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Forde: Meet the defensive prospects for the CFL Draft

Duane Forde
4/5/2012 6:19:50 PM
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The goal of the "Meet The Prospects" series is to familiarize readers with some of the more prominent prospects in the Class of 2012. These articles are, by no means, a complete prospect listing, nor are they rankings...those will come later.

Also, with that in mind, the term "Potential Sleepers" is used in this series to describe players who could sneak into the earlier rounds of the draft, as opposed to the traditional reference to a lesser known or lower ranked prospect.

Defensive Line

Cream of the Crop: Defensive end Tyrone Crawford (Boise State) is NFL-bound, while tackle Christo Bilukidi (Georgia State) is generating serious interest down south as well. End Ameet Pall (Wofford) is also pursuing his NFL options after a stellar NCAA (FCS) career and, assuming that his non-import status will eventually be granted, Bo Adebayo (Western Kentucky) belongs on this list, too.

Best of the Rest: Hasan Hazime (Akron) has good film and a strong résumé but his immediate future is cloudy. He redshirted in 2011 following an early season ACL tear but has since graduated and reportedly left the Zips football program. His rehab is ahead of schedule so, assuming he makes a complete recovery, his draft status will ultimately depend on whether he decides to turn pro this year or play out his eligibility at another school. Defensive end Justin Capicciotti (Simon Fraser) followed up his productive college career by turning in a great E-Camp performance.

Burning Questions: How many of the top prospects will wind up in NFL camps? Simply put, as the top prospects' odds of sticking in the NFL increase, their CFL Draft stock decreases…which opens the door for the next tier of prospects to move up on Draft Day.

Potential Sleepers: The depth at this position is the only reason that tackles Jake Thomas (Acadia), Jabar Westerman (Eastern Michigan), and redshirt junior Michael Atkinson (Boise State), as well as end Arnaud Gascon-Nadon (Laval) aren't listed in one of the previous categories. Thomas, Westerman, and Atkinson all possess uncommon athleticism for players their size. As for Gascon-Nadon, the two-time Metras Trophy winner as the top CIS lineman, his stock may have taken a hit when his hamstring injury and subsequent refusal to participate in testing led to a premature departure from E-Camp. Nonetheless, he remains a very worthy prospect.

Linebackers

Cream of the Crop: Fredric Plésius (Laval) didn't have his best season for the Rouge et Or but he remains a rare physical talent and the headliner in a deep class of linebackers.  South of the border, the film on redshirt junior Hervé Tonye-Tonye (Northern Colorado) is limited because he sat out the 2011 season after transferring from Alcorn State. Nonetheless, he's an impressive physical specimen, who was a highly productive performer at Alcorn.

Best of the Rest: With a number of talented linebackers jockeying for draft position, Rene Stephan (Harding) and Sam Hurl (Calgary) emerged as two of the great revelations of E-Camp weekend. The key with Stephan is his upside, as he is a gifted athlete but has been out of football for two years. Despite his absence from the game, he didn't look out of place among the top draft eligible prospects. Hurl was a much more proven commodity on the field but the combine setting also allowed him to establish that he's more athletic than some might have thought.

Burning Question: Is Plésius best suited to play linebacker or defensive end? The same debate surrounded eventual #1 overall pick Shomari Williams in 2010. Plésius had no issues in coverage at the CIS level but some are concerned that, at 245 lbs., he may be challenged to do it in the CFL. That question mark, along with his size and power, make him a candidate to move to end, where he was slotted as a freshman at Baylor in '08.

Potential Sleepers: Jonathan Beaulieu-Richard (Montreal) may prove to be a steal for a team that is willing to wait an extra year for him, as he has already committed to return to UdeM this fall to complete his pharmacy degree. Filipe Fonseca da Silva (Sherbrooke) and Wilkerson DeSouza (Toronto) also stand out, as both rank in the Top 5 in the country in total tackles over the last two seasons.

Defensive Backs

Cream of the Crop: A strong argument could be made that Courtney Stephen (Northern Illinois) was the best defensive back in the CIS before he transferred away from Wilfrid Laurier after his sophomore year. He suffered a knee injury last season but should be 100% by the fall, when he'll complete his eligibility at NIU.

Best of the Rest: E-Camp testing revealed that Keenan MacDougall (Saskatchewan) and Dylan Hollohan (St. Francis Xavier) are athletic freaks…but each is accompanied by a unique concern. MacDougall missed the entire 2011 season with a knee/quadriceps injury and then tweaked a hamstring at E-Camp, prompting many to wonder about his health and durability. Hollohan is undersized and not overly physical, which creates matchup concerns against bigger receivers.

Burning Question: How good a football player is Keenan MacDougall? The Huskies star played three full seasons before sitting out last year but the lack of 2011 film and the E-Camp injury that limited his participation in one-on-ones have left scouts without much in the way of a current evaluation of his skills.

Potential Sleepers: There's no doubt that safety Bryce McCall (Saskatchewan) is limited athletically, which makes a combine environment less than ideal for him to showcase his strengths. However, there aren't many players in the draft with a stronger work ethic or better football sense.

Specialists

Cream of the Crop: The reality is that, unlike 2010 and 2011, there won't be any specialists generating early round buzz.

Best of the Rest: None of the top guys are considered triple threats (punts, field goals, and kickoffs) but punter Brett Cameron (North Dakota) is likely the best prospect. Among the placekickers, keep an eye on Derek Williams (Savannah State), Austin Anderson (McGill), and William Dion (Sherbrooke). Linebacker Aaron Crawford (Saint Mary's) is a top flight long snapper.

Burning Questions: Will any kickers from the Class of 2012 be able to find CFL employment this season? It's only an eight-team league and kicker is a position that is associated with career longevity. So many young non-import kickers (Rob Maver, Christopher Milo, Justin Palardy, Grant Shaw, Hugh O'Neill, Rene Paredes, Josh Maveety) have entered the league over the last two years that it might have reached a saturation point.

Potential Sleepers: Kickers Anthony Alix (St. Francis Xavier) and Taylor Wandler (Regina) are both still refining their consistency but likely have the strongest legs in the class.




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