Speedy Iowa receiver Tevaun Smith didn't get to hear his name called during the NFL Draft ten days ago, but he didn't have to wait long to be picked in the CFL Draft yesterday -- Smith was selected by the Edmonton Eskimos with the final pick (#8) of the first round.
If you're an Edmonton Eskimo fan who's wandered across the interwebs to find out more about the new receiver that you just drafted -- welcome! And check this out:
The CFL Draft -- and the CFL in general -- is a different animal than the NFL Draft, so we enlisted the aid of Andrew Bucholtz, a Friend of the Pants and freelance writer who contributes to several sites, including Awful Announcing and 55-Yard Line, the CFL blog for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Andrew is on Twitter at @AndrewBucholtz and is well worth following. He tabbed Smith as a player to watch in 55-Yard Line's pre-CFL Draft coverage and wrote about him after yesterday's selection as well. He also graciously answered a few of our questions about Smith and the CFL Draft.
1) Smith was taken in the first round of the CFL Draft by Edmonton, even though he also signed a free agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts after the NFL Draft 10 days ago. How does that work, exactly? How long does Edmonton hold on to his CFL rights?
ANDREW: There's a long history of CFL teams drafting guys who have already been drafted by NFL teams or signed free agent contracts south of the border. It's a gamble: the idea is that if those players wash out of the NFL in a year, or even a couple of years, then whoever drafted them still holds their CFL rights. As far as I know, that doesn't expire. One case is Philip Blake, who was drafted by the CFL's Montreal Alouettes in the third round in 2011, a year before he was taken in the fourth round of the NFL draft (thanks to a redshirt freshman loophole that doesn't exist anymore: most guys are eligible for both drafts in the same year now). Blake played in the NFL through the start of the 2014 season, then signed with Montreal ahead of the 2015 season: he had no choice but to go with them if he went to the CFL. So, it would be a similar thing with Smith: the CFL draft doesn't impact him as long as he doesn't want to play in that league, but if he does, even years down the road, it would likely have to be with Edmonton (or with someone else if they trade his rights).
The gamble part, and why this isn't really in perpetuity, is that the longer anyone plays in the NFL, the more money they make and the more hits they take, making them less and less likely to come play for a smaller sum in the CFL. There are a few guys like Blake, Cory Greenwood (drafted by the CFL in 2010, came to the league in 2014) and Sam Giguere (drafted 2008, joined CFL in 2012) who headed north after four or so NFL seasons, but I can't think of any who waited longer, and there have been lots of guys (and even some first-rounders, like Danny Watkins) who were drafted and never came to the CFL. Interestingly, too, both Greenwood and Giguere were also first-round CFL picks the year they went to the NFL, but I believe both were drafted before they had NFL deals: same with recent first-rounder David Foucault, who's still in the NFL with the Panthers. Seeing someone like Smith drafted in the first round after already signing a NFL deal is quite unusual: most of the first-round picks spent on NFL guys have been either a year early (Watkins) or before a contract.
2) What kind of money would Smith be looking at as a first round draft pick in the CFL?
ANDREW: CFL pick salaries aren't huge, especially compared to even a NFL minimum salary, but it's more . The first-overall pick last year, Alex Mateas, had $80,000 in base salary, $20,000-ish in potential bonuses, and a $20,000 signing bonus, which was a CFL record for an immediately-signed pick. That's partly because the CFL salary cap rocketed up last year (by $600,000 to $5 million per team) thanks to a new TV deal and a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Even still, that's not a lot next to NFL money, and that's in Canadian dollars (currently worth $0.77 each in USD). Those numbers also usually get smaller as you move towards the end of the first round where Smith was drafted. However, teams can pay draft picks whatever they want, and some of the guys who only come to Canada after a few NFL seasons have made more (Blake got $130,000 according to fan site LoonieCap, which is a pretty good CFL veteran salary: most CFL salaries aren't officially disclosed, though, so we don't know his compensation for sure) in their first CFL season. So if Smith sticks in the NFL for a couple of years, the CFL may then offer him a better first deal.
3) Tell us a little about Edmonton. How have they done recently? Do they seem like a good fit for Smith?
ANDREW: Edmonton is the reigning Grey Cup champion, and they still have a lot of great talent, but head coach Chris Jones left in the offseason to be HC and GM in Saskatchewan and took most of the coaching staff and some of the players with him. They're still likely to be a strong team, but they've had more turnover than many champions, especially on the coaching side. They do have a couple of great receivers in Adarius Bowman and Derel Walker who Smith could learn from, and he looks like an excellent fit if he does go there: they like to throw the ball downfield, and Smith would probably be the fastest guy in their receiving corps.
4) Smith was primarily a big play threat and downfield weapon while he was at Iowa. How do you see his skills translating to the CFL?
ANDREW: Smith looks like a fantastic fit for the CFL, and one that's very unusual for a Canadian. Most Canadian receivers have been slower possession guys with good hands, often played at slotback (inside receiver). Smith is a burner who's faster (in 40 time at least) than most of the American receivers in the CFL. The CFL's also a passing-focused league (thanks to three downs), so there would be plenty of balls coming his way. Between his speed, his catching ability, and his Canadian status (CFL teams have to play a certain number of Canadians at all times), Smith looks like a terrific CFL prospect--if he ever comes to the league.
5) Smith wouldn't be the only former Iowa player plying his trade in the CFL -- Drew Tate, Jovon Johnson, and Nolan MacMillan have all played there in recent years. Can you give us a little insight on how they're doing in the CFL?
ANDREW: All of the Iowa guys in the CFL recently have done pretty well. Johnson was excellent in Winnipeg for years, and became the first DB to win the league's defensive player of the year in 2011. He left there on bad terms ahead of the 2014 season, but just had two good years in Ottawa (including a East all-star nod and a Grey Cup appearance) last year and just signed a free agent deal with Montreal. MacMillan has done well at guard for Ottawa over the last two years and looks set to potentially slide to right tackle this year (and as he's Canadian, that makes him a huge asset: Canadians who can play the tackle slots well are pretty rare). (Ed. Note: We covered MacMillan's selection in the CFL Draft -- also with assistance from Andrew! -- back in 2013.) Tate played very well in a starting role in Calgary in 2012, but then lost that job to Bo Levi Mitchell thanks to injuries (and Mitchell being really good), but interestingly enough, he's opted to stay with the Stampeders as a backup rather than try to get a starting job elsewhere (which he might have been able to do). At the moment, he looks like one of the league's best backups.
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Thanks for the insight, Andrew! Again, you can find him on Twitter at @AndrewBucholtz.
Smith signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts shortly after the NFL Draft and certainly his first priority will be to make the roster there -- the dream (and the money) is in the NFL. We certainly wish him the best of luck in fulfilling that dream -- it's been a long time since a former Hawkeye has made waves in the skill position ranks in the NFL (give or take Dallas Clark and the rest of Iowa's army of excellent tight ends), so it would be a blast to see Smith do Iowa proud in the NFL. But if the NFL doesn't work out, it certainly seems like Smith could do very well for himself in the CFL. Edmonton is certainly very bullish on his prospects if they're willing to use a first round pick on him even after he signed a deal with Indianapolis.
Best of luck to Tevaun wherever his post-Iowa career takes him. Whatever happens, we'll always have Indianapolis: