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Why do you need to know the name Nelson Lokombo if you are a Washington Football fan?

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Washington Football Report
Washington Football Report
 2021-05-13

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A ball-hawking force from his boundary corner position, Abbotsford native and Saskatchewan Huskies’ star Nelson LokomboPhoto property of Saskatchewan Huskies athletics 2021. All Rights Reserved)

Ron Rivera has the super bowl on his mind, and he is ready to look anywhere that he can find players to help him. The latest target is ball-hawking free safety Nelson Lokombo, who is currently a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League, after being drafted second overall in the 2021 CFL draft, which was held on May 4th.

Lokombo played three seasons at the University of Saskatchewan, where became only the second player in Huskies history to be named the top defensive player in Canadian university football in 2019 in just his third season. During that year he had 39 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks, five interceptions, four pass breakups, and one forced fumble. He was named Canada West’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player and earned Canada West All-Star honors. Lokombo was also named a First-Team All-Canadian for his efforts.

Lokombo was unable to play football in the 2020 season due to the COVID pandemic.

“It was very disheartening to learn that we couldn’t play this year. COVID really changed everything,” said Lokombo, who has been keeping in touch with some of his Huskie coaches and teammates, even watching video of practice from afar. “You miss your teammates and coaches. But for me, this was also a good opportunity to be with my family this year and still go to school online and to have the chance to train with my brother and learn from him to prepare for the CFL.”

When he was drafted, Lokombo joined his older brother Bo, who is a member of the Toronto Argonauts, as a professional football player. Now, he's trying to make the leap to the NFL without having played a single down for the Canadian team that used their first round pick to draft him.

Lokombo will have a workout with Washington as they open their rookie minicamp this week.

Travelling to DC at the same time will be fellow Canadian, Logan Bandy, an offensive tackle who played 23 games for the University of Calgary, and drafted by the CFL Roughriders earlier this month. Bandy will face a crowded position group in Washington, where Bears veteran OT Charles Leno was just signed to a roster that already includes Morgan Moses, Cornelius Lucas, and recent 2nd round draft pick Samuel Cosmi.

The same is not true for Lokombo. Washington's free safety unit is average at best, and the front office is clearly hoping to upgrade it. On Monday, the team met with former Miami free safety Bobby McCain; so far there has been no news about his potential signing.

The team's apparent starter at free safety right now would be either Jeremy Reaves or Deshazor Everett, both of whom entered the league as undrafted college free agents -- Reaves in 2018 and Everett in 2015. The Week 1 starter for the 2020 season was Troy Apke, Washington's 4th round pick in the 2018 draft, who was benched at midseason for poor performance and who seems a long shot to make the roster this year. The only other free safety on the WFT roster is recent 7th round draft pick Darrick Forrest, whom coaches have said will primarily play special teams as a rookie.

This seems to leave the door wide open for someone to come in and snatch a roster spot at free safety -- potentially as a starter.

As a prospect, Lokombo is slightly undersized for the NFL at 5'11" and 184 pounds -- Everett and Reaves, for example, both weigh around 200 pounds -- but he has excellent athleticism. He had a 38" vertical leap in combine testing, and earned a "great" rating from RAS for his composite agility score, made up of the shuttle and 3-cone drill. His straight line speed is not blazing, but is reasonable, with a 4.48 40-yard dash.

Due to COVID concerns, the CFL did not operate a college Combine this off-season, but had players post individual combine videos for scouts to assess. Here is Lokombo's:

It's a reality that few CFL players make it to the NFL, though Washington fans may recall that Kenny Ladler is a defensive back who made the leap from the CFL Eskimos to the NFL Redskins in 2018. There's no doubt that Lokombo is a dark horse, but he's athletic enough, and the WFT need at free safety is great enough that the Canadian has a chance -- at least to make the training camp roster.

On the day Ron Rivera was introduced as the new Washington franchise head coach in 2020, he talked, not about being competitive or winning the division, but of winning super bowls. To do that, the roster needs not just top end talent at the starter spots, but depth at every position in order to survive the grueling 17-game NFL season. With the trade for Ereck Flowers, the signing of TE prospect Sammis Reyes, and this week's addition of veteran OT Charles Leno, it is increasingly obvious that The front office is leaving no stone unturned in an effort to build a talented and deep roster. This could be good news for Nelson Lokombo, who, if things go his way, could face the possible dilemma of having two professional football teams vying for his services.

Update: