March 8, 2024

Kyle Walters from the Invitational Combine

After months and months of trading phone calls and offers in free agency and getting bleary-eyed watching draft prospect film, Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters found himself in his happy place on Friday:

Watching players live and in person – along with head coach Mike O’Shea and Assistant GM Ted Goveia – at the Canadian Football League’s Invitational Combine at the University of Waterloo.

“It’s been a lot of draft film over the last few months and writing up reports on these guys,” said Walters in a chat with “Now it’s really cool to see them in person and we’ll now be able to combine all the film work with the testing numbers and how they look in person competing and get the coaches input and then put our final draft list together. It’s a really exciting time.”

There were 75 prospects not yet invited to the CFL’s Combine in Winnipeg on March 19-24 had the chance to run through six testing events on Friday – the vertical jump, broad jump, bench press, 40-yard sprint, 3-cone and short shuttle. And following a poll of CFL personnel in attendance, eight players have earned the right to join the other top 2024 draft prospects later this month – receivers Nicholas Gendron (Ottawa) and Kaine Stevenson (Guelph), defensive backs Yani Gouadfel (Bishop’s), Dawson Marchant (Northwestern Oklahoma State) and Jackson Sombach (Regina), offensive linemen Ethan Kalra (Waterloo) and Owen Mueller (Windsor) and defensive lineman Jason Janvier-Messier (York).

“The CFL has done a great job over the last few years to ensure they don’t have a draft prospect slip through the cracks for the draft with the expanded national combine and the expanded regional,” said Walters. “It’s a great opportunity for all these kids to get in front of all the CFL teams.”

The Blue Bombers have 10 picks in this year’s draft, one in each of the eight rounds, plus a fifth rounder from Ottawa in the Dru Brown trade and a bonus second rounder as a reward for Canadian snaps in 2023 (B.C. also earned a bonus selection). Winnipeg will select eighth overall, followed by 17th, 20th, 28th, 37th, 40th, 46th, 55th, 64th and 73rd.

“It’s a strong, deep group of O linemen,” said Walters, when asked for an assessment of this year’s draft class. “The bread and butter for Canadians in our league is offensive linemen, so it’s good there is a strong group of young Canadians in this draft so teams can replenish their stock.

“There are some high-end receivers and a big group of D linemen – that’s an interesting process because I don’t know that there are slam dunks where some guys are better than the others. There are just a whole lot of them that are really good football players, and we’ll see who separates at the combine. It’s the same with the DBs – there’s a lot of good defensive backs and we’ll see who separates at the combine.

“And at linebacker there are four or five high-end linebackers as well. There are also a couple of good specialist and a couple of kickers and long-snappers who are interesting When you go position by position there’s a good strong group everywhere.”

“With this draft, whatever you need to do in terms of adding Canadian depth at the draft teams are going to be excited they are going to be able to get some guys.”

Walters added the main combine coming up in Winnipeg will have a dramatic impact on the club’s final draft rankings.

“It can 100 percent impact our draft ratings,” he said. “You go through the draft build, we have all our meetings, we see all the guys we like on film and then Ted, Mike and myself have been doing this for a while and we know the type of guys we like. The best compliment we can give a draft prospect is ‘he’s our type of guy’ which means it seems like he loves the game, he’s physical and tough. Then when these guys show up at these combines and they meet the athletic standards that are required that’s the best. The other scenarios are when you really like a guy on film and he maybe doesn’t meet the height, weight standard and you go back and assess. Conversely, you get the guy who maybe didn’t pop out on film, and he kills at the combine.”


Walters was also asked for an update on where things stand in potential negotiations with receiver/returner Janarion Grant – the club’s all-time leader in kick return touchdowns who has been a free agent since mid-February.

“We’re still in communication,” said Walters, “but I’m really not sure where that’s going to end up.”

That’s not exactly encouraging or discouraging, but it’s worth noting the club has added some potential kick return candidates in former Rutgers/Wisconsin Aron Cruickshank, Illinois receiver Kody Case and more could be en route if a deal with Grant can’t be completed.