Which Positions Transfer Best Between NFL and CFL?

I got into a recent spat with an American poster who thought I was trashing his beloved NFL. I am of the opinion that the skill level of both leagues is almost identical and that the difference you see on the field has more to do with a 4 and a half hour work day vs a 12 hour day not with just practicing,but with game film study.
There are many factors that find the 17 American starters I. The CFL and not in the NFL , as well as a handful of Canadians in the league. The biggest reason is the school and division you went to and where you shook down in the draft. A team in the NFL will very rarely cut a first round draft pick over a fifth round draft pick, nor will a third round draft pick be cut in favor of an undrafted free agent. This is the battle that a few players like Brandon Browner won,when the Seahawks cut a third round draft pick and kept him,but usually it is the CFL player that gets the axe when they try their luck south of the border.
I am of the belief that if you are not good enough for the NFL as a qb than you are not good enough for the CFL either. The days when scrambling qbs like Tracey Ham came to Canada are over. RG3 and Russel Wilson would have CFL qbs 30 years ago. Now QBs that come to the CFL and that are successful, tend to be QBs that went to the wrong school and never got the chance. Countless qbs that failed in the NFL also failed here like Akili Smith,and Chris Leak.
Kicking probably has the biggest discrepancy in that NFL punters and punting seem able to kick the ball much further than in the CFL. This is totally untrue S well in that the kicking game in the CFL is much more technical with directional punting and sqib punts to limit returns on a much wider field.. In the NFL its all about kicking it as high as possible to create a fair catch. You do that in the CFL and you will get a 15 yard penalty every time.
Receivers in the NFL are probably the only position that you could clearly say that better than the CFL. They are taller and faster. I guess the same could be said about the defensivrecieversCFL defensivd backs have the tendancy to try to screen and knockdown the ball instead of just trying to catch the ball for an int...
Running backs in the CFL are completely different than the NFL and no comparison can be made. Scatbacks are the norm in the CFL and we all know Ricky Williams had one of the lowest average per carries when he played here. Lineman are also completely different because if the 65 yard wide field.. Micheal Sam had three sacks in 4 NFL games, did not even belong on the field with Montreal. He looked out of place completely.
In conclusion,I'd say that obviously some of the Canadian talent drags the quality of the CFL down a bit. Canadian receivers tend to be more possession type recievers. However,once NFL recievers learn the waggle(Chad Johnson couldn't do it) that there would be a pretty large talent gap. Same with defensivebacks. As for ever other position on the field, I would say the differences in the game makes different players who may be successful in the CFL unsuccessful in the NFL and vice versa. With a kick like the BC Lions have now, the idea of bringing in American kickers will be more common and that facet of the game will soon be identical as well. Justin Medlock only places in the league because he is left footed and the NFL is too lazy to find a left handed holder.

I'd have to disagree on that point Bungle as a few of the more successful QB's in the CFL are considered quite mobile even in todays game.
Guys like Collaros, Lulay, Cato, Burris (moreso in his prime) and Reilly can all scramble and throw on the run with newcomers/backups such as Franklin, Smith, Tate, McPherson, Marve and Lefevour also in the mix.

BLM to some extent has this ability as well although not necessarily with the same proficiency as the aforementioned.

I would say K/P, RB, LB, WR, and you could make a case for OL and DL.


Your giant blocks of text repel me from even wanting to read what you have to say. They're called paragraphs... use them.

Unless you like to seem illiterate to some degree.

Over the course of six years of watching also the CFL on a weekly basis during the season, I'd say mostly the same but here's my list:


Overwhelmingly most running backs in the CFL are not NFL material, and to some undetermined degree the reverse seems also true.

On the defensive line, it's the CFL pass rushers who count most and young DE's and LB's with pass rushing skills in the CFL tend to have a fine shot at the NFL. For CFL interior defensive linemen, I do not agree on any high ability to transfer from the CFL to the NFL.

Then I would add that a few CFL CBs have opportunities too.

At QB, two years ago I started a thread in which I described how I thought less than half of the starting NFL QBs would have a good chance to do well in the CFL. I don't think that much has changed as far as the numbers though the starting QBs indeed have had much turnover in the NFL.

