Canadian Football League teams often spend hours – days, weeks, months – studying film, doing background checks and other homework on draft prospects.
Sometimes that legwork pays off and, on the flip side, occasionally it still leads to a complete whiff on a pick.
Looking back on it now, Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters will readily admit there was no secret intel involved in picking the player now widely regarded as the flag waver for the CFL’s Global initiative.
Simply put, Walters, head coach Mike O’Shea and Assistant GM/Director of Player Personnel Ted Goveia were intrigued by Thiadric Hansen’s brute strength. And they absolutely loved his passion for the game and willingness to learn.
In 2019 the CFL ran two separate international drafts, the first featuring Mexican players; the second featuring players from Europe. The Bombers grabbed Hansen, a bruising linebacker/defensive lineman from the German League’s Potsdam Royals, with the second-overall selection in the European Draft.
The CFL has now combined the process and the first-ever Global Draft – a four-round affair which goes Thursday at noon and with the Bombers holding the 4th, 15th, 22nd and 33rd overall selections – figures to feature a deeper and more-talented group.
“The talent pool has widened significantly,” said Walters in a chat with bluebombers.com. “it’s expanded more than just the football federations around the globe that the first Global players were targeted from and there are some excellent prospects available, including NCAA players and those in the NFL’s Pathway Program where players have been assigned to NFL practice rosters.”
Interestingly, of the close to 90 players listed for the CFL’s Global Combine over 20 have NCAA or U Sports experience. That alone deepens the talent pool for this year’s draft.
“I’m looking at my group here… there’s a couple DBs that played at NCAA schools, a DB that was on an NFL practice roster for two years,” said Walters. “There’s a group of O-linemen who have played at big-time schools, a receiver who was a big-time player in the Big 10, a couple linebackers played high-level NCAA.
“On top of that there’s these guys who maybe didn’t go to NCAA schools, but have had NFL training and are currently getting NFL training and may eventually come up here.”
The Global players on the combine list included 16 receivers, 15 linebackers, 13 defensive backs and defensive linemen, 12 kickers, nine offensive linemen and running backs and two quarterbacks.
When we spoke to Walters he was in the middle of their Global Draft players Zoom interviews, and indicated the club will take the ‘best athlete available’ approach on Thursday.
“That’s how we approached it with the last drafts after the Global Combine and the Mexican combine,” he said. “We looked at who we thought was a good athlete and who could come in and have a chance to compete.
“This time around there was more film study and discussions on how they would fit in from a football standpoint. Last time it was more who has the competitiveness and who do we think can come in and learn and grow. Thiadric was exactly that. Now this time around you’re going to get a little bit more advanced football training at this point in their careers.”
“That’s nothing against Thiadric at all – his football background was what it was. These players in this draft have played more football and played against a higher level of competition so they’re more advanced just based on that. Now, Thiadric sure caught up. His physical attributes allowed him to close on a lot of guys very quickly because of his work ethic. It was remarkable when you consider where he started to where he ended up. It was a tribute to how hard he worked.”
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