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Bombers GM Walters just trying to prepare as if everything is full speed head in CFL

The questions are not ones Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ general manger Kyle Walters ever expected to hear.

How do you prepare for national and global drafts without a combine or any of the usual scouting visits?

How do you fill out your roster without the benefit of free-agent recruiting in the United States?

How do you even prep for a CFL season that is shrouded in uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic?

We’ll let Walters answer the last question first.

“We’re just prepping as if the draft and global draft and training camps are full speed ahead,” Walters said in a phone interview Monday. “If and when news comes that that’s not accurate, then we’ll adjust accordingly.”

It has been about 10 days now since the sports world started shutting down and the CFL did its part by cancelling this month’s scouting combine in Toronto. At the same time, they also halted all free agent camps and recruiting visits in the U.S.

That has considerably limited the duties of Bombers’ bird dogs Danny McManus, Ryan Rigmaiden and Ted Goveia, although Walters is not overly concerned about the effect that will have on shaping the roster for the defending Grey Cup champions.

“When I meet with Ted, Danny and Ryan, they are all over the place, in Florida and Carolina and Toronto, so our meetings are always held via call anyway,” Walters said. “It really wasn’t that big of an adjustment in that area.

“We had done a pretty good job already of filling up the training camp roster. There weren’t a ton of spaces or contracts left. We’ve been working pretty diligently this off-season so there wasn’t a ton left to do for training camp. We’re OK there.”

As for the national draft, which is scheduled for April 30, the Bombers, like everyone else in the league, will simply have to make do. The Bombers have seven picks in the national draft, but none in the first or third rounds, having traded those two selections for quarterback Zach Collaros.

That means they don’t pick until 18th overall and will be digging deep for gems with their later selections.

“We’re trying to figure out a way to prep for the national draft, prep for the global draft, under these circumstances, which are a lot different than what we had imagined even a couple weeks ago,” said Walters, who has been self-isolating at home. “That’s how quick this has moved.

“The national draft that we’re focusing on, that’s tough. Normally (head coach) Mike (O’Shea) and I would sit in the office and talk non-stop. There is usually a lot of travel too, but luckily in this profession, with everything being on the computer and all the film being available and with video meetings, we’re full speed ahead here.”

So, Walters scheduled a virtual meeting for Monday during which the plan was to go over every player in their draft book and put a package together on each of them.

That will mean finding more video, digging in with their university coaches, talking to their agents. Eventually, the scouting staff will “divide and conquer” and will plan the questions they need answered in person and then set up phone interviews.

Most years, you could do almost all of that at the combine.

“We’re trying to attack the draft process as normal,” Walters said. “You miss the interpersonal discussions but we’re accomplishing what we need to accomplish with the technology. It’s lucky, in our line of work, that we can work remotely.

“You feel for some of the people that don’t have that option — the front line workers that are out there providing services for others. They really don’t have the option, like we do, to accomplish the day-to-day remotely.”

Don’t get Walters wrong. They are going to miss having the combine in a big way.

It’s the one opportunity they have to see prospects in person and see how their film translates to football skills under pressure.

“Quite often, the final point in my draft report would be ‘Really liked his film, looks like he’s tough, looks like he plays physical. We’ll just have to see him in person to see his height, weight, speed and make sure it matches up.’”

“That’s the big point. You just don’t know now.”

Before the COVID-19 crisis began, the Bombers re-signed many of their key free agents, including Collaros, defensive lineman Willie Jefferson, offensive lineman Stanley Bryant and receiver Darvin Adams.

They filled out their roster with some free agents and recruits.

They’ll figure out a way to get through these drafts and they’ll be ready to start the season in June, if it goes ahead as scheduled.

Until then …

“Everyone’s just sort of waiting around to see how this unfolds,” Walters said.

Mining for gems in late rounds of draft will be a challenge this year

Kyle Walters and his scouting staff have proven to be pretty good at mining for gems in the late rounds of the CFL draft.

Take, for example, his selections last season of defensive backs Nick Hallett (seventh round) and Kerfalla Exume (eighth round).

Both players not only made the team but made significant impacts on special teams. Exume tied for second in the league with 25 special teams tackles, while Hallett had 13 and a forced fumble.

“Those are the kinds of kids that I think, unfortunately, may fall through the cracks (at the CFL draft) this year,” Walters said. “This is where we’re gonna have to start digging a lot more to find the guys. They’ll be much more difficult to find this year without seeing the kids in person. You can dig through maybe some testing results from their school but until you get the information, get your eyes on them, it’s difficult.”

Walters said he feels sorry for some of the prospects, who had all of their combine opportunities cancelled.

“At the Toronto regional, there were two or three players there that we really didn’t have a great feel on that jumped out athletically and tested pretty well, so we put them into the system and did a more thorough evaluation of them,” he said.

“Those are the types of guys that we’re looking for in this draft — those mid-round guys that are tough football players that maybe fall to a lower round. It’s going to be more challenging to find them this year.”

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

Source: calgarysun.com




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