Forde: Looking Out For Number One

Duane Forde
4/29/2011 10:59:02 PM
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Every year, part of the lead up to the Canadian Football League Draft is the discussion about which player is going to go first overall. I'll provide my two cents on the 2011 edition of that conversation later in this article but first, let's test your knowledge on the topic of Number One picks.

As a licensed teacher, I know how much students appreciate an answer bank to help them along. So, below is a list of the last twenty-five players to be chosen first overall in the CFL Draft, including their draft year, position, and school. There are twenty-five questions and each name is the answer to one of those questions. The correct responses and some commentary are at the end of the article - no peeking and keep track of your score. If anyone gets an honest 25 out of 25 then you need to check into draft rehab with me.

1986: Kent Warnock (DL,Calgary)
1987: Leo Groenwegen (OL, British Columbia)
1988: Orville Lee (RB, Simon Fraser)
1989: Gerald Wilcox (SB, Weber State)
1990: Sean Millington (RB, Simon Fraser)
1991: Nick Mazzoli (WR, Simon Fraser)
1992: Bruce Covernton (OL, Weber State)
1993: Patrick Burke (CB, Fresno College)
1994: Val St. Germain (OL, McGill)
1995: Tom Nütten (OL, Western Michigan)
1996: Don Blair (SB, Calgary)
1997: Chad Folk (OC, Utah)
1998: Tim Fleiszer (DE, Harvard)
1999: Rob Meier (DL, Washington State)
2000: Tyson St. James (LB/DE, British Columbia)
2001: Scott Schultz (DT, North Dakota)
2002: Alex Gauthier (OT, Laval)
2003: Steve Morley (OT, Saint Mary's)
2004: Wayne Smith (OL, Appalachian State)
2005: Miguel Robédé (DL, Laval)
2006: Adam Braidwood (DE, Washington State)
2007: Chris Bauman (WR, Regina)
2008: Dylan Barker (DB, Saskatchewan)
2009: Simeon Rottier (OL, Alberta)
2010: Shomari Williams (DE/LB, Queen's)

1. Who is the only #1 overall pick to have played his entire high school football career outside of Canada?
2. Only once have college teammates gone first and second overall. Who was the #1 pick that year?
3. Who is the only #1 overall pick to win the CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie award?
4. Name the only first overall selection to play football for a Canadian university after being drafted.
5. Who is the only former Vanier Cup MVP to be chosen first overall?
6. Identify the only player to lose his entire rookie season to injury after being drafted first overall?
7. Who is the only former first overall pick to earn a Super Bowl ring?
8. Name the only first overall draft choice to have two other players from his draft class win at least one Most Outstanding Canadian award.
9. Identify the only #1 overall pick to never play a single game in the CFL.
10. Who is the only top pick to win more than one Most Outstanding Canadian award in his career?
11. Which first overall selection also played high school and university football in the city where he began his CFL career?
12. Of these twenty-five #1 picks, which one (has) had the longest CFL career?
13. Who's the oldest player to be picked first overall?
14. Name the #1 pick whose résumé includes stops with three different NFL teams.
15. Which eventual first overall draft choice was ranked as the top prospect in the inaugural edition of the CFL's Canadian Scouting Bureau rankings?
16. Who is the only player to be traded before ever playing a game for the team that drafted him first overall?
17. Identify the first overall pick whose father once won the Hec Crighton Award as the top player in Canadian university football.
18. Which player was the first ever draft choice of a CFL expansion franchise?
19. Who was chosen first overall in what was technically the shortest first round, in terms of number of selections, in CFL Draft history?
20. Which first overall pick (has) spent more seasons with the team that drafted him than any of the other twenty-four #1 picks on this list?
21. Which #1 overall pick played strictly nine-man football before going to university?
22. Who is the only #1 overall pick to play college football for a school in Texas?
23. Which first overall pick (has) played all of his CFL games for the team that drafted him but had his CFL career interrupted by a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers?
24. Name the only #1 overall pick whose college position was tight end.
25. Without looking at my bio, which #1 pick was chosen five spots ahead of me?

