I had to take a break from my CFL Draft tutorial with football fans preoccupied by other major events on the weekend. There was the second round of the NHL playoffs getting underway, UFC making its long awaited Ontario debut, the NFL Draft, and, Chris Schultz's favourite, the Royal Wedding (don't mention it to him, he still tears up).
In keeping with my draft addiction, I watched a lot of the NFL's version and, aside from the lofty status of Canadians Danny Watkins and Orlando Franklin, the thing that stood out to me was how much draft specific terminology has developed as pro sports drafts have become more of a television event. The following is the first edition of the TSN.ca CFL Draft Dictionary to help you decode the draftspeak of our analysts this weekend.
- athleticism: generally a reference to a player's overall combination of speed, agility, strength, and power, rather than an assessment of his football skills specifically; perhaps the most overused Draft Day word, it could provide fans with a great drinking game on Sunday
- best available: the top football player, regardless of position, who remains undrafted, at a given stage of the draft
- bloodlines: a history of high level athletes in a prospect's immediate family
- blunder: although typically applied in hindsight, it usually describes a poor draft outcome that had been foreseeable.
- board: a team's Draft Day Bible, this is the chart on which every prospect who they've evaluated is ranked by the team's scouts; once a player has been drafted, by any team, his name comes "off the board".
- body of work: what a prospect has accomplished on the football field to date
- bust: a player who's accomplishments at the professional level fall far below pre-draft expectations for him
- ceiling: a prospect's maximum potential
- compete level: a player's will to win both games and individual battles
- consistency: reliability of performance
- explosive: the reaction of some CFL scouts and general managers when a television analyst has the nerve to second guess their Draft Day decisions
- exposed: the act of having a prospect's previously hidden shortcomings come to light, usually as a result of playing against better competition
- exposure: a description of the relative awareness scouts have of a given player or how much of an opportunity they've had to evaluate him
- feet: an evaluation not necessarily of a player's agility but of how efficiently he performs the required movements for his position
- film: "The film doesn't lie", is a common expression describing the value of this most critical evaluation tool
- football sense: a player's understanding of the game, often demonstrated by anticipating plays and making good decisions on the field
- free fall: the state of a player who remains undrafted considerably longer than expected. (See also: slide)
- futures: a prospect who will not be joining a CFL team in the year that he is drafted, usually because he has remaining college eligibility (See also: redshirt junior)
- game ready: physically and intellectually prepared to make a significant contribution at the professional level
- grade: a prospect's relative score on whatever scale a team employs for scouting evaluations, it is usually expressed as the round in which a player is deemed worthy of being selected
- hands: most commonly associated with a receiver's consistency in catching passes but also often used to describe the quality of a defensive lineman's technique in fighting off blockers; also, the part of a draft analyst's body most likely to cramp up after exchanging up to 200 emails and text messages per day leading up to the draft
- hips: the body part often used to describe the fluidity of a skill player's movement or the ability of a lineman to gain leverage
- history: a record of a team's or general manager's recent draft picks and/or draft day tendencies
- instincts: the innate qualities that lead me to not answer phone calls from CFL scouts and GMs the day after I've questioned the quality of their draft
- intangibles: any and all portions of a player's evaluation that can not be quantified, including leadership, toughness, and work ethic (Antonym: measurables)
- limitations: the factors that restrict what a player will be able to do at the next level
- maxed out: having already reached his "ceiling"
- measurables: any and all portions of a player's evaluation that can be quantified in any way, whether by measurement, time, score, etc. (Antonym: intangibles)
- mock draft: the draft's version of a fire drill, the only relevant versions of these simulations are the ones conducted by team personnel as they attempt to prepare for what may unfold on Draft Day
- move up/move down: complete a trade while the draft is in progress in order to pick from a position higher or lower than the one currently held
- need pick: the selection of a player based almost exclusively on a club's lack of depth at his position
- NFL aspirations: self explanatory, this is one of the two primary reasons why the best player is virtually never the first overall pick in the CFL Draft (See also: redshirt junior)
- numbers: may refer to either statistics or a player's combine testing scores, such as a 40-yard dash time or standing broad jump distance
- on the clock: refers to the team due to make the next selection; teams have 8 minutes to announce their picks in Round 1, 5 minutes in Round 2, and 3 minutes in Rounds 3-6, with the ability to call one 5-minute timeout
- pipeline: the collection of previously drafted players who have not yet signed CFL contracts but whose rights are still held by the club that drafted them (See also: futures, redshirt juniors, NFL aspirations)
- piss marker: based on the concept of an animal marking its territory, this refers to the late round selection of a player with ties to the team's geographical area; may also describe the stain on Farhan Lalji's chair after remaining seated in studio for six uninterrupted rounds of draft coverage
- production: whether measured statistically or not, an assessment of how successful a player was at the college level
- project: a player who may display some potential but will require significant coaching over an extended period of time in order to play at the next level
- projection: the type of player that scouts envision a prospect eventually becoming
- radar: the scope of most scouts, so "under the radar" would suggest a player who hasn't been scouted a lot
- ratio buster: a Canadian who is capable of holding down a starting job at a position typically reserved for American players
- ratio flexibility: the state of having enough quality Canadian players to place more than seven in the starting lineup, if desired
- raw: lacking experience and/or technique; also the unfortunate state of the food brought in to feed the crew during TSN's Draft Show (Is there a law against hot meals?)
