Historic CFL Draft of European players set for April 11

When the Canadian Football League (CFL) holds its one-round European player draft  Thursday, April 11. the nine CFL teams will be able to draft any of the 18 ‘global’ players that participated in the CFL Combine in late March.

The draft will mark a historic moment in CFL history making it the first ever draft of European players.

The 18 European players eligible for the draft come from five different countries – Germany, France, Finland, Denmark and Italy – and were selected by coaches/officials from their own countries.

Following a weighted draft with all nine CFL clubs, the draft order for the “European” draft is as follows (the full CFL Draft of Canadian players takes place May 2):

EUROPEAN DRAFT PRIORITY ORDER

Of the 18 players who participated in the CFL Combine in late March, nine will be picked.

CFL coaches and scouts spent two days watching the European players compete in all the drills along with the Canadian prospects from both Canadian and American colleges, along with and Canadian junior football players.

European player combine results

Based on the results, which to be fair to the European players, were not truly indicative of how well they can perform, nine players will be drafted, one by each CFL team, starting with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The “Euros” had at most a couple of weeks to prepare for a Combine, the likes of which none had attended before. They had had maybe an night or two to recover from “jet lag” or the time difference, which is six hours. So if their test results were on the whole, below average for their positions, it is understandable. Nevertheless a couple of them performed very well.

Let’s take a look at which of these prospects might have the best chance of getting drafted.

One of the top rated Europeans in the eyes of some CFL coaches was France’s Valentin Gnahoua. The 24 year old, who plays for Germany’s Berlin Rebels and spent a year with the Canadian college team, the McGill Redmen, impressed with his size, strength and explosiveness. He did well in his one-on-one drills and is likely to be a high pick.

Germany’s Thiadric Hansen, now with the Potsdam Royals but formerly a Kiel Baltic Hurricane, is another similar type of player. Measured at just under 6’2″ and 233 lbs, the athletic Hansen is extremely difficult for coaches to scheme for. As one prominent European club coach said “He still has yet to play his best football.” His explosion was clearly evident in his vertical jump which measured 38″.

Another possible high pick is the German defensive tackle, Marc Anthony Hor. He delivered some of the best results of the Europeans in the Combine and also performed well in the one-on-one drills.  According to European coaches, he is the best run-stuffing defensive lineman in Germany. Playing for the Frankfurt Universe, GFL finalists in 2018, he created havoc in the middle for opposing offenses. “He literally eats up double teams.” said another coach.

Offensive tackle Alessandro Vergani from Italy, is regarded by some to be the best o-lineman in Europe and plays for the number one team, the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns. He performed at times very well in the on-on-one drills but at times not so well. He could go high,but may be hampered by the fact he is an offensive lineman. This is a traditionally “Canadian” position and until the ratios are set, he may be in tough.

Finnish wide receiver Kimi Linnainmaa received positive comments from coaches and was called upon four times for one-on-one drills. He recorded a decent 40 yard dash time, 4.73 seconds and displayed sure hands. As a slotback, he might be worth a draft pick by one of the teams.

France’s Asnnel Robo, a fireplug of a running back who played for the University of Montreal, ran the fastest 40 of the group, 4.59, and had a 33.5″ vertical. With his familiarity with the Canadian three-down game, and potential for even more speed, he could be of interest to CFL teams.

Other dark horses include teammates Max Zimmermann a receiver from Germany, and Danish receiver Frederik Nielsen both of whom play for the Potsdam Royals in the German Football League. Both receivers recorded mediocre 40 yard dash times but impressed as sure-handed receivers. Scouts were also looking for ability to gain separation in one-on-one drills and other things.

French linebacker Maxime Rouyer caught the eye of one coach and given his knowledge of the Canadian game having played at McGill, he could be a good special teams prospect.

Another linebacker, Roni Salonen from Finland, showed good speed and quickness and is another prospect for special teams. One of the leading defenders in the German Football League, his aggressiveness around the ball is an added bonus factor.

Drafts are always difficult to predict and teams can change their minds at the last minute. This is a huge commitment from clubs and they have to be careful not to squander an opportunity. In other words, read this assessment with caution.

AFI
American Football International is your source for news and updates about American Football outside the United States!
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