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GM Kyle Walters provides analysis of Blue Bombers 2023 CFL draft picks

Winnipeg Blue Bombers General Manager Kyle Walters began his question and answer session with the media Wednesday morning at IG Field by categorizing the 2023 CFL draft that took place the night before as “interesting.”

Walters explained his rationale for that comment was based on how teams viewed the first round.

“I think there was a lot of equality, there wasn’t a clear-cut group that separated themselves, in my opinion,” said the veteran CFL executive. “That being said, I want to say that probably the first 10 or so picks were similar to the way we envisioned them — not in the same order — but no real surprises. And I think going into the draft we prepared ourselves to not be surprised.”

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The Blue Bombers, with the eighth overall selection, chose University of Regina defensive end Anthony Bennett who, at 26 years old, is older than the prototypical CFL draft pick. But Walters said the maturity the six-foot-three, 230-pound D-lineman brings to the table will be an asset on and off the field; not to mention Bennett having more of an extensive “football family” background than most U Sports players.

Bennett’s father Charles, also a defensive end, played three NFL games for the Miami Dolphins in 1987, following a brief stint with the Saskatchewan Roughriders where he met Anthony’s Regina-born Mother — which is why he was eligible for the CFL draft.

His uncle Tony was a linebacker and first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1990, who also played the final four years of his NFL career with the Indianapolis Colts.

Bennett’s cousin Michael was a running back and 2001 first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings who would play for four other teams over the course of his 10 seasons in the NFL.

And Anthony’s older brother Andrew was a wide receiver for the University of Regina Rams from 2013-16.

“Certainly that could be an advantage, but I don’t think coming to a professional camp is going to phase him,” said Walters. “He’s got a great personality, he’s going to bring energy. He and Willie (Jefferson) – those are two big personalities. It was awesome talking to him at the interview process, and the way he plays is his personality.”

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Walters says aside from Bennett’s talent and charisma, his explosiveness off the edge – what makes the Weston, Florida-born prospect a good fit for the Blue Bombers – is his ability to play special teams.

“I think that’s what separated him, and in particular, our head coach Mike really wanting to have more versatility in regards to guys being able to help out on special teams,” explained Walters. “And when we put his numbers up against the linebackers he was one of the more athletic defenders — whether you call it an edge guy or a linebacker.”

Click to play video: 'Blue Bombers draft, training camp preview'
Blue Bombers draft, training camp preview

Winnipeg selected defensive back Jake Kelly of Bishop’s University with their second-round pick (15th overall) to provide some depth at the free safety position. The 24-year-old, six-foot 180-pound native of Markham, Ont., was named the Gaiters winner of the Marcel Lebrun for perseverance, commitment and personality this past season.

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Walters says Kelly will help fill the void from the departure of 2021 first-round pick Tyrell Ford who was signed by Green Bay during the off-season, in terms of competing for the backup job to Brandon Alexander.

“He was a free safety in college, his testing numbers were off the charts. He really jumped out at you with how athletic he was for a slighter guy, benching 15’s so he’s strong, ran fast, did everything right,” Walters said of Kelly’s attributes. And the GM says Bombers defensive coordinator Richie Hall and defensive backs coach Jordan Younger were also impressed with what they saw on film.

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“What really caught their attention was his ability to show up at the same time as the receiver and the football, which you don’t see a lot. It’s a talent and a natural skill that’s pretty tough to teach. He plays with a reckless abandon and for a smaller guy he needs to be a better form tackler. He’s not scared to stick his nose in there but he needs to be more consistent in his tackling.”

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Walters says the Blue Bombers’ third-round pick — Concordia receiver Jeremy Murphy — will help bolster the Canadian numbers at that position on the depth chart as well.

“We only had three last year and we ran into where we were looking at guys throughout the year and it was a good group of receivers. We thought one of them would come to us in the third round and we liked Jeremy. He’s just a playmaker. One of my notes I recall is sometimes you watch the U Sports film and in particular the receivers where you have to go through game after game after game to try to put some clips together of guys making plays – not with him,” said Walters of the six-foot-two, 195-pound Murphy who hails from St. Bruno, Que. “He’s a big-time play-maker, made some crazy catches and has had a very successful career.”

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The Blue  Bombers General Manager says the players selected in rounds four through eight were simply athletes the organization liked. Here are Walters’s comments on each of them:

Defensive linemen Tanner Schmekel (U of Regina) and Collin Kornelson (U of Manitoba) in the fourth and fifth rounds respectively.

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“Schmekel is a big (six-foot-two, 300 lbs), hardnosed tough guy who’s going to fit in. Back to back with Kornelson (six-foot-three, 240 lbs), they’re true nose tackles who will come in and compete with each other. They’re both CanWest traditional D tackles.”

Defensive back Brett MacDougall (Windsor University) sixth round. 

“A six-foot-two, 210-pound DB, he played free safety. Is he a dime? I’m not sure. He’ll come in and compete with all those guys who are the back-end special teams guys. I think he has a chance based on his numbers. He plays hard and he’s tough. He runs a 4.6 at that size so we were just attracted to the body type that can come in on (special) teams.”

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Running back Jonathan Rosery (U of Alberta)  seventh round. 

“You watched them (Golden Bears) play Manitoba every year and he’s just out there making play after play. He showed up at the (CFL Draft) combine and at five-foot-eight, 200 pounds; I think he ran a 4.8 which got everybody soured on him. The offensive coaches couldn’t say enough about Jonathan Rosery with the skill set he possesses. He lines up at tailback for a game against Sask. and runs for 150. Then he’s playing receiver for a game. He is a very versatile guy. Our coaches are really excited to move him around. He can take tailback reps, he can take slotback reps, he’s a returner. I think he’s going to get a lot of work in training camp. He’s a good football player and deserves a chance to show what he can do.”

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Linebacker Max Charbonneau (U of Ottawa) eighth round.

“There was a whole lot of the 210-pound special teams guys and we had a lack of them. He’s a traditional in-the-box linebacker; six-foot-two, 225 pounds. (He) doesn’t run quite as well as the lighter guys but provides a different skill set. He’s tough, he’s physical. He was wearing a knee brace that will probably come off so I think he’s going to be faster and more athletic when we see him at camp than we did at the combines. For Max, he provided just a little bit different than a lot of the other guys based on his height, weight, and toughness in the box.”

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