Rookies From Previous Lions Drafts Who Made An Impact
While the NFL rookies are still letting their excitement sink in after hearing their names being called on the big screen, Canadian prospects who declared for the CFL draft are now ready to see their dreams become reality. The BC Lions have the 4th overall pick in Tuesday’s CFL Draft and also hold the 15th, 22nd, 40th and 51st overall selections.
Looking back at the club’s draft history, it may not be perfect. No team can say that about its draft history. Yet we’ve also managed to find a few pieces of the puzzle and hidden gems that are still household names today.
Players like Jason Clermont, Paris Jackson, Kelly Bates and Jason Arakgi are just a few players that were selected by the Lions and ended up having a great career in the league.
It’s time to revise some BC Lions rookies from the past ten drafts, who not only did immediately cracked the roster but also contributed on the field as Lions rookies.
RB Jamel Lyles, (2019) Round 8, 69th Overall
Even though he didn’t debut until week 14, the Surrey product had a solid rookie campaign in 2019, where he primarily played on special teams but he saw his role expands later into the season. Lyles was selected in the eighth round, 69th overall in the 2019 CFL draft and earned a spot on the practice roster after the training camp.
He debuted against the Ottawa Redblacks and finished the remainder of the season on the active roster. Lyles made his 11 carries count for 86 yards, including a 36-yard run against Ottawa in Week 15. On special teams, Lyles had a total of six returns for 114 yards. His longest return was against Montreal in Week 16 for 39 yards.
WR Marco Iannuzzi, (2011) Round 1, 6th Overall
Shaq Johnson and Lamar Durant are two impact Canadian Lions for 2021 and beyond. But Johnson didn’t receive more touches until year two. Meanwhile, Durant was in Calgary for four seasons before switching to orange and black.
It was the man out of Harvard, Marco Iannuzzi, who made some splashes in his rookie season for the Lions. In 15 regular-season games, Iannuzzi squeezed in eight catches for 65 yards and registered 16 punt returns for 135 yards.
Although it may not seem much, Iannuzzi was a part of the 2011 Grey Cup team was stacked with pass catchers. It would set up his success in year two and onwards with the club.
OL Hunter Steward, (2013) Round 1, 6th Overall
Since 2011, the club has drafted 16 offensive linemen. Players like Hunter Steward, Peter Godber and David Knevel all showed upside in their rookie campaign, but injuries held Steward and Godber off the field. Steward went through a knee injury in his rookie year in 2014, but he managed to start seven straight games before going down again with a foot injury. Steward was a full participant in 2019.
He will hopefully keep those streaks going in 2021 as the offensive line requires his leadership on the field. Godber, replaced former Lion, Cody Husband near the end of the 2018 season, but was sidelined after just two weeks due to a leg injury. Knevel, who appeared in 16 games during his rookie year mainly served as a backup at guard and tackle. Still, the Nebraska Cornhusker was a reliable extra lineman.
LB Jordan Herdman-Reed, (2017) Round 7, 60th Overall
In the 2017 CFL Draft, the Lions picked up Frederic Chagnon out of the University of Montreal and Jordan Herdman-Reed from SFU. Both of them contributed on special teams and finished their rookie year with 10-plus special teams tackles. But it was Herdman-Reed who quickly excelled and expanded his role from special teams to his main position at linebacker in the following year.
In 2018, Herdman-Reed recorded 56 tackles, 17 special teams tackles and two sacks under his name. He’ll be joining his twin brother, Justin in Saskatchewan for 2021. Meanwhile, the Lions do get 2013 draft pick Bo Lokombo back after he spent 2019 in Montreal. The rest of the linebackers will have to pick up the production Herdman-Reed had left behind over the last few seasons.
DB Anthony Thompson, (2016) Round 2, 12th Overall
The hard-hitting defensive back could lineup at safety and corner. He would always attack the ball and run from one end to another. The product out of Southern Illinois University was a great fit for the Lions’ secondary. In his rookie year, Thompson appeared 18 games and registered eight defensive tackles, six special teams tackles and one forced fumble.
His production significantly increased in the following two years, where he transformed into an exciting player to watch. His first career interception came along on August 5, 2017 against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He also managed to record 36 defensive stops two seasons in a row from 2017-18, making him an important asset on defence.
DL: Jabar Westerman, (2012) Round 1, 2nd Overall
The 2012 Jackie Parker Trophy winner is a force of nature. Usually, it takes a first-year player some time to settle down and adjust to the next level. But that wasn’t the case for Westerman. The Lions also have success in drafting defensive linemen over the last ten years.
Some notable names like Westerman are David Menard and Junior Luke, who were all defensive standouts for the Lions.
Westerman recorded four sacks in 2012, Menard and Luke also added two sacks each under their belts as a rookie. Westerman played in eight CFL seasons, most recently with the Calgary Stampeders in 2019, has been a disruptive interior since he entered the league. He has appeared for 123 games, made 103 tackles, registered 18 sacks, one interception and four forced fumbles since 2012.
The 2020 draft class has yet to see the field, they’ll be joining the 2021 draft class in this year’s training camp. For the Lions, it’ll be five more players on top of the seven guys drafted last April. Plus the four global players and a number of offseason signees, which will make the camp more competitive and interesting to see who has what it takes to be a Lion. Bring on the rookies. It will be a fun camp.