Ese Mrabure-Ajufo – 1ST Pick – 5th Overall – Wilfred Laurier – Defensive Line
Remember my pre-draft post calling the CFL Draft one of the biggest crapshoots in sports? The Lions proved it with their first pick (5th overall). Defensive lineman Ese Mrabure-Ajufo of Wilfred Laurier was the name submitted by the Lions, much to the shock of many not only on TSN, but on social media. None of my coveted potential Lions were selected by the club on this day and in the end the Lions drafted to the beat to their own drum.
Not many thought the Lions would pass on adding one of the high quality offensive linemen in the draft, but the ones they wanted were gone, and as such the Lions turned their attention to the other side of the trenches, drafting Mrabure-Ajufo. Even ahead of the higher ranked Daryl Waud.
Wally Buono and his staff like the potential they see in the Wilfred Laurier product, but it was somewhat puzzling they took him so early, when they likely could have picked him up in a later round. There is no questioning that depth on the defensive line needed to be addressed and Buono likes the young man’s pass rushing skills.
Buono says he watched game tape on Mrabure-Ajufo prior to combine. “At times, he showed some great pass rush skills.” #BCLions
— Cam Tucker (@CamTucker_Metro) May 13, 2015
#BCLions Wally Buono lauded Mrabure-Ajufo’s athletic ability. Says he can play inside on second down and can contribute on special teams.
— Cam Tucker (@CamTucker_Metro) May 13, 2015
The former Laurier Golden Hawk recorded 25.5 tackles, 5.5 sacks and a fumble recovery last season and recorded the third fastest time of all defensive linemen at the CFL combine.
Mrabure-Ajufo will be a project and the Lions will work with him. He may turn out to be one of those steals of the draft one day, but there will be a lot of fans keeping track of the likes of Danny Groulx (Edmonton) and Jacob Ruby (Montreal) in the meantime.
Prospects: The Lions need defensive line depth from Canadian players so expect this project player to be given a serious look at training camp. He will cut his teeth on special teams while Lions coaches work with the finer points of his game.
Brett Boyko – 14th Overall – UNLV – Offensive Line
Does the name Danny Watkins ring a bell? Brett Boyko is currently under contract to the Philadelphia Eagles (coincidently, so was Watkins), so the Lions and their fans will have to hope that the big man finds his way to the CFL one day. If he does the Lions got the best offensive lineman in the draft. If he doesn’t, the pick will be questioned like the Watkins one was and the pick of Oshiomogho Atogwe before him.
The Lions will likely have to wait a season or two to find out if their gamble paid off. But imagine Boyko and Hunter Steward as bookend Canadian tackles, and you can see where the Lions are going with this.
Boyko is described as having great football intelligence and can read defences extremely well. One knock on him from NFL scouting reports is a lack of foot quickness.
Prospects: He has an NFL contract, so he likely won’t be here anytime soon. The best the Lions can hope for is they get to see him in a year or two, but if they do, they got a beauty.
Shaquille Murray-Lawrence – 23rd Overall – UNLV – Running Back
Described as an explosive, lightning quick back, Murray-Lawrence came highly recommended by Lions regional scout and Buono confidante Roy Shivers. He gives the Lions a nice depth option behind Andrew Harris, something the Lions have been lacking in recent years.
Forde had this to say about Murray-Lawrence, who he ranked as the 2nd best back in the draft behind Tyler Varga who was drafted by Calgary:
Possesses the speed to regularly break contain but he is equally effective running between the tackles…also a willing pass blocker.
Prospects: The Lions have been looking for a backup to Andrew Harris so expect Murray-Lawrence to compete in camp, perhaps trying his hand at kick returns while getting some reps behind Harris to try to get himself onto the roster.
Adrian Clarke – 32nd Overall – LB – Bishops
Likely drafted as a special teams player, LB Adrian Clarke certainly won’t be pushing Solomon Elimimian or Adam Bighill for their jobs anytime soon. The 3rd ranked linebacker in the draft by Duane Forde’s rankings, Clarke is described as somewhat inconsistent with the physical aspect of his game, but he makes up for that with strong athleticism which should make him a candidate for teams.
