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Huskers In The CFL: How Scouting For Talent Works

The CFL has established its own scouting bureau. How does that work, and how might the NFL influence CFL draft picks?

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Some Canadian Football League news hit close to home in Lincoln last week.

The CFL released its annual scouting bureau rankings of the top prospects for the 2018 CFL draft on Aug. 30 and for the first time ever a Nebraska Cornhusker topped the list.

Senior right tackle David Knevel became the first Husker to find himself atop the rankings of Canadian prospects in advance of the next year’s draft.

The CFL borrowed from hockey in establishing a league-sanctioned scouting bureau, an approach that allows for periodic updates to the top prospect rankings throughout the season leading up to the spring 2018 draft.

The CFL draft is only for Canadian talent, although you’ll find plenty of NCAA names in the scouting lists and in the draft.

Knevel’s place at the top of these rankings isn’t much of a surprise. For one, he’s an offensive lineman, a position CFL teams covet having Canadian talent because it allows for more skill positions to be filled by imports. Secondly, despite injury, he’s been a two-year starter at a Power 5 school, and that’s a major plus for CFL scouting.

It should be noted, however, that the rankings don’t always translate to draft order. Whereas in the NFL a consensus No. 1 prospect is often likely to go No. 1 or 2, a No. 1 prospect in the CFL rankings may slip considerably if teams believe he has NFL hopes and therefore may take a long time to come to Canada, if he ever does.

Last year’s CFL draft was a good example of that: Mississippi State offensive lineman Justin Senior topped all three 2017 rankings leading up to the draft, but wasn’t selected until the fifth round, 40th overall, a slip that was precipitated by Senior going in the sixth round of the NFL draft to Seattle. The year before that, University of Manitoba defensive lineman David Onyemata was the No. 1 prospect, but went with the final pick of the third round after it was clear he was NFL-bound. Onyemata is entering his second season with the New Orleans Saints.

So Knevel’s standing atop the rankings is a nice feather in his cap, but undoubtedly the focus will remain for him on making the NFL. It’s unlikely his status at or near the top of those rankings will change much, but it will be interesting to see the temperature CFL teams have for him by the time the draft rolls around next year.

On to the weekly round-up:

Ottawa 32, Montreal 4

The Redblacks won their third in a row and moved into first place in the East Division in the process, despite having a sub-.500 record.

Former Husker Brett Maher went 2-for-4 for Ottawa, with a pair of 30-yard makes, and misses from 37 and 41. Maher is fifth in the league in accuracy, having made 28 of 33 kicks for an 84.8 per cent average. Maher also had three punts for 151 yards, keeping him atop the league in punting yards (3,121) and second in the league in average (46.6) among players who have played at least nine games. Maher also added a special teams tackle.

Former Husker Jonathan Rose had one tackle for the Redblacks and now has 35 tackles in 10 games.

Saskatchewan 38, Winnipeg 24

The Blue Bombers offensive line with former Husker Jermarcus Hardrick starting again at right tackle gave up just one sack in the annual Labour Day Classic in Regina. However the Bombers running game, which had been among the best in the league, struggled to 37 yards on 11 carries as Winnipeg fell behind early.

Calgary 39, Edmonton 18

Former Husker Ciante Evans had his most productive game of the season for Calgary, registering eight tackles and a forced fumble. Evans, who appeared in 14 games last season, is well on pace to break his 2016 total of 42 tackles. He has 31 through 10 games.

Canadians for Nebraska is a group of Husker fans in Canada not affiliated with the University of Nebraska. It can be found on Twitter @CdnsForNebraska.