Calgary Stampeders GM Dave Dickenson lauds talent ahead of CFL Draft

Annual combine helps GMs, scouts negotiate prospects’ drive to play three-down football

Article content

Dave Dickenson got a glimpse of the future at the CFL Combine.

The Calgary Stampeders GM/head coach hopes it’s a positive look forward …

Article content

Especially if it helps him choose wisely at the 2024 CFL Draft late next month.

“Yeah … we got needs,” said Dickenson, whose team finished 6-12 in last year’s regular season before being bounced by the BC Lions in the West Division semifinal tilt. “I think how you do in the Canadian draft is going to take your team a long way.

Advertisement 2

Article content

“So picking higher than we have in the past, we just want to make sure to make it count and find some good players.”

Indeed, the Stamps draft from the No. 4 spot in the annual pick-em after finishing fourth-last in the standings.

While that slot guarantees them a shot at a highly prized prospect, it doesn’t guarantee Dickenson and his drafting department are able to secure a top-available Canadian draft-eligible talent coming out of the NCAA and U SPORTS ranks.

That’s because more and more Canadians are getting noticed by the NFL scouts, giving them more options to try their hand at four-down football instead of heading straight to the CFL.

“I do find more and more Canadians are sticking more in the States, which makes our job a little tougher,” said Dickenson, looking ahead to the April 30 draft day. “It’s who do you draft? And are you just kind of on their waiting list? That’s the big challenge for us.

“The Canadian talents have gotten better, which means the American NFL game has taken note. They seem to be staying down there longer and making a big impact down there, which makes our job a little tougher up here in the CFL to draft guys that you may not necessarily ever see.”

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

Recommended from Editorial

Cue the CFL combine, which was held over five days last week in Winnipeg, to help scouts and general managers negotiate the athletes’ abilities and drive to play the three-down game.

Upwards of 90 Canadian footballers took to the camp to showcase their wares — in fitness testing and on-field drills — for CFL gurus, including Dickenson.

“I think we really enjoy the padded aspects of the combine,” said the Stampeders boss. “A lot of times, we call it the Olympics, meaning that with the testing results, you want a certain standard of athlete.

“But I I really enjoy the actual practices — who plays with leverage, who understands where to sit down in the zones as receiver, protection for running back along the offensive line …

“I mean … I just really like the way we do it. I like the on-field practices with more football drills rather than just straight running the Olympic-type of drills. We get a lot out of it. We’re able to really look at these guys and evaluate them on more than just their physical athleticism.”

Advertisement 4

Article content

CFL Combine
University of Manitoba Bisons quarterback Jackson Tachinski of Winnipeg performs at the CFL Combine in Winnipeg. Tachinski, who put up strong numbers for the Bisons in his first full year as a starter in 2023, recently worked out with current New England Patriots quarterback Nathan Rourke in Vancouver, picking up some valuable tips on how to proceed with his pursuit of a football career. Andrew Mahon/CFL

As for the on-field stars, plenty of prospects stuck out during the combine held at the Winnipeg Soccer Federation indoor facility and at The Fort Garry Hotel.

Among them were: Quarterback Jack Zergiotas (Montreal, NCAA Merrimack); running back Matthew Peterson (Brooks, Alta., U SPORTS Alberta); receivers Ezechiel Tieide (Lachine, Que., U SPORTS Concordia) and Kevin Mital (Saint-Hubert, Que., U SPORTS Laval); offensive linemen George Una (Toronto, U SPORTS Windsor) and Nathaniel Dumoulin-Duguay (Rimouski, Que., U SPORTS Laval); defensive linemen Adrian Gonzalez (Mexico, NCAA Eastern Michigan) and Owen Hubert (Norwood, Ont., U SPORTS McMaster); linebacker Eteva Mauga-Clements (American Samoa, NCAA Nebraska); and defensive backs Tyshon Blackburn (Calgary, U SPORTS Alberta), Arthur Hamlin (Ottawa, NCAA Colgate) and Jerrell Cummings (Vancouver, U SPORTS UBC).

“I think the league has opened up quite a bit,” said Dickenson, of drafting Canadians at any position. “At running back — whether you want to claim that Jerome Messam and Jon Cornish and those guys kind of changed the tide there — it seems like Canadian running backs are doing better and better and better.

Advertisement 5

Article content

“And then the Canadian DBs and safeties are as good as anybody, like (Montreal Alouettes’ Marc-Antoine Ducroix). And then now quarterback would be the kind of last of the spots, and guys are making an impact there, as well, with (New England Patriots’) Nathan Rourke and (Edmonton Elks’) Tre Ford and other guys.

“So I just think you pick the guy that fits your team and you’re not too concerned. All positions are wide open to be drafted and make it work for your team.”

CFL Combine
Nathaniel Dumoulin-Duguay (left), shown in a handout photo from the CFL combine, doesn’t have any problem with football coaches yelling instructions or criticism. The offensive lineman out of Laval University spent almost a year in the Canadian Army and says basic training included long days starting at 4 a.m. and military personnel barking out orders. Andrew Mahon/CFL

One of the best aspects of the annual combine, says Dickenson, is being able to get up close and personal with prospects over the duration of the event to ensure he’s a fit for the team.

“I don’t want to put a lot of credence into what I hear,” Dickenson said. “I want to see it with my eyes. I want to meet the person. I want to talk to him. I want to have a chance to interact with them. I feel better about that than maybe taking somebody’s word for it.

“We all have a certain guy we think, ‘Oh, that’s a Calgary Stampeder.’ But for the most part, I think we all want guys that football is a priority and it’s important to them and they’re willing to work through (issues) and be a resilient man — somebody that’s not going to, at the first sign of it not going your way, just shut it down. Those are the things, I think, that frustrate us the most as coaches.”

Advertisement 6

Article content

He points to Canadian twins Jalen and Tyson Philpot — former University of Calgary Dinos standouts, with the former now a receiver with the Stampeders — as the kind of prospects to get excited about ahead of the CFL Draft.

“I think kids have been getting taught from a young age, and the Philpots are an example of that, with their dad (former CFLer Cory) and that they’ve been going to camps. They’re good smart football players that can compete with anybody.

“So Canadian athletes to me, I don’t really like to label them, because they’re just as talented (as Americans), they work just as hard and a lot of them have just as much background now (than Americans),” added Dickenson. “I mean … when I first came to the league, some of the guys would be hockey players and they just started playing football when they went to university. So they were just good athletes, and they were still learning the game. And I don’t think that’s the case anymore.”

[email protected]

X: @ToddSaelhofPM

Article content