Draft Notebook

- It wouldn't be fair to write an entire column about former number one picks without speculating about what might happen with the first selection in this year's draft. Offensive lineman Scott Mitchell (Rice) had been the odds-on favourite to go first but the rumour currently making the rounds is that it will be linebacker Henoc Muamba (St. Francis Xavier). Winnipeg, which currently holds the first and fourth overall selections is said to covet both Muamba and Mitchell. According to proponents of this theory, the Blue Bombers believe that, if they take Mitchell first, then Edmonton or B.C., picking second and third respectively, would grab the talented Muamba before they get to pick again. However, with reports suggesting that the Eskimos and Lions are more focused on receivers than offensive linemen, the Bombers believe that, if they take Muamba first, then Mitchell might still be on the board for them at #4. I'm not saying that it won't unfold that way but I currently see three potential flaws with that theory. Number one, the theory hinges on both Edmonton and B.C. passing on Mitchell, a four-year starter at left tackle in college. This is an Edmonton organization that has struggled for years to adequately protect its franchise quarterback, Ricky Ray and a Lions team that took the now NFL-bound Danny Watkins fourth overall last year on the premise that they wanted to eventually play with Canadian offensive tackles. Number two, according to another set of rumours, there's a good chance that someone other than the Eskimos will hold the second overall pick by the time the dust settles on May 8. The third factor is the only one that actually challenges the notion of Muamba going first and, simply put, it's his agent, Johnathon Hardaway. The U.S.-based player representative makes CFL teams nervous because of the perception that he's only interested in taking his clients to the NFL. Winnipeg can ill afford to use the first pick on a player whom they might not see for a while. Besides Muamba, Hardaway's list of Canadian clients includes last year's #2 overall pick, Cory Greenwood, who's now a Kansas City Chief, and Queen's offensive tackle Matt O'Donnell, a 2011 prospect.

- Speaking of O'Donnell, it will be very interesting to see if a recent post of his Facebook status has any impact on scouts' evaluations of him. Among other comments, the 6'10" All-Canadian had this to say (spelling mistakes and all) after being overlooked for some individual awards at the Queen's athletic banquet:

"Matt O'Donnell...Is shaking his head at queens, is dissapointed and is disowning the university. queens can forget anything and everything about me being at this university. Not even nominated male athlete of the year, ONLY MALE FIRST TEAM ALL CANADIAN, lost Outstanding Player of the Year to two second year female athletes. Not even complaining cuz their female but because their second year. Dont bother using me as a recruiting device..."

In O'Donnell's defence, he readily admitted that he made a mistake in the heat of the moment, saying "The University has treated with me with the highest regard and after the athletics banquet I let a few people get me a little riled up when I shouldn't have. I should have just brushed it off but I let it get to me and wrote stuff on Facebook that I shouldn't have." Under the circumstances, it shouldn't hurt him in the pursuit of his goal of earning a job in the world of pro football. Nonetheless, it should serve as a lesson to any prospect that, whatever you're thinking, don't say it out loud or put it in writing unless you're sure you mean it. In this day and age, the scouts are always watching.

- No team is more interested in the status of wide receiver Kito Poblah (Central Michigan) than the Blue Bombers. Poblah, an elite receiver in any draft class, currently has an application for non-import status being reviewed by the CFL and CFLPA. If he's approved, the late timing dictates that Poblah would be entered into the Supplemental Draft, usually held within a few weeks after the regular draft. The Supplemental Draft order follows the order of waiver priority, meaning the Bombers would have the first pick in each round. In other words, Winnipeg would essentially have first right of refusal on the Montreal born wideout. If they decide prior to the regular draft that they want to take him, then it would give them the luxury of focusing their Draft Day attention on other positions rather than considering highly regarded receivers Anthony Parker (Calgary), Nathan Coehoorn (Calgary), and Marco Iannuzzi (Harvard).

- In a move that should boost his draft stock slightly, redshirt junior DE/LB Jadon Wagner (Brigham Young) has reportedly elected to forgo his final year of college eligibility in order to turn pro.

