sukh was already near the top of last list heading into the interview process last year, but came into the interview oozing passion for the game. He also possessed the knowledge and understanding needed to play in the CFL, and the obvious mentality of doing whatever it will take to win. That’s the type of player Kyle and Coach O’Shea look for. Sure enough, Sukh started every game last season as a rookie lineman, something that doesn’t often happen due to the transition time it takes to progress from the CIS to the pro level.

Like we have done the past two seasons, it is very likely we take an offensive lineman with our first pick, ninth overall, but for the first time in a very long time, we don’t need to try to plug immediate holes with the draft.

“We are starting to get better Canadian depth, and to look at that next pick after nine and know that we can look at the best available player, not take a certain position based on a need,” Walters said. “That’s the way it should be, and the way we wanted it, but that’s an evolving process of our plan.”

Our first three picks this year will be at nine, 10 and 19 overall, and Walters tells me “there are some very good football players who will go in the first few rounds.”

From the day he took over this football team, he has maintained that drafting and developing your own Canadian players is as important as anything else, and he maintains that philosophy heading into next weekend and May’s CFL Draft.