Wednesday, April 24, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Ottawa RedBlacks

Since returning to the league Ottawa has been one of the most consistently successful teams in the league (3 Grey Cup appearances in the past 4 years). Now a large part of that success has to do with playing in a division where being mediocre is good enough to be way better than the rest of the teams. But their success has also been driven by their strong Canadian content.

Interesting fact for you from 2016 to present they have only traded away 5 of their picks… total. Some teams manage that in a year. Other interesting fact: the RedBlacks have only 3 people over the age of 30 on their roster.

Picks: 7 picks, first selection is 7th overall

2018 Draft Assessment: It was all about building depth, which is something they have the luxury of doing with a strong set of Canadian starters. First rounder Matt Korte builds depth at OL. Same with second rounder Dubois at receiver. So far the impact has been  minimal but almost every pick is still on the roster so they could yet develop into something with more impact.

Potential Pipeline: DL Eli Ankou (NFL – Jacksonville). They also have the rights to DL Mehdi Abdesmad but he retired.

Current Strengths: They have 6 former first round picks at O-line. 5 of their own plus Philippe Gagnon acquired in free agency, That is some enviable depth there. Sinopoli remains the top Cdn WR in the league at this point and they added 2017 first rounder Nate Behar to further solidify that spot. Feoli-Guidino is an underrated contributor there as well. Pruneau gives them a defensive starter at safety. Latanzio and Klassen give them the needed 7th Canadian at DL. Also their kicker is kinda good. Something about breaking a pro football record as an undrafted rookie.

Current Needs: Too bad they can’t draft a new OC. Too soon? I was working on another joke about how at the combine Ottawa likely blocked prospects from interviewing with other teams as well… but I was honestly too lazy to turn it into something decent enough to post (you get what you pay for). D-line would be a good place to build. They finished third last in sacks last season and while Latanzio and Klassen are adequate they are hardly impact players. Given that they start 2 Cdn WR they could use some more depth there. Linebacker is another place to look. Beyond that they have very few glaring needs.

Prediction: In every single draft in RedBlack history except 2014 they have selected an OL with their first pick. They are nothing if not consistent. As much as they are creatures of habit I think this will mark the second time in franchise history they don’t take an OL first. D-line would make the most sense, though in the past their attempts to draft DL high have failed to materialize (Ankou, Abdesmad). Receiver would be the other place for them to look in the early rounds.

Monday, April 22, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Saskatchewan Roughriders

What will the first draft of the Jeremy O’Day era bring? I doubt it will be as interesting or whacky as the Chris Jones era (but then again aside from his wardrobe choices, its tough to be as interesting and whacky as Jones). Outside of 2017, Jones did not have a great drafting record. 2016 was abysmal. With St John not re-signed there is no one left from that draft and we got a solid half season out of him (not a great return on investment for a first overall pick). 2017 was a solid draft (Bladek, Judge, Chevrier). 2018 (as I’ll discuss below hinges a lot on one guy). Hopefully O’Day can prove to be a great drafter because the string of poor drafting GMs we’ve had goes back a while Jones, Taman, Tillman, Shiv.

Picks: 6 picks, first selection is 6th overall

2018 Draft Assessment: Not going to go quite as far as to say the success of this draft hinges entirely on Dakota Shepley but it’s pretty close to that. We took a risk in drafting him as high as we did but it has paid off with us only having to wait 1 year for him. He’s signed and will be in camp (of course pending whatever happens in collective bargaining). If he even comes close to his potential it’s a win. If he ends up not panning out then it’s a bad draft as the rest of the draftees are a solid meh. Teitz seems like he can contribute on teams. Breton and Mufata (I can’t help myself whenever I heart that name I picture Scar yelling “never, ever mention that name!”) are developmental projects that may or may not pan out.

Potential Pipeline: DL David Oneymata (NFL – New Orleans), TE Anthony Auclair (NFL – Tampa Bay), TE Adam Zaruba – neg list (rugby), OL Christopher Smith (college), DB Elie Bouka (free agent, we don’t officially own his rights but given that we released him early, hopefully there is some goodwill there)

Current Strengths: O-line depth looks good with Labatte, Blake, Bladek, Clark, Shepley and Schram (who saw some limited action last season). Some definite playmakers on D with Evans, Edem and Judge. Also a very strong special teams core. Good snapper in Hus. Solid at kicking with Lauther, Bartel, Crapigna (and possibly John Ryan). Gagne and Chevrier had 23 and 16 special teams tackles. Plus the Riders should get Radford back who had 24 in 2017. Patrick Lavoie is a solid utility player.

