Well today seems like as good a day as any to kick off my 2014 CFL Draft coverage... mainly because there's not much else to talk about. I mean sure Alex Hall is headed to Carolina but the odds of him returning to the Riders were about on par with those of a hockey team not named the Habs playing relevant hockey in April. So let's talk draft.
First thing to discuss is the notion that this is a weak draft class. It is... and there are a few factors driving that. The first is changes to the draft eligibility rules. Since you'd need a post graduate degree and army of consultants to understand the eligibility rules for the draft, I'll simplify things. Basically they are making it so NCAA prospects who are what we call red-shirt juniors are not eligible until their final year of college, as opposed to their 2nd last year as in past years. So this years crop will feature no NCAA red-shirts, they will all be the 2015 draft. So that makes for less players to pick from.
Reason 2 is that there are now 9 teams taking players. So the pool of players is not as big as in past years and it is now being divided by 9 instead of 8 making for a weaker draft class for individual teams.
Reason 3 is that it is just a weak draft class, it happens. Go back and look at the class of 2005 or the class of 2007 and try and find a few good players period, let alone a few good ones per team. Some years just don't have an abundance of great players. This appears to be one of them. Based on the initial reports, teams better hope to nail their first pick and then hope for a few special team contributors in late rounds (ala Levi Steinhauer and Spencer Moore) or a shocking surprise (ala Getzlaf or Luc Brodeur-Jourdain).
Its a good draft for top end talent on both sides of the line of scrimmage which is good because there are a lot of teams with big needs on the line, OL in particular. Its nice not to be one of those teams. Ottawa was going to take an OL first overall even before Marwan Hage retired (that only further solidified things). Winnipeg and Edmonton both have embarrassingly bad OL (and Joe Mack is no longer there to make stupid draft choices). So the end result will be the first 3 picks being O-linemen. Montreal sits at #4 and they should really be looking to build depth at OL too but looking back at Jim Popp's recent top picks, rhyme or reason are not things he is big on. He's a wild card. BC would love to get in on the OL action as well but there may not be enough to go around and they still have a gaping hole at safety that they were praying Craig Butler would fill. Then comes Toronto, who based on recent track record are just looking for someone with NFL aspirations that they can sign and then release. Then Calgary who is in the enviable position of having solid depth across the board in terms of Canadians and have the freedom to do whatever they want.
Then finally comes us at #8. Plain and simple we are going defense. We need to build up our depth on that side and we need people who can contribute on teams from day 1. There is lots of talk about us trying to find a player who most closely matches Craig Butler in terms of size and skill. While it would be awesome to uncover a Butler 2.0, I don't think that is consciously our aim. Simply put we will draft the best defender available if it happens to be someone like Butler, great. If not, we will just find ways to utilize whatever skill sets are available to us.
I imagine that a trade or 2 will alter the draft order before all is said and done. For example, given the current flooded state of the stadium in Winnipeg they are probably now targeting people with backgrounds in swimming... or plumbing for that matter and willing to do what is takes to get them.
In the coming weeks coverage of the 2014 CFL Draft will include previews of each teams in terms of needs and targets, a mock draft (or 2 depending on how motivated I get) and full coverage of the draft itself.