Thursday, April 30, 2015

CFL Draft 2015 Team Preview: Montreal Alouettes

Picks: 6 picks, first selection is 4th Overall

2014 Draft Assessment: Took a calculated risk on OL David Foucault at #5 that didn’t pan out as he stuck with the Carolina Panthers. Like many OL Montreal drafts, the short term gain isn’t there but it may pay off in time. They did manage to get Andrew Lue in the 2nd round and he ended the year tied for 2nd in special team tackles. The real value pick may be FB JC Beaulieu who they got in the 6th round and became a valuable Cdn role player.

Potential Pipeline: DL Hosam Shahin (may be done with football), DL Jesse Joseph (?? had an NFL tryout but not sure what came after that), DL Vaughn Martin (Kansas City), DL Tyrone Crawford (Dallas… assuming the Als still have him on their neg list)

Current Strengths:
Talk of Canadians on the Als always starts with their trusty all-Canadian O-line anchored by tackles Jeff Perrett and Josh Bourke. They also add 2011 pick Phillip Blake to the OL stable after spending time in the NFL. On defense they have Marc-Olivier Brouillette and Mike Edem as well as the emerging Lue. Side Note: I'm curious what happened to Mike Edem in 2014? He was electric in his rookie season but was barely noticeable in 2014. Maybe he will bounce back. Rounding out the notable talent are kicker Sean Whyte who can fill all 3 kicking roles and the newly acquired Sam Guigere.
Current Needs:
The thing about starting an all-Canadian line is it puts even more pressure on you to build solid depth at OL. The addition of Blake helps but OL will always be a need. You even have to start considering that Bourke and Perrett are closer to the end of their careers than the start. D-line is another area to look at. The Als tend to play an all American DL so its not a pressing need but with only 2 Cdn DL under contract its certainly an area with looking at (unless they think magically all their pipeline DL's are gonna report). The sudden retirement of 2013 first rounder Steven Lumbala leaves another offensive hole they may need to look to fill.

Montreal is always tough to predict. In my time following the draft I have seen them use first rounders on O-linemen, running backs, DBs and kickers. Popp is a guy who is not afraid to pull the trigger on guys he likes. If they wanted, they are well positioned to take a receiver like Durant or Demski and I think that would make a lot of sense. But historically Popp has avoided draft receivers like the plague for some reason and with the offseason addition of Guigere I don't see that changing. That leaves DL Daryl Waud as one option or an O-lineman who could be groomed at tackle like Jacob Rudy as more likely options. Given that Popp is not afraid to make risky picks there is even a chance he takes Brett Boyko betting that the once likely NFL options don't pan out as planned for the UNLV product. Who knows, Popp may even target another UNLV product and nab RB Shaquille-Murray Lawrence to replace Lumbala. I see a lineman as the most liekly scenario though.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

CFL Draft 2015 Team Preview: Toronto Argonauts

I might be the only guy this week talking about the Argos in regards to what happens on the field as opposed to all the off field talk about their ownership/location.

Picks: 7 picks, first selection is 3rd Overall

2014 Draft Assessment: Injuries cut short what was looking to be a very good season by top pick Anthony Coombs. His future looks bright. They also got a solid role player in FB Alexandre Dupuis. The rest of the Argos picks spent the bulk of the season on the practice roster (DB Eric Black, OL Jas Dhillon).

Potential Pipeline: TE Luke Wilson (Seattle)

Current Strengths: Depth along the O-line is pretty solid with the likes of Keeping, Van Zeyl, Holmes and Sewell. The combo of Andre Durie and Anthony Coombs (assuming both are back to 100%) gives the Ricky Ray some explosive Cdn weapons. They have some starters on defense like safety Jermaine Gabriel, newly re-acquired DL Ricky Foley and LB Cory Greenwood (who they hope is worth the 4 year wait). The ability to start up to 4 Cdn OL and 3 Cdns on defense along with Durie and Coombs give them a lot of ratio flexibility.

Current Needs: Not a ton of pressing needs but depth took a hit with the offseason departures of Shea Emry, Spencer Watt and Ivan Brown which means they have some re-stocking of the shelves to do. They only have 6 Cdn OL under contract (one of which is the aging/injury plagued Wayne Smith). They are also a bit thin on the D-line with only Foley and Cleyon Laing. They seem committed to Greenwood starting at MLB so they could use depth behind him. Also, given how literally every person resembling a receiver got hurt last season (including Durie and Coombs) another Cdn receiver to replace Watt would be a good idea.

Prediction: Van Zeyl and Keeping are getting up there in years and depth behind them isn’t anything to brag about so the Argos will be taking a lineman like Sukh Chung or Sean McEwen with the #3 pick. In the second round I could see them targeting either a lineman to compliment Foley/Laing or a receiver if one of the top ones (like Demski or Richards) if they happen to drop that far. Jim Barker likes to make draft day trades (many of which involve swapping later picks with Brendan Taman) so I expect his phone to be active on draft day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

CFL Draft 2015 Team Preview: Ottawa RedBlacks

Picks: 6 picks, first selection is #1

2014 Draft Assessment: Surprised many by trading away the first overall pick but got a solid OL in Jon Gott in exchange and then joined the “teams that have dumped Kevin Glenn” club to get back into the first round and take Antoine Pruneau. By himself Pruneau makes 2014 a successful draft. In his rookie season he not only started but excelled at LB.  Good thing for the RedBlacks that Pruneau is that good because the rest of their picks aren’t really much to brag about.

Potential Pipeline: TE Tyler Digby (lacrosse)

Current Strengths: Ottawa is stacked with Cdn D-lineman. They started an all Canadian D-line once last year which is unheard off (also points to the fact that they lack a credible import DE). Justin Capicciotti turned into a bona-fide starter. Keith Shologan can fill another starting spot. Then add in Zach Evans, Connor Williams and Kalonji Kashama among others for depth. I already mentioned Pruneau. On the offensive side they have Jon Gott and J’Michael Deane and the up and coming Nolan MacMillan manning the line and newly acquired Brad Sinopoli at WR.

Current Needs: Outside of D-line, depth is an issue across the board. They barely have 3 starting quality Cdn OLs let alone reliable back-ups (the offseason departure of Krausnik-Groh made things worse). They lack a viable back-up to Pruneau. Last year they learned why Calgary let safety Eric Faser go (he’s not very good). They have enough Cdns not to have to start one at safety but they may still want to and Fraser is clearly not the guy. Lastly, the RedBlacks had better be looking at a kicker. They used import Brett Maher last year but Ottawa’s other struggles covered up just how much of an embarrassment he was. No sense wasting an import spot at kicker unless they are very good. (***Update*** seems Maher is injured thus making the decision to explore other options not just good judgment but now a necessity)

Prediction: I really can’t see Ottawa picking anything but an O-lineman #1. Their line struggled last year in both run and pass blocking so they not only need to build depth, they need to find quality starters. The prevailing wisdom has Alex Mateas as the chosen one. With their second round pick they may hope that Chris Ackie or Byron Archambault drop far enough so they can add depth behind Pruneau. I expect them to draft a lot of OL and LBs and used a late round pick on another kicking prospect to compete against John Mark.