Wednesday, April 30, 2014

CFL Draft 2014 Team Preview: BC Lions

Under Wally Buono the Lions have exemplified the “draft the best player available” mentality. That is likely one of the leading reasons BC has tended so have one of the better cores of Canadian talent.

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is 5th Overall

2013 Draft Assessment: Took a chance on highly touted OL prospect Hunter Steward in round 1 which paid off when he signed this offseason. Got lucky enough to get SJ Hairdara in round 2 and I think he will soon develop into an impact player. Got some good role players like back-up OL Matt Albright and DB Matt McGarva in the late rounds. Overall they did well.

Potential Pipeline: OL Danny Watkins (Miami/possibly done with football), DB OJ Atogwe (NFL), DL Rob Meier (retired from NFL), LB Bo Lokombo (college)

Current Strengths: BC is blessed with offensive playmakers so good that their Cdn birth certificates are just a bonus. There is of course Andrew Harris who is great at both running and receiving. I consider Shawn Gore to the best Cdn WR in the league and when you factor in Haidara, Ianuzzi and Poblah it makes for arguably the best group of Cdn receivers in the league. Jabar Westerman is a developing talent at DL. Jason Aragki is a solid special teamer. And they have decent talent at the interior of their OL (when healthy).

Current Needs: Last year injuries really tested their depth at OL and this offseason has been just as brutal to that depth. Angus Reid retired, Patrick Kabongo likely will too. Matt Albright was snatched by Ottawa. And Steve Myddelton signed in Hamilton. The addition of Steward definitely helps but Dean Valli has had his share of injury issues and Kirby Fabien is just coming off a knee injury that cost him almost all of 2013. Bottom line is BC will need to restock the shelves at OL.

Also, for the past number of years the glaring weakness in an otherwise solid secondary has been safety. They have tried the likes of Cauchy Muamba and JR LaRose and still not found an impact player. Their big plan was to lure Craig Butler to address that issue but to a lot of people’s surprise (including them) they missed out and are now left scrambling for alternatives.

Other needs include building depth at DL if they want Westerman to factor in as a starter. I would suggest they draft a kicker but it appears I will retire before McCallum.

Prediction: Really hard to say where Buono goes in round 1. I think ideally they would target an OL but there will be an early run on them and there may not be one left at #5 worthy of a first round pick. They may also look for a DB like Adam Thibault which I think is the most likely scenario with them stocking up on OL in subsequent rounds (remember that Matt Norman was a 3rd rounder). Then again Buono may deem a DL like Quinn Smith or Dylan Ainsworth too good to pass on if they are still there. One thing I am sure of though, is that BC is the most likely to make a trade to move up a few spots or try for another 1st round pick.

Monday, April 28, 2014

CFL Draft 2014 Team Preview: Montreal Alouettes

The Als are one of the hardest team to predict in terms of the draft. Just a quick look at some of the recent top picks of Jim Popp will tell you just how all over the map he can be: 2011 – kicker, 2012 – fullback, 2013 – used second of two 1st rd picks on a RB.

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is 4th Overall

2013 Draft Assessment: Getting Mike Edem at #4 made the draft worthwhile on its own. They also got Steve Lumbala who has already earned some playing time early in his career and potentially 2 solid DL prospects in Hosin Shahin and Jesse Joseph (assuming they end up in Montreal), so overall it was a really good draft for the Als.

Potential Pipeline: DL Hosin Shahin (college), DL Jesse Joseph (college), DL Vaughn Martin (Detroit), OL Phillip Blake (Arizona), DL Tyrone Crawford (Dallas… assuming the Als still have him on their neg list)

Current Strengths: The hallmark of the Als for many years has been their all-Canadian OL. The combo of Perrett and Bourke at tackle is something a lot of teams would love. On defense they have talented players like Mike Edem and Marc-Olivier Brouillette. Sean Whyte struggled a bit last year but overall is a solid kicker than can fill all 3 jobs. If players like Mike Klassen and Bo Adebayo can develop into contributors and prospects like Shahin and Joseph end up on the team, the Als could have a very solid group of Cdn DL.

Current Needs: The Als much envied Cdn depth took some big hits this offseason. Shea Emry left via free agency, Andrew Woodruff retired, Scott Flory will likely retire and the Redblacks took Patrick Lavoie. The Als have the talent to still have 7 solid Cdns starters but depth has to be a rising concern at pretty much every position.

Prediction: As previously mentioned, hard to predict Jim Popp but I think he will go with either a LB like Jesse Briggs or a DB like Adam Thibault to add depth behind Edem and Brouillette. Antoine Pruneau is another player who may be on their radar. The Als may even make a rare move and draft a WR before the end of the draft. Their all Cdn OL has allowed them to be unlike other teams and not need (or care for) Cdn WRs. But depth concerns at other positions and the addition of Dave Stala may bring Cdn WRs back into consideration in the earlier rounds. Also Popp has shown no aversion to drafting NFL-bound players just in case (e.g. Martin, Blake) so I would put Montreal among the teams most likely to take a flyer on OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

Friday, April 25, 2014

CFL Draft 2014 Team Preview: Edmonton Eskimos

Picks: 5 picks, first selection is 3rd Overall

2013 Draft Assessment: It was a year of big potential but little that was tangible… at least in the short term. Their first pick was used on DL Stefan Charles who may yet be a stud Cdn DT but is currently on the active roster of the Buffalo Bills. LS Jorgen Hus was also drafted and also is still trying his luck in the NFL. They got good late value in DL Elie Ngoyi in my opinion and I would also keep my eye on OL Chris Mercer who they drafted in the 3rd round. He could develop into a pretty good OL.

Potential Pipeline: DL Stephan Charles (Buffalo), LS Jorgen Hus (Seattle), OL Austin Paztor (Jacksonville), K Shuan Suisham (Pittsburgh), LS LP Ladouceur (Dallas), DL Israel Idonije (Chigago)

Current Strengths: With Chambers, Coehoorn and Foster, they have a very strong group of Cdn receivers. The loss of Ted Laurent hurts but I still think Oramasionwu and Steele give them a decent enough pairing to start a Cdn DT.

Current Needs: O-line was an embarrassment last season (both on the field and Hervey’s off-field handling of the matter). They tried their best to address it in the offseason but the market was thin so the improvement was minimal. Priority #1 needs to be improving that line… otherwise all of Mike Reilly’s promise/talent may go to waste on the IR.

The Esks will also need to look at rejigging their ratio. They released starting safety Donovan Alexander and also lost DL Ted Laurent and Justin Capiciotti. If we assume they will go with 3 Cdn OL, 2 WR and 1 DT, they are still short one Cdn starter. One option is Hinds/Rwabukamba at CB but I really don’t see that with Joe Burnett and Pat Watkins on the roster. Other options include keeping safety Cdn, playing a Cdn OT or starting 2 Cdn DTs… all of which would require the Esks to bring in players to shore up the respective positions.

Prediction: As crazy as Ed Hervey is, I think he is smart enough to realize that taking an OL at #3 is the right call. Much like Stefan Charles last year, I think Hervey will be willing to risk NFL interest and take OL David Foucault. They don’t pick again until the 3rd were I think they will look to build depth either at OL or DL as that is the most likely place their 7th Cdn starter will come from.