The CFL Draft is just over a week away so it seems like a fitting time to look at how the reigning champs stack up headed into the draft.
Picks: 6 picks, first selection is 8th Overall
2013 Draft Assessment: There was both good and bad to last year’s draft for the Riders. The bad was that 6 of their 7 picks came in the 5th round or later. The good was that in-spite of that, they were actually pretty successful. In the 5th round they grabbed both Levi Steinhauer and Spencer Moore who earned significant playing time early. The jury is still out on Cory Watman. The Riders claimed he was the most pro-ready OL in the draft but in-spite of a rash of injuries along the OL, Watman was never used much. For now he’s good depth at OL and if he can live up to his draft day hype then 2013 may prove to be a decent draft year after all.
Potential Pipeline: n/a
Current Strengths: The strength of the Riders by far is the O-line. The combo of Labatte, Picard, Best and Heenan are among the league’s best. Also keep in mind that Heenan is already an impact tackle in only his second year in the league. Getzlaf is consistently among the most productive Canadian receiver. Bagg is an impact player (as long as his knees hold up). After working through some early career struggles, the Riders are glad they stuck with Milo (especially when you consider the craptacularness of the 2 kickers taken before him in the 2011 draft). Foley remains a force at the DE spot. They also have a solid group of gritty role players like McHenry, McCullough, Hughes, Woldu and Steinhauer which is the backbone of any successful team.
Current Needs: Offseason took its toll on the once vaunted group of impact Canadian defenders the Riders boasted. It also took its toll on the overall depth. Gone are 4 Canadians that played in the Grey Cup including 2 starters… and good ones at that. The Riders still have 7 solid starters but now need to build the depth behind that and replace the impact players that were lost. A healthy Sam Hurl will help. As will the offseason additions of Josh Bartel and David Lee. I guess one could include Shomari in that group but until we find a spot he can actually hold down I’m holding off.
Any position on defense is priority number one. The Riders may also look to build depth at OL and WR but will hold off until later rounds to do so given that they are currently set there.
Prediction: The 8th overall pick will be used on whoever happens to be the best available defender left at that spot. Be it DE Dylan Ainsworth, LB Beau Landry or DB Adam Thibault (who could all still be available). At lot depends on how things shake out with picks 4 through 7.
Second round pick will likely be used in a similar fashion… though if a decent O-lineman slipped that far I could see Taman forgoing need to and taking him as has been his style. Also, Taman likes to trade picks so I fully expect the Riders to make a draft day trade involving the swapping of picks.