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

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