Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Round-Up: Plaza, Strikes and Training Camp

It was an eventful week with respect to Rider news this week. Even someone with initiative and effort (which I clearly am not) would have trouble keeping on top of it all. To summarize we inducted 2 greats into the plaza, signed some guys, cut some guys, signed most of our draft picks, announced that we need to build a Scrooge McDuck style vault to hold all the money we made last season

and oh yeah there is the ongoing drama of the contract negotiations that threaten the start of the season. Who said the offseason was boring?

I'll start with the Plaza inductions. No question both Chris Szarka and Omar Morgan are deserving inductees. Their induction got me thinking about my memories of each player.

For Szarka, there was the whole Canuck Truck thing all his TDS. Being the kind of guy I am I also remember the table saw incident where he missed games due to cutting his thumb. I fondly remember his campaign for city council in 2010 which consisted entirely of scoring a lot of TDs (it worked like a charm). The one play that I will never forget though was a home game against the Als in the '04-'05 ish range (I can barely remember what I did yesterday let alone 10 years ago). But it was in the era when Montreal had an intimidating blitz heavy defense. On this play they blitzed hard as usual but the ball got tossed just over the blitz to Szarka. Balgonie was closer to Szarka when he caught that ball than the Als were and he looked as shocked as the rest of us but started trucking down the field for like 60 yards (remember he is a fullback so this took some time). He almost got caught but Matt Dominguez came in and decleated the would be tackler allowing Szarka to complete his rumble to the endzone.

As for Morgan, long time readers will know that we had a somewhat complicated relationship. He spent 2 seasons ('08 and '10) prominently featured on my hatred list for his 10 yard cushion coverage on every play... every freakin' play! But aside from those 2 seasons, he was a consistent performer, an all-star and a game breaker. He is one guy that I was sad never got a Grey Cup ring because he really deserved one for how well he played for us for so long. Hands down the one Morgan moment that I will never forget is the game winning blocked field goal against Hayden Epstein and the Eskimos. That is in my top 10 moments at Taylor Field ever.

Next I'll comment on the looming possibility of a players strike. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement has expired and the sides are not close to a new deal, nor are they speaking at this point. Things looked promising after a solid day's bargaining on Wednesday but talks broke off Thursday pretty much deflating that hope. Due to complicated union laws that differ from province to province, the players are at least 3-5 days away from being able to collectively walk off the job (this of course is a non-issue in Winnipeg as they wouldn't really notice a difference or drop in quality of play). This means that rookie camps will likely go ahead and training camps will start (for at least a day or 2). After that all bets are off. My guess is that the players won't strike right away because the threat of saving it and possibly disrupting a preseason game is far greater than disrupting training camp (which is not a money maker for the league). Either way football fans like you and me won't be happy until this is settled.

The good news is that the sides are actually not that far apart. The CFL is offering a cap of $5M with small yearly increases, players want $5.8M with larger increases. Players want a fixed cap for 2 years and owners are offering 3. Owners say they'll re-look at the cap if revenues grow by $27M, players say $12M. So the overall framework and principles for a deal are taking shape just gotta fight over the specific numbers now. I just hope that both sides aren't stupid enough to jeopardize any part of the season over it. Any potential gains either side stands to earn by standing their ground disappear in a blink if games end up being cancelled. I say just lock Cohon and Flory in a room with a 40 of booze and don't let them out until a deal is done. There will be some yelling, some fighting, some crying but eventually they'll sort it out.

The season is so damn close... don't screw this up on us CFL/CFLPA. Lord help me if my sporting options are reduced to baseball and soccer.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: New Mosaic Stadium

Last week we received a welcome break from the CFL labour conflicts with an announcement we have been waiting a long time for. Thursday we got our first look at what will be he Riders' new home: New Mosaic Stadium. As much as I applaud Mosaic's ongoing support of the Riders, it would have been a lot simpler if someone else had bought the naming rights so we wouldn't have to go through 3 years of this old Mosaic, new Mosaic stuff.