Quiz Answers...and Commentary

1. Wayne Smith (2004): The Toronto born Smith moved to Florida during his childhood and remained in the United States all the way through his college career at Appalachian State. His 2004 draft class was initially believed to be deep at the critical offensive line position and ten hogs were chosen among the first twenty-one picks. Ultimately though, the group demonstrated the good, the bad, and the ugly in terms of how draft choices can turn out. While Smith, Obby Khan (2nd overall), Marwan Hage (14th), and Josh Bourke (21st) continue to enjoy very solid CFL careers, others like Mark Moroz (4th), Amarpreet Sanghera (9th), Christian Leibl-Coté (12th) , Ryan Jeffrey (15th) , and Sean Kent (18th) never cracked a CFL roster. The tenth O-Lineman in that group, Rhett McLane (17th), spent a couple of seasons with Edmonton.

2. Tyson St. James (2000): I often think of St. James, a defensive end/linebacker, as the CFL's version of Mike Mamula (7th overall pick in '95 NFL Draft). Both individuals were very good college players and great combine performers but were "tweeners" without a position at the next level. Neither St. James nor his UBC teammate Daron McField, who went second overall had much of an impact as CFLers.

3. Orville Lee (1988): Not only did Jamall's dad prove to be exactly the right choice at #1 overall by being voted Rookie of the Year. In '88, he also rushed for 1075 yards to join the legendary Normie Kwong as the only Canadians to ever lead the CFL in that category. Since then, fellow SFU alumnus Sean Millington is the only Canadian running back to top the 1000 yard mark.

4. Miguel Robédé (2005): The headliners in the Class of 2005 were NFL bound offensive lineman Nick Kaczur (9th overall) and Hec Crighton winning running back Jesse Lumsden (6th) but, with those two taking a pass on the CFL's E-Camp, Robédé stole the show to become the consensus #1 pick. However, a few weeks after the draft, the one-time Miami Hurricane surprised the Calgary Stampeders by announcing he would return to Laval to complete his eligibility. Nonetheless, the Rouge et Or still delivered a top first year player to the CFL in 2005, as Mathieu Proulx (5th overall) was the East nominee for Most Outstanding Rookie.

5. Don Blair (1996): It's hard to imagine a player earning more accolades in one year of Canadian university football than Blair did as a senior. He won the Hec Crighton Trophy as the country's top college player, earned Vanier Cup MVP honours in leading his Calgary Dinos to the national title, was one of two CIAU (now CIS) players selected to play in the Shrine Game in California with top NCAA seniors, and was the first pick in the CFL Draft. He played eight CFL seasons, the best of which was 1998, when he posted totals of 64 receptions, 1091 yards, and 6 touchdowns.

6. Dylan Barker (2008): The Hamilton Tiger-Cats appeared to be positioned perfectly with two first round picks in what was one of the deepest drafts in CFL history. Unfortunately, they'd have to wait to cash in as Barker broke his leg in the preseason and receiver Sam Giguère (8th overall) signed with the Indianapolis Colts. With the skill guys out of the way, the hogs stole the spotlight, as offensive linemen Dimitri Tsoumpas (2nd overall), Jesse Newman (3rd), and Brendon LaBatte (6th) all earned starting positions as rookies. 

7. Tom Nütten (1995): It seems fitting that the only #1 pick born in the United States is also the only one to win a Super Bowl ring, as Nütten did with the St. Louis Rams in 2000. The native of Toledo, Ohio actually spent his childhood in Germany but moved to Quebec as a teenager. He really only had a cup of coffee in the CFL, joining Hamilton during the 1997 season. Prior to that, he had been with the Buffalo Bills and, in '98 began an eight year run with the Rams that included 69 starts.

8. Adam Braidwood (2006): The consensus top prospect in the Class of '06 lived up to his billing with a strong rookie season. However, over the last four years, a once bright future has been all but wiped out by a string of injuries and, more recently legal troubles. Adding insult to those injuries for the Eskimos franchise have been the Most Outstanding Canadian awards earned by Ricky Foley (4th overall) and Andy Fantuz (3rd) over the last two seasons.

