Stocking The Cupboard | McEvoy, Lions Ready For Combine

For many folks in our fine country, the middle of March represents a chance to escape for a few days of warm sunshine and scenery. Not the case for Neil McEvoy, the BC Lions and their eight Canadian Football League counterparts whose next major event is CFL National Combine is on tap from March 19-24 in Winnipeg. Perhaps not the Spring Break destination choice for the average Canadian, but for a Lions squad anxious to further re-stock its cupboard with homegrown talent, there is no better place to be. spent a few moments with McEvoy who, along with a group including head coach Rick Campbell, assistant GM Ryan Rigmaiden and head Canadian scout Rob Ralph, are already firmly entrenched in the process of evaluating the best 80-plus prospects eligible for the April 30th CFL Draft. As the Lions’ co-GM and director of football operations states, there will be more exciting elements to the combine besides 40-yard dashes and one-on-one drills.

“It’s a good it’s a good opportunity to see them in person and not only see their on -field production but it gives you an opportunity to see them off of it and how they present themselves in the interview process,” McEvoy explained.

“You really get the opportunity just to get to know the player you’re drafting. These guys come into it wanting to be part of your football team, part of a team that’s already a family environment. You want to be sure these individuals not only have the ability to play but have the ability to fit in with your current group of guys.”

It’s been stated over and over again, teams in this league with the most sustained success have one common denominator: elite Canadians at multiple positions. The Lions’ cupboard has been well stocked in the last few years with the likes of Ben Hladik, Adrian Greene and Riley Pickett working their way into starting roles. The brass has also slowly been stocking up with some young offensive linemen, a core that includes 2018 draft pick and now starter David Knevel and 2021 selection Tyler Packer who has benefited from two seasons on the practice roster.

Neil McEvoy and the Lions' braintrust are exciting to stock the prospect cupboard as CFL National Combine goes next week in Winnipeg.

McEvoy and the Lions hold eight selections in the 2024 CFL Draft, including a pair in the second round thanks to new league incentive. Photo: Steven Chang, BC Lions.

Many draft prospects who could be a fit may be relied to step in and contribute on special teams. McEvoy points to Hladik, a third-round pick in 2021, as the best recent example of someone who climbed up their draft board after watching him in the Combine process.

“Ben is a guy who has really stepped up for our organization. We didn’t draft him thinking he was going to be our starting middle linebacker; he was drafted because he was for sure going to be a solid special teams player and had the body. He’s really developed into a difference maker for us, so that’s an example of a home run,” the co-GM said.

The Lions currently hold eight selections in the Draft with their first selection coming at number six. This year also features a reward, as the Lions have been given an extra second-round pick (19th overall) as the result of having the most Nationals take snaps in 2023. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were next best in that category and are rewarded with the 20th selection. All the more reason to keep finding quality Canadians to play key roles throughout the roster.

Neil McEvoy and the Lions' braintrust are exciting to stock the prospect cupboard as CFL National Combine goes next week in Winnipeg.

The Lions nabbed UBC product Ben Hladik (pictured left of 2023 draft pick Siriman Bagayogo) in round three of the 2021 CFL Draft. Photo: Steven Chang, BC Lions.

“It’s a great reward in our case because it’s an extra pick we get after trading our fourth-round pick for Scary Terry (Williams) a couple of years ago,” McEvoy added.

“Getting one at the end of the second round makes the entire thing an upgrade in the end.”

With the squad’s Canadian cupboard sitting pretty well for a team firmly in its Grey Cup window, the CFL Combine and Draft process also allows teams some flexibility for the future. Defensive backs Charlie Ringland out of Saskatchewan (round five, 43rd overall) and Jassin States-McClean out of St. Mary’s (round six, 52nd overall) will attend a second training camp with the club.

Ringland suffered a torn ACL in last year’s Combine and likely would have been a first or second-round pick while States-McClean was let go as part of the final cuts and re-signed at the end of the season. McEvoy and company will always be on the lookout for players who can help in the long run.

“For a lot of those guys, it’s good for them to go back and contribute to their college team before coming back to show us they’re meant to be in this environment,” he said.

All in all, this upcoming week serves both an exciting and essential piece to building that championship roster.

“This is professional football. It’s the top of the pyramid. If you don’t have the attributes to be a rookie, you’re going to get weeded out. It’s fun to replenish the cupboard and then see how it all comes together in camp.”

Stocking The Cupboard | List Of Lions’ 2024 CFL Draft Picks

Round 1- 6th overall
Round 2- 15th overall
Round 2- 19th overall *Pick awarded as the result of having the most National snaps in 2023.
Round 3- 26th overall
Round 5- 44th overall
Round 6- 53rd overall
Round 7- 62nd overall
Round 8- 71st overall

** The Lions’ round four selection (35th overall) belongs to the Ottawa REDBLACKS as part of the trade for return man Terry Williams in September 2022.