Quick side note on the naming rights. In 2006, Mosaic paid $3.75M for the naming rights for 10 years... any guesses on what the mark-up is for their 20 year extension? I'm guessing its somewhere between massive and Gene Makowsky's head size.

Personally I really like the look of the new stadium. What stands out for me the most though is that we clearly hired the right people to design and build this. Rather than try and go the discount route that Winnipeg did, we went out and hired the best stadium designers out there and that will pay dividends. An overhang that reflects noise back down, a stadium that is in the ground and positioned to minimize the effects of the wind (rather than the current stadium which was seemingly built to encourage it), a concourse that lets you still the field... you name it, they thought of it. It doesn't have personal sherpas to carry me to my seat but at least I won't have to climb as many ramps.

Some think the capacity is too low. I think they maybe could have gone with 1 or 2 more thousand but they were right in keeping capacity at a point where we can consistently sell out. It would be dumb to build a stadium so big that tickets become so easy to get and demand drops. Honestly my only concern was how low the expandable capacity for Grey Cup is. 40,000 seems really low. I would have though 45-50k would have been the minimum. But I guess if my biggest concern is about capacity for a game we host once a decade then they must be doing something right.

I really like how much lead time they have built into construction. The plan calls for the stadium to be operational by August 2016 which will allow for a couple test events that fall before the Riders move in in June 2017.  Now know that this is a construction project, there is no way it will be completed on time. But with a full 10 months of buffer time there are zero concerns that we will pull a Winnipeg (or to a lesser extent Hamilton). When the 2017 season opens, I will be comfortably seated in a brand new, kick ass stadium! I can't wait! This is a once in lifetime type of project and all signs so far point to it being a huge success.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My Take On The CFL Labour Talks

Boy that escalated quickly... about all it was missing was someone stabbing someone else with a trident.

Today talks between the CFL and CFLPA blew up in a very ugly and public fashion. Both sides are now bombarding the media with why their position makes sense and why the other side is a bunch of crooks. For those of you not experienced in labour negotiations, welcome to the wonderful word of traditional positional bargaining. And regardless of who you are siding with on this (so far public opinion seems heavily weighted towards the players) the bottom line with all this public mud slinging is that the sides are currently not negotiating with each other and each passing day that goes by without the sides actually negotiating puts the start of the upcoming season further at risk. And I don't know about you guys but the offseason has been long enough... I'm ready for some damn football!

I've been asked a couple times which side I'm on for this issue. The answer is I think they are both being stupid. I work in an organized labour setting and I loathe all these dated tactics and positioning that is being used. Both sides (the League in particular) need to spend less effort strategizing their PR campaign and convincing the masses who is more wrong and more time working on a deal.

There are other issues at play here (like the players' desire for independent neurologists at games) but the big divide is unsurprisingly over money. To oversimplify the league is offering a $400K increase in the cap which amounts to $4.8M. With a $50K increase for each of the next 5 years. It also includes a small signing bonus for players. The players want a $6.24M cap and further increases to be tied to revenues. Their rationale is that each team will be getting $2.7M in new money from the TV deal which more than pays for the increase. The league says it would be disastrous to the League to go there.

The owners are stupid for thinking that a $400K increase and no revenue sharing will entice the players. That's like telling your buddy you can only afford to buy him supper if its a non-super-sized value meal at McDonalds while a dump truck simultaneously showers you in $100 bills. The players aren't innocent either though. I can't think of a sane business owner out there who would agree to increase his labour costs 41% in one year when financial stability only recently became a reality league-wide. Yes the players deserve a fair share of newly found prosperity but the the owners need a more balanced approach to spending growth if they want the financial prosperity to continue.

Currently the League is looking like the bad guy and rightfully so. Their initial cap bump is small and the increases from their or microscopic. They need to pony up more $$$. I say up the offer to a starting point of $5.2M (that's and 18% pay raise which is sizeable) and also offer bigger year to year progressions to give the players incentive to drop the revenue sharing structures. Say $150K/year. That would put the cap around $6M by year 5 which is pretty good growth from the current state. I would even up the signing bonus offer substantially as that is a one time cost vs. an ongoing one which the owners should like. But that's just me pulling numbers out of my ass.

