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May 7, 2017

Draft Predictions | Duane Forde & Marshall Ferguson

PHOTO: From ESPN

It is a debate that is only going to become more heated in the days leading up to Sunday’s Canadian Football League Draft.

Should the Winnipeg Blue Bombers launch a proverbial Hail Mary with the No. 1 pick or go more conservative?

Or, given the fact they were a playoff team a year ago and have the luxury of two first-round picks – first and sixth overall – should they call an audible and do a bit of both?

That was just one of many topics broached in Tuesday’s media conference call with two CFL Draft gurus – TSN’s Duane Forde and Marshall Ferguson, who doubles as the voice of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and a draft expert for CFL.ca.

The Bombers, as expected, are being tight-lipped about their plans for the first overall selection. But that hasn’t stopped anyone and everyone from putting together mock drafts or playing the guessing game.

“It’s wide open. My early inclination is (the Bombers) might go defensive line,” said Forde, a 12-year CFL veteran who spent the 1993 season with Winnipeg. “One of the guys that stands out for me as a guy who may be readily more available than some of the guys who have signed NFL deals is Faith Ekakitie from Iowa.”

Faith Ekakitie

Faith Ekakitie (centre)

“After bouncing around a little bit earlier in his career in terms of if he was going to be a defensive end in a 3-4 (defence) or whether he was going to play inside, he has established himself as a good inside player. He’s a pretty athletic kid and in terms of body type, I think he’s a little bit more suited to the CFL than the NFL.

“He’s a guy who is likely to be here sooner rather than later and would seem to fit with the Bombers ratio-wise.”

The CFL Draft, as per usual, has been impacted by what has happened in the NFL over the past week. Mississippi State offensive lineman Justin Senior, pegged first overall in the CFL Scouting Bureau’s final draft rankings, was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, while second-ranked Eli Ankou, a defensive tackle from UCLA, signed with the Houston Texans and Manitoba’s Geoff Gray – ranked third – inked a deal on the weekend with the Green Bay Packers.

Ekakitie is ranked fifth, just behind McMaster receiver Danny Vandervoort. There are four other defensive lineman ranked in the Top 20, including Montreal’s Junior Luke (11th), Wilfrid Laurier defensive end Kwaku Boateng (12th), Kay Okafor of St. Francis Xavier (15th) and McMaster’s Fabion Foote (18th).

Ferguson echoed Forde’s thinking of Ekakitie being a good fit for the Bombers, but didn’t rule out the idea of them taking a flier with Gray at the first-overall pick. He also suggested Carleton receiver Nate Behar as a possibility with the No. 6 pick.

“I still love the idea of Geoff Gray and the hometown guy,” said Ferguson. “There’s no better fit. The scary part is Geoff Gray just looks like a Green Bay Packer… he’s going to grow the beard out, he’ll play with no sleeves if he ever gets to dress and play in the cold weather and all that. He just looks like that guy.”

Jeff Miller/Bison Sports

Geoff Gray. PHOTO: Jeff Miller/Bison Sports

Given the defensive line position might be the deepest in the draft, Ferguson and Forde also suggested the Bombers might put the top pick into play as trade bait, knowing they could still get a player high on their draft board later in the proceedings.

Pressed as to who he would take first overall, Forde chuckled before reiterating how difficult it is to predict the CFL Draft.

“It depends so much on your roster and this is one of the things that makes the CFL Draft so fascinating to me,” he said. “It’s one of the things I say all the time: if you compared nine CFL Draft boards you would see more variation on nine CFL Draft boards than in 30 NFL Draft boards in terms of ranking a Top 50. They would just be so drastically different because there are so many factors at play. Everybody has different Canadian positions, everybody’s rosters are in a different state in terms of where people are at contract-wise, who is retiring and so on.

“Probably the best answer (for first overall) I could give you is Faith Ekaktie is a guy that stands out a little bit. He’s a guy that is likely going to be here that plays a position where most teams are going to use a Canadian as an interior defensive lineman. In that way I think, he becomes a safer pick. But it varies so much depending on the team. You look at a team like Winnipeg with two of the first six picks, they could maybe afford to play around a little bit. I don’t think it’s a secret with the structure of CFL free agency that teams tend to favour hometown guys a little bit and for a team like Winnipeg they might be able to gamble earlier on a guy like Geoff Gray than other teams might.”