Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Every Day It’s Shufflin’

Of course we are talking about the CFL draft.  Its draft week and CFL teams are placing the final touches on their draft boards. You wouldn’t really know its draft week though as there is very little being talked about it. I know the CFL draft is like the retarded cousin of the NFL one but still. Oh well, at least you can get your draft fix here.

Here’s a quick rundown on the CFL implications of the NFL Draft
- 2011 Alouette Draft picks OL Phillip Blake (4th Rd to Denver) and K Brody McKnight (FA signing NYJ) were scooped up. The impact here is minimal since Blake was expected to land in the NFL even last year when the Als took him in the 5th round and McKnight was just a stupid use of a first rounder by the Als.

- A few American players on neg lists got picked up (well there were probably a ton but here are the one we know about). Hamilton owns the neg rights to QB Kellen Moore (who was a FA pick up by Detroit) and DT Akiem Hicks (3rd round pick by the Saints). Hicks of course played with the U of R Rams do to being caught up in some recruiting violations down south. Montreal owns the rights to QB Russell Wilson who went in the 3rd round to Seattle. Impact here is likely minimal since I’m sure this happens all the time with neg listers.

As for the impacts on this Thursday’s draft:
- DL Tyrone Crawford went in the 3rd round to Dallas. Crawford is hands down the best player available in the CFL draft but it’s been a foregone conclusion that he was NFL bound. The fact that he went as high as the 3rd round likely means it’ll be at least 3 years of ever before Crawford heads north. That plummets him from a sure-fire first rounder in the CFL to a 5th round flyer. My guess is Calgary, BC or Montreal will be the ones to take the chance.

- Another DL Chrito Bilukidi went in the 6th round to Oakland. Now here the later round selection increases the odds he may eventually venture north but that still won’t be for a while, again dropping him from a first rounder to a 3rd or so.

- OL Austin Pasztor wasn’t drafted but signed on with my Vikings as a free agent after the draft. Pasztor is regarded as every bit as good as a lineman as Heenan and so had he not been picked he could very well have gone first overall. Now a undrafted free agent signing is less risky than a NFL draft pick for CFL teams to take but there is still risk. They may just get a cup of coffee and be back in no time. An example is Shologan, he ended up in San Diego but the Riders still used a first rounder on him and he was worth every penny. Or they may last a long time. For example the CFL is still waiting for the likes of Joel Reinders, Sam Giguere and Matt O’Donnell to venture north. You just never know. I still bet Pasztor goes before the end of round 2 and even think the Eskimos will use their second 1st rounder on him.

Big names like DL Ameet Paul, WR Shamawd Chambers and of course Ben Heenan are so far still on the market which puts their stock extremely high.

I’ll be back tomorrow with my full 6 round mock draft and of course Thursday’s Live Draft Day Blogging.

Friday, April 27, 2012

CFL Draft Preview: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

This is the last of the pre-draft team previews. Next week draft coverage will kick into high gear. I’ll have breakdown of the effects of the NFL Draft and post-draft free agent signings on the CFL Draft. I’ll take a stab at a full 6 round mock draft (yeah this should be interesting) and it will culminate on Thursday with my 5th Annual Live Draft Day Blogging.

Also don’t forget to get your picks in for the 1st Annual Rider Prophet CFL Draft Contest. Details can befound here and you have until 10:30am on Thursday (Draft Day) to get your picks in to be eligible for the prizes.

Now on with the Blue Bombers preview...

Canadians Under Contract: 26

One Word Description of Current Canadians: Developing

Early Round Track Record: Since 2001 they have only drafted in the first round twice… TWICE!! In 7 other drafts, their first selection was in the 3rd round or later. They got Labatte and Muamba those rare times they did decided to show up before the draft was half over but the sample size is too small to get a good conclusion.

First Pick: 2nd Round 8th Overall

Number of Picks: 6

Strengths: Their recent commitment to upgrading at WR has paid off as they now boast a stable consisting of Watson, Poblah and Etienne. Kicking game is solid with both Palardy and Renaud returning. They have a fairly solid special teams base with the like of Muamba, Labbe, Browne, and a plethora of Cdn RBs.

Potential Pipeline: N/A

Needs: Up until this week. D-line was likely to be their primary focus given the retirement of Doug Brown and the loss of Don Oramasionwu. However, the retirement of Obby Khan changed all that and bumped O-line to the top of the priority list as well. The loss of Labatte meant they likely needed to look at drafting an OL but now they are down 2 starting OL and those 2 just happen to be the only guys to play centre for them in a long time. Wouldn’t hurt for them to look at adding a LB (in case they ever decide they want to make Henoc Muamba a starter) and a DB (since the 3 they have are all right around the 30 year old mark). Overall though they will focus their drafting along the O-line and D-line.
Bold Prediction: After being burned by Labatte, the Bombers will refuse to draft anyone who attended school in Saskatchewan based purely on principle.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rider Prophet Remembers Jason Clermont

Yesterday, Jason Clermont confirmed his long speculated retirement from the CFL. It marked the end of a truly remarkable 10 year career.

Its tradition here on the blog to do a salute to Rider greats when they retire. Now Clermont’s time as a Rider hardly qualify him as a Rider great (in fact he’d probably like to forget most of the previous 3 season with the exception of the increase in his realty business) but what he achieved overall in his career definitely qualify him as a CFL great… and thus he is salute-worthy.

