May 4, 2016

Breaking Down the CFL Draft

He’s at the top of every Canadian Football League draft board and the No. 1 prospect, as ranked by the CFL Scouting Bureau.

And yet in one of those quirky twists that makes the CFL so unique, University of Manitoba Bisons defensive tackle David Onyemata won’t be the first name called out during next Tuesday’s CFL Draft.

Heck, he could drop a round – or two – before one of the nine CFL teams select him. And here’s why; as a fourth-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in last weekend’s NFL Draft, there is a chance he might not ever take a snap for a CFL club.

“Everyone is going to have that decision, everyone is going to have that line of when do you call David Onyemata’s name,” said Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters. “He’s going to get drafted (in the CFL), it’s just when.

“Is it a team that is loaded with Canadian talent that decides in the second or third round they might as well take Onyemata? That’s the interesting thing now when you go through your mock drafts. It’s, ‘Where would we take him?’ And you have to assume you’re not going to see him for a few years, if ever.”

Onyemata was the only Canadian selected in last week’s NFL Draft, but the feeding frenzy of free agents after the proceedings could also impact the decision making next Tuesday.

david-onyemata-2015-2There are two tiers of free-agent signings down south that affect Canadian draft prospects. ‘Priority’ free agents are players who were coveted but, for any number of reasons, slipped through the draft. They will likely head to main NFL training camps and, in some cases, have landed deals that also include signing bonuses.

This year that crew includes Iowa wide receiver Tevaun Smith (Indianapolis), Boston College defensive lineman Mehdi Abdesmad (Tennessee), Michigan State defensive back Arjen Colquhoun (Dallas) and Calgary defensive back Elie Bouka (Arizona).

“You have to assume those kids are going to be in the NFL this year,” Walters stated, “or they’re certainly going to training camp and the earliest you’re going to see them is Labour Day or maybe in a year.

“It could turn into another Andy Mulumba.”

Mulumba, Bomber fans are no doubt aware, was the club’s first-round pick in 2013 (2nd overall). But he’s never taken a snap for the club, having opened eyes with the Green Bay Packers during his first camp and landing a job there before tearing his ACL last fall. He was released by the Packers, but signed with the Kansas City Chiefs this April.


The next group are those prospects that earn invitations to NFL mini-camps, some of which will be held this weekend. They are long shots, but should they make an impression, could land a main-camp invitation that impacts their availability to the CFL.

That bunch includes Laval offensive lineman Charles Vaillancourt (interest from both the New York Giants and Oakland), Southern wide receiver Mike Jones (Washington), Virginia defensive lineman Trent Corney (New York Jets), Montana State linebacker Alex Singleton (New England) as well as Manitoba linebacker DJ Lalama, Grand Valley State offensive lineman Brandon Revenberg, Calgary running back Mercer Timmis and teammate Brett Blaszko, UBC safety Taylor Loffler and his teammates Terrell Davis, a linebacker, and kicker Quinn van Gylswyk, Queen’s receiver Doug Corby and Laval offensive lineman Philipe Gagnon – all to the New York Giants.

(The Giants did the same thing last year and, FYI, their assistant GM Kevin Abrams is Canadian).

“The mini-camp invites you have to assume you’re going to see them in your training camp,” Walters explained. “The likelihood of those kids getting a contract offer… it’s a long shot.”

All of this, in a roundabout way, means a CFL team’s draft board and all the mock drafts they conduct on an almost daily basis are always written in pencil, not ink.


(This is the first of our draft previews for