Thursday, April 28, 2016

CFL Draft 2016 Team Preview: Edmonton Eskimos

We end our team previews with the defending Grey Cup Champions. It takes good Canadian content to succeed in this league so it’s no surprise that the Champs have a good stable of Canadian content. There have been a lot of offseason player departures but by and large their Canadian talent has been unaffected.

Picks: 5 picks, first selection is 8th Overall

2015 Draft Assessment: First 2 picks were devoted to building depth at OL. That netted them Danny Groulx and David Beard and has them well positioned for the future of that unit. The rest of the draft was a whole lot of meh. They only made 3 more picks and got a few games out of LB Adam Konar to show for it.

Potential Pipeline: DL Stefan Charles (Detroit), OL Austin Paztor (Cleveland), K Shaun Suisham (NFL), LS LP Ladouceur (NFL)

Current Strengths:
O-line used to be a comedic embarrassment (comedic to anyone outside of Edmonton) but it has been built into a real area of strength. Veterans like Rottier, Krausnick, Greaves and O’Donnell with young guys like Groulx and Beard. Side note: Painful reminder that we traded away O’Donnell for Greg Carr. At the time I was one of the few lamenting the poor return… but enough about why I’m better than everyone else.

D-line is in good shape with Eddie Steele who has really developed into a solid player with Oramasionwu, Alexandre and Ngoyi for depth. They are solid at receiver with Bailey, Coehoorn, Watson and newly acquired Natey Adjei and Chris Getzlaf. (So help me god if Mike Reilly cures Getzlaf’s butter fingers like he did for Adarius Bowman, well I will just snap). Whyte and Shaw have them solid in the kick game. They also get decent play on special teams from the likes of Mike Miller and Blair Smith.

Current Needs:
Honestly not a lot pressing needs so this draft will be more about building depth and stocking up the cupboards. Guys like Rottier, Watson, Getzlaf, Alexandre and McCarty are the wrong side of 30 so D-line, O-line and WR depth will be focused on (likely in that order). I know he is coming off a career year (surprising many) and I know they know have depth behind him in Neal King but man oh man do I still not trust Cauchy Muamba at safety. I would be actively seeking a better option. That may just be my well documented anti-Cauchy bias speaking but 2015 aside there is nothing in his resume that gives me any confidence.

Prediction:

The defending champs have just 2 picks in the first 4 rounds… you’d almost think Taman is running the team. I think that opens the possibility to trade down their 1st or second rounder to try and get more picks. Though that’s not a guarantee. The Esks don’t have a ton of needs so they may be content with where they are in terms of picks. I think their first pick will be a defensive player. Whether that be a DL like Trent Corney, a LB like Singleton (though I can’t see him still being there at 8) or a DB like Taylor Loffler. Second pick will likely be an OL with WR or FB rounding out their late picks.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

CFL Draft 2016 Team Preview: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Picks: 6 picks, first selection is 9th Overall

2015 Draft Assessment: With the 2nd overall pick they addressed a glaring need at OL with Suhk Chung who started every game as a rookie. He was a pretty raw but should develop further in his second year. Pretty solid pick. Their second pick was at the opposite end of the quality spectrum. They passed on better receivers in favour of Addison Richards. While this was not as ridiculous as the not-forgotten Jade Etienne pick, it was a head scratching decision.  Richards first needs to stay healthy enough for us to know if he was actually worth the 10th overall pick. They also used this year’s first rounder pick to acquire Garret Waggoner in the supplemental draft. He showed well on teams but the team will hope he takes the next step into a contributor on defense given his high cost.

Potential Pipeline: DL Andy Mulumba (Kansas City), DL Christo Bilukidi (Baltimore), WR Stephen Alli (should he ever decide to return to football)

Current Strengths: The biggest boost to their national talent last season came in the form of Jamaal Westerman who was second in the league with 17 sacks. Newly added Keith Shologan with Thomas and Richardson for depth have them pretty good at D-line. Obviously adding an elite Canadian like Andrew Harris is a huge boost. O-line is starting to take shape with Chung and Goosen looking to be longterm contributors. Keeping adds good depth. They still view Neufeld as a starter… I maintain he’s a liability as a starter and his calling in life is being the 6th OL but a) that’s just my opinion and b) as an opposing fan I’m in favour of them starting Neufeld (particularly at tackle). They have really depth at DB/LB with the likes of Hurl, Sherman, Waggoner, Bucknor, and Briggs.  Kohlert, Richards and Bastien have them good at WR. Underrated but important spot: longsnapper Chad Rempel is among the best there is.

Current Needs: The starting line-up looks pretty good… the depth behind it in certain spots is concerning. They currently have just 24 Canadians under contract (which quite frankly reminds me of the Riders under Taman). Among that they currently have just 4 Canadian o-lineman under contract which is crazy! I get the sense 3 starting import OL is a possibility and they have the ratio flexibility to do it but still… 4! They would be wise to also add on the D-line given that they will be starting 2 Cdns there and that increases the depth need. I know the organization has faith in Richards and Bastien but neither have proven much so I would be looking to increase competition there.

Prediction: I don’t buy Walters saying “We’re keeping our 2 second rounders”. He and O’Shea are in win now mode so as much as he wants to say he’s building for the future, he knows he won’t have one if the team doesn’t do well this year. For that reason I see him trading up in the draft to land one top end player as opposed to 2 very good players. Unless Walters is completely loopy, his top pick will be used on the best available OL and I expect his second will go to a receiver.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

CFL Draft 2016 Team Preview: Calgary Stampeders

This will be an interesting draft year for the Stamps. They rarely have this few picks and almost never have this few picks in the first 3 rounds (just). They are used to having multiple picks early which has allowed them the stock their shelves and amass an enviable collection of Canadian talent.

Picks: 6 picks, first selection is 6th Overall

2015 Draft Assessment: It was another case of the rich get richer for the Stamps (a recurring draft theme). In the first round they added a valuable O-lineman in Karl Lavoie (who saw some action early before joining anything resembling an O-lineman in Calgary in getting hurt). The big steal for them was getting Lamar Durant all the way at #18. They took a futures pick in RB Tyler Varga who is currently in the NFL in the 3rd along with speedster Tevaughn Campbell who got a start at CB but is now in Saskatchewan (as is 4th rd pick OL Aaron Picton). The other pick everyone will be watching is 7th rounder QB Andrew Buckley, he returned for his final year of college but will be in camp this year

Potential Pipeline: OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff (Kansas City), RB Tyler Varga (Indianapolis)

Current Strengths: How good is Calgary’s depth? They have D-linemen who can provide better depth at OL than most team’s back-up O-linemen.

Assuming everyone is back to healthy, the Stamps will have a very solid O-line again with the likes of Lavertu, Wilson, Federkeil, and Bergman. Junior Turner is a solid DT and Quinn Smith (when he has time to play his home position) is solid as well. Durant, Parker and Charboneau-Campeau have them set at WR. Rob Cote in my opinion is one of the most undervalued Canadian players in the league. Paredes and Maver are the best kicking combo in the league.

Current Needs: Despite what seemed like a glut of OL, last season proved that you can never have too many. The offseason retirement of former first rounder Brander Craighead adds to that need. They need depth behind Jerome Messam. Beyond that, this draft will be more about restocking the shelves than addressing any pressing areas of need.


Prediction: I think everyone will be shocked if the Stampeders don’t emerge from the draft with RB Mercer Timmis. They still need depth behind Jerome Messam and jettisoned Matt Walter (presumably to make room for the younger/cheaper/higher ceiling Timmis). None of the teams who pick before Calgary are likely to be willing to take Timmis that high. Traditionally they like to take chances on NFL bound guys in the 3rd round (Duvernay, Varga) but I don’t see that happening this year with only 2 picks in the first 3 rounds. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

CFL Draft 2016 Team Preview: Saskatchewan Roughriders

In 2013 the Riders’ Canadian content was among the best in the League. In just 2 short years that eroded to among the bottom feeders (no surprise their place in the standings followed a similar trend). Big challenge facing Chris Jones and John Murphy in rebuilding the Canadian core of this team. They made some big additions in free agency to help in this regard but will the work is far from over.

Picks: 6 picks, first selection is 1st overall

2015 Draft Assessment: With the 6th overall pick they got a much needed impact Canadian in Nic Demski. He made some impressive plays in year 1 and I think his impact will increase exponentially in year 2. Beyond that though, there wasn’t a lot a great things from that draft. Rory Connop and Brandon Tennant were forced into starting roles way too early in their career (turns out that blindly assuming you can fill a starting Canadian DT spot with a rookie drafted in the 3rd round or later is poor ratio management… I’m sure you’re all shocked). Connop may have a future as a backup. 4th rounder Matt Rea spent the season at fullback but was generally unimpressive. DB Kwame Adjei and RB Melvin Abankwa rounded out the draft class. Adjei returned to school and will try again this year to crack the roster.

Potential Pipeline: n/a

Current Strengths: I think the Riders are real strong at receiver with Demski, Bagg and Chambers (assuming he can stay healthy) with Haidara and Carroll around for depth. One of the biggest free agent signings was Justin Capicciotti  who can not only lock down a starting spot at DE but do so at an all-star level. Depth behind him looks good with Ainsworth, Hazime, and Steinhauer. LaBatte is still among the elite OL in the League. Best is pretty good and Clark seems to have found a home at Centre.  I also think that O’Day picking up Tyler Crapigna in the Messam trade last season will turn out to be a great move. I’m very confident in him. In theory Graig Newman solidifies the safety spot for us (with Webster, West and Campbell for depth). I have some doubts as he has yet to be a fulltime starter (despite showing tons of promise) Then again, if Chris Jones can turn Cauchy Muamba into a useful safety then I guess we should not worry about Newman.

Current Needs: Everything... seriously. Last year exposed how non-existent the national depth on this team was and you can’t just rebuild that overnight. Jones has brought in a lot of players to help re-establish that depth (Walter, Hazime, T Campbell, A Jones) but more work is needed.

I see 2 deficiencies as the most glaring. The first is O-line where depth is next to non-existent and there isn’t really any credible competition for our current starters. The other is linebackers. We have 1 Cdn LB and our stable of Cdn special teamers is pretty barren at this point. So either LBs or guys in the mould of Craig Butler that can play safety and LB are greatly needed. I expect our picks to be devoted to that and OL.


Prediction: The big question is does Jones keep the #1 pick or deal it. Provided he can get the return he is looking for, I think it makes a ton of sense to deal it. There is no consensus #1 pick but a number of quality picks at each position. We need quantity more than we need one stud at this point (especially since we predictably are without a second round pick). I imagine the asking price is either 2 top 15 picks or a Canadian player (most likely OL or LB) and a top 10 pick. If someone will pay that, then a deal will happen.

If Jones doesn’t get his price expect him to hold onto the pick and take OL Josiah St John at #1.

Friday, April 22, 2016

CFL Draft 2016 Team Preview: BC Lions

Picks: 6 picks, first selection is 3rd Overall

2015 Draft Assessment: Down the road this draft might turn into a big success for the Lions but at this point it looks pretty bad. They went off the board and took DL Ese Mrabure-Ajufo who was a big disappointment in year one. Their second round pick was Brett Boyko who is still down in the NFL as is 4th round pick Christian Covington. If this trio ever pans out for the Lions then 2015 will be seen as a huge year. For now all they have is an underperforming/barely performing 1st rounder in Mrabure, Shaq Murray-Lawrence and special teamer Adrian Clarke to show.

Potential Pipeline: DL Christian Covington (Houston), OL Brett Boyko (Philadelphia)

Current Strengths: Gore and Iannuzzi have them covered at one WR spot (if Adekolu can ever take the next step forward they are even better off). Bo Lokombo is going to break out soon in a big way and they have Arakgi and Clarke behind him. David Menard (who they nabbed in the 4th round 2 years ago) is becoming a very solid player and a steal of a pick. In theory the presence of Jabar Westerman and Ese Mrabure (both 1st round picks) give them plenty of depth at DL. The hope is Mike Edem can regain the form of his rookie year and lock down the safety spot (which has been an ongoing issue for the Lions for years) they have depth with Eric Fraser there. Rolly Lumbala is one of those unheralded utility Canadians that any good teams needs.

Current Needs: The interior of their OL has been rather sub-par for a few years now. It got so bad they had to start an import at centre just to stabilize things. One would assume this is high on Buono’s list of things to address. The retirement of Austin Collie leaves them in need of a Canadian receiver if they have any intention of continuing to start 2 Cdn receivers. I also think that inspite of the signing of Edem, Buono will still be looking for an impact safety prospect.


Prediction: In each of the past 4 drafts, BC’s first pick has been a lineman and I expect that to continue. Most likely an O-lineman. I could see Michael Couture on their radar given his ability to play centre but they are unlikely to use the 3rd overall pick on him. They will likely hope he’s still there when they pick at 12. That leaves them picking one of Charles Vaillancourt, Josiah St John or Dillon Guy at #3. That said, I wouldn’t completely rule out BC forgoing a lineman in favour of a DB like Arjen Colquhoun.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

CFL Draft 2016 Team Preview: Hamilton Ti-Cats

Picks: 9 picks, first selection is 5th Overall

2015 Draft Assessment: Their draft strategy appeared to be "draft anything resembling a linebacker and nothing else" as 4 of their 6 picks (including the first 3) were all LBs. Which was an odd strategy quite frankly given that they already had Frederic Plesius, Beau Landry and CO Prime. But they got good special team play from the 3 top LB draftees at times throughout the season and had the depth at other positions to allow it I guess.

Potential Pipeline: DL Brent Urban (Baltimore), OL Moe Petrus (?? Was in Tampa)

Current Strengths: For a few years now the Ti-Cats have had tremendous Cdn depth and it has allowed them to thrive in spite of injuries (like last year where Gaydosh and Watt suffered season ending injuries before the season started). Offseason departures and the injury to Craig Butler will put strain on them yet again but they are in a good position to withstand it. As previously mentioned they are stacked at LB. There is some thought Plesius could be a starter but they already tried that once with minimal success. D-line features Laurent (who’s the best in the league) with Gaydosh, Gill and Klassen for depth (could start 2 Cdn DL if everyone is healthy). Courtney Stephen is a proven starter at DB. At receiver they have Fantuz and Watt and Woodson can spell in at RB. Interior OL is decent with Dyakowski, Filer, and Bomben.

Current Needs: Most obvious need has been created based on Butler's injury. They aren’t going to be able to replace a guy like him through the draft but will certainly be looking to add depth at DB to compensate (especially given the departures of Edem and King). Depth along the O-line is certainly something they should be looking to add to as it doesn’t exactly give the greatest of confidence at this point. It seems pretty incredible than in an offseason that saw them lose 3 Cdn D-line (Bulcke, Gascon-Nadon and Hazime) Cdn DL would not be a huge priority but ideally Gaydosh and Gill will be healthy and able to step in to fill those voids. That said, I would imagine they will use mid-late round picks to re-stock the DL shelf.

Lastly as crazy as this is, they currently do not have a placekicker on the roster. Unless their plan is to score only TDs and gamble on every 3rd down, they will probably be interested in drafting a kicker if for nothing else than having competition for other kickers (which I assume they will eventually get around to signing)

Prediction:  A couple possible scenarios here. The first is that the Ti-Cats keep their #5 pick and take an O-lineman as part of the expect run on OL early. They then target either a DB in round 2 or kicker Quinn Van Gylswyk assuming they feel the need to take him that high (NFL interest may drop him lower).


The other scenario involves wheeling and dealing (as there GM has been known to do). TiCats are not afraid to trade down when it suits their needs so you could see them trading some combination of their #5, 14 and 18 pick to increase their odds of emerging with a top end DB, a decent lineman and Van Gylswyk. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

CFL Draft 2016 Team Preview: Montreal Alouettes

Want a pretty amazing stat? Of the 34 Canadian players currently under contract to the Als, all but 4 of them are either Alouette draft picks or undrafted free agent originally signed by the Als. It speaks volumes to their commitment to develop from within and also to their ability to retain their national talent.

Picks: 6 picks, first selection is 2nd Overall

2015 Draft Assessment: Als had 2 first round picks and took DB Chris Ackie (which was a somewhat curious pick with Brouillette, Lue and Edem already there, though he’s likely to develop into a solid player) and OL Jacob Ruby who only dressed in 2 games but will be counted on more this season. Second rounder Nick Shortill was a good special teamer. Fourth rounder Alex Charrette caught my eyes a few times. For a late pick he could yet turn into a valuable one for the Als. Of course there was also QB Brandon Bridge (4th rd pick) who got forced into action early. He was clearly not ready to be a starter but showed enough that he belongs in a serious QB battle. Overall a good draft by the Als.

Potential Pipeline: OL David Foucault (Carolina), DL Tyrone Crawford (Dallas… assuming the Als still have him on their neg list), DL Hosam Shahin (I believe out of football),

Current Strengths:
The hallmark of the Als for many years has been their all-Canadian OL. Despite the loss of Bourke in the offseason they still have the depth to maintain that… if they so choose. They have a very good stable of OL and the oldest one is Picard at 32. They have good depth at Cdn DL with Joseph, Klassen and the newly added Vaugh Martin. The combo of Brouilette and Ackie allow them to start another Cdn defender. Guiguere and Charette at receiver are a nice combo.

The Als are not afraid to invest picks in guys they have to wait for. Lately that has been paying off. Last season they added OL Phillip Blake (2011 draft pick) and DL Jesse Joseph (2013 pick). This year they are adding DL Vaughn Martin (2011 pick). Their depth allows them to be patient with prospects (something not all teams can do).

Current Needs:
With Bourke gone and Luc Brodeur-Jourdain reportedly likely to start the year on IR, the Als would be wise to keep stocking their OL shelves. Other than that they don’t really have any glaring needs. They have the luxury of drafting the best player available and I expect that to include a player not likely to be in the CFL for a while (like say Oneymata). Based on the whole Henoc Muamba fiasco I don’t see Popp targeting any linebackers early but then again, Popp once drafted a kicker he didn’t need in the first round so don’t rule anything out.

Prediction:

Lots of directions they could go with the second overall pick. The safe choice would be an O-lineman and that is what I’m guessing they will due (particularly given the uncertainly around Brodeur-Jourdain) but I could just as easily see Popp opting for guy like Arjen Calquhoun due to his impressive athletic abilities. As I mentioned before, Popp likes taking flyer picks so guys like Oneymata and Mehdi Abdesmad will be on his radar once round 3 starts.