However, the draft has substantially risen in importance over the years, and teams are investing more and more time and money into scouting Canadian talent all the time. That's led to increased attention towards the draft from fans and media types as well, and that's why the draft will be shown in its entirety tomorrow (the first two rounds will be shown on TSN, with rounds four through six webcast at TSN.ca). We'll also be live-blogging the first two rounds of the draft here at 55-Yard Line starting shortly before the official draft start at 12:30 p.m. Eastern, so make sure to swing by then.
To get you ready for the draft, it's worth taking a look at who might go where in the first round, or mocking the draft in another sense. This isn't a particularly easy calculation in most cases; the work of an NFL draftnik is anything but easy, and as Kent Ridley explained earlier this week, the CFL adds plenty of further complications. Predicting what players will go where relies on everything from their pure skill level to the amount of NFL interest in them to how they fit with a particular team's positional needs, offensive or defensive games and/or draft strategy. Still, there's enough information out there that plenty of people covering the league take a shot at trying to predict who's going where. Here are my predictions (assuming there are no first-round trades, which is anything but a given):
1. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers take linebacker Henoc Muamba from St. Francis Xavier (CIS): This actually is probably the easiest prediction to make, as The Winnipeg Free Press has already called it and Sportsnet's Arash Madani has reported that the Blue Bombers have already flown Muamba and his family into Winnipeg. Muamba, the President's Trophy winner last season as the top CIS defensive player (the award he's pictured receiving above right), should be an intriguing addition to the Bombers' defence.
2. The Edmonton Eskimos take offensive lineman Scott Mitchell from Rice University (NCAA, Division I FBS): As the post title reflects, this pick might be the most interesting one in the first round. The Eskimos have a wide variety of options here, but Mitchell may be too promising to pass up. He topped the league's most recent prospect rankings after a strong showing at E-Camp, and he's demonstrated throughout his NCAA career that he can do well against solid opposition. He also seems to be ready to step in and play right away, which could be useful for the rebuilding Eskimos, and there doesn't appear to be a lot of NFL interest around him, so he should be a reasonably safe pick.
3. The B.C. Lions take receiver Anthony Parker from the University of Calgary (CIS): Lowell Ullrich thinks a receiver may be the logical move at the third spot, and the Lions could use some Canadian depth there. The question is which player they take, though, as Parker, Marco Iannuzzi and Nathan Coehoorn are all highly touted. I think Parker might be the most attractive choice here; he has the most speed and sheer athleticism of the three, and Iannuzzi has injury concerns. Parker didn't have the greatest showing in this year's Vanier Cup, but he had a stellar CIS career overall and turned in a good performance at E-Camp. The Lions don't have to give him a huge role right away, and while he might take a little more development effort than the other top receivers, his upside appears greater.
4. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers take receiver Marco Iannuzzi from Harvard University (NCAA, Division I FCS). There are plenty of ways Winnipeg could go with this pick (if they even hold on to it), but given the quality of receivers out there, this would seem to be a reasonable move. The Bombers need more Canadian depth on offence, particularly at receiver (Milt Stegall's criticisms there appear pretty fair from this perspective). Iannuzzi and Parker look like the top two options, so if Parker goes to B.C., Iannuzzi to Winnipeg makes plenty of sense (especially considering that Kito Poblah, another rumoured target of theirs, will not be available in a supplemental draft this season.)
5. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats take offensive lineman Philip Blake from Baylor University (NCAA, Division I FBS). Drew Edwards lays out several proposed courses of action for the Tiger-Cats over at The Scratching Post, but most involve the first four picks going a different way than I've laid out above. I like Edwards' suggestion that the Tiger-Cats' might try and take an NCAA underclassman offensive lineman here, though; they don't need someone this coming season, but they could use some quality depth down the road. Blake might be an interesting way to go there; on sheer talent, he might even be the top pick in this draft (he topped the prospect rankings in both September and December), but he's still an NCAA underclassman. Of course, the cautionary tale here is of another Baylor offensive lineman, Danny Watkins; B.C. took him fourth overall last year, and he promptly went on to have a superb senior season and become the fourth Canadian ever picked in the NFL draft's first round. Blake has reportedly already drawn some NFL interest, so picking him is far from a sure thing, and it depends on how Hamilton feels about his NFL chances. If the Tiger-Cats do go that way, though, and Blake does wind up in the CFL, they might have the steal of the draft.
6. The Calgary Stampeders take receiver Nathan Coehoorn from the University of Calgary (CIS). This presumes that they're hanging on to the sixth-overall pick, which is far from a sure thing, but Coehoorn would certainly be a reasonable selection if they do. The Stamps already have some incoming offensive line talent if they're able to sign 2010 picks J'Michael Deane and John Bender (or either one), so receiver would seem like a logical way to go, and they've had plenty of chances to see what Coehoorn can do thanks to his team playing locally (at their own stadium, to boot). He isn't the quickest player in the draft, but he's very sure-handed and consistent, and he could make a nice addition to their offence.
7. The Saskatchewan Roughriders take offensive lineman Matt O'Donnell from Queen's (CIS). This pick is a little unconventional, as many have O'Donnell ranked behind several of the NCAA offensive linemen still on the board. He's got a lot of things that make him an attractive prospect for the Riders, though; his rare combination of size (reported at 6'10'', 329 pounds in the CFL's April rankings) and skill would make him a good fit at tackle, not always the easiest place to plug in Canadian prospects. O'Donnell has also drawn rave reviews from Queen's head coach Pat Sheahan, and the Roughriders have had good experiences with Sheahan's players before, including receiver Rob Bagg and last year's top pick Shomari Williams. Perhaps most importantly, though, O'Donnell fits into the Roughriders' needs from a couple of perspectives. They don't require a lineman to start right away given their veteran-heavy lineup (which is good, as O'Donnell probably needs a little seasoning at the CFL level), but they do need someone who will definitely wind up with them reasonably soon considering that same aging line; that might make O'Donnell a better pick than some of the NCAA guys who may or may not ever play a down in the CFL. Saskatchewan has been very keen to develop CIS talent over the last couple of years, and I think that pattern may continue here.
8. The Montreal Alouettes take offensive lineman Tyler Holmes from Tulsa (NCAA Div. I FBS). Holmes shares many of the same aspects as Blake; he's had a fair bit of NCAA success, he has tremendous talent and he may be on the NFL's radar. However, Montreal has had plenty of success with NCAA players over the years, and their roster is deep enough that they can afford to wait on Holmes (if he ever comes to Canada). He's a risk, but his potential talent is strong enough that he might be worth taking here.
Remember to check in at 55-Yard Line tomorrow for live pick-by-pick coverage and analysis of the first two rounds! The draft starts at 12:30 p.m. Eastern/9:30 a.m. Pacific.