9. Rob Meier (1999): Holding five of the first fifteen picks in the '99 Draft, the B.C. Lions had the luxury of making Meier the only redshirt junior to ever go first overall. Unfortunately the potential windfall of Canadian talent never materialized, as the next year, Meier was chosen in the 7th round of the NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, with whom he would spend ten seasons. Three more of the Leos' Top 15 selections in '99, O-Linemen Greg Lotysz, Richard Mercier, and David Pol, never played a CFL game, with Lotysz and Mercier joining Meier in the NFL.

10. Sean Millington (1990): While he won two Top Canadian awards to establish himself as arguably the best homegrown player of his generation, "Diesel" also holds the unique distinction of being the only #1 overall selection to be released by the team that chose him without suiting up for a regular season game. Millington is so closely associated with the B.C. Lions that many people forget that he was originally drafted by an Edmonton franchise that already had Canadian running backs Blake Marshall, Michael Soles, Chris Johnstone, and Brian Walling. In hindsight, maybe a Canadian receiver like Dave Sapunjis (5th overall, two time Top Canadian) or Jock Climie (4th overall) would have been a better fit. Nonetheless, Millington, with 1010 yards in 2000, remains the last Canadian to rush for over 1000 yards in a season.

11. Kent Warnock (1986): The 6'7" graduate of Lord Beaverbrook High School joined the Calgary Stampeders a year after helping the University of Calgary Dinos to a Vanier Cup victory. He faced high expectations after being selected immediately ahead of future NFLers Rueben Mayes (2nd overall), Marcus Koch (3rd), and Mike Schad (4th). After a slow start, "Warrior" developed into a dominant force on the Stamps D-Line. In essence, he was Doug Brown before there was Doug Brown.

12. Leo Groenwegen (1987): Groenwegen's seventeen year CFL career began in Ottawa and included stops in B.C. and Edmonton. The Vancouver native definitely lived up to his #1 status, playing 252 consecutive games between 1987 and 2000, a mark that ranks second among non-kickers behind only Roger Aldag's 268. When he retired, he also ranked sixth in league history in games played.

13. Bruce Covernton (1992): At age 25 when he was drafted, Covernton was ready to step right in at left tackle for the Calgary Stampeders. He started all eighteen games as a rookie and, in his second year, was the West's Most Outstanding Lineman. Unfortunately for "Tuna", his potentially great career was derailed by injuries, which cost him virtually the entire '95, '97, and '98 seasons, and led to his retirement.

14. Steve Morley (2003): When the Calgary Stampeders took Morley with the first pick in the '03 Draft, they had a sense that he wouldn't be wearing Red & White for long. After earning a starting tackle position as a rookie, Morley exercised his option year window to sign with the NFL's Green Bay Packers. After being assigned to the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe, he joined the New York Jets for the '05 season. After a failed tryout with the Seattle Seahawks in 2007, the Halifax native returned to the CFL with Toronto.

15. Simeon Rottier (2009): In 2009, its first year of existence, the Canadian Scouting Bureau didn't exactly have its rankings down to a science but they were right on the mark when they tabbed Rottier as the top prospect available. In going first overall, he outdid his university linemate Gord Hinse, who went 11th overall to Edmonton, and his offensive line coach with the Alberta Golden Bears, Tim Prinsen, who had been the fourth overall pick in the '97 Draft.

16. Tim Fleiszer (1998): As a fullback for the McGill Redmen, Tim's father, Dave Fleiszer, won the 1969 Hec Crighton Trophy. While Dave decided to forgo a career in pro football to become a surgeon, Tim wore his dad's number 34 as a defensive end for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Montreal Alouettes, Ottawa Renegades, Edmonton Eskimos, and Saskatchewan Roughriders. The younger Fleiszer is currently a prominent CFL player agent.

17. Patrick Burke (1993): B.C. drafted Burke but, before he put on a Lions uniform, the club dealt him to the Ottawa Rough Riders for quarterback Tony Kimbrough. In an interesting twist, the Burke/Kimbrough trade was actually the second deal of that year where a player chosen in the first round of the '93 draft was swapped for a quarterback. In a marginally more significant transaction in terms of CFL history, the Edmonton Eskimos acquired a quarterback from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for a linebacker from the University of Guelph, whom the Esks had drafted fourth overall just moments earlier. Perhaps you've heard of the players involved. Their names were Damon Allen and Mike O'Shea.

