As the B.C. Lions’ CFL draft coordinator, Kelly Bates finds juggling his assistant coaching duties with his scouting duties a challenge but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
During the CFL season, Bates works with the Lions’ running backs. Obviously this makes it nearly impossible for him to be on the road scouting potential picks when his team, and the university teams, play a parallel schedule.
“During our season, for me to scout games personally, that’s just not going to happen,” Bates explained Thursday from London, Ont., where he was, of course, scouting. “If our schedule works out, I might have the ability, either at home or on the road, to see a game or go to a practice but, more often than not, it is something that is very hard to accomplish.”
This year’s CFL draft goes Tuesday, starting at 4 p.m. The Lions will pick fifth in the first round – the first overall pick belongs to expansion Ottawa – and then twice in the second round at 12th and 14th overall. They have eight picks in total in the seven-round draft.
This is Bates’s third season as the Leos’ draft coordinator, a position he inherited from current head coach Mike Benevides. As a former CIS player, he felt comfortable sliding into the role and jumped at the opportunity when it was presented to him.
“I’m a CIS grad from the University of Saskatchewan and I’m very proud of my roots and very proud of the Canadian game,” said Bates, an offensive lineman during his playing days. “I’m the guy who loves Canada and loves the CFL and it was an opportunity to meet and create relationships with all those CIS coaches. It was a natural fit.”
Because he can’t get to many games, Bates resorts to the time-honoured tradition of working the phones and watching players on tape.
“Preparing for the draft is a process in which we try to stay two years ahead,” he said. “So there is a lot of paperwork, a lot of talking on the phone and a lot of film work. Let’s put it this way: I’ve already received the draft eligible list for next year and I’ve started working on that. You’re always trying to stay that far ahead of it.”
When Bates does manage to scout a game personally, he likes to watch for various tendencies not evident on tape.
“You’re looking to read different things,” he said. “You’re looking at body language after plays, you’re looking at body language on the sidelines, you’re looking at reaction on the sidelines and things of that nature. You’re also watching to see who might pop out at you even if it is someone who is not in the draft for another two years.”
Interestingly, Bates doesn’t put much stock in the way a player warms up.
“Here’s my reasoning for it,” he said. “As a player, warm-ups mean something different to every player. To me, there would be a certain aspect where I would be very intense and the rest of it was me focusing mentally on what I wanted to do without the physical exertion. So I’m not going to say a receiver who drops three balls in warm-ups is going to be a terrible receiver in the game. To me, that’s not a fair evaluation.”
As for this year’s draft, Bates doesn’t consider it the strongest he has seen. Due to a rule change governing red-shirt Canadians playing in a U.S. school, some players who would have been eligible for the 2014 CFL draft will now be pushed back to 2015.
The CFL’s Prospect Central website lists offensive linemen from Quebec schools as the top three choices: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of McGill; David Foucault of the University of Montreal; and Pierre Lavertu of Laval. The fifth player on the list is wide receiver Devon Bailey of St. Francis Xavier.
“I’d say there is a good mixture of several positions,” Bates said. “In addition to the O-line, I feel the receivers have some good depth and there are three or four good linebackers. There seems to be almost between 2-4-5 good players at each position who you are going to consider as top-two round guys. After that, this is where you really go to work to find those kids who love the game, want to play it at the next level and have the skills you can develop.”
GRID BITS: It was announced Thursday that the fourth player on the Prospect Central list, defensive lineman Quinn Smith of Concordia, has tested positive for a Stanozolol metabolite. "If he is drafted and signed by one of our teams, and the positive test is confirmed, he will immediately be subject to mandatory testing as governed by our drug policy," said CFL COO Michael Copeland in a statement… The Lions made a trade Thursday, sending import running back Isi Sofele to Hamilton for future considerations.
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