Bottom line is the owners need to actually make a fair offer and the players need to realize that these businessmen successful for a reason and dramatically upping labour costs in the first real year of league-wide prosperity is not a wise business move. Sign 3 year deal and agree to revisit the idea of revenue sharing then if this prosperity is still a reality (TV deal runs longer than that).

Next move will be interesting. All the talk thus far has been about a player strike but that will likely not happen until day 2 of training camp since many players have roster bonuses that kick in when they report and pass physicals. Not wise for them to miss out on that. I could see the owners preemptively locking the players out prior to that to apply pressure to settle. I just hope it doesn't come to all of that... but with each passing day it looks more likely.

I hope cooler heads prevail and a deal... any deal is struck. Any kind of work stoppage hurts everyone players, teams, fans. The CFL is currently riding a wave of momentum that stops on a dime if this deal doesn't get done. No one wins if a deal can't be worked out... no one.

In the event of a strike I would like to put CFL teams on notice that I am willing to be a replacement worker (scab if you will). Honestly not like I could be a worse QB than Winnipeg had last year. I just need to find a deaf receiver, sumo wrestling centre and convict linebacker (wonder what Trevis Smith is up to?)

On a happier note, I look forward to seeing the new stadium design tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday Morning Sentimonies: This And That

As long-time readers will know, when there is a long weekend my posts usually wait until Tuesday. In my younger days it was generally a product of nursing some kind of weekend-related hangover. Now I have children so the hangover excuse has pretty much gone, but the spirit of laziness endures.

You'll have to bear with my through a fairly random smattering of my thoughts (again I'm sure long-time readers won't even notice the difference). I had planned to do a post today talking about how how thin the Riders were at import LB... but then they went and signed a couple more late last week. So there went that idea. So here are some random thoughts that will have to tide you over until later in the week when I can come up with some sort of coherent premise for a post.

- Mark my words, there will be a last second deal in the CFL labour talks. Outside shot that 1 or 2 days of training camp get lost but there is no way the League will let preseason games be missed as that's when tickets sales and TV ratings kick in. The CFL knows it has to pay up its just becoming a game of chicken as to what amount that will be. I'm not worried.

- Must be interesting dynamics going on in the CFLPA. The vets will likely to be begging the negotiating committee to stall things so they don't have to endure training camp. On the flip side, any rookie or player without a roster spot should be begging for the opposite. Rookie camp and the first couple days of main camp can be the difference between a job in football and unemployment for some.

- If there is a strike someone needs to get on the phone immediately to Keanu Reeves

- I think we should be actively campaigning for Kevin Glenn to get traded to Montreal and/or Edmonton. They are the only 2 teams in the CFL left on his Bingo card. (For those asking about Toronto, we traded him there in '04 but they quickly moved him to Winnipeg).

- Given that we have 16 DBs on the roster and our starting 5 is almost already set, I'm thinking we will fill Butler's LB spot with another converted DB.

- Also given how few new DTs we have brought in it tells me we are very confident in the few we do have.

- Crazy to think how close the 2014 season is.  I can't wait!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

CFL Draft Analysis

Sorry for the delay in posting this, it took me this long to figure out exactly what happened in that ridiculous first round. Rob Black would need to live to the age of 194 just to get caught up on picks 1 through 3.

To Recap:
- We traded our first round pick (8th overall) back to Hamilton for 2 second round picks.
- We also traded one of our 3 second round picks to Winnipeg for 2 third round picks
- In round 2 we drafted DL Dylan Ainsworth and WR Alex Pierzchalski
- In round 3 we drafted K John Mark and WR Kris Bastien
- In round 4 we didn't have a pick
- In round 5 we drafted DB Matt Webster and OL Kyle Patterson
- In round 6 we drafted LB Travis Bent
- In round 7 we drafted OL Terry Hart

We went a different direction than I thought we would. I fully expect us to focus on DBs and LBs (especially early). Instead we went DL and WR. I still think we did alright overall though. We were able to trade down and get players we were liekly targeting anyway (i.e. Ainsworth) and more picks, which for a team needing to rebuild Cdn depth is a good thing. I didn't think we would go after WRs early (especially given the addition of Etienne this offseason) but I think it's good we did. Realistically we haven't made an effort to bring in top end Cdn WRs since Geztlaf and Bagg back in '07 and '08 (unless you count that disaster of a Sisco pick but I have been unsuccessfully trying to suppress that memory with booze for years). It was about time we bring in some young prospects.