Prospects: Will have to make the roster on special teams. Will compete with the likes of Jason Arakgi, Casey Chin and Boseko Lokombo so he will have his work cut out for him.
Campbell Allison – 41st Overall – OL – Eastern Michigan
At 6’6″ and anywhere between 315 and 340 pounds depending on what report you read, Campbell Allison is a big body. He’s listed as a guard but also played some tackle at Eastern Michigan.
One thing to be wary of is this nugget from Justin Dunk:
Flat out, Allison came to the National CFL Combine looking very out of shape. Poor results in the testing portion of the event followed by a sub par showing in the one-on-one session caused his stock to fall.
Not exactly what you want to hear as a Lions fan, so it sounds like Campbell will be somewhat of a project for the Lions and new offensive line coach Doug Malone.
Prospects: If he shows up in Kamloops as he did in the combine, he won’t be there long. But his size and potential are likely what the Lions would like to take a look at and see if they can work on the fitness levels with strength and conditioning coach Chris Boyko.
Christian Covington – 43rd Overall (Via Hamilton) – DL – Rice
Not content with the risk they took drafting Boyko, the Lions also took a flyer drafting home product Christian Covington, son of former CFL great and Hall of Famer Grover. Covington also has an NFL deal, and was the only player drafted in this year’s NFL draft from Canada, by the Houston Texans. Widely regarded as the best player in the draft, taking him where they did the Lions will either get the best defensive player in the draft, or they will never see him.
Covington’s NFL scouting report says.
“He has a short, squatty build with a low center of gravity and long arms. Possesses good initial quickness off the snap to split gaps and has active hands. Locates the football quickly, showing the awareness to blow up misdirection draws and screens and get his hands up in passing lanes. Too powerful for offensive linemen at this level. Frequently was able to drive through them and into the backfield when single-blocked. Good leg drive and core strength.”
It also addresses his weaknesses:
“Only average size for the NFL and his frame appears to be maxed out. Does not possess ideal balance. Too often is knocked to the turf on cut-blocks. Lacks the speed to offer much in pursuit to the perimeter or downfield. Questionable level of competition. Requires a thorough medical check. Missed half of 2014 with a knee injury that ultimately required season-ending surgery and played with a big cast over his right arm in 2013 to protect a thumb injury.”
Prospects: Regardless, his talent was enough to get him drafted in the NFL, and the Lions will be lucky to see him anytime soon. But if they end up with Boyko and Covington one day, you will look back on this draft as a huge success. The pick was the one obtained from Hamilton for SJ Haidara. If Covington does play for the Lions, you would have to think that’s a pretty good deal.
Joshua Brinkworth – 49th Overall – DB – Pacific
The Lions add to their Canadian depth in the secondary and draft Joshua Brinkworth out of Pacific. As you can see by his highlight video on Hudl, he likes to hit.
Prospects: Brinkworth has played some safety, and will no doubt get a look there in rookie camp. If the Lions like what they see, they’ll see what he can do against the vets, possibly competing with Chris Rwabukamba for that coveted national roster spot the Lions would love to fill. Edit: Lowell Ullrich has posted that the Lions will soon be announcing the release of Matt McGarva.
Maxx Forde – 58th Overall – DE – University of Idaho
Forde was given a rookie camp invite by the Chicago Bears but left without a contract. Another option for depth on the defensive line, Forde was ranked third (ahead of the Lions first pick Mrabure-Ajofu) by draft guru Duane Forde (no relation) who praises his athleticism and upside.
Forde has some solid potential, and could be a sleeper pick if he can take his game to the next level as a pro.
Prospects: Forde will hope to impress enough to stick around on special teams while he works on his craft to eventually see time on a defensive line that loves to rotate players in and out.