There are no Cameron Wakes in this year's class of CFL players who will be eligible to sign NFL contracts today.
Last winter, Wake, then of the B.C. Lions, received the biggest signing bonus ever for a CFL player jumping to the NFL, $1-million (all currency U.S.) from the Miami Dolphins.
Wake not only became wealthier, he was virtually guaranteed to make the Dolphins' roster based purely on the size of the investment the team had made in him.
Most CFL players who make the off-season jump to the NFL do so with less assurance. For example, another former Lion, Stefan Logan, wowed the Pittsburgh Steelers with his return game during the preseason and earned a job.
As usual, many will sign and few will stick. Based on conversations throughout the CFL in recent weeks, here are a dozen players who should attract the most interest:
S.J. Green, slotback, Montreal: Statistically, with just 15 catches and two touchdowns last season, he doesn't rank anywhere near Ben Cahoon, Jamel Richardson or Kerry Watkins. But at 24, 6 foot 2 and 216 pounds, with the ability to block downfield, Green will get his share of NFL interest this off-season. He played well when opportunities came his way in Montreal in 2009, including on special teams, which improves his appeal for the NFL.
Brandon Browner, cornerback, Calgary: Browner's size (6 foot 3, 210 pounds), age (25) and ability to play a physical style make him the most likely defensive back to wind up in the NFL next season. Browner attracted lots of interest last season but apparently his health was a question. If he gets past that, there should be an NFL opportunity for him.
Justin Medlock, kicker, Toronto: Originally cut by former head coach Bart Andrus, Medlock was brought back due to injury and began the season making 20 of his first 21 field-goal attempts, his only miss a 57-yarder that hit an upright. He cooled off and finished the season good on 40 of 46 attempts, an 87-per-cent clip that would rank him in the top third in the NFL this season. But it was his ability to hit from 50 yards and beyond - something he did three times in one game last season - that should open doors for him in the NFL.
Larry Taylor, kick returner, Montreal: In an off year for kick and punt returners in the CFL, Taylor was the best, and that will earn him a shot at filling that role in the NFL. He is just 5 foot 6, 177 pounds, but at 24, Taylor, who led the CFL in punt-return yards and touchdowns, will get signed.
Titus Ryan, wide receiver-kick returner, Winnipeg: A former track athlete, Ryan, 25, hadn't played that much football before coming to the CFL in 2009. Traded part way through the year to the Blue Bombers from the Stampeders, he proved his worth both on special teams, where he led the CFL in kickoff return yards, and catching the ball, with three touchdowns during the final three games of the season.
Sandro DeAngelis, kicker, Calgary: Since he's a pending unrestricted free agent, as opposed to an option-year player, DeAngelis isn't eligible to sign with an NFL team until mid-February. But coming off another strong year, the most accurate kicker in CFL history should garner some interest. He has made 83.8 per cent of his field goals through five CFL seasons.
Adarius Bowman, wide receiver, Winnipeg: He has an NFL body at 6 foot 4, 220 pounds and is still just 24. There were times this CFL season when he was the most dominant player on the field. Bowman was once a highly touted NFL prospect until off-field issues lowered his stock. But after two seasons without any distractions in that regard, he should be back on the NFL radar screen. Lack of flat-out speed remains an issue for him to overcome.
Andy Fantuz, slotback, Saskatchewan: Fantuz has the size - 6 foot 4, 220 pounds - and ability to catch the football that can make him an NFL player. In three seasons with Saskatchewan, he's evolved into one of the CFL's most reliable receivers. What he lacks is flat-out speed. That's a hard thing to overcome, but he is determined to give the NFL a shot and there are those in the CFL who think he can do it.
Ricky Foley, defensive lineman, B.C.: Foley, 27, is a great physical specimen (6 foot 2, 245 pounds) who signed originally with the Baltimore Ravens when he came out of York University. After a year starting on the B.C. Lions' defensive line, where he had 12 sacks, he'll probably get another shot at the NFL. As is often the case with defensive linemen, there's the matter of where he would play in the NFL. Outside linebacker on pass rushing downs, along with special teams, is probable.
Keron Williams, defensive lineman, Montreal: An intriguing physical prospect at 25, the question is whether Williams could adjust to a new role in the NFL. He won't play defensive tackle as he has for the Alouettes, which means moving to the edge or playing linebacker, which he did in college. A great all-round athlete, he might even be able to play fullback.
Ryan Grice-Mullen, kick returner, B.C.: He came out of school early by declaring himself eligible for the NFL draft two years ago but couldn't get through training camp with first the Texans and then the Bears. He hasn't exactly set the CFL on fire during two seasons in Canada. But he has developed into a decent returner, and at 23 should earn a chance to show if he can do that in the NFL.
Dimitri Tsoumpas, offensive lineman, Calgary: There isn't a lot of offensive-line talent that will attract the NFL this off-season, but Tsoumpas probably has the best shot of any based on his size alone, 6 foot 4, 315 pounds. There are technical aspects of his game that are positive, but some believe his footwork needs to improve before he could stick in the NFL. At 24, he's young enough to improve that.Report Typo/Error
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