For me the thing that sticks out as puzzling is the Johnny Mark pick in round 3. We have a solid kicker in Milo and capable punter in Bartel. I don't have an issue with us drafting a developmental/insurance kicker but I don't see the need to take the top rated one in the draft early in the third when prospects like Casey Chin (who Duane Forde pegged as the best LB in the draft) was still available. We could have risked missing out on Mark and getting the 2nd or 3rd best kicker. It was puzzling to say the least.

But as I said, overall for a weak draft I think we did okay. Of course we won't know jack until they actually hit the field but on paper I thought we had an average draft. Some teams made out better than us, some made out worse. Our depth improved and that's the whole point. I would have preferred focusing on LBs/Dbs early (if for nothing else than the special team impact) but we went a different direction and that's OK.

Here are some specific thoughts on our picks:

DL Dylan Ainsworth - He was expected to go in Round 1 so to get him in round 2 and add another 2nd rounder is good. He will be able to contribute on special teams immediately. He's athletically gifted and still very young. He will also help build depth a DE behind Foley with David Lee.

WR Alex Pierzchalski - Was shocked he was the 2nd WR taken. Most people had him lower in the WR rankings. The Riders must have seen something in him that caught their eye... beyond the obvious 6'4 frame of him.

K John Mark - As I said, this pick is still a head scratcher to me but he was the top ranked kicker in this draft class I guess. He's reportedly got a good leg, consistent kicker. Though is he could grow into a CFL punter. Maybe he pushes Bartel for the punting job but more than likely the plan is to develop him for next year and beyond.

Side note: I found it odd that the first 3 teams to take a kicker were us, Calgary and Montreal. All three are very solid at kicker and don't have a need. Why they opted for kickers and not the teams who actually have needs (like Winnipeg) is beyond me.

WR Kris Bastien - I was shocker he dropped so low. He was described by some as the most pro-ready reciever in the draft. 6'2, strong, good speed, performed well in the one on ones at the combine. I'm really not sure why he dropped to the bottom of the 3rd but good for us for taking advantage of that. With both he and Pierzchalski in camp the good news is the likes of Sisco and Etienne will actually have to earn a roster spot rather than just getting one by default.

DB Matt Webster - Natural safety, had last season cut short due to injury but seems to have recovered after testing well at the combine. He was known for his tackles in run support in college. We will see in camp how well that all translates to the pro level. Keep in mind he came from round 5 of a week draft.

OL Kyle Patterson - Became our obligatory local pick. He is a 5th round pick in a week draft but U of R lineman from Weyburn have a pretty track record of late so I think he is definitely worth a look. When in doubt take a lineman depth there never hurts.

LB Travis Bent - Was apparently recruited by Rice in Div 1 NCAA out of high school and while he had a decent college career he has yet to live up to the early hype. May have untapped potential, may have hit his ceiling early.

OL Terry Hart - Again, when in doubt, take a lineman. He's got good strength and a rep for liking contact. He was also the 3rd last pick in a weak draft so odds are good he's a camp body but you never know. I also found an article where he says his favourite teams are the Buffalo Bills and Toronto Maple Leafs so that's pretty concerning.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

CFL Live Draft Day Blogging - 6th Edition


Monday, May 12, 2014

CFL Draft 2014 Mock Draft

The CFL Draft goes tomorrow at 6pm Sask time. We have a bit more clarity around what might go down tomorrow after the NFL Draft. The two notable goings on NFL-wise include OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff was drafted in the 6th round by Kansas City. Fellow OL prospect David Foucault didn't get drafted but garnered an invite to Carolina's mini-camp.

