Linden Gaydosh and Mike Edem haven't performed for Canadian Football League officials in months, but that hasn't prevented their draft stock from skyrocketing.
The Calgary Dinos defensive stalwarts have emerged as favourites to go first overall in the CFL draft Monday. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who were tied with Winnipeg at 6-12 for the league's worst record last year, have the top pick.
The Blue Bombers select second, followed by Montreal, Saskatchewan, Montreal again, B.C., Calgary and Grey Cup-champion Toronto before expansion Ottawa completes the first round.
Edmonton opens the second round at No. 10 overall. Ottawa will take four players returning to school in the U.S. but participate fully in the 2014 draft ahead of its scheduled CFL return.
This year's draft will offer a different twist as Monday the CFL expanded its format from six rounds to seven.
Gaydosh, a six-foot-four, 314-pound defensive lineman, and Edem, a six-foot-one, 200-pound linebacker, are both blue-chip prospects. The CFL's scouting bureau listed Gaydosh third in its final list of the top-15 ranked players and Edem at No. 10.
'I also think Canadian players and the CIS have both really stepped up their game.'— Blue Bombers GM Joe Mack
Further helping their cause, though, is six of the seven top-ranked prospects are either returning to school or heading to NFL camps. For CFL executives like Winnipeg general manager Joe Mack, that means having to re-evaluate their draft strategy.
"That's happening more and more the last few years because the NFL is being more thorough in the scouting of Canadian kids," Mack said. "I also think Canadian players and the CIS have both really stepped up their game.
"But it makes things a little more problematic because not only must you evaluate whether players coming up will be good CFL players but also if a) you think they might get an NFL shot and b) you think they have a shot to stick because if they do, you might be better off looking at somebody else."
School, NFL attractive
Oregon linebacker Bo Lokombo was ranked No. 1 but is returning to school. Regina defensive tackle Stefan Charles (No. 2) and McMaster offensive lineman Matt Sewell (No. 4) both signed with Tennessee as free agents following the NFL draft.
Eastern Michigan offensive lineman Andy Mulumba (No. 5) signed with the NFL's Green Bay Packers while offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan (No. 6) will play at Iowa this fall.
McMaster defensive lineman Ben D'Aguilar (No. 7) is attending Tampa Bay's mini-camp this weekend and has also been invited to the New York Jets camp as well as that of another unspecified NFL team. C.O. Prime, an unranked linebacker at Wagner College who's also draft eligible, signed with the Indianapolis Colts.
The six-foot-five, 324-pound Charles was the overwhelming favourite to go first overall Monday before signing with Tennessee. What's more, a source told The Canadian Press the deal included a five-figure signing bonus that could further delay Charles' return to Canada.
The bonus is an indication of Tennessee's interest in Charles. The native of Oshawa, Ont., could spend up to three years on the Titans' practice roster before either being promoted to the active roster or released.
"That definitely makes you re-evaluate his particular situation," Mack said. "I wouldn't be surprised if he dropped to the second round [of the CFL draft] because of that."
Many CFL teams prefer their early draft picks to join them at training camp rather than midway through the season following a failed NFL tryout or the next year after completing school. Gaydosh and Edem could certainly fit that bill.
Gaydosh impressed at the CFL combine in March, finishing second in the bench press (36 repetitions) before dominating in the 1-on-1 drills. Edem showed his athleticism with a 38.5-inch vertical jump and 40-yard dash time of 4.57 seconds (both tops among linebackers).
Both are also Canadians capable of developing into starters at a position usually reserved for Americans. That would give a CFL team, which is allowed to have a 42-man active roster, some lineup flexibility.
Gaydosh might be ranked higher by the CFL's scouting bureau, but Edem does present some enticing value as a No. 1 pick. He could contribute immediately on special teams while learning the nuances of Hamilton's defence.
Also as a native of Brampton, Ont., Edem would be playing close to home and more likely to re-sign with Hamilton after completing his rookie deal. In 2009, the Ticats took Alberta offensive lineman Simeon Rottier first overall but lost the native of Westlock, Alta., when he signed with Edmonton as a free agent after three seasons.
Last year, slotback Andy Fantuz, a native of Chatham, Ont., cited playing closer to home as a reason for signing as a free agent with Hamilton after starting his CFL career with Saskatchewan.
Gaydosh has the potential to become a dominant presence inside. But there's also a chance of the Alberta native wanting to play closer to home when he signs his second CFL deal.
Mack knows all about this. In 2008, Winnipeg selected offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte sixth overall but lost the native of Weyburn, Sask., as a free agent to Saskatchewan following the 2011 season.
"I've found, particularly in my second stint in the CFL, that's a much bigger factor than it was," Mack said. "You've seen it many times players wanting to get back to their home province or their home city and it is something we definitely take into consideration."
Each year teams at the top of the draft receive trade offers from those wanting to move up. Mack figures that will again be the case leading up to the draft Monday even with many of the top prospects being tied up by the NFL.
While he'll definitely listen to offers for the No. 2 pick, Mack fully expects to be on the clock when it's time for the second selection to be made.
"I know everyone could have their draft boards evaluated differently and they could vary slightly based upon need," Mack said. "But we have four or five [prospects] who are definitely on a higher plateau and so we'd be hesitant to trade out of that plateau.
"That's because we don't think, at least for our needs, there are players we feel could be starters long-term."