Now that said, moving onto the other positions. Generally because of the field dimensions, the NFL favours larger, taller, more muscular players. The smaller field means less room to manoeuvre keeping defences more compact, the longer play clock means players have a bit more time to recover, the extra down means there isn't as much importance on riskier big yardage plays and having limited backfield motion means blocking schemes are more limited and receivers don't get a running start to blow past a defences who can jam a lot more effectively. There is more emphasis on breaking tackles because if you don't have room to get around a guy, you got to go through him. Conversely, because the defence doesn't need to be stretched as thin, you don't need as much speed to make a defensive play.

This is contrasted by the CFL where speed is of more importance. A larger field means more room for running backs and receivers to manoeuvre and stretches a defence thinner, the shorter play clock means players have to be ready for the next play faster, three downs means you have to pass more or get large rushing gains, unlimited backfield motion means more blocking schemes and receivers get a running start, making jamming for more difficult. The emphasis is more on avoiding tackles, because attempting to break a tackle. Conversely, because the defence is stretched thinner, you need more speed to make up the distance on a play.

Keep also in mind, apart from a select few positions, every position on the field typically makes a Special teams contribution at some point, which once again in the CFL favours faster vs bigger.

So lets look at the positions then, and how this effects them with a difficulty rating. 1 being no change and 10 being neigh impossible to transition.

Quarterback - The Quarterback position is unique on the field, because of play calling and triggering the timing of the backfield. The shorter play clock makes clock management and play calling harder, and generally the faster defences means you are far more prone to having to pass on the run and be a dual threat QB. There are very few exclusive pocket passers in the CFL today, and those who are still around are only the ones who have spent almost decades in the pocket. Difficulty 7

Running Back - Running backs need to be bigger down south and faster up here. In the NFL, you have two expectations, get 3.5 yards when you have to rush, and block/pickup blitz for the QB (which means blocking bigger players). In the CFL though, you need to be getting 5 yards a carry, which is very hard to do consistently and not get injured by crashing into the line. You do also have to block/pickup blitz but faster players and less emphasis on keeping the pocket going means you don't need to be as large. Difficulty 6

Fullback - Generally there is little need to change between the leagues at Fullback save a bit more speed in the Canadian game. Barring the occasional trick play, your job as a Fullback is to generally punch the ball in, by being a big bad man. Generally Fullbacks aren't used as blockers in either league as often as you would expect because it's a dead give-away that you are either running a quick punch through the line run, or are passing play. In the Canadian game though, Fullbacks do sometimes line up as tight ends, which often means a bit more speed to jam and make a catch is desired, but sometimes they just end up blocking for runs. Difficulty 3

Offensive Linemen - An offensive lineman's job is to block passes and open up holes from rushing and occasionally pull to make blocks. Really, there is little difference for an O.Lineman apart from a slight increase in speed vs size due to special teams and making your pulls more effective. Difficulty 2

Punter, Placekicker - There is no difference between the two games at this position apart from on special teams, having the kicker being able to make a tackle out of desperation may be a factor, but those tackles are just that, desperate and not expected of a kicker. Kicking accuracy is what is desired and neither game really needs a larger or quicker kicker. Difficulty 1

Wide Receiver/Slotback - Receivers in the CFL have it a lot easier then their NFL counterparts, what with Jamming rules, larger field and unlimited motion. Speed is of far more importance in the Canadian game then size like in the NFL (where a smaller end-zone reduces your mobility so being able to grab where the defender can't reach is a boon). Some receivers are simply too short for the NFL to consider barring exceptional abilities at catching and shaking a defender. Difficulty 5

Tight End - Generally Fullbacks operate as Tight Ends in the CFL because of their size, but only on rare plays, because usually the CFL formation and wider field means having two slotbacks is a far better choice then having a tight end. In the NFL though, they are actually often shorter, faster guys because they aren't there to block, they are there to jam and receive and to occasionally pickup blitz. Short quick patterns. So, taking the Canadian Football equivalents, Fullbacks are generally too big to make the transition and Slotbacks are generally too small. Difficulty 9

