The 2020 CFL Draft is just a couple of weeks away. The chances are If you have been brought up on American Football in the UK you are used to following the rhythms of the NFL annual cycle. That means you already know April is draft time.
Far less people on this side of the pond though are aware of the CFL draft. It follows the NFL draft, and this year will be on the 30th April. You can expect too some of the selections made by NFL teams to have an impact on how the CFL draft goes.
A little History
The first formal Canadian draft took place in 1953 with selections only coming from 5 Canadian university teams. Montreal made the first selection; Doug McNicol a defensive lineman from Western Ontario. (As an aside McNichol won East All-Star honours in 1953, 1954, 1955, 1958 and 1959 meaning the first ever draft pick was a pretty good one).
In 1956 the Canadian Football Council was established and a national draft followed. This time the Ottawa Rough Riders selected Lou Bruce, a Defensive End from Queens University. Various modifications were made over the years to this draft process. In 1963, for example, the list of draft candidates was expanded to include all degree-granting schools in Canada rather than the limited number previously involved. In 1973, it was agreed to extend the draft to include Canadians attending schools outside of Canada. A move particularly aimed at including Canadian players playing at American colleges.
Up to and including the 1984 season teams had certain territorial exemptions granted as part of the drafting process. These were abolished in 1985, and this is considered the beginning of the ‘modern era’ of CFL drafting. However last year the CFL announced the two teams with the highest waiver priority would each get to make one Territorial Draft Pick (to be used to select a player born within their territorial limits at the end of the second round).
The CFL Draft in Action
Most fans of this side of the pond wouldn’t be able to tell you much about the 2019 CFL Draft. If you are not a fan of the CFL then I very much doubt you know Shane Richards, an OL picked by the Toronto Argonauts went first last year.
But perhaps you should take an interest. Because the CFL draft has teams making some fascinating risk-reward assessments along the way. You can see how difficult it can be to get right from our own review of the number 1 picks made over the last decade.
As with the NFL draft, the CFL draft order is based on a combination of the regular season standings and post-season results from the previous season. Teams are ranked in reverse order of the previous season’s standings with the team with the league-worst record being awarded the first pick.
Teams, as you might expect, are permitted to trade draft picks and this is pretty common practice. So, for example although the REDBLACKS finished 4-14 last year and the Stampeders finished 12-6 it is the latter who hold the number one pick.
This is because Ottawa traded the first overall selection to Calgary in exchange for the sixth overall selection when former Stamps QB Nick Arbuckle signed a contract extension with Ottawa after his playing rights were traded by Calgary.
Similarly the Argos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats both have two first round picks following trades.
The CFL Draft is a balancing act
We know from years of seeing ‘experts’ predict the NFL draft that it can be highly unpredictable. The CFL draft however has added layers of intrigue which means it can be even more fascinating to try to call.
This is because the CFL teams are making constant risk-benefit analysis calls on each of the prospects. They can tag a player who is highly touted only to see him go the NFL and never return thus wasting their pick.
Alternatively they could tag a player who is highly touted, see him try out for but not make the NFL. Then get him when he comes back to the CFL thus making their pick that much more worthwhile.
What happens in the NFL draft and ensuing free agency will have an impact on the CFL. If any CFL Draft eligible player is picked in the draft, or signed in free agency it will obviously impact on the CFL draft one week later.
Teams will be left with that risk reward equation. How high a pick will you spend on a player for the future?
The CFL Draft 2020 & the missing Combines
63 players had been invited to the national combine, including 24 global participants and now they won’t get the chance to show their skills on the day.
That is a lost the chance to speak to and perform for CFL GMs, coaches and scouts leading up to the league’s global draft on April 16th and national draft on April 30th.
Covid-19 has affected so many things, and sport is just one of them. It is almost surprising to think now that it is only 3 months since the first ever UK CFL combine, and yet it feels like a different world.
Now nothing seems certain. Will the whole CFL 2.0 movement survivie all of this when we are even questioning if there will be an (at best partial) season this year?
One thing is certain however. The 2020 CFL draft will go ahead. We will all enjoy watching it all play out. Not to mention second guessing every moves our teams made. You can expect it to get a lot of attention from CFL fans during lockdown too – this is the closest we are getting to some action around our teams just now. Let the fun begin!
Banner image: Carter O’Donnell could be a high CFL draft pick or may be picked up by an NFL team. Image from redeeradvocate.com