Four years after Brandon Bridge and Andrew Buckley were drafted in the CFL to play quarterback, there are two more intriguing names at the position among the group of prospects ahead of this year’s CFL Draft.
Michael O’Conner and Chris Merchant both took part in the CFL Combine this weekend as they vie to cement their draft stock ahead of the May draft.
CFL on TSN analyst Duane Forde said O’Connor has the pedigree of an American quarterback.
“There’s no question (he’s a legitimate CFL QB prospect),” Forde said. “Typically when people talk about the disadvantage that Canadian quarterbacks have versus their American counterparts, it has to do with their background, their pedigree, their training, that they haven’t had as many reps, and so on. But when you look at O’Connor, this is a kid who spent a lot of his developmental years in the States. He played his last couple years of high school in the States, including his last year at the prestigious IMG Academy in Florida. He was one of the most recruited quarterbacks not just in Canada, but in North America, coming out of high school. And that’s how he ended up at Penn State before finding his way back to UBC and it wasn’t because of a lack of opportunities even at that point with Division 1 schools.”
Prior to his time with the UBC Thunderbirds in USports, O’Connor spent time with the Penn State Nittany Lions in the NCAA.
TSN Football Insider Dave Naylor added former Toronto Argonauts quarterbacks coach Anthony Calvillo said O’Connor didn’t look out of place with the team as an invitee to training camp last season.
Merchant on the other hand, reminded Forde of some recent Canadian quarterbacks drafted into the CFL.
“Merchant is a guy that I think you look at certainly as a quarterback first,” said Forde. “And the comparison I’m going to make here is Brad Sinopoli in 2011, Brandon Bridge in 2015. Drafted as quarterbacks, but they are guys where there is a little bit of a safety net when you draft them, with the knowledge of their athletic ability. They are guys that if it didn’t work out at quarterback, then they could probably convert to another position. You’re talking about guys who, in their draft class, were high-end athletes who happen to have exceptional football IQ. And I think Merchant is a guy who, while a very good quarterback prospect still, because of his mobility and athleticism, has that safety net that teams may also look at what else he might be able to bring to their roster.”