18. Alex Gauthier (2002): The expansion Ottawa Renegades had the first two picks in the 2002 Draft and have been second guessed ever since for not using either of them on the eventual '02 Rookie of the Year, Jason Clermont (4th overall). However, I find it tough to knock the selection of Gauthier, who nine years later, remains a ratio changing starter at left tackle. In hindsight, it's a little easier to question the selection of fullback Mike Vilimek ahead of Clermont with the #2 pick...but, at the time, B.C. was trying to trade up from fourth to second to take the Simon Fraser product. When a deal couldn't be consummated, they "settled" for Clermont.

19. Val St. Germain (1994): Rather than taking away a first round pick to punish the teams that exceeded the salary cap that didn't really exist, in '94 the CFL instead decided to reward the teams that stayed within the salary cap (did I mention that there was really no cap?) by giving them a pick in the so-called "bonus round", which took place before the first round. Yes, I know that the end result is exactly the same. Anyway, St. Germain was the first of four players taken in the bonus round. The result of the league's clever wording was that former Guelph offensive lineman Rob Wessling, who went 13th overall in the nine-team draft theoretically still gets to tell people he was a first round pick.

20. Chad Folk (1997): Folk went on to play his entire twelve year CFL career with the Toronto Argonauts, who drafted him. As well as adding Folk to a team that was already the defending Grey Cup Champion, the Argos also picked up future All-Star centre Jeremy O'Day in the second round of the supplemental draft that year.

21. Chris Bauman (2007): Hamilton made him the first overall pick in the '07 Draft four years after he graduated from the same Brandon, Manitoba nine-man high school football league that produced current Chicago Bears defensive end Israel Idonije. There were seven receivers taken in that draft, including Bauman's college teammate Chris Getzlaf, yet the only pass catcher from that class to earn his team's Most Outstanding Canadian nomination so far is the undrafted Rob Bagg.

22. Gerald Wilcox (1989): As he joins Ricky Ray and the Edmonton Eskimos after four years in Hamilton, Chris Bauman might want to take note of the career path followed by Wilcox. A native of London, Ontario, Wilcox began his career in inauspicious fashion, averaging 19 receptions and 289 yards over his first three years with a mediocre Ottawa franchise. However, after being dealt to Winnipeg in '92 in exchange for All-Canadian cornerback Less Browne, Wilcox was united with quarterback Matt Dunigan and began a string of three straight 1000 yard seasons. The best of those was 1994, when he posted totals of 111 catches, 1624 yards, and 13 touchdowns en route to being named the CFL's Most Outstanding Canadian.

23. Shomari Williams (2010): Before he starred for Queen's 2009 Vanier Cup winning team, Williams spent three years playing for the University of Houston. A student, as well as an athlete, he technically could have entered the 2009 CFL Draft by virtue of having already completed his degree at Houston. By the way, should offensive lineman Scott Mitchell (Rice) go first in the 2011 Draft, the CFL would have back to back #1s from Texas schools.

24. Scott Schultz (2001): It was a no brainer for the Saskatchewan Roughriders to draft the pride of Moose Jaw when they held the first overall pick in the '01 Draft but Schultz took a while to lay down permanent roots in Regina. Before signing with the Riders, he went through training camp with the San Diego Chargers and then, after his rookie CFL season, departed again, this time for a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite the flirtations with the NFL, he played his entire CFL career in his home province, right up until his retirement midway through the 2009 season.

25. Nick Mazzoli (1991): The Hamilton Tiger-Cats made the speedy Mazzoli the third Simon Fraser product to go first overall in a four year span. Despite putting some very good players in the CFL via the nineteen drafts since then, the Clan hasn't had a player picked first overall since Mazzoli in '91. The irony is that SFU had their run of top picks when they were members of the NAIA, an organization which has produced very few CFL draft choices in any round in recent years, largely due to the perceived low level of play.

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