Look beyond the headliner – the CFL draft is coming.

Look beyond the headliner – the CFL draft is coming.
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The CFL draft is coming. The 2019 version of this annual draftnik’s delight will be held on May the 2nd.

Usually we like to focus on ‘the headline act’. The number one pick garners the most attention. The question is should it?

Over on CFL.ca Pat Steinberg rightly pointed out that “a look at the last five top selections shows us just one cornerstone player.” Well done to the REDBLACKS making that call on Alex Mateas in the 2015 CFL draft.

Last years number one made headlines too. Just not in CFL action. The selection of Mark Chapman saw Central Michigan become only the sixth team to have players selected No. 1 in both the CFL and NFL drafts.

However despite being a good match in Hamilton he has yet to see a CFL field of play. Following a contract impasse he opted for the ill fated AAF. What happens next remains to be seen

The Numbers on the Number Ones

Mark Chapman is a case in point. As is Faith Ekakitie. Both the players taken first overall since we started having CFL coverage on this site.

Both were taken first. Neither has been a successful pick so far. How does this compare to the number one picks historically?

The first official CFL draft took place in 1953. Montreal’s choice of Doug McNichol would be a Division All-Star.

Not a bad start. In fact 3 of the first 4 overall umber 1 picks would be Division All-Stars.

However in the 66 CFL drafts held so far the number one pick has not continued to be such a hit.

There have been 10 Division All-Stars, 10 CFL All-Stars and 2 Hall of Fame picks. We should note too that one of those CFHOF picks, Gino Fracas is in the Hall as a college football coach.

This means two thirds of the number one picks never made it to the Hall, league all-star or divisional all-star status. All the kinds of things GM’s are surely rolling the dice for when spending their precious first pick.

The CFL Draft Equation

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 Winnipeg have the 4th and 5th pick in round 1 and are rumoured to be shopping them.

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?

One thing is certain. We will all enjoy watching it all play out. Not to mention second guessing every moves our teams made. Let the fun begin!

Banner image Mathieu Betts from CFL.ca

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