Projecting talent in any sport is a difficult task. With players leaving the college ranks younger than ever scouting has become so important. How will a 22-year-old develop physically into a man? What will he do when we give him millions of dollars. With those key questions and many more always swirling; getting it wrong from time to time is inevitable. Nonetheless, these draft picks had something going in college. Surely tons of talent and stats to back up a high pick. Moving from the NFL to the CFL may seem like demotion but it can provide a world of opportunity. Just ask Joe Theismann, Warren Moon, Jeff Garcia of the past or current Defensive End Miami Dolphin Cameron Wake. Come to the CFL and dominate and you may be an NFL star one day.
Quarterback: Johnny Manziel
College: Texas A&M
NFL Teams: Cleveland Browns
Manziel was drafted 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2014. Due to issues, both on and primarily off the field he never realized his potential. However, he could be a huge addition to a CFL Club. The former Heisman winner has an incredibly strong and accurate arm. At Texas A&M he completed 69.9% of his passes, 3rd in the nation. His 9.6 yards per attempt was good for 4th in the country. In the pass-happy CFL that arm could be deadly. He also moves around well amassing over 2100 yards at College Station and 30 TDs on the ground. The bigger field and importance of pass protection in the CFL could allow him to have tons of space. If the defense decides to cover him, he can pick them apart via his arm.
Quarterback: Robert Griffin III
College: Baylor Bears
NFL Teams: Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns
Coming out of Baylor, drafted #2 overall by Washington, Robert Griffin III was basically a better throwing Michael Vick. We all know Vick had a solid career with Atlanta but it hasn’t worked out the same for Griffin III. Injuries certainly have played a part in that. However, he definitely has the arm to be an elite QB in the CFL. In his final season with Baylor, he threw for over 4000 yards at 72.4% completion rate. That completion rate would put him 3rd in the CFL in 2016. Vick during his time in college completed about 56% of his passes. In his rookie season in Washington he was 5th in the NFL in completion % and 5th in yards per catch. What he wasn’t prepared for was the punishment he would receive trying to run the ball. In the end, his knees gave in. There’s a lot more space on a CFL field and he’s far less likely to get hit. He can move more freely and use his spectacularly accurate and powerful arm.
Running back: Trent Richardson
College: Alabama Crimson Tide
NFL Teams: Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders
Another Cleveland Brown draft pick on this list. Browns fans are not surprised. Richardson was selected 3rd overall in 2012. He averaged just 3.6 yards per rush in his rookie campaign and then 2.9 with the Colts next year. However, Richardson was a highly effective back at Alabama. What was most appealing was his size. He was big enough to be a power back, but small enough to use blocks effectively. What the NFL failed to do with him was get him involved in the passing game. In the CFL the top running backs in 2016 were all used on screens. Leading rusher Jerome Messam caught 54 passes for 486 yards a catch. Richardson in his final season at Alabama? He made 23 catches for 338 yards. That’s a whopping 11.9 yards a catch. It was a big part of his draft profile and why he went so high. With the bigger field Richardson could get outside to the exterior blocks and exploit his catching prowess.
Wide Receiver: Justin Blackmon
College: Oklahoma State Cowboys
NFL Teams: Jacksonville Jaguars
Another 2012 draft alum in Oklahoma State Cowboys’ product Justin Blackmon. The wideout has had plenty of off the field issues with the substance abuse policy. He was suspended indefinitely in 2014 and hasn’t played since. Before those issues Blackmon was great. He made 64 catches for 865 yards and 5 TDs in his rookie campaign. And after returning from suspension in 2013 to play just 4 games he averaged over 100 yards a game on 29 catches. If you compare his numbers with the current top wide receivers they are similar. He is 6’1 all of the top-5 receivers from 2016 were 6’2 or 6’3 so he fits there. He averaged almost 14 yards per catch in the NFL. That’s right with top receiver from 2016 Edmonton Eskimo Adarius Bowman. He averaged 14.7 yards a catch. His college numbers were even gaudier. In his best season at OSU he had 1782 yards with 20 touchdowns in just 12 games. His size and athletic ability would fit right in with the pass-happy CFL. Also, the CFL doesn’t mind taking in a talented player with substance abuse issues: see Ricky Williams.
Defensive End: Dion Jordan
College: Oregon Ducks
NFL Teams: Miami Dolphins
The hybrid DE/LB player was selected 3rd overall by Miami 2013. His potential never came to fruition when he was suspended twice before 2015 for failing drug tests and hasn’t played since. Leaving Oregon, his draft profile was of a long, fast lineman that can cover tons of ground. In the CFL, being able to move sideline to sideline is massive. He had a fantastic junior year in Eugene. He garnered 42 total tackles, 13 of them for a loss and 7.5 sacks. His speed would be a huge asset. At 6’7 he still tied for 3rd at the combine with 4.60 40-yard dash. He was also touted as very strong in pass coverage another key for the CFL.
Quarterback: Blaine Gabbert
College: Missouri NFL Teams: Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers
Gabbert owned all of the physical tools to be an elite NFL quarterback. Size at 6’4, and mobility with 4.62 40-yard dash. Unfortunately, after being drafted 10th overall in 2011 he never materialized. It wasn’t due to lack of effort though. Gabbert’s biggest issue was interceptions. He threw 24 of them in just 27 games in Jacksonville. He did have 22 TDs in those game as well. He likes to chuck the ball all over the field and that doesn’t fly in the NFL. In the CFL, that’s far more accepted. His completion percentage of 63.4% at Missouri won’t cut it north of the border but if he improved that his draft profile says he can make all the throws, and loves to do so.
Quarterback: Tim Tebow
NFL Teams: Denver Broncos, New York Jets
Tebow is currently plying his craft in the New York Mets minor league baseball system but he could make a return to the football field. If he did he would be a solid asset for a CFL team. The Heisman winner from 2007 was selected 25th overall in 2010 and that was viewed as a reach. He is however, a very effective dual threat quarterback. He won a pair of national championships with the Gators completing over 66% of his passes. More impressively, he had just 16 INTs in 55 games compared to 88 TDs. That is smart football. His completion percentage fell to below 50% in the NFL but he was successful for one season. That percentage though, is not CFL quality. He is a great leader who can win the big game. If he plays in a solid offense up north he could be a star CFL QB.
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