Steinberg’s MMQB: The CFL Draft’s most interesting man

Welcome to Draft Week!

There’s a lot set to be figured out during the 2022 CFL Draft on Tuesday. Of course, I’m excited to see what the Edmonton Elks do with the number one overall pick. As always, I’m intrigued to see how this past weekend’s NFL Draft impacts the Canadian draft order. And if there’s one player I’m most interested in, it’s Waterloo quarterback Tre Ford.

There was buzz entering this past weekend about whether an NFL team would use one of their picks on Ford after another outstanding season at Waterloo. Furthermore, Ford knocked it out of the park at the CFL Combine presented by New Era and at his invite to the University of Buffalo’s pro day in March.

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In the end, Ford went undrafted in the NFL. Shortly thereafter, though, he accepted a minicamp invite from the Baltimore Ravens as he starts his pro football journey south of the border. As a result, Ford’s fate at Tuesday’s CFL Draft becomes that much more interesting…and it was fascinating to begin with.

There’s no doubt Ford will be selected this week. The only question is whether his minicamp invite will see him drop slightly down the draft order. As we’ve learned over the years, players drafted by NFL teams go much later in the CFL Draft commensurate to their final Scouting Bureau rankings. It’s less of a science when it comes to players signing free agent deals or, like in Ford’s case, accepting minicamp invites.

Knowing how valuable picks are, players drafted into the NFL naturally get a longer leash to stick around with their teams compared to those signed as undrafted free agents. That’s why I suspect Ford’s minicamp invite won’t deter teams from taking him high come Tuesday. While he has a chance to stick south of the border, the risk isn’t as large as it is in other situations.

And let’s face it: Ford is too good a player to pass over. The ability to draft a high-end quarterback in the CFL Draft doesn’t come along every year. The last player in the same category was Nathan Rourke, who went 15th overall to the BC Lions in 2020 and is now pegged to be their starter two years later.

Drafting a player of Ford’s calibre gives a team the chance to get in on the ground floor and potentially make him the quarterback of the future. Knowing how challenging finding a quarterback of any nationality can be in this league, having exclusive rights to a player like Ford right from the get-go is crucial.

Ford is a ridiculously talented athlete, so I’m not putting it past him to stick with the Ravens. But the risk of that happening shouldn’t be enough of a deterrent to use a meaningful pick on him at the CFL Draft. I can’t wait to find out what team that’ll end up being.

The season is upon us

Friends…it’s May! And, for the first time in three years, that means more than just the draft is right around the corner. After no season in 2020 and a delayed start in 2021, we’re back on a normal calendar for the first time since 2019. I won’t lie it’s pretty awesome.

The CFL Draft, and the CFL Global Draft, are the first two events of what’s going to be a busy month ahead. We know Alabama receiver John Metchie III (Houston, round two) and Penn State linebacker Jesse Luketa (Arizona, round seven) will both be falling down the board on Tuesday after being selected in the NFL Draft. After that, the rest is up for grabs.

Once the CFL Draft is wrapped, we’ll be just over a week from the start of training camp. Rookies report across the league on May 11 and main camps get going four days later on May 15. And as our Twitter account proudly decreed over the weekend: there will be football played this month.

In fact, we’ll see five pre-season games played in the month of May, starting exactly three weeks from today with Winnipeg and Saskatchewan. With big names on new teams across the league, it’s going to be a lot of fun to see how things shape up during camp and the pre-season.

The 2022 CFL regular season starts Thursday, June 9 at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.

Quick hits

Okay, we’re all expecting Syracuse linebacker Tyrell Richards to go first overall to the Elks, right? With Chris Jones back in Edmonton as head coach and general manager, it just makes too much sense. Plus, when our Marshall Ferguson has him on top of the board in both Mock Draft 1.0 and 2.0, I think you can feel pretty good about that coming to fruition.

Finally, it’s really, really cool to trace paths like the ones followed by Amen Ogbongbemiga and Deane Leonard. Stories like theirs just don’t happen very often. Both players played at Calgary high school powerhouse Notre Dame under head coach Dave Diluzio. And, after slightly different roads following high school, now both are members of the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers.

Ogbongbemiga, a 2021 first round pick of the Stampeders, racked up 14 tackles and a sack with the Chargers last season after signing as an undrafted free agent. Now he’ll be joined by former Notre Dame teammate Leonard, who just finished his second season at Ole Miss in the NCAA. Los Angeles selected Leonard in the seventh round, 236th overall, over the weekend; he was already a second-round CFL pick of Hamilton in 2021.

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