Sports | April 16, 2021 10:32 am

Why in Hell Was Punter Jake Ford the No. 1 Pick in a Canadian Football League Draft?

The BC Lions Football Club took Ford first overall in Thursday's CFL Global Draft

The CFL logo
The CFL logo on an official Canadian CFL league ball.
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty

Though there isn’t the equivalent of Mel Kiper or Kirk Herbstreit to help us break it down, the Canadian Football League held a draft on Thursday that began with a confounding (on the surface, at least) first pick.

With the first overall selection in the CFL Global Draft, the BC Lions Football Club took Australian punter Jake Ford at No. 1 out of Ouachita Baptist University, a Division II NCAA program in Arkansas.

While Ford, who started his NCAA career with the Oregon Ducks in 2015, seems like a fine punter, the fact that he is a 28-year-old kicker would seem to almost automatically preclude him from being selected in the first round of any draft, let alone at No. 1 overall.

But, as it turns out, Ford, who led the nation in net punting in 2018, was actually one of four kickers to go in the top 10 picks of the first round of Thursday’s draft, as his selection was followed by Joseph Zema going sixth overall to Montreal, Cody Grace going at No. 7 to Calgary and Joel Whitford going eighth to Hamilton.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders went on to nab Norweigian punter Kaare Vedvik in the second round at No. 14 overall and 11 kickers/punters had been chosen in total by the end of the day.

While it seems that a rise in punting analytics and the fact that punters can contribute on the scoreboard in the CFL (teams get a point when the ball is kicked into the end zone in some circumstances in what is known as a rouge) would put somewhat of a premium on the position, it stills seems very odd that teams would use such high picks on kickers. So what’s the deal?

It’s just a guess, but our thought is that the teams rolling with kickers has to do with a new rule this year that stipulates CFL teams must carry two global players on their active rosters during the season.

Since they need to carry a pair of global players regardless of their skill level, teams likely want to get the most bang for their buck from the guys they are being forced to keep on the roster. As there is a vastly bigger difference in importance between carrying a good linebacker or quarterback or a player who is poor at one of those positions, it makes more sense to draft a player you’ll potentially have to keep even if they suck at a position where it won’t matter as much. Being forced to keep a bad punter could hurt; being required to keep a bad QB would kill. At least that’s our theory …

Perhaps the way teams treat kickers in the Canadian Draft on May 4 will paint a clearer picture.