2020 CFL Draft Prospects Face Uncertain Future

HAMILTON, ON - JUNE 13, 2019: Canadian Football League commissioner Randy Ambrosie prior to the season opener between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field on June 13, 2019. Hamilton defeated Saskatchewan 23-17. (Photo by John E. Sokolowski/Getty Images)

Five months ago, Adam Sinagra, quarterback for the Calgary Dinos, walked off the field at Telus Stadium in Quebec City having just led his team to their first Vanier Cup since 1995. The Pointe Clare, Quebec native was coming off a stellar U Sports career, throwing for 8,354 yards and 60 touchdowns — well on the way to being the CFL’s next Canadian pivot.

Sinagra’s work put him in the best position to enter the CFL Draft as a top prospect following graduation. Now, he doesn’t even know if the draft will go ahead. For many 2020 CFL Draft prospects such as Sinagra, the future is hazy and filled with many unanswered questions. The thought on all of their minds – will they have a chance in the CFL?

With the outbreak of COVID-19 disrupting the 2020 CFL season, many draft prospects are uncertain about their futures as pro football players. Financial insecurity, as well as government policy, will make the 2020 season hard to go ahead as scheduled. While this will worry seasoned CFL veterans, student-athletes have more cause for concern. Due to disruptions on both sides of the border, they might not have a chance in any of the major North American football leagues.

Combine Cancellations Disrupt Draft

On March 12, the CFL announced the cancellation of its regional combines following COVID-19 concerns. While the Ontario combine went ahead that day, the Eastern and Western Regional combines did not. Additionally, the league cancelled the National Combine, scheduled to take place from March 26–28. These events are college players’ big chance to show off their skills in front of general managers and coaches. Now that they’re cancelled, prospects have no more chances to prove themselves before the draft. Instead, coaches are assessing them using video footage — a poor substitute for the combines.

As a result, student-athletes will go into the draft, either from Canadian universities or the NCAA, as relative unknowns and at a significant disadvantage. One may argue that players perform just as well on tape as in person. However, without an in-person assessment, coaches may not have the information they need prior to drafting players. All prospects can do is hope they did enough in front of the cameras during their career.

 Questions around Contracts

It’s no surprise that salaries are at the forefront of CFL players’ minds. In an interview with TSN’s Matthew Scianitti, Ottawa quarterback Nick Arbuckle noted that players committed themselves to the league, adding he hopes that it’s reciprocated. From a players’ view, the CFL would do well to continue paying them through a cancelled or postponed season, similar to the XFL. If not, teams risk losing their players to a different sport or even a mainstream job. By paying base salaries whatever the state of the league, at least teams could retain their players for 2021.

However, the current salary insecurity is even more pressing for college players. TSN’s Marshall Ferguson notes that teams want to avoid paying newly drafted players amidst an uncertain schedule. This means that teams won’t sign draftees until there’s a scheduled start to the season, which the CFL has announced a postponement until at least July. As a result, teams aren’t financially incentivized to sign student-athletes. No stability equals no contract, making a CFL career unlikely for the 2020 draft class.

2020 Draft Prospects in Trouble

In reference to the uncertainty of the league, B.C. Lions general manager Ed Hervey said “it’s going to be challenging, but these are challenging times for everyone and it’s much larger than football.”

That much is true, but especially so for the players who are risking it all to make a career in football. Things will need to change drastically for this year’s draft prospects to stand a chance of a CFL career. However, if they retain the commitment and perseverance that embodies this sport, they may find new chances to get on the field. All the players can do is hope for the best, keep training, and prepare for anything coming their way.

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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