CALGARY — John Hufnagel has pulled his staff into a huddle ahead of next week’s CFL Canadian college draft.
The Calgary Stampeders head coach will conduct at least one mock draft with members of his coaching and football operations staff on Friday.
A full week before the draft on May 3, Hufnagel and his staff have already put together their rankings of the top Canadian football prospects.
“We just spent three days of intense meetings,” said Hufnagel, who also serves as Calgary’s general manager. “We came out today with a full ranking as far as how we would like to select them.”
Hufnagel and his staff will now spend a couple days “digesting” and thinking about the list to assess if they want to make any changes.
“On Friday, we’ll have a mock draft,” Hufnagel said during a news conference on Wednesday. “I believe we’ll have several mock drafts. One year we had one and I was very comfortable. Other years I had two. This year, I might need five.”
The Stamps own nine picks in this year’s draft, including the fifth overall selection.
“Unfortunately, though we have a lot of picks, a lot of our extra picks are in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds,” Hufnagel said. “It’s nice to have the nine draft picks, which is three more than any other team, but my phone’s not ringing off the desk because people want my fourth-, fifth-round picks.”
When asked about the importance of the Canadian college draft, Hufnagel replied, “I think it’s the backbone of your organization. Out of the 42-man roster, 20 of them are going to be on the field for you.”
Last year, Hufnagel traded up to select wide receiver Anthony Parker third overall and then took defensive lineman Junior Turner in the second round (ninth overall). Both Parker and Turner suited up for the Stamps last season as did defensive linemen Akwasi Antwi and quarterback Brad Sinopoli, who were both chosen in the fourth round.
“It’s always a guessing game, but the draft picks that we have made, a lot of them have been very productive,” Hufnagel said.
“I’m very pleased with last year’s draft with the players that came in. I did not expect a lot of them to be playing as much football as they did, but because of injuries and other situations they were on the field a lot more than I had expected.”
Hufnagel added that he’s pleased with the overall talent in this year’s draft.
“Each and every year, one or two positions are a little bit heavier than others,” he said. “This year’s no exception. I think there’s a lot of quality defensive linemen involved in this draft.”
There’s some excellent offensive linemen.”
With this week’s announcement that NFL rosters can expand from 80 to 90 players for training camp, CFL general managers have to be wary about picking players that might end up heading south of the border instead of playing at home.
“I’m hoping that the players that we do select won’t be part of that migration,” Hufnagel said. “When you draft good players, which I expect to be doing, it’ll be a wait and see.”
Highly-touted Canadian prospects like defensive end Tyrone Crawford, offensive lineman Ben Heenan and receiver Shamawd Chambers could all start their playing careers south of the border.
“There’s other players that are going to get NFL looks,” Hufnagel said. “You’re trying to do as much investigation as possible so you know what the risk is when you’re picking that player. Do you have the affordability to wait for that player?”
Whether or not he pulls off another trade to move up in the draft, Hufnagel has a number of options open to him on draft day.
“I do believe that we are a football team with the Canadian depth that we can afford to take a chance, because the risk versus the reward is so great,” he said.
Last year, the Stamps selected both Parker and running back Matt Walter (fifth round, 34th overall) from the University of Calgary Dinos. Depending on how things go, the Stamps have a chance to land another prospect from the local university in offensive lineman Kirby Fabien, who was ranked 15th in the CFL Scouting Bureau’s final ranking of the top-15 eligible prospects.
“Kirby is No. 1 a big man, very athletic,” said Hufnagel, who noted the Stamps invited him in for a workout a couple weeks ago. “We saw how athletic he is. I’m sure on draft day he’ll be a high pick.”