We conclude our look at the East division with a look at the East Division champion Ti-Cats. It's fortunate that I waited until later in the week to look at them as a midweek epidemic of blown achilles knocked out two big name Canadian in Spencer Watt and Linden Gaydosh for the season. I've heard of one major offseason injury but 2... to Canadians... in the same day is just crazy.
Picks: 7 picks, first selection is 8th Overall
2014 Draft Assessment: They picked twice in the 1st round taking DL Evan Gill (who went back to school and ended up suffering a knee injury) and LB Beau Landry (who turned into a solid special teams cover guy). After that though they amazingly did not pick again until the 5th round. Gill may yet pan out but so far all they have to show for the 2014 class is a solitary special teamer.
Potential Pipeline: DL Brent Urban (Baltimore), OL Moe Petrus (Tampa Bay), DL Evan Gill (college)
Current Strengths: As much as losing Gaydosh sucks, there is no team in a better position to withstand that loss than Hamilton. They are overflowing with Cdn D-linemen: Ted Laurent, Brian Bulke, Hasan Hazime, Michael Atkinson... and those are just the notable ones. With import Bryan Hall manning one DT spot they were honestly in a position where they were likely going to trade one of their Cdn DL's (at least before Gaydosh went down). A healthy Peter Dyakowski gives a much needed boost to their OL. Andy Fantuz fills a starting offensive spot. Both Craig Butler and Courtney Stephen can start in the secondary. They found out the hard way that Frederic Plesius is not a starting calibre MLB but he still is a very valuable depth guy along with the likes of Landry, Prime, Nadon-Gascon, Beswick and newly acquired Anthony Woodson. The shelves are well-stocked with young Canaidan talent... which is actually pretty amazing when you consider they have absolutely nothing to show for all those #1 picks they had over the years (Bauman, Barker, Rottier) and the first rounder they spent to take Zac Carlson in the 2009 supplemental draft. Pretty amazing that they've come as far as they have.
Current Needs: Looking at their roster I see solid depth pretty much everywhere with 2 exceptions. The first is the O-line it gave up the second most sacks last season. Getting Dyakowski back is huge. Their ratio flexibility in all other aspects allows them to play 2 (and sometimes 3 import OL) but I'm not overly enamored by the Cdn starters they have outside of Dyakowski. Tim O'Neil is alright but turns 87 this year. They need to get better up front and need to build reliable depth as injuries have consistently tested their OL depth.
Had it not been for the injury to Watt I would have stopped here but his absence leaves an important hole on the roster. Fantuz will start but the departure of Guigere and loss of Watt have eroded the depth behind him. Also try and think back to a time when Fantuz played all 18 games... doesn't happen often. Matt Coates and Giovanni Aprile are hardly the guys you want to be counting on. This is one area they will need to address early in the draft.
Prediction: An early run on on linemen could see one of Lemar Durant or Nick Demski falling to #8 for the Cats. Also good odds that Addison Richards will be there but he may fall to the late second round. The safe move would be building up the OL to protect Zach Collaros but if Durant or Demski are there at #8 I see the Cats moving quickly to fill the loss of Watt. They will have faith in their young OL already on the roster and their ability to load the line up with imports because of the Cdn depth everywhere else. I also have a hunch they Hamilton may trade its 2nd round pick either to move up in the first round or back into the 3rd and get more picks.