The CFL draft is always an exciting time of year, with the league's teams choosing Canadian players who may prove to be crucial for them this season and (even more likely) down the road. Canadian talent is on the rise to the point that the league's expanded the draft to seven rounds, so there should be plenty of top prospects selected from the NCAA and CIS ranks. The 2013 edition of the CFL draft is set to take place Monday (May 6) at noon Eastern, with the first two rounds airing live on TSN and the following five streamed on TSN.ca; we'll be live-chatting during the first two rounds here at 55-Yard Line, beginning just before noon Eastern.
What's perhaps most intriguing about this year's draft is there isn't a lot of consensus on where many players will go. Many of the most talented draft-eligible prospects either have another year of NCAA play and perhaps the NFL ahead (top-ranked Oregon LB Bo Lokombo is a case in point here), or have already signed deals with NFL squads (such as McMaster OT Matt Sewell and Regina DL Stefan Charles), hurting the chances they'll wind up north of the border any time soon. Moreover, the league's teams are likely to approach this draft with substantially different philosophies; some are willing to take risks on top talent that may never come to the CFL, while others may focus on who's ready right now and others may only want players at specific positions. With that in mind, here's a mock draft of the first round, focusing on who each team may take and why they might make that call.
1. Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Linden Gaydosh (defensive lineman, University of Calgary Dinos): Oddly enough, this is one pick where there does seem to be substantial agreement. Gaydosh is predicted to go first in every mock draft that I've seen so far, a degree of consensus unseen elsewhere in the draft. That's for good reason. While Gaydosh didn't dominate CIS statistically in 2012, he did play well for the Dinos, recording four sacks, 20.5 tackles and 7.5 tackles for a loss. He also impressed at the combine, recording 36 bench-press reps at 225 pounds (second-best to Bishop's Elie Ngoyi) and posting a 5.22-second 40-yard dash time (not dominant, but reasonable considering Gaydosh's 6'4'', 304-pound frame, and better than fellow defensive tackle Charles, who's off to the NFL). There's debate over if the Tiger-Cats are going to move this pick, but Gaydosh could be a good fit for anyone. He might fit in particularly well in Hamilton, though, as the club already has some intriguing Canadian defensive line options in Shomari Williams, Brian Bulcke and Marc-Antoine Fortin.
2. Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Mike Edem (linebacker/defensive back, University of Calgary Dinos): Yes, we could definitely see Calgary players go 1 and 2 overall. Edem has the type of athletic ability (including a 4.57-second 40-yard dash time at the combine) and tackling skills that could make him a great immediate special-teams contributor for anyone, but he might be even more valuable to Winnipeg. The Bombers have an intriguing pair of Canadians set to start on defence this year, brothers Henoc (a linebacker) and Cauchy (a safety) Muamba. Edem is versatile enough that he could be used as a backup at either position, and he impressed in the CIS ranks as well, recording 55 total tackles (fifth-best nationwide) this season.
3. Montreal Alouettes: Matt Sewell (offensive lineman, McMaster Marauders): There was a lot of talk about Sewell as a potential #1 pick, but that was before he landed a NFL contract. However, Sewell's signing bonus isn't thought to be substantial, suggesting he may not have a huge chance to stick south of the border, and an NFL deal doesn't mean as much as it once did. That league expanded its first training camp rosters to 90 players in 2012, but the final rosters still only have 53 men (plus an eight-man practice squad), so almost a third of each team's initial roster isn't going to be with them by the time the season starts. Thus, it's quite conceivable Sewell could be available even later in this year. Montreal GM Jim Popp has been known for a focus on talent over immediate eligibility, too, so a player with Sewell's ability (and potential to be a ratio-changer at the traditionally-American offensive tackle position) would be a great fit anyway; his less-than-guaranteed NFL job only helps there. The Als have two non-import tackles already in Josh Bourke and Jeff Perrett, but they're 31 and 29 respectively. Sewell could be an excellent pick here, as they don't need him right away and he could learn from some of the best while waiting to take over.
4. Saskatchewan Roughriders: Ben D'Aguilar (defensive lineman, McMaster Marauders): D'Aguilar has attracted NFL tryout offers, but doesn't have a solid south-of-the-border gig lined up just yet. Those offers might be enough to let a player with his potential slip to #4, though, and he'd be a solid fit for Saskatchewan. He starred in CIS this year and won the J.P. Metras Trophy as the top Canadian university down lineman (offensive or defensive). The Riders brought in Canadian defensive end Ricky Foley in free agency earlier this offseason, and D'Aguilar could provide some solid non-import depth at that position. However, there is some talk that Saskatchewan may be looking to trade down.
5. Montreal Alouettes: Seydou Junior-Hadara (receiver, Université Laval Rouge et Or): The Alouettes aren't often known for taking CIS players, but Junior-Hadara might be an exception here. He's an explosive non-import receiver, which they could certainly use, and boosting the Alouettes' Quebec connections is always worthwhile. Junior-Hadara would be a good fit here on talent alone, though; he posted a solid 4.68-second 40-yard dash at the combine, and tied for fourth in the broad jump with a leap of 10 feet, one inch. Montreal could use Canadian receiver depth, and Junior-Hadara might provide that.
6. B.C. Lions: Cory Watman (offensive lineman, Eastern Michigan University Eagles): This is a pick where team needs become important. Watman might not be the top overall talent on the board, but he could be a great fit for B.C., where injury issues on the interior of the offensive line have been an issue recently, and where 36-year-old centre Angus Reid may be in one of his final seasons. At 6'2'' and 294 pounds, Watman would be well-suited for an interior offensive line role.
7. Calgary Stampeders: Andy Mulumba (defensive lineman, Eastern Michigan University Eagles): The Stampeders don't have a ton of pressing issues, so Mulumba, who's talented but perhaps not immediately available (as he's already signed an NFL deal with Green Bay), might be a nice fit. DL Brian Bulcke left for Hamilton in free agency, but they still have Corey Mace, Andrew Marshall, Junior Turner and Justin Phillips as non-import DL candidates. Mulumba could be an excellent edition to that mix down the line, especially as he's already had dominant performances against players like Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher (the first-overall pick in this year's NFL draft).
8. Toronto Argonauts: Brent Urban (defensive lineman, University of Virginia Cavaliers): Urban is a very promising prospect, but one who still has another year of college eligibility. Picking players like that can be risky, but the NFL interest in Urban hasn't been overwhelming to date. Toronto general manager Jim Barker has often shown a willingness to gamble on top NCAA talents, and Urban fits that mould. He started all 12 of Virginia's games last year at defensive tackle, recorded 20 tackles and could be an excellent non-import gap-filler down the road for the Argonauts.
9. Ottawa expansion team: Bander Craighead (offensive lineman, University of Texas at El Paso Miners): Craighead's a logical fit here. The new Ottawa team is limited to taking NCAA underclassmen, as they won't begin play until 2014, and Craighead is a promising local talent. He might not be chosen ninth by anyone else considering the talents still on the board, but the NCAA underclassmen only restrictions on Ottawa and his local upbringing make this seem like a solid possibility.
Of course, the CFL is full of zaniness, and anything can happen once the draft rolls around. Remember to come back to 55-Yard Line Monday around noon Eastern for a live chat covering the draft!