Defensive Line - Whenever I think of this subject, I think of Justin Hickman who was a mercenary DE down south. He said outright, "This season I'm still in my NFL body, next season, I'm going to lose around 15 pounds and get into CFL shape". Chasing down the run or a QB is a lot more common a task for a Defensive Lineman then and NFL one. Sure you still need to keep size, but given it's a lot easier to come hot off the end in the CFL means fast is your friend. Difficulty 5

Linebacker - You need to be a lot faster in the CFL as a Linebacker because of the Faster running backs and receivers. You're job is to chase down the play (through, coverage, blitz or chasing the run) and as the game is faster, so too must you be. Difficulty 7

Defensive Back - You need to be a lot faster as a back in the CFL game, but more importantly you need to do so without getting physical with the receiver till the last second, and that is usually what takes players getting used to up here. You can't jam players the same way up here and now you can't really touch them without getting an illegal contact penalty for your trouble. Being tall also isn't as important as keeping coverage. The larger field means more QBs stretch their faster receivers, making there slightly less of a need to go with those hyper accurate bombs in the NFL that a DB simply isn't tall enough to make a play on. Difficulty 8

Safety - Safety doesn't really change much, apart from the generic speed need, but in most cases, the safety is fast enough in either league to make the transition easily. Your ability to read the play is far more important, which is a little bit trickier in the CFL. Difficulty 4

nfl safety transfers to cfl qb quite well :wink:

The field goal kicking is quite diferent.. The hash marks are wider and thus the kicks are slightly longer, but you get to use a tee and dont have to kick off of the ground

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Hammer - I disagree with much of your assessment.

Tightends in the NFL are generally 'shorter'? Huh? The average size of a tightend in the NFL is 6' 3" 240lbs. I don't consider that short.

You keep repeating that you have to be faster in a number of CFL positions yet running backs, receivers and DBs and some linebackers and QB's now are as fast (and in some cases) faster than those playing those same positions in the CFL today.

Your assertion that the 'shorter play clock' makes play calling harder. Yet as has been discussed in other threads the play clocks are not operated in the same way and the actual time from when one play ends until the next play starts is virtually identical in both leagues. And just like in the CFL in the NFL more and more offenses are operating with up tempo no huddle offences.

There is a huge trend in the NFL to mobile QB's. It is no longer just a drop back passer type league. QB's like Wilson, Kaepernick, Manuel in Buffalo, RGIII in Washington, Cam Newton etc. Even some of the QB's who do tend to play a drop back style most often these days are often faster than those who used to play the position. Luck of Indy can run a 4.6 - 40 yards.

I think some on these boards when they think NFL think of the NFL of years ago. It is a different FASTER game now.

We will have to agree to disagree then. From my understanding the CFL coach mic doesn't enable until the play is whistled in, so yes it still limits the time. If you had read my post on tight ends, I explicated stated the Tight End position is so seldom used in the CFL and generally only Fullback's line up as Tight Ends.

Generally, most dedicated CFL Fullbacks start at 240 and go up to 265lb or are basically secondary running backs who play special teams (around 210-230) because the position is much more specialized and seldom used in the faster Canadian game. Usually only the latter, larger ones are used as tight ends, because if you want someone really fast there, you are usually better off just running a slot. Heck, Calgary doesn't even seem to have a FB on their roster. This makes transitioning to TE much harder. Conversely, slotbacks are substantially smaller, on average as I stated.

As far as the NFL trend, you still have your Brady, Rogers, Smith, Berger, Manning and various, predominantly pocket passers. In the CFL, pretty much the only predominantly pocket passers are Burris and Glenn, and mainly due to age and experience. I'll agree that there is a trend in the NFL towards this style of QB, but I think it is just that, a trend that is being utilized because of the current popularity of option offense.

I have to admit.. I haven't watch the NFL since Kurt Warner was playing for the Rams.. I might have watched a Super Bowl or two and have always had a huge hatred for Payton Manning

I'm with TravelPatB on this and if you have not watched the NFL in even five years, the game has changed that much more given that more NFL offences now are running either out the spread formation as their base or have most plays out of the spread formation. Essentially more NFL offences now resemble more of what you have been watching in the CFL for decades than ever.

