For many, January is a time a take a breath from the busy holiday season fresh in the rear mirror and await the dreaded credit card bill, but for the Lions it’s time to hit the road and begin the process of putting together the 2016 edition of the BC Lions. With three major scouting opportunities on the calendar Neil McEvoy, Ryan Rigmaiden and Geroy Simon will be taking in the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game and NFLPA Bowl this month alone.
“We had a nice flurry of signings to end the year with Arceneaux, Fraser and Menard getting contracts done and that’s some great momentum to work of heading into this month,” McEvoy. “These are not only valuable opportunities to take a look at players but it’s also great to build relationships with both coaches and executives across our league and the NFL.”
There’s plenty of casual conversations that turn into valuable resources down the road for many CFL teams and the Lions are no different.
“When you attend an event like the Senior Bowl, the reality is that we may spend more time talking to our counterparts in the NFL than watching the players because most of those guys are going to be drafted in the top three rounds which means they will be two or three years away from us getting an opportunity to sign them,” notes Geroy Simon. “Having them on our negotiation list and tracking their progress over the next few years is the process at this point. Building relationships with scouts in the NFL is very important because when these players starting getting released in training camps over the next few years you can get an accurate read on what they may be able to offer us.”
That kind of networking paid off a few times this past year but almost too well in the case of receivers Rasheed Bailey and Geraldo Boldevign. Both players were brought in during the CFL’s annual practice roster expansion period. Both players turned out to be very good acquisitions and both players have since earned NFL contracts.
“Yeah, those guys are exactly what we hope to get through this kind of process,” says McEvoy. “They’re skilled, they’re fast and they come to us from and NFL camp game-ready. They’re so game ready in fact that Jacksonville signed Rasheed from our practice roster a week after he arrived and Geraldo has about four different NFL offers to choose from right now. Plain and simple, we attract outstanding talent and we will continue to do that in the future.”
It’s January and training camp is a little more than just five months in the offing so the pace is picking up on the scouting end. In addition to a host of bowl games for college players set to turn pro it’s also time for the Lions to book all of their free agent camps that take place across the U.S. right into May.
“The key this month at these events is seeing guys in practice more so than the game,” notes Simon. “You want to see guys in drills to get an idea of their skillset, games with rosters that are thrown together in a week don’t show you a lot to be honest, but the cream typically rises to the top regardless.”
So while the dog days of winter set in, things are heating up at Lions HQ and the busiest days of the year are about to begin.
“I’m excited about what we’re going to be building on this year,” admits McEvoy. “The landscape is changing in our division and I believe we are going to be very competitive in 2016, but we need to improve, we need to get deeper and we need to be on top of our game.”