The CFL Draft is just over a week away so let’s take a look at how the Riders stack up heading into the draft.
Picks: 7 picks, first selection is 6th Overall
2014 Draft Assessment: They traded down out of the first round to get more picks which was needed at the time (quantity over quality). In the 2nd round they got a good special teamer with plenty of upside in Dylan Ainsworth and Alex Pierzchalski who gives needed depth at receiver. They also drafted WR Kris Bastien who was a more hyped WR prospect but spent the season on the practice roster and was traded to Winnipeg in the Cory Watson deal. The best value of the draft may have come in 5th round pick Matt Webster who has a shot at being back-up safety this year after playing on special teams in 2014. I also liked the other 5th rounder OL Kyle Patterson. He returned to the U of R after training camp… though I had assumed he’d be back this year but is currently not signed.
It wasn’t all positives as they used their top 3rd round pick on a kicker who we didn’t really need and who never actually will end up playing a down for us. In drafting him they passed on the likes of DB Adam Thibault, LB Casey Chin and OL Jaskaran Dhillon all of which would have been immensely better uses of that pick.
Potential Pipeline: OL Terry Hart (not sure if he’s even still playing football but we own his draft rights)
Current Strengths: Brendan Labatte is one of the best O-lineman in the game. Chris Best (when healthy) is rock solid at the other guard position. They have a solid group of Canadian receivers. Rob Bagg has erased the doubts about his health and proven he can be more than just a token Cdn wide-out. Chris Getzlaf had an off year but is still among the top Cdn WRs in the game (though we’d all be a bit happier if his production was more in line with his astronomical salary). Add Cory Watson to the mix now who is a talented and physical receiver (when healthy). Newly acquired Shea Emry fills a gapping need from last year and will really solidify the middle of the defense. Expectations are sky high for Keenan MacDougall who is a strong possibility for starting safety. They also have a good core of depth guys like Jerome Messam, Dylan Ainsworth, Levi Steinhauer, Paul Woldu, Dan Clark, Scott McHenry and Spencer Moore. I’m still saying Chris Milo has a bounce back year and we now have Hugh O’Neil as a back-up. Yes the town where Robokicker became famous now houses Hobokicker.
Current Needs: While the Riders still have good stable of depth guys they are staring to run thin on the top end Canadian talent. The loss of Picard was planned and desired but to lose Ben Heenan in the same year really hurts the depth of that once vaunted unit. Even with the move to 2 import tackles, the Riders will be starting a young unproven centre and have limited to no depth in terms of quality back-ups.
Currently the only depth being Emry is Joash Gesse (who has been a career special teamer) and Kevin Regimbald Gagne (who is not who I’d ever want to see in the middle). Have to build depth behind Emry… who knows he get ejected some game for punching a guy in the nuts. Also if the team is serious about starting MacDougall at safety they should build depth there too. As a 5th round pick who initially didn’t make the team and was only brought back when all our Canadian special teamers were hurt, I’m not willing to put all my eggs in the Matt Webster basket.
Really need to look at getting some young WR to groom to replace Getz and Bagg. We do have Pierzchalski and Alex Anthony but neither strike me as developing into an impact player likely just Cory Grant-type role players. Three great Cdn WR prospects are available but we are too desperate at OL to take one in round 1 and the good WRs will be gone by our next pick in round 3.
Prediction: In past years where we didn’t have a need for interior O-linemen, Taman took them anyway. So in a year where we really do need them I can’t see our first round pick being used on anything but an O-lineman. I can bet Taman will also be fishing for trades to drop back and hopefully get an extra 2nd round pick. Either way whenever we do end up picking the first choice will be an O-lineman; likely whichever of Sukh Chung, Sean McEwen or Jacob Ruby is still available. After that I can see them turning their eyes to a LB or a DB like Chris Ackie or Byron Archambault. As much as it would make a great story I just don’t see Addsion Richards ending up as a Rider. Other teams will want him more than we need him. He’d have to fall pretty far to catch our attention.