Quinn Smith's CFL draft stock is on the rise.
The Concordia Stingers defensive lineman was ranked fourth among the CFL scouting bureau's top-15 prospects for next month's draft. Heady stuff, considering Smith wasn't rated on either the fall or winter lists.
But the six-foot-two, 305-pound Toronto native raised eyebrows at last month's CFL combine, excelling on both sides of the ball. And that versatility will enhance his chances of being taken early in the May 13 draft, with the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks holding the first pick overall.
"Obviously I felt I should've been on the first two but I'm very happy that my hard work paid off to be quite high on the new list," Smith said during a CFL conference call Tuesday. "I want to be a professional football player.
"It doesn't matter what city, what team. I'm going to be happy wherever I go."
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, McGill's highly rated offensive lineman, once again topped the rankings. But the six-foot-five, 315-pound medical student is projected as a mid-round NFL draft pick. Where Duvernay-Tardif is taken by an NFL club will dramatically impact when he's selected in the CFL draft.
David Foucault, Montreal's towering six-foot-eight, 320-pound offensive tackle, moved up a spot into No. 2, with Laval offensive lineman Pierre Lavertu dropping to No. 3. St. Francis receiver Devon Bailey also dropped one position behind Smith into No. 5.
Manitoba defensive tackle Evan Gill remained at No. 6, ahead of Western defensive end Dylan Ainsworth, who skyrocketed from No. 15. Manitoba running back Anthony Coombs moved up a spot to No. 8, ahead of Simon Fraser offensive lineman Matthias Goossen (who dropped from No. 5) and Queen's defensive back Andrew Lue (from No. 8).
Rounding out the top-15 were Laval defensive back Adam Thibault, Simon Fraser linebacker Casey Chin, defensive lineman David Menard and defensive back Antoine Pruneau — both from the University of Montreal — and Western linebacker Beau Landry.
Ainsworth was another player who excelled at the CFL combine, especially in the 1-on-1 drills when he steamrolled over Foucault. The six-foot-three, 225-pound native of Delta, B.C., credited teammate Landry with helping him prepare for the weekend-long audition before league officials.
"Just seeing my name there in the first couple of rankings was an honour for me; it was just up to me to prove myself at the combine," Ainsworth said. "As a result of training hard with [Landry] I feel like I did as well as I really could've hoped.
"To see me shoot up to the No. 7 spot is huge but the real ranking is May 13 and that's what I'm most excited about, just to see what happens and how it all plays out."
With Duvernay-Tardif expected to head to the NFL, Foucault is being mentioned as the most CFL-ready prospect among the eligible offensive linemen. But he, too, is attracting American interest, having recently interviewed with NFL clubs at the league's Super Regional Combine earlier this month in Detroit despite suffering a foot injury while running his 40-yard dash.
"Just three of the 33 guys on the offensive line got an interview with NFL teams and I got some good feedback," Foucault said. "Right now, I don't know what [is happening], there's a little stress because I don't control this part."
Foucault, a converted defensive lineman from LaSalle, Que., would welcome playing in the CFL, but admitted his focus right now is on the NFL because its draft is first on the calendar. The NFL draft will go May 8-10 and those players not selected could still be signed as priority free agents before CFL officials begin stockpiling their rosters with top prospects.
"I just want to be a football player," Foucault said. "It's a good thing to play in the NFL or CFL, but I want to take my chances to go to the NFL because I want to try."
The CFL draft remains first and foremost on Smith's radar. He'd prefer to play professionally as a defensive lineman but wouldn't refuse the opportunity to line up along the offensive line, either.
"I've played both but playing defensive tackle has got me a free education at university, it's got me to the CFL combine and I had a really great showing," he said. "If a team drafted me and wanted me to play the O-line I would have no problem with that."
"I love playing football on the offensive or defensive side, but defensive tackle is my natural position."
Ainsworth, too, might find himself lining up in a different position in the CFL, either as a rush end or linebacker. While he'd prefer to remain on the defensive line, Ainsworth is also keeping an open mind about where he could be lining up as a pro.
"Defensive line is more my natural position, it's sort of what I have more of a passion for," he said. "But any team that comes knocking whatever they want me to play is what I"ll be playing.
"It's not an issue of what I want, it's an issue of where I can fit and best contribute."
But Ainsworth definitely has a preference regarding when he'd like to hear his name called May 13.
"I'm hoping first round," he said. "Just to go in the first round would be awesome but realistically any team that picks you you're going to be happy to go there.
"It's just going to be a nice weight lifted knowing where you need to go. Then the real work starts there."