The time has come for my annual attempt at a Mock Draft. It's based on assessing team needs in comparison to the available talent. In all likelihood the accuracy of this mock draft will be shaky at best but this is how I see it playing out anyway.

Round 1
1 - Ottawa - OL Pierre Lavertu - The top draft prospects are O-linemen, Ottawa needs O-linemen. Lavertu is the most likely to have an immediate impact and has the added bonus of being a centre, which is a need for Ottawa in the wake of Marwan Hage retiring.
2 - Winnipeg - OL Matthias Goosen - Bombers need to improve their OL and won't be willing to risk taking anyone that might not be in camp come June (thanks to Joe Mack's handling of the draft). Goosen may not have the highest ceiling of the OL prospects but is a safe and solid option.
3 - Edmonton - OL David Foucault - Esks desperately need to improve the protection in front of Reilly. Foucault is risky due to his invite to an NFL mini-camp but, as he did with Stefan Charles last year, Hervey will be willing to take the risk.
4 - Montreal -DB Andrew Lue - This is a tough pick to call as it could go many directions. I actually had Quinn Smith going here until the whole steroids thing. I think the Als look to build depth behind Mike Edem and Marc-Olivier Brouilette on defense.
5 - BC - DL Quinn Smith - While the steroids thing will have minor impact on Smith's status, he will still go high. Buono always seems to take the best talent available regardless of position and I see Smith fitting that. There may be questions about just how much you can read into his combine numbers but Buono has a long history of being willing to overlook discretions of all kinds as long as the talent is there.
6 - Toronto - DL Even Gill - Argos could go receiver here but I think they will opt for a solid lineman to platoon with Cleyon Laing.
7 - Calgary - DL Dylan Ainsworth - With no real needs, the Stamps will take the best player on the board at this spot.
8 - Saskatchewan (via Ham) - LB Jesse Briggs - By all accounts Briggs is the most athletically gifted LB in this draft class. The Riders need to rebuild Cdn depth on D and Briggs would be able to make an impact immediately on Special Teams where they have lost impact cover guys in Newman and Butler.
9 - Hamilton (via Sask) - DB Antoine Pruneau - Ticats are looking to start 2 Cdns in the secondary (Butler, Stephen) and will therefore need to build depth there.

Round 2
10 - Ottawa - WR Devon Bailey - Redblacks will need to start at least one (if not 2) Cdn receiver and don't have a clear cut starter on their roster let alone reliable depth. Only makes sense for them to address that by taking the best receiver in the draft.
11 - Hamilton (via Sask via Win) - WR Kris Bastien - While Fantuz and Guigere are solid starters, depth behind them as taken a hit with the departure of Stala and Charboneau-Campeau.
12 - BC (via Edm) - RB Anthony Coombs - File this under  "too good to pass on". Buono won't let a talent like Coombs slip any lower.
13 - Montreal - DL David Menard - By this point in the draft the top end talent will be starting to thin out. While there isn't a huge need at DL, I can see Popp opting for Menard anyway.
14 - BC - DB Adam Thibault - Getting spurned by Craig Butler in the offseason, has BC looking at back-up plans at DB.
15 - Toronto - LB Max Caron - While the Argos have Emry and Yurichuk, Caron will be a nice way to further build that depth.
16 - Calgary - DB Derek Jones - Regardless of whether they end up starting a Cdn safety or not, the Stamps will still look to add some competition at DB.., even if its only for special teams.
17 - Hamilton - LB Casey Chin - Again, no real need here but Chin will be one of the few remaining top end prospects left.
18 - Saskatchewan - LB Beau Landry - Not entirely convinced that Landry drops this low but if he does you can bet the Riders will nab him.