- reach: the selection of a player made much earlier than consensus suggests he should be chosen
- redshirt junior: a prospect from an American school who has college eligibility remaining by virtue of having only used three years of eligibility during his first four years of school; the lack of an immediate return on the invested draft pick and the uncertainty regarding the future of such individuals is the main reasons why redshirt juniors are rarely chosen early in the first round
- résumé: a player's accomplishments and accolades, including statistics, all-star selections, and, in CFL terms, E-Camp and East West Bowl invitations
- run: the phenomenon that occurs during a draft when several players who play the same position are selected close together; it occurs because the demand for players at a certain position increases in anticipation of a sudden decline in the supply of such players
- sleeper: a potentially underrated or "underexposed" prospect
- slide: a highly regarded prospect's Draft Day descent to a draft position much lower than anticipated (See also: free fall)
- stock: a prospect's relative value, as far as when he should be selected in the draft
- supplemental draft: a draft of prospects whose eligibility hasn't been confirmed until after the Canadian Draft list is finalized
- tools: the physical, athletic, and intellectual assets possessed by a prospect
- trust your board: a draft philosophy meaning "Don't overlook better prospects because they don't play the right position or, in your original strategy, you didn't expect them to be available."
- tweener: a player who isn't ideally suited to any position, usually because he lacks the athleticism to play the position most appropriate for his size
- upside: the difference between how good a player is currently and how good his "tools" suggest he will become with experience and instruction
- waist bender: an unflattering description of an offensive lineman's blocking technique, suggesting a lack of the preferred bending of the knees; also Schultzie when having a standing conversation with Dave Randorf
- war room: the space at the team's facility where those involved in the draft process make their decisions and announce their selections on the CFL's conference call
- workout warrior: a player whose combine results are far superior to his actual football ability
The Mysterious Case of Ted Laurent
My love of the television show CSI runs much deeper than the obvious appeal of the Catherine Willows character. I live vicariously through the show, as I enjoy piecing together evidence and clues to solve a mystery. On Tuesday, after doing a little detective work of my own, I may have stumbled across the next spinoff in the CSI franchise. Its working title is CSI:CFL (too many acronyms?).
The case began with an email from fellow draftaholic Kent Ridley, who asked if I had read a recent tweet by Bruce Feldman, in which the author and ESPN columnist had made reference to an article I wrote for TSN.ca last fall. It read "Saw this story on CFL's top draft prospects & surprised Ole Miss DT Ted Laurent, who's fm Canada, isn't anywhere on it"
Loyal readers will recall that, last week, I wrote about how players like Wayne Smith of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, current NFLer Colin Cole, and 2011 Draft prospect Michael Knill had all eluded the CFL's scouting net in college because no one in this league realized that they were Canadian. I know it's an obsessive viewpoint but it honestly bothers me when players end up in the wrong draft class because it changes history. Let me put this into terms that every Canadian sports fan will understand. Imagine if there had been an undetected clerical that led the NHL to believe that Sidney Crosby was born in 1988 instead of '87, and therefore caused them to omit him from the 2005 draft class. Coming off the lockout, we would've all been glued to our televisions to see who won the league's draft lottery and subsequent right to select...Bobby Ryan. Ryan is a tremendous player...loved the highlight reel goal in Round 1...but I think we can all agree that he probably wouldn't have changed the Pittsburgh Penguins' fortunes quite as dramatically as Sid the Kid. It's an extreme example but hopefully you get the point.
Anyway, I didn't want Ted Laurent to slip through the cracks so I set out to find out some details about him. I wasn't expecting much because statistically, for every Canadian-born, American-raised football player who qualifies as a non-import, there are about three Canadian-born, American-raised football players who didn't live here long enough to qualify. I won't say exactly how I tracked him down and got in touch with him but I will say that Ted Laurent, the 6'1", 303 lbs. three-year starter at defensive tackle for the University of Mississippi Rebels will easily qualify as a non-import should he choose to apply for that status.
While the results of my "investigation" could have a significant impact on the CFL's supplemental draft (it's too late to qualify for Sunday's main draft), what I found most interesting was how the trail to find Laurent was littered with the fingerprints of numerous people associated with the CFL. Based on circumstances, responses I received, and the number of individuals around the league who had no more than one degree of separation from this case, it was as if someone didn't want him to be "found" in time to qualify for the Canadian Draft...
On a related note, another prospect who's likely to qualify for the supplemental draft is former De Anza Junior College and Harding University (Division 2) linebacker Rene Stephan. He is expected to attend the free agent combine being run during this week's CIS East West Bowl festivities at the University of Western Ontario. Another prospect in the midst of applying for non-import status is New Mexico State tight end and long snapper Kyle Nelson, son of former CFL player and coach Mark Nelson, and grandson of former Edmonton Eskimo Roger Nelson. The younger Nelson caught 41 passes for 371 yards for the Aggies in 2010 and was selected in the seventh round (33rd overall) of Monday night's United Football League draft.
NFL Lockout Affects CFL Prospects
A flurry of Canadians signed free agent deals after last year's NFL Draft but many observers assumed that, in light of the current labour stoppage down south, all of the undrafted Canucks, including Calgary Stampeders 2009 third round pick John Bender, would flock to their respective CFL clubs. However, the following post from the University of Nevada offensive lineman suggests otherwise: "Thanks everyone for all the good luck wishes and all that. I didn't get drafted but I plan on waiting out the lockout for NFL free agency & seeing what my options are there. I still believe! Feeling very blessed to have this opportunity & be in this position."