March 17, 2017

GM Kyle Walters on Draft Preparations

There are certain dates Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters always has circled on his calendar.

The opening of free agency is one. Ditto of the Canadian Football League Draft. The start of training camp and the home opener are big. And, fingers crossed, he hopes the Bombers are involved in some meaningful Sundays in November.

And then there’s Tuesday, March 7th.

“It’s going to be great,” began Walters in a conversation with “Both (National Scout) Craig (Smith) and (Assistant GM/Director of Player Personnel) Ted (Goveia) are flying in and then on Tuesday those two plus Mike (O’Shea) and I will close the door and start going through all the draft prospects. Then we’ll be on the road at the different combines.

“I can’t wait to stop this,” Walters added, slapping down the remote while watching film. “I’ve been doing this since December in here. You watch the film, you plug away and grind along. It’s long and labour intensive and your eyes get sore and you get grumpy and frustrated.

“That’s why I’m so excited for when the guys are actually here and we’re meeting and you can actually see these guys in person.”

“It’s exciting to turn the film off, get out of this office and go see the kids.”

Walters and the Bombers scouting staff have good reason to be as excited with this draft class as any other in recent years. They aren’t as desperate to find plug-and-play prospects to shore up what was once a thin collection of Canadian starters as was the case in the first few years of the rebuild.

And with last September’s trade with the Toronto Argonauts that sent Drew Willy east, the Bombers now hold the first and sixth picks in the first round as well as the 15th and 23rd overall selections.


Blue Bombers Assistant General Manager, Ted Goveia, at the 2016 CFL Combine.


The Bombers brain trust will be at the Eastern Regional Combine this Friday in Montreal, the Ontario Regional Combine in Toronto the following week, and then the Western Regional and National Combine during CFL Week in Regina March 23-25th.

They will also attend a number of pro-day workouts held by prospects and, if need be, fly in their top-rated players for private workouts before the May 7th draft.

That’s critical as seven players listed in the CFL Scouting Bureau’s Top 20 rankings, released in December, will not be at the national combine including Mississippi State O-lineman Justin Senior, Laval receiver Anthony Auclair, UCLA defensive tackle Eli Ankou, Manitoba O-lineman Geoff Gray, Iowa defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie and Simon Fraser linebacker Jordan Herdman.

Calgary receiver Rashaun Simonise, meanwhile, has had his draft year deferred by the CFL after a positive performance-enhancing drug test while he attended Cincinnati Bengals training camp last year.

Walters said their prep work has included watching film of 20 defensive backs eligible for the draft, along with 26 defensive linemen, 15 linebackers, 29 offensive linemen, 11 running backs and 19 receivers. He and O’Shea, Goveia and Smith will have watched at least four games of all those prospects and pieced together a collection of 15-20 plays that represent their skillset. Each evaluator will have also graded each prospect.


Taylor Loffler at the 2016 CFL Combine in Toronto.


This week’s get together is all about review, hashing out their differences in those grades, and then assigning a master grade before they head out to the regional combines.

“It’s starting to come to a head, which is nice,” Walters said. “We’ve put in all this work and now the next step will be to cross-reference the 100 players we’ve studied versus seeing them in person. That’s the next step and part of the process.”

Winnipeg currently has seven selections in the draft: first, sixth, 15th, 23rd, 50th, 59th and 68th. The fourth and fifth-round picks were traded.

“Our No. 1 priority right now is to find our Top 23 and be real sure we’ve got 1-through-23 ranked the way we’ll draft them,” said Walters.

“I’ll have the final say, but it’s a collaborative process. This is why we go through and grade guys. Come draft night, that’s already done because we’ve hashed it all out.”