The following is a brief look at the top prospects for the 2010 CFL Draft. Bear in mind though, that with an entire season to play, at least one combine to attend, and numerous other opportunities to be evaluated between now and the spring, a great deal can and will change before Draft Day.
The Top 20
1. Brian Bulcke (DT, Stanford): Playing four years in one of the NCAA's most competitive conferences (PAC-10) makes the 6'4", 281 lbs. Bulcke the player in this draft who is most physically prepared to move to the next level. He has played regularly throughout his career and is currently part of a deep D-Line rotation for the Cardinal.
2. Danny Watkins (OT, Baylor): In just his third year of organized football, Watkins has taken over at left tackle for the Bears this season, replacing Jason Smith, who was the second overall pick in the '09 NFL Draft. As a junior college transfer, the B.C. native won't complete his NCAA eligibility until next season.
3. Cory Greenwood (LB, Concordia): In terms of size, skills, and instincts, this four-year starter has all the tools to develop into a good CFLer. He would have been a legitimate Top Ten pick had he been eligible for the '09 Draft.
4. Cory Watson (SB, Concordia): Watson is perhaps the most polished member of a competitive receiver class, and a strong performance during the CIS East-West week in May helped his cause.
5. Akeem Foster (WR, St. Francis Xavier): As physically gifted as any receiver in the draft, the 6'5" Foster decided that he wanted to improve his ability to read coverages. He dedicated himself to that goal by spending his summer with the X-Men defensive coaches, immersing himself in that part of the game.
6. John Bender (OG, Nevada): With two seasons as a starter for the Wolfpack already under his belt, the mammoth Bender (6'8", 325) has the most game experience of any of the NCAA O-Linemen in this class.
7. Joe Eppele (OT, Washington State): The 6'8", 306 lbs. Eppele has a handful of starts on his résumé but is currently listed as a backup for the Cougars. Nonetheless, he's a redshirt junior so he'll gain another full year of experience before he turns pro in 2011.
8. Shomari Williams (LB, Queen's): This transfer from the University of Houston combines size (6'2", 245), speed (runs 40 yard dash in 4.6 seconds), skill (he saw game action in all three years at Houston), and smarts (he graduated from UH in just three years).
9. Rob Maver (K/P, Guelph): Maver's punting average of 46.1 would've tied him for fourth in the CFL last year, and he also made a very respectable 78% of his field goal attempts. Regular sessions in Arizona this summer with kicking guru Gary Zauner will have him well prepared for the pro game.
10. J'Michael Deane (OG, Michigan State): After seeing limited playing time in his first three years, this redshirt junior has earned a starting position at right guard this season.
11. Chima Ihekwoaba (DE, Wilfrid Laurier): His freakish athleticism and long arms have led to Ihekwoaba being described by some scouts as "the CIS version of Cam Wake". As the mental part of his game catches up to the physical side, his stock could climb.
12. Joash Gesse (LB, Montréal): His height (5'10") may be a concern to some but, overall, this former CIS Rookie of the Year is as physically and athletically impressive as any player in the draft.
13. Chris Rwabukamba (CB, Duke): Rwabukamba has been a productive player at Duke, starting a handful of games and earning significant playing since the start of the 2008 season. As a redshirt junior, he'll spend another year with the Blue Devils before turning pro.
14. Eddie Steele (DT, Manitoba): Steele's low centre of gravity and solid D-Line technique caught the eye of many scouts at the CIS East-West Bowl in May. In his most recent outing, he had 11 tackles, which is remarkable for a defensive tackle.
15. Taurean Allen (CB, Wilfrid Laurier): This aggressive, athletic corner has been a starter since the day he joined the Golden Hawks in 2006, earning a reputation along the way as a shutdown cover guy.
16. Josh Bishop (SB, Wilfrid Laurier): Bishop may have been overshadowed by some other receivers, as the Golden Hawks offence spreads the ball around but he is big, athletic, and talented.
17. Michael Carter (CB, Maryland): Carter has seen limited game action for the Terrapins up to this point but he is likely the fastest player in the 2010 Draft. He'll return to school for the 2010 season.
18. Nasser Jamal (OT, Louisiana-Lafayette): Jamal is another redshirt freshman who has some starting experience at tackle. His 2008 season was cut short by injury, however, and he hasn't made his way back to the starting lineup thus far in '09.
19. Cauchy Muamba (CB, St. Francis Xavier): Muamba is good enough in man-to-man coverage that teams rarely throw his way, but at 6'1" and close to 200 lbs., he's a physical defender who will likely shift to safety in the CFL.