And if you have not watched the NFL much this millennium, you are truly comparing an entirely different NFL game given also the many changes in the rules.

Back in 1999 as cited by Bungle, that Rams' offence "The Greatest Show on Turf" was the only one I can remember who ran a spread offence as their base offence in those times. Some earlier examples in the 1980s and 1990s were the Miami Dolphins (Dan Marino), Buffalo Bills (Jim Kelly), and Houston Oilers (Warren Moon).

I had posted this thread on here in the offseason on the subject about the migration to more such offences in just the last four years:


And so as compared to Hammer's summary, which was done rather well but with which I mostly do not agree, the needs by position in the NFL have changed greatly in just the last five years too but for offensive linemen and interior defensive linemen. As an example of agreement, I do agree with Hammer's summary on at least the offensive linemen.

Let's note that more NFL teams also are running a base 3-4 defence in the NFL than ever too, and I don't see for a 3-4 NFL defence any CFL players making the jump lest they are pass-rushers who can play both outside at linebacker one some downs and on various blitz and fake blitz packages with a hand on the ground (i.e. Cameron Wake) or can play at inside linebacker who can also cover well against the inside or shorter seam pass.

Otherwise on defence, an uncommon young and tall cornerback who performs well in the CFL could have bright prospects in the NFL. A shorter yet very fast guy who is also physical at corner in the CFL might have a shot to play special teams and be a solid backup or nickel corner in the NFL.


There is a huge trend in the NFL to mobile QB's. It is no longer just a drop back passer type league. QB's like Wilson, Kaepernick, Manuel in Buffalo, RGIII in Washington, Cam Newton etc. Even some of the QB's who do tend to play a drop back style most often these days are often faster than those who used to play the position. Luck of Indy can run a 4.6 - 40 yards.
On the QB position I share this view and would add the associated thread on which I covered this topic in the offseason: [url=http://forums.cfl.ca/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=89333]viewtopic.php?f=1&t=89333[/url]

In the post, switch a few of the starting NFL QB names out given the changes in the offseason, and the total number of starting NFL QB's who "could have" had decent potential in the CFL is in my opinion less than half. Four downs and the smaller field are two of the core reasons so as to make American football a different game that much more at the QB position.

In the end I end up about where Hammer is anyway on his conclusion on the QB position, but we disagree on the reasoning.

Who Cares....
Why can't we just watch what entertains us and just leave it at that ..the inferiority complex here is off the charts..and who are you justifying it too i am sure everyone here watches the CFL and is a fan.

So what you guys are saying is that now more than ever it all depends on what school you went to and what conference you played in and ultimately who your connections are that get you in a position to get drafted high. There are always lutliers ike Jeff Garcia whos’s dad was good friends with Bill Walsh so he got a shot when no other team would give him the time of day, but for the most part you have to be good, but also lucky to get into the NFL or the CFL for that matter. Anyone who argued this then I have two words for you… Matt Cassel…

NFL have the better punters and kickers by a large margin . You go to camp and who ever makes the longer , accurate kicks and continues in the games will get a spot in the NFL . Everybody who saw John Ryan kick for a year in Winnipeg knew he was gone at the years end . I find the CFL punting game sloppy at times . As for place kicking , way to many missed 32 yard converts .

There is a "big school bias" in the NFL, in the draft, and especially on ESPN's now awful coverage of the league.

With some of the coaching ties the bias comes into play with especially backups and special teams players.

I'm not sure who stated anything about those connections below in this thread as you state, but I've seen that point mentioned in another thread.

That bias or any other only goes so far as most NFL coaches guard any players or prospects with potential akin to trade secrets, for they know another coach will grab quickly any practice squad players with heavy potential and many others whom they are scouting otherwise.

A player otherwise stuck on a practice squad for a long time is there for a reason for the most part. Even so that's good money and a great opportunity anyway as the NFL window closes.

On that note I'm going out on Thursday to practice those converts on an actual field and see how I do from 32 yards and then from 40 or less. I'm not promising any miracles, but I figure it's something different to do for exercise outdoors at the very least. 8)

Current NFL xtra point is 20 yards with ball spotted on the 2, considering spotting the ball on the 15 yard line making it a 33 yard kick.