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April 2, 2019

RIGHT AT HOME: NO ROOKIE FEELING FOR CLAYBROOKS AT CFL COMBINE

Toronto, ON- On the surface, it’s yet another ‘first time as a head coach’ endeavour. Yet for DeVone Claybrooks, the 2019 CFL National Combine is far from his first rodeo when it comes to helping his boss evaluate players.

As the drills were wrapping up at the University of Toronto on Sunday afternoon, the Lions’ new sideline boss is looking forward to being a part of the evaluation leading up to the May 2nd CFL Draft. The best part? Claybrooks doesn’t have the feel of a rookie.

“It really doesn’t feel any different, to be honest,” Claybrooks said in a chat with bclions.com.

“You just try to get a good idea of what the kids are going to be able to do, who has been putting in the work. When you have the interview process you want to see if it translates over to the field and that kind of thing. It’s been a fun weekend.”

As GM Ed Hervey reminded us last week, the real trick when it comes to these evaluations is finding out who the really good athletes are and catching some of the characteristics that don’t show up on game film.

“Agree 100 per cent,” the head coach added.

“You might see a jump or a vertical ball (on film) or that type of thing but now when they’re jumping and doing the metrics you really get to see and get a good eye on them. I think that’s imperative.”

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Hervey, along with CFL draft coordinator Geroy Simon and director of player development Torey Hunter ultimately carries the most weight when it comes to putting the final list together and calling the player names on May 2nd. That doesn’t mean Claybrooks hasn’t been watching with a keen eye as his Canadian content gets planned for the rookie coaching voyage.

Coming from a Calgary Stampeders organization that has executed finding Canadian players like art, he knows what his new team needs to do in order to get to the next level and remain competitive for years to come.

“You’ve got to think about it in a way that you can’t win without your Canadians no matter what,” he said.

“That’s how you establish and stockpile your depth. This is the first step. We’ve been watching film on these guys for a while now. So now you get to put a face to a name and actually have a good conversation. I think it’s imperative for any team that’s successful to have good Canadian content, good Canadian depth. Even though you have starters you’ve got to have people behind them that are able to play at a high level as well because injuries do happen.”

A defensive lineman at heart, Claybrooks would love nothing more than to find a diamond in the rough at that position at some point in the draft. He and Hervey both know they have to stick with the board, regardless of position.

“You just aim for good players, in general. It doesn’t really matter what position they are,” the head coach said.

“You just want good players that can add to your Canadian content and if you’re able to find some good players that are solid and understand their roles then they can grow into stars.”

Global Considerations

This year’s Combine twist involved 18 European prospects going through the testing drills and interview routines. Although it remains to be seen just how the league will handle the next step as far as getting these players into every team’s respective camps, Hervey was of the mind getting to see players from Italy, France, Germany, Denmark and Finland provided an interesting new perspective.

“For them, I would think that it’s been quite an exciting adventure and for us, it’s an opportunity to see players that we know very little about and haven’tĀ seen on film. Having the chance to see them live and in person and see where their skill set fits within the game and how they compare to some of the up and coming draft picks was good for us, especially today with the one-on-ones. It’s been good,” Hervey said.

As it stands now, Hervey and the Lions aren’t on the clock until the 24th overall selection in round three. He also holds the 40th, 47th, 49th, 58th and 67th picks. Those decisions in the mid-later rounds can often pay off in a big way. That’s what Hervey and the brass will keep in mind as they return home and begin the process of tweaking their draft list.

“The next stage is filtering through the list, taking the information we have from this combine and basically consolidating the film clips that we do have of individual players,” Hervey explained.

“Some guys stood out a little bit more here in their interview and there were some guys that maybe have gone in the other direction. In any case, it’s a follow up on the information that we’ve gathered from their schools. We start grading them as a group as we build toward the draft.”

His first draft as GM of the Lions was a success with five of seven selections seeing significant game action in 2018. You get the sense hard work will once again pay off; even if they have to wait a few minutes to call in their first pick.

“Sustainability is important, especially with the movement of players,” Hervey said.

“We have to be able to re-stock, for lack of a better term, our Canadian players and get players we know can play sooner rather than later.”

Let the games begin.

Ā Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com