20. Anthony Woodson (SB/RB, Calgary): This versatile performer has bloodlines on his side, as his father, Anthony Sr. spent six years as a CFL linebacker with Ottawa and Calgary.
Also Keep An Eye On...
These players (listed alphabetically) just missed the Top Twenty...this time...but they're expected to challenge for spots on the list throughout the season.
Kevin D'Hollander (WR, McMaster): As a high school player in London, Ontario, the 6'5" D'Hollander drew frequent comparisons to a university receiver across town by the name of Andy Fantuz. The Marauder star may not be the second coming but has developed into a legitimate prospect.
Shawn Gore (WR, Bishop's): With the graduation of star running back Jamall Lee, the Gaiters receivers will be relied upon more often this season. Gore is making the most of his time in the spotlight, leading the Quebec conference in both receptions and receiving yardage.
Jon Krahenbil (DB, Saskatchewan): Having already earned All-Canadian status in the CJFL and CIS, Krahenbil opened the '09 season with a game-saving pass knockdown to secure a win over Calgary for the Huskies.
Bruno Lapointe (DE, Buffalo): The scouting report on this 6'5", 250 lbs. former hurdler describes him as athletic. After seeing backup duty in his first three years with the Bulls, Lapointe earned a starting job at defensive end as a senior this season.
Jordan Sisco (WR, Regina): Although he's not as big as former Rams receivers Chris Getzlaf and Chris Bauman, the productive Sisco is following in their footsteps by earning a long look from CFL scouts.
Under The Radar...For Now
For one reason or another, these players may not have received a lot of attention from scouts thus far but, between now and Draft Day, they're sure to be closely evaluated.
Nate Binder (WR, Tusculum): Although he plays at a small NCAA Division 2 school, it's still hard to overlook the fact that Binder had the best 2008 numbers (49 receptions, 944 yards, nine touchdowns) of all the receivers in this draft class.
Chris Bodnar (P/K, Saskatoon Hilltops): Bodnar is another Gary Zauner pupil, who is in his third year of junior football after playing one season at the University of Saskatchewan. He lacks Maver's hang time and placekicking prowess but is solid in terms of his punting distance and direction, which is critical on the Canadian field.
Cody Husband (OT, British Columbia): Husband's name wasn't on the CFL's original 2010 draft eligibility list but he should be added soon. As a natural tackle, who stands 6'7" and weighs a relatively lean 310 lbs., he will attract some attention.
Michael Knill (OL, Wilfrid Laurier): Knill will be another late addition to the 2010 draft eligibility list, having been lost in the shuffle after moving to Michigan as a high schooler. Nonetheless, it will be difficult for CFL scouts to ignore an O-Lineman who's 6'5", 330 lbs., bench presses 225 lbs. around 40 times, and has previously made the teams at both Michigan State and Michigan as a walk-on.
Nick Poloniato (DB, Bishop's): Poloniato has combined good athletic ability with an outstanding work ethic to produce impressive results on the field. His 13 interceptions in 21 career regular season games make him the number one ballhawk in this draft class.
Miguel Wason (CB, London Beefeaters): Wason has taken the speed that once made him the Canadian junior champion in the 400-metre hurdles and transferred it to the gridiron. After one season at the University of Western Ontario, he moved on to the junior football ranks, where he has developed into an All-Canadian defensive back and a dynamic kick returner.
Canadians...But Not "Non-Imports"
Although the terms "Canadian" and "non-import" are often used interchangeably when talking about the CFL, the reality is that they're not synonymous. A few Canadians get excluded from every draft class because they don't qualify as non-imports in the eyes of the CFL and its Players Association. That rather complicated issue will be addressed in a future column (I promise) but, in the meantime, here are three Canadians whose names you can scratch off your draft board because they didn't live in Canada long enough to be considered non-imports.
C.E. Kaiser (OT, Oregon): The Ducks powerful starting right tackle and top returning offensive lineman was born in Grand Forks, British Columbia.
Nicholas MacDonald (DE, Holy Cross): MacDonald, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a starting defensive end for the NCAA Division 1-AA Crusaders.
Kito Poblah (WR, Central Michigan): This Montreal-born receiver made 43 receptions for 532 yards last season, and has 10 catches for 91 yards through the first two games of '09.
Another solid 2010 prospect, Georgetown University running back Charlie Houghton, must have had mixed feelings after the opening game of the season. The good news was that the 2006 Patriot League Rookie of the Year had regained his position as the Hoyas starting running back after missing most of last season due to injury. The bad news was that, as well as losing to Holy Cross, Charlie (eight carries, 19 yards) was outrushed by his little brother, Eddie (seven carries, 52 yards), who is a freshman RB for the Crusaders.