Current Needs: With Jake Harty out again with injury the Riders' Cdn WR situation is pretty bleak. We have 35 year old Cory Watson who has topped 500 once in the past 7 years and Mitch Picton who has not taken a pro snap. That does not instill much confidence in a team that needs to start a Cdn WR. Depth on defense is concerning outside of LB. We have zero depth behind Edem and while I like Makana Henry, I’d like more than just him backing up Evans. Also, as much as depth at OL is good, 3 of them are the wrong side of 30 and another is moving off season ending injury. Can’t just stand pat.

Prediction: With so many good WR prospects this year and our desperate need there, I have a hard time seeing us not taking one in the first round. Either Justin McInnis or Hergy Mayala. In round 2, we will be looking for a DL or a DB. My guess is that D-line is most likely because the DB crop is so thin.  The other thing to watch is whether we are able to move Tyler Crapigna for an extra mid-round pick. You can bet we are trying.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Montreal Alouettes

The Als are apparently fans of extended waits. For example they haven’t been in the postseason for 4 years now (and based on how things are trending that drought may continue). They also dislike first round picks so much that they have decided not to have a first round pick again until 2022. But don’t worry the 2 they spent on Johnny Manziel were totally worth it. The Als are doing dismal both on and off the field. They may have new owners by the draft and hopefully that will start a slow upward trend for the team.

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is 13th Overall

2018 Draft Assessment: In true Kavis Reed fashion, even when he did something good he found a way to screw it up. They wisely traded down from the first overall spot and still drafted OL Trey Rutherford (who I believe was their target all along). It cost them a 2019 first rounder but they got vet OL Ryan Bomben. Good deal. But they only kept Bomben for 6 games before trading him for an import DB and a 3rd round pick. Not such a good deal. Outside of Rutherford it was a case of quantity over quality. They had 9 other picks but other than Bo Banner who has potential as a rotational DL the rest of the group seem to be depth people at best. The addition of OL Tyler Johnstone may have cost them their 2019 first rounder but he should be a solid addition.

Potential Pipeline: n/a (at one point they had DL Tyrone Crawford on their neg list but not sure if they still do… not that it matters, he ain’t coming north).

Current Strengths:
Improving their Canadian content was a priority this offseason. They added proven Canadian guys like Taylor Loffler, Bo Lokombo and vet OL Spencer Wilson. Loffler along with Henoc Muamba give them 2 impact Cdn defenders. Johnstone and Rutherford give then a good young core to go along with their vets (Matte, Brodeur-Jourdain, Wilson).

Current Needs:
Finding 7 quality Cdn Starters will be tough. They have 2 defenders and 3 OL but after that it gets scary. In theory Johnstone could play tackle and give their 4 OL. They have a lot of Cdn WRs but none of them are starting material. They lack enough talent to start a D-lineman. So those are both big areas of need. Also given that Matte, Brodeur-Jourdain and Wilson are all the wrong side of 30, continuing to build at OL would be a good idea.

I think the ALs have to take a DL or WR with their first pick (in round 2). But with having 2 second rounders and a high third (13, 16 and 19 overall) I could see them trying to swing a deal to trade up higher to get a more impactful player. With new ownership coming I have a feeling this will be Kavis Reed’s last draft… which is great news from the Alouettes but sad news for a blogger like myself whose gimmick is making fun of things.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Hamilton Ti-Cats

We take a look at the first East team of this preview today. Over the last 2 years Hamilton has loaded up on early round picks. They had 4 top 20 picks that season and have another 3 this year. Side note

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is 2nd Overall

2018 Draft Assessment: Tough to call a draft a success when you use the first overall pick on a guy that still has not signed. That said, despite that 2018 was still pretty good for the Ti-Cats. Their other first round pick turned into Darius Ciraco who started every game in his rookie season. They also got Jackson Bennett in round 2 who had some good plays on special teams and I think is a guy poised for a step forward in year 2. Add in a few other depth picks and you have a pretty good draft class. If Chapman ever reports it could end up being a great one. 5th round pick Justin Buren was a guy they were high on (he started the last 6 games) but he retired.

Potential Pipeline: DL Brent Urban (NFL – free agent), DL Nathan Shepard (neg list, NY Jets), WR Mark Chapman (AAFL)

Current Strengths: Pretty solid across the board. The interior of theor O-line is good and young. Mike Filer is the “old” one at 29. Ciraco and Revenberg have turned out to be great first round picks for the Ti-Cats. Add in Girard and Rice for depth They have 3 potential starters at D-line with Laurent, Westerman and Cappicciotti (man I hate having to type that name). Add in McGough and Vaugh for depth and they are set there. Mike Daly, newly signed Tunde Adleke and Jackson Bennett have them solid at DB. Mike Jones had a breakout year at WR. RB Sean Thomas-Erlington (and 8th round pick in 2017) turned some heads last season and proved he can be a solid rotational RB.

Current Needs: The ratio likely dictates starting 2 Cdn Wrs. Mike Jones has one of those spots. But the other one? Chambers has played more than 6 just once in the past 4 years so I wouldn’t be counting on him. Brian Jones is serviceable (honestly to Rider fans even remember he played for us last year?). So unless they get Chapman under contract, they will need more depth there. While they are OK at OL for now the Ti-Cats have only drafted 4 Cdn OL in the past 5 years… that is not a typo. They could also use to build some depth at LB/special teams. While they did just re-sign Hajrullahu if you have followed his career he tends to be really good only in alternating years. Given that last year was pretty good that doesn’t bode well for 2019.

Prediction:  I see the Ti-Cats using two picks on and OL and a WR. I’m just not sure in what order. With no clear cut #1 receiver and picking second overall my guess is they go OL in the first round (Drew Desjarlais, Zach Wilkinson, Jesse Gibbon) and then target a WR like Kayon Julien-Grant or Kurleigh Gittens in Round 2.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Calgary Stampeders

Guess how many Canadians on the Stampeder roster were not drafted or originally recruited by the Stamps? 4. That’s how well they draft and develop. They rarely need outside infusions of Canadian talent. They are lucky they do though because if you look back at their Round1-3 picks from 2014 through 2017, they have just 4 of 16 remaining on the roster, none of which were first round picks.

Picks: 9 picks, first selection is 8th Overall

2017 Draft Assessment: Tough to get a good assessment on the draft at this point as they’ve had next to no impact. That is more a product of Calgary having strong Canadian talent and new players having to bide their time waiting for playing time. Even first round pick Sceviour only suited up for 1 game. In true Stamps form this group may develop into contributors but its’ too early to tell.

Potential Pipeline: OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff (NFL - Kansas City, though I don’t expect to ever see him up north)

Current Strengths: Mrabure, Turner and Wiggan have them set at DL. Despite the loses of Durant and Parker, Brescasin and Lynch should be able to hold down a WR spot. Courtney Stephen give them a legit starting DB. Bergman and Erdos are solid OL. Can’t go wrong with the kicking combo of Parades and Maver.

Current Needs: This is the first time in a long time where I have looked at the Stamps roster and not been overly impressed by their Canadian content. They aren’t in dire straights by any stretch of the imagination. But loses of guys like Singleton and Adeleke along with a lot of the rest of their top picks not panning out (Colling, Lavoie) have them in need pretty much across the board.

Prediction: O-line would seem to be a natural place to focus early as they need depth there. In Round 2 my guess is they target DB Malcolm Lee. It’s a thin class for LB and DB so they will try and get what they can early.

Monday, April 15, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Bombers have had some pretty solid Canadian depth for a few years now (quite the accomplishment given their Taman/Mack history). But this offseason has been a tough one for them. Between retirements and free agency they lost 4 former 1st or 2nd round picks and 3 of their 7 Canadian starters. That’s quite the hit in one offseason. Definitely a need to re-stock the shelves. Having 2 top 5 picks is a good way to start that.

Picks: 9 picks, first selection is 4th Overall

2018 Draft Assessment: Immediate impacts were not huge but it could well be an important group as it develops. They traded out of the first round to get an extra first rounder this year. They then drafted 2 receivers in Rashaun Simonise and Daniel Petermann. Both showed promise in their first year and both could take a step forward in year 2 (particularly the athletic Simonise). Third rounder Arnaud Gendron-Dumouchel retired and the rest were mostly depth players. So beyond the WRs the returns were minimal. 2017 first rounder Geoff Gray finally signed after some time down south which is a boost.