Round 3
19 - Calgary (via Ott)- WR Evan Pszczonak
20 - Winnipeg - LB Chris Johnson
21 - Edmonton - OL Dhillon Jaskaran 
22 - Montreal - RB Alexandre Dupuis
23 - Ottawa (via Cal via BC) - OL Kyle Patterson
24 - Calgary (via Win via Tor) - OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff - with three 3rd round picks and not major needs to address, the Stamps will be willing and able to take the flyer on the top OL prospect in the draft.
25 - Calgary - OL Player Tchissakid
26 - Winnipeg (via Cal via Ham) - WR Scott MacDonell
27 - BC (via Sask) - OL Terry Hart

Round 4
28 - Ottawa - DB Josh Bourns
29 - Winnipeg - K Johnny Mark
30 - Edmonton - DL Nigel Romick
31 - Montreal - WR Francis LaPointe
32 - BC - WR Tore Corrado
33 - Toronto - DB Raye Hartmann
34 - Calgary - LB Thomas Miles
35 - Montreal (via Hamilton) - OL Aaron Wheaton
36 - Toronto (via Sask) - WR Alex Pierzchalski

Round 5
37 - Ottawa - K Tyler Crapigna
38 - Toronto (via Winnipeg) - WR Alexander Fox
39 - Saskatchewan (via Edm) - DL Michael Dadzie - Gotta have at least one draft pick from a Saskatchewan university... I think its policy.
40 - Calgary (via Montreal) - DL Martin Pesek
41 - BC - DL Derek Wiggan
42 - Toronto - OL Quinn Everett
43 - Montreal (via Calgary) - LB Travis Bent
44 - Hamilton - FB Aaron Milton
45 - Saskatchewan - DB Eric Black

Round 6
46 - Ottawa - DL Kirby Fletcher
47 - Winnipeg - RB Guillaume Bourassa
48 - Edmonton - K Zach Meidros
49 - Montreal - RB Pascal Lochard
50 - BC - OL Spencer Wilson
51 - Hamilton (via Calgary) - DB Matt Webster
52 - Hamilton - DL Dylan Roper
53 - Saskatchewan - OL Frederik Lafrance

Round 7 
55 - Ottawa - LB Omar Smith-Jackson
56 - Winnipeg - DL Matthieu Girard 
57 - Edmonton - DB Mattey Ossum
58 - Montreal - DB Alexandre Branco 
59 - BC - DL James Tuck
60 - Toronto - OL Lane Bryska
61 - Calgary - Aram Eisho
62 - Hamilton - FB Mac Sarro
63 - Saskatchewan - WR Kit Hillis
64 - Ottawa - OL Renaud Lafrance-Longtin
65 - Ottawa - RB Jordan Botel


Thursday, May 8, 2014

CFL Draft 2014 Team Preview: Hamilton Ti-Cats

We conclude our team previews with the Hamilton Ti-Cats who have come a long, long way in terms of Canadian talent. Years of wallowing at the bottom of the standings along with some good moves by Kent Austin and Bob O’Billovich before him have slowing built the Canadian core into arguably the best in the East.

Picks: 7 picks, first selection is 9th Overall

2013 Draft Assessment: The draft was supposed to pay immediate dividends with 1st Overall pick Linden Gaydosh, a “can’t miss prospect”. Unfortunately he caught on in the NFL forcing the Ti-Cats to wait. With that the draft became more about future potential. In addition to Gaydosh, they took redshirt junior DL Brent Urban who is projected to be a mid-round pick in the NFL draft (meaning if he ends up in Hamilton it won't be for a long time) . They also took Carl-Oliver Prime who had a cup of coffee with the Colts and signed midseason. The Ti-Cats current depth gave them the luxury of being able to be patient. So it may a few years before the true value of this draft is known.

Potential Pipeline: DL Linden Gaydosh (Carolina), DL Brent Urban (college), OL Moe Petrus (Tampa Bay)

Current Strengths: They are fairly solid across the board. Of course the combination of Andy Fantuz and Sam Guigere makes them strong at WR. The star offseason acquisition Craig Butler along with the rapidly developing Courtney Stephen may allow them to play 2 Cdns DBs (which is almost unheard of). They also have solid depth along the DL with Brian Bulke, Hasan Hazime (who is quickly developing into a solid DL) and Michael Atkinson. (Side note: both Bulke and Hazime were Eskimo draft picks that were acquired by trade). Even at linebacker they have solid depth with Frederic Plesius and CO Prime (though they moved him to FB to make room for him on the roster).

