May 26, 2020

Walters preparing for a new-look Global Draft

Winnipeg Blue Bombers #43 Thiadric Hansen

Right about now Kyle Walters should be deep into evaluating the assembled bodies at Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp with Canadians, Americans, Globals, guards, tackles, receivers and defensive backs – everybody – now under an intense microscope.

Yes, pre-pandemic the first preseason game was scheduled for last Sunday, with a second in Regina on June 5th and final cuts a day later. Instead, all of this is now in a holding pattern as the Canadian Football League contemplates a September start-up – if there is a 2020 season.

Walters & Co. have found another exercise to occupy their time while they wait, namely prepping for the Global Draft, which was postponed from its original date of April 16th and is now tentatively scheduled to take place around the opening of training camps.

“It’s tough,” began Walters in a chat with on Tuesday. “Right now we’d be rolling here and getting ready with the final cuts getting close. But instead we’re really diving in to our prep work for the Global Draft.

“In the Canadian Football League where you’ve got all these different ways to manage your roster this is just another curveball to throw at the general managers and the head coaches as we put the week-to-week roster together.”

Unlike last year when the CFL 2.0 initiative was launched with a Mexican combine and draft and then a separate draft of Global players, this year’s process has changed. Teams will now be required to dress two Globals instead of one and Walters believes the talent now available has increased significantly.

Essentially there are now three groups of global players teams like the Bombers are evaluating: the players Greg Quick – the CFL’s Director of Global Scouting – had scouted at the various combines overseas during the winter and who had earned invitations to the CFL National Combine in March, which was postponed and may be held before training camp; a second group Quick considered to be players from the European combines who were on the bubble and not invited to the National Combine, and a third group which had not yet earned an invite to the combine.

It’s that third group that has intrigued Walters the most.

“A lot of these are the higher-end guys, the NCAA players Greg was going to try and host at a combine and then all hell broke loose with COVID and he wasn’t able to piece that together,” Walters said.

“I’m focusing a lot of my attention on the 40 or so names in that group. These are the guys that need really good evaluations, but we’re not going to see them in Toronto. There are a handful of guys who are (NFL) undrafted free agents that will be treated like ‘futures’ this year in our draft. There are guys who have spent time in the NFL Pathway program to promote football.”

#43 Thiadric Hansen during Winnipeg Blue Bombers rookie camp Wednesday May 15, 2019.

That list includes Matt Peart, a University of Connecticut offensive tackle who was a third-round draft pick of the New York Giants this spring, and Gerhard de Beer, another OL who has had looks from the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts before getting tryouts with the Houston Roughnecks and St. Louis Battlehawks of the XFL this spring.

“The players in the Pathway program are very good,” said Walters. “But unlike Canadian kids who have gone down to the NCAA and are very aware of the CFL, a lot of these players really don’t know much about the CFL. So, I’m in the process of reaching out and educating them on this global initiative and really gauging their interest to see if they’re interested in playing in the CFL.

“The league said, ‘Let’s get the best global players we can up here’ and this is part of it.”

Walters said the CFL hopes to have its final Global Draft player list finalized by next week. The draft will include five rounds, with 45 players taken. The Bombers, as Grey Cup champions, will pick last in each round.

“I was pushing hard at the meetings for a snake draft or a ping-pong ball draft,” said Walters with a chuckle, “but I got voted down every time.”