Potential Pipeline: None. Though they do have DL Andy Mulumba, WR Stephen Alli and DL Christo Bilukidi should they ever decide to play football again which at this point is highly unlikely.

Current Strengths: What stands out is their Canadian offensive weapons. Obviously Andrew Harris is a beast. Add in guys like Demski, Wolitarski (who had a breakout season) , Petermann and Simonise and they appear pretty solid… plus their OC knows how to use them all. They also have a group of very solid special teams players like Thomas Miles, Chad Rempel and Mike Miller.

Current Needs: Losing 3 Canadian starters in a year is rough. They have Couture who is ready to step in and take one spot and the hope is Gray is ready as well. Regardless they will need to rebuild depth there as they are suddenly thin. Replacing Loffler is not quite as easy. Hecht is an adequate fill in but they should be looking for better. The thing is, they can start 6 Cdns on O (3 OL, RB and 2 WR) so really they only need 1 defensive starter which could be Jake Thomas. So while depth is needed at safety and D-line it’s not a burning need.

Prediction: I’ll be straight-up shocked if the Bombers don’t use one of their first rounders on an OL. Depending on how the top 3 picks go they could get the 2nd best OL in the draft (who that is is a judgment call). Guys like Jesse Gibbons, Shane Richards or Kyle Saxelid are possibilities.  They may also use the benefit of a second first rounder to take a flyer on a guy with NFL interest like say Mathieu Betts. After that look for them to look to build depth at DL and more at OL.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Edmonton Eskimos

The Esks seems to have a bi-polar condition when it comes to the draft. In recent years they seem to alternate between good drafts and bad ones. 2014 was bad (Devon Bailey, Aaron Milton), ’15 was good (Groulx, Beard, Konar), ’16 was bad at the time (though Tevaughn SMith showing up suddenly improves things), ’17 good (Behar, Roy, Mulumba, Boateng). 2018 was a whole lot of meh. I guess that means 2019 should be another good one.

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is 3rd Overall

2018 Draft Assessment: With only one pick in the top 20 it was not a high impact draft class for the Esks. They traded out of the first round to add another mid-round pick. Mostly a lot of special team/depth players. Godfrey Oneyka could develop into an impact player in year 2 but the early returns on the 2018 class are minimal so far. They did however get a pick boost this offseason by finally signing 2016 first round pick Tevaughn Smith

Potential Pipeline: OL Justin Senior (NFL), DL Stefan Charles (free agent), OL Austin Paztor (NFL – Tennessee), LS LP Ladouceur (NFL - Dallas)

Current Strengths:
They only played with 2 Cdn OL last season but have the depth to go back to 3 if they choose with the likes of O’Donnell, Ruby, Roy, Woods and Spooner. Kwaku Boateng is an impact D-end. 2017 first rounder Behar bolted in free agency but the addition of Smith along with Anthony Parker and Adjey for depth have them alright at WR still. Adam Konar and Christophe Mulumba have them good at LB though with all the offseason acquisitions of American LBs (Santos-Knox, Dean, Unamba) they may not plan on starting Konar anymore (a curious move because he’s pretty good). Solid in the kicking department. Lastly feel the need to mention Calvin McCarty. He may be like Paul McCallum old but he’s still valuable player for them.

Current Needs:
They need to figure out what they are doing with the ratio (short of crossing their fingers that the League agrees to lower it before the season). Last season they stared 4 Cdn defenders but they currently have no Safety and if Konar gets bumped to back-up duty they need to fill 2 spots. They can easily switch back to 3 Cdn OL (maybe even 4 if they had too). But they will need to add where ever they choose to put the 7th Cdn Starter. If its safety they need a safety. If it’s a second Cdn WR, they need more depth there. They also need some depth behind Boateng as its pretty minimal there.

With the 3rd overall pick and some very talented D-line prospects up for grabs that’s where I would see them going in Round 1. They could certainly roll the dice on Mathieu Betts despite likely NFL interest but I see them going a safer route with a Robbie Smith or Connor Griffiths. In round 2, they will likely look to add at DB but could also look to keep building at OL as they have only drafted one O-lineman in the first 3 rounds over the past 3 years.