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Forde: 2014 CFL Draft Preview - Running Backs and Linebackers

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Duane Forde
5/12/2014 12:27:48 PM
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With the 2014 CFL Draft set to take place Tuesday in Toronto, CFL on TSN analyst Duane Forde breaks down the top prospects. Today, he looks at running backs and linebackers.

RUNNING BACKS

1) Anthony Coombs (RB, Manitoba)

You Should Know: His coming out party was a 14-carry, 147-yard game against the United States Under-19 National Team as a member of the World Team in the 2012 International Bowl.
The Good: He has averaged at least seven yards per carry in each of his four CIS seasons and that average improved every year, leaving him with a career average of 7.5 yards/carry.
The Bad: Durability may be a concern, as he has missed time with minor injuries each of the last three seasons.

2) Pascal Lochard (RB, Laval)

The Good: This versatile 6'0”, 215 lbs. back rushed for 184 yards – three yards shy of his career high – en route to earning MVP honours in the 2013 Vanier Cup.
The Bad: It's not a knock on his ability or potential but, with the very crowded Laval backfield, he has rarely played more than half of the offensive snaps in a game.

3) Alexandre Dupuis (FB, Montreal)

The Good: He battled back from surgeries on both knees in 2012 to become an RSEQ All-Star last season.
The Bad: No one will question his toughness or work ethic but he might be a little limited athletically.

4) Robert Farquharson (RB, Guelph)

The Good: Over the last two CIS seasons, his average of 112.9 rushing yards per game ranks first among Class of 2014 running backs, just ahead of Coombs (112.7).
The Bad: A hamstring injury suffered during training camp limited him to only four regular season games in 2013.

5) Aaron Milton (RB, Toronto)

The Good: He “plays faster” than he tests, and, considering that his 6'3”, 215 lbs. frame has room to carry more weight, he could eventually contribute as a fullback.
The Bad: He's coming off a shoulder injury that has left him a little behind in terms of upper body strength.

Other Contenders:

  • Guillaume Bourassa (Laval) – career high 66 carries, 402 rushing yards in 2013; 4.71 40-yard dash at CFL Combine was 2nd fastest among RBs behind Coombs
  • Jordan Botel (Mount Allsion) – 2013 AUS nominee for Hec Crighton Trophy; has averaged 102.3 rushing yards/game over the last two seasons; played FB for CJFL's Vancouver Island Raiders in 2008-09, blocking for current B.C. Lion Andrew Harris
  • Mackenzie Sarro (Calgary) – 6'4”, 245 lbs.; tied fellow FB Dupuis with 23 bench press reps at CFL Combine; had only one carry, seven receptions in two years with the Dinos

Also On The Radar (alphabetically): Connor Anderson (York), Jeremy Andrew (Saskatchewan), Jean-Christophe Beaulieu (Sherbrooke); Errol Brooks (York); Zack Clarke (Acadia), Zack Davis (York), Sean Murphy (McGill), Raul Thompson (Concordia); Kurt Tonowski (Saint Mary's); C.J. Zsoldos (Waterloo / London Beefeaters)

LINEBACKERS

1) Casey Chin (Simon Fraser)

You Should Know: He was a four-year starter and three-time Great Northwest Athletic Conference All-Star during his career with the Clan.
The Good: He increased his tackle totals significantly each season, capping his career with an average of nearly 12 per game as a senior.
The Bad: Listed at 5'10”, he's not physically imposing.

2) Max Caron (Concordia)

The Good: He won the President's Trophy as the Top Defensive Player in CIS football as a sophomore and possesses a very high football IQ.
The Bad: His physical upside may be limited, as he'll turn 25 this summer.

3) Jesse Briggs (McGill)

The Good: Ranked among the top LBs in all testing categories at the CFL Combine, with his 4.57 40 being the key to boosting his stock.
The Bad: He's not seen as a particularly physical player, and his on-field productivity hasn't necessarily matched his athletic ability.

4) Beau Landry (Western)

The Good: He offers versatility, having been named a First Team All-Canadian as a defensive halfback in 2011 and again as a linebacker in 2013.
The Bad: At the next level, he may find himself as a “tweener”, not possessing the speed of top defensive backs or the size of most linebackers.

5) Travis Bent (Concordia)

The Good: Physical and aggressive, he had his best season in 2012, leading the Stingers with 61.5 tackles.
The Bad: As highly touted as his teammate Caron when they entered the Stingers program in 2010, he hasn't yet reached that potential.

Other Contenders:

  • Christopher Johnson (Toronto) – 5'10”, 220 lbs.; compares well physically and athletically to draft's top LBs
  • Sam Sabourin – was among the draft's elite prospects until he chose to retire due to concussion concerns; three-time All-Canadian could still be a late selection
  • Thomas Miles (Manitoba) – second on Bisons with 39 tackles in 2013; also long snaps

Also On The Radar (alphabetically): Aram Eisho (McMaster); Cody Kezama (Regina); Matt Lalande (Saint Mary's); Pier-Yves Lavergne (Montreal); Eric Noivo (Concordia); Stephen Osman (McGill); Omar Smith-Jackson (Bishop's); Richard Zacharias (Saskatchewan)

Analysis: I'll discuss these two position groups together, as there are a number of similarities in terms of how they're evaluated for the draft. While Jon Cornish, Andrew Harris, Shea Emry, and Henoc Muamba are household names for CFL fans, the reality is that the vast majority of the league's non-import running backs and linebackers are depth guys, who will play far more snaps on special teams every week than they will on offence or defence.

Since it's difficult for teams to justify using first round picks for players who aren't projected to play regularly on offence or defence, you generally don't see a lot of RBs and LBs selected in Round 1. In fact, in the last ten years, there has only been one draft in which the first round included more than one player from either of these two groups (Keep in mind that while Mike Edem, Shomari Williams, and Justin Phillips may have been listed as LBs, they were all drafted to play another position). In 2005, Akron LB Cam Yeow went second overall, McMaster RB Jesse Lumsden was chosen sixth, and Kentucky fullback Alexis Bwenge was the eighth overall selection. A significant factor leading to that anomaly was that the Class of 2005 was strong at neither offensive line nor receiver, the usual “marquee Canadian positions”. Coincidentally, a similar dynamic exists in this year's draft class, which should open the door for the top running back and linebacker prospects to be among the first nine picks.

At running back, the obvious choice is Coombs. In his eight Canada West games last season, the Winnipeg native rushed for 100+ yards four times and had 100+ receiving yards three times. The CFL Combine revealed both his willingness to pass block and his ability to compete as a receiver. All things considered, he is the best non-lineman in this draft class.

On my board, Chin also ranks among the top three non-linemen available and projects as a potential future starter. Last season, the Simon Fraser product racked up 119 tackles in 10 games (11.9/game) to lead the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Four years ago, another 5'10” linebacker finished second in the GNAC with 96 tackles in 11 games (8.7/game). That player was current B.C. Lions star Adam Bighill, whose 196 tackles over the last two CFL seasons equals Montreal's Chip Cox for the most in the league during that span. Granted, the number of tackles made can be a misleading statistic but, given his range and productivity, Chin should be given every opportunity to contribute on defence as well as special teams.

Anthony Coombs (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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