A month before the CFL draft, the Edmonton Eskimos decided to cut ties with their vice president of football operations and general manager, Ed Hervey. The backlash of the move was mostly negative and the timing was also criticized for being so close to the draft. Around the league it was believed that the Eskimos would draft to fill the obvious holes in the secondary or offensive linemen. Therefore everyone would know their drafting strategy and players to target.
However, new Eskimos general manager, Brock Sunderland believes that one should not draft to fill needs, but should instead draft the best players available. He showed off that mentality throughout the draft and with one key selection in particular, and when the dust settled late Sunday, the Eskimos finished with the an impressive group of prospects.
Edmonton Eskimos Impressive CFL Draft
This key move was drafting, wide receiver Nate Behar, who was considered one of the best receivers in the class. The product of Carleton University is a big physical, speedy and polished receiver. He was at the top of the OUA in the majority of receiving categories and made the U Sports Football’s 2016 All Canadian team.
During his time with the Ottawa REDBLACKS, Sunderland was able to see Behar develop and boast a program that came back into existence in Behar’s first season. An impressive trait of the 22-year-old is how he approached the game as a professional at the college level as Sunderland explained to the Edmonton Journal.
“If I had to describe him, I think he’s a morph between Nic Demski and Brad Sinpoli. If you smudge those two together, you get Nate Behar,” Sunderland stated. “We were targeting him from the moment we finished our draft board. As long as it took to dial the number was how long we thought about it.”
Mid Round Picks
After Behar, The Eskimos continued to draft the most talented players at each position, choosing offensive lineman Jean-Simon Roy and linebacker Chris Mulumba in the two rounds after. Roy blew the scouts away with size and strength at the combine, putting up an outrageous 39 reps on the bench press. Roy comes from a winning culture at Laval, capturing two Vanier Cup Championships including this past season. With the CFL’s Canadian player requirements, whenever one can get a Canadian offensive lineman with Roy’s physical gifts and quick feet one needs to jump on it.
On the other hand, Mulumba is one of those players that doesn’t jump off the page in terms of measurables or combine testing, which caused some teams to be concerned with whether or not his apparent lack of speed would be exposed on the wider field. However, once the focus turns to game tape, the Maine product’s abilities and game play jumps right off the screen. Mulumba piled up a total of 347 tackles in his four year career in the NCAA. He’s a straightforward football player with a high ceiling. Well worth the risk.
Steals of the Draft
Even more big moves by the Eskimos came in the later rounds. They selected offensive linemen Justin Senior and defensive end Kwaku Boateng with back-to-back picks. Senior was the presumable number one pick in the CFL draft; up until the Seattle Seahawks selected the Mississippi State product in the sixth round of the NFL draft. The team may have to wait a couple years to see if he cracks the Seahawks roster. However, he would be an instant starter should he come to play north of the border. Good things do come to those who wait.
Meanwhile, Boateng could end up being the steal of the CFL draft. He ranked as the sixth highest prospect heading into Sunday. The Laurier Golden Hawk product is a freak athlete coming off the edge. He displayed his talents at the combine, dominating one-on-one drills and in the vertical (33.5 inch). The defensive end may turn out to be only a situational player. Plus still has to answer questions about his strength and whether he can play on special teams. These questions caused him to drop in the draft. While players can learn fundamentals in any sport, natural athleticism and having an advantageous body frame can only come naturally. Boateng offers a skill set that we don’t get to see very often.
The Eskimos also grabbed defensive back Jordan Hoover, offensive lineman Kwabena Asare, and defensive lineman Mark Mackie in the draft. All of these individuals are talented pieces that were top notch players on their respective teams and in the OUA. All of them could very well crack the special teams roster this season.
The Eskimos new slogan is “One Empire.” Under sophomore head coach Jason Maas and first year general manager Sunderland, the team went against the grain in terms of typical drafting strategy. Rather than focusing on filling holes, they drafted the best players available. And at the end of the day when one compares teams draft results, it is hard not to think Edmonton may have had the most successful night. They addressed multiple areas of concern. Those individuals heading west could very well end up as the best players at their positions in the draft.
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