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Ferguson: 5 takeaways from the spring Scouting Bureau rankings – CFL.ca

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There are layers to the CFL Draft process.

Yes, it follows a fairly standardized process which when over simplified can boil down to good football players running, jumping, and talking to teams. That is followed by someone believing in the player enough to want them on their club.

But any professional sports draft process is much more than that and the Canadian Football League’s is arguably amongst the most layered across the landscape.

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From the fall Scouting Bureau rankings which give you a ‘watch list’ for your college football Saturday, to the winter rankings which lead into a recently renovated and reformatted CFL Combine experience, to pro days, zoom calls and endless film review it all leads to draft night on April 30.

The CFL Draft is, of course, affected by the NFL Draft coming just days before since a player going high down south will push them down the order up here.

With the off-season evaluation process nearly complete, the final set of rankings has been revealed. These spring rankings are a completion of an annual trilogy which sees a plethora of names you are going to want to know on draft night and for years to come highlighted. Here are my five takeaways.

TRENCH DEPTH

While there is obvious top end lineman talent on both sides of the ball in this draft, the depth of talent really shows through when you sift through the final rankings. Seven of the ten spots between 20th and 11th feature the positions you can not win, or even be competitive, without.

From monstrous NCAA pass protectors like Howard’s Amin Dankwah and Buffalo’s Gabe Wallace to freaky athletic pass rushers like San Diego State’s Daniel Okpoko and Laurier’s Luke Brubacher – who cracks the list for the first time – there’s a little bit of everything but much of it comes from line play.

HOW THE RANKINGS REALLY WORK

If you know how the game is played disregard this, but the Scouting Bureau rankings are one of many CFL Draft nuances which often need some translation, especially after many of the names at the top don’t get their name called on CFL Draft night. But WHY?!

Those players are SO highly rated they might never make their way anywhere other than the NFL, so teams balance prioritizing those they believe will actually put on a CFL uniform while taking an educated gamble on when to pick players who MIGHT.

Translation: Many of the names from 5-20 will be your household CFL products.

MARVELLOUS MITAL

Kevin Mital was a standout at the 2024 CFL Combine presented by New Era in March (CFL.ca)

At this point in the CFL Draft evaluation process I think I’ve written Laval Rouge Et Or Kevin Mital’s praises more than I’ve written my own name by hand in the last year.

Credit where credit is due, he showed well at the CFL Combine in Winnipeg and has plenty of accolades attached to his name resulting in a massive ten place jump from the winter rankings to final list.

WE’RE LIVING IN THE 90’S?

The Knicks are the two-seed in the NBA’s Eastern conference, Conan O’Brien is the funniest man on the Internet and Saturday Night Live is actually good again, but wait there’s more! Tight ends?!

Yes, tight ends. In a true sign that time is indeed a flat circle – according to Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence or Matthew McConaughey’s True Detective mastery depending on your reference point – Canadian tight ends are back and literally better than ever!

A position almost exclusively filled on CFL game days over the last twenty years by fullbacks being asked to protect the backside of a running play, two NCAA standouts have carved their way all the way into the top three of todays final rankings. Penn State’s Theo Johnson (Windsor, ON) and Arizona’s Tanner McLachlan (Lethbridge, AB) are special talents that we likely won’t see soon, if ever, but does it ever make my 90’s football loving soul smile to see ‘TE’ not once but twice at the top of this list.

LONG LIVE THE KING

Isaiah Adams took the top spot in the winter and spring editions of the Scouting Bureau Rankings (Illinois Athletics)

Originally fifth last fall, Isaiah Adams took the top spot in the winter rankings and remains there to round it out this year’s rankings.

Sitting at the top is a well-deserved honour and is the punctuation to a fantastic collegiate career at Illinois. As always, the wisdom of my TSN broadcast partner and friend Duane Forde becomes ever present this time of year as I’m reminded of everyone gushing about former Illinois running back Chase Brown (rightfully so) last year and Duane quietly smiling during our CFL Draft show telling me: “the best Canadian on that team might be the guy blocking for him.”

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