Overall what impresses me most about the Ticats is the how young and talented their Canadian players are. If they can keep this nucleus together they will be a force in the East for years to come. That said with this many young, talented Canadians, salary pressures will make it hard to keep everyone.

Current Needs: In terms of starters, the Ti-Cats are set. They could easily start 8 Cdns and give themselves a lot of flexibility. Still, depth at certain spots remains a concern. As good as Fantuz and Guigere are the depth behind them is thin. Gone are Stala and Charboneau-Campeau. They did add Spencer Wilson but will need more depth if they want at that spot.

Same thing goes for DB, if they really plan on starting Butler and Stephen in the secondary they will want to shore up depth there.

Ti-cats have 9 Cdn OL on the roster and play 2 import OTs so by the numbers they look alright along the OL. But they have very few OL who have actually see action at the pro level. With Hage gone and Dyakowski still recovering from a major knee injury in the Grey Cup the Ticats have holes to fill. They are confident that one of their current young guys will be able to step up but would likely take more OL in the later rounds as insurance.

The Ti-Cats may also be one of the few teams in the market for a FB given the loss of John Delahunt and their struggles to keep that spot manned last year.

Prediction:With some highly touted DB prospects available and their need to build depth behind Butler and Stephen, expect their 1st round pick to be used on a DB (either Lue, Pruneau or Thibault... whichever falls to them at #9). Their next pick will likely go to a WR (likely Kris Bastien unless Devon Bailey slips that low). From there they will look to add a FB in later rounds

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

CFL Draft 2014 Team Preview: Calgary Stampeders

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is 7th Overall

2013 Draft Assessment: While other teams were leery of Brett Jones’ interest in med school, the Stamps took a chance anyway and ended up getting the steal of the 2013 draft at the #16 spot. As a rookie Jones started every game at centre and was named a Western All-star and Most Outstanding Rookie. That alone made the draft a huge success. In addition to Jones, the Stamps also drafted red-shirt junior OT Brander Craighead who is signed for this season and could help with depth along the OL and athletic DE Ben D’Aguilar who could see his role expanded in his second CFL season.

Potential Pipeline: n/a

Current Strengths: Overall depth is among the best in the league but three specific things jump out at me. First is the talent at RB. Clearly Jon Cornish is an elite RB (regardless of passport) but the Stamps are also blessed with Rob Cote who is unheralded but among the best blockers in the game (and can contribute offensively when called on) and Matt Walter who adds needed Cdn depth behind Cornish. Second is the O-line. Last year they allowed the least sacks and gained the most yards rushing. The likes of Jones, Gott and Federkeil are getting it done. Lastly is kicking. Paredes has been as accurate as they come and Maver is a solid punter. Having both ensures brings piece of mind even if one gets hurt.

Current Needs: As good as the OL has been, depth has to be a concern. Outside of Brett Jones, no OL started every game last year so their depth was tested. With Tsoumpas retiring and J’Michael Deane going to Ottawa they need others to step up. They have guys like Wilson, Peach, Erdros and Craighead already in the mix but given that only Wilson has seen significant playing time they will not hesitate to bring in more talent on the OL to ensure it stays among the best.

There is a need on defense as well. The Stamps’ depth at OL and RB mean they only need one Cdn starter on D but with Eric Fraser (last year’s starting safety) gone its unclear where exactly that will be. The could make it on the DL where they have Mace, Turner and D’Aguilar but Mace has been injury plagued so they would want more depth if that is their plan. They could keep the safety spot Canadian but I don’t think even the Stamps believe that the combo of Jeff Hecht and Keenan MacDougall is enough to instill confidence so they would want more depth there if that is the plan.

Prediction: Calgary’s first pick should be very telling as to their plans in terms of the ratio. I fully expect them to draft a defender in Round 1 and if that is a DL then their plan is likely to start a Cdn at DL (most likely scenario). If it’s a DB then their plan is keep the safety spot Cdn. After that Calgary will look to stockpile O-lineman as they always do and will take advantage of the luxury their current depth gives them in terms of drafting the best player available regardless of position