Just look at his resume: Outstanding Rookie, 2 time Outstanding Canadian, 2 time division all-star, played in the Grey Cup 4 times, Most Outstanding Canadian in a Grey Cup game, Grey Cup Champ. Simply put he is one of the top Canadian receivers to ever play the game.

But with Clermont it wasn’t just about what he accomplished… but rather how he accomplished it. He was not a flashy, highlight reel-type receiver like his long-time teammate Geroy Simon. He was a tough as nails fearless grinder with a work ethic that was second to none and built like a freight train. In his prime, he was one of the best possession receivers over the middle. QBs could count on Clermont like clockwork to go over middle and haul in pretty much any pass in his general direction.

The only thing that would have been better is if the Regina product could have spent his best years treating his hometown fans to his abilities rather than the hated BC Lions.

It’s also a shame that such a great career had to have such an unspectacular finish. Expectations were high when Clermont finally signed with the Riders but a combination of a stable of young emerging Canadian receivers (Fantuz, Bagg, Getzlaf) and the fact that I’m still convinced Ken Miller hated Clermont for some unknown reason kept Clermont from ever accomplishing much as Rider. Off the field though I suspect he had a huge impact in the locker room mentoring our young receivers and being a strong veteran presence during the Cup runs of ’09 and ’10.

His minimal on-field contributions did not stop the fans from adoring him as evidence by the standing ovation he got every time he caught a 4 yard pass.

So congratulations to Clermont on a remarkable career and all the best in retirement. I’ll end with my top 5 memories of Clermont.

5 - Cyborg-like healing abilities
In 2006, Clermont suffered a major knee injury which would have ended the average player’s season or at least put them out for a significant amount of time. Not Clermont though, miraculously he missed like 5 games and was back doing his thing.

4 – Grey Cup 2004
In 2004, Clermont turned in a great performance in the Grey Cup and was named the games Most Outstanding Canadian despite the fact that the BC Lions lost. Steve Armitage interviewed him right after the award was presented and asked “is this a dream come true?”. Clermont replied “I never really dreamed of losing the Grey Cup”. 

Clermont 1 – Stupid Reporters 0

3 – Dry Humour
Not enough people truly appreciated Clermont’s wit and humour. He was very dry and sarcastic but his tweets and short-lived column in the Leader Post were must read material and never ceased to crack me up. My all-time favourite will always be his Labour Day article where he explained the terms “making it rain” and “stacks”.

2 – Toughness
I already talked about Clermont’s toughness. Rather than go on about it, I will let Clermont’s work speak for itself. This highlight epitomizes just how tough Clermont was…

1 – The TD
While Clermont’s career as a Rider had few highlights, this moment will be forever enshrined in Rider lore. It is among the most exciting moments I’ve ever experienced at Mosaic.

This is image that will forever be etched in my mind when I think of Clermont as a Rider.

CFL Draft Preview: Toronto Argonauts

Canadians Under Contract: 25

One Word Description of Current Canadians: So-so (which is a huge achievement by Argo standards)

Early Round Track Record: No so good. Only 1 of their last 4 first rounders is with the team (Eppele). Historically Toronto has tended to either trade away their top picks or use them on guys who end up in the NFL.

First Pick: 2nd Round 9th Overall

Number of Picks: 5

Strengths: They currently have 10 Cdn OL under contract so they have plenty of options there. On defense they have Pottinger and Foley who are ratio busting starters. They also have a solid offensive starter in Andre Durie and developing talents like Watt and to a lesser extent Kouame.

Potential Pipeline: LB Cory Greenwood (KC Chiefs), OT Joel Reindeers (NY Giants), OL Tyler Holmes (college) and of course Nick Kaczur (hahahaha)

Needs: With the exception of OL, depth is an issue. They currently lack a solid back-up to Foley on the DL. With the draft being as deep as it is with DL prospects Toronto will be looking to add there. They only have one solitary Cdn DB on the roster so that is another place they will look to add (though it won’t be a high priority since they run an all import secondary). Lastly their kicker is pushing 40 so they may look to draft a kicker to groom as his eventual replacement.

Bold Prediction: Toronto continues their early round futility by drafting a player (my bet is along the D-line) that won’t play in the CFL in 2012.

Monday, April 23, 2012

CFL Draft Preview: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Canadians Under Contract: 24

One Word Description of Current Canadians: Dwindling

Early Round Track Record: Spans the entire spectrum of success. They have drafted elite players like Shologan, middle of the road people like Shomari Williams, rising stars like Butler and absolute failures like Tamon George, David McKoy and Ducarmel Augustin.

First Pick: 1st Round 1st Overall

 Number of Picks: 3

Strengths: The additions of Picard and Labatte have boosted the O-line immensely. Outside of that there are a number of great individuals. Shologan is among the best as his position. Butler is a gem. Getzlaf is consistently productive and if by chance Rob Bagg’s knee is healthy they have another elite receiver at their disposal.

Potential Pipeline: OT Matt O’Donnell (Cincinnati Bengals)

Needs: Pretty much every position but offensive guard and centre (which is why I have concerns that Heenan will likely be their first pick). Depth behind Shologan is paper thin. Depth behind Butler is Woldu (who is not a safety) and a junior player. There is no depth behind McCullough at LB. Outside of Getzlaf all they have at receiver is a bunch of questions (Bagg’s knee, Sisco’s talent, etc...). You name it they need it.

Bold Prediction: Taman will trade the 1st overall pick (not really bold given that it’s Taman... but still I bet Taman trades down a few spots).