Tuesday the annual CFL Draft was help and given that no one attempted to draft a dead guy or Jordan Sisco the event can be considered a success (the jury is out on whether a dead person could manage to be less useful than Sisco). Seven players had their name called by the Riders. While it’s still too early to say whether or not the draft was a success (remember that people were pretty excited in the days that followed selecting Shomari Williams in 2010), here’s my take on how the 2015 Rider picks stack up and how I think they fared in the draft.
Round 1 – WR Nic Demski – I love this pick! Demski reminds me a lot of Andre Durie and I would love to have someone like that in our offense. I’m glad we held the pick and didn’t trade down. You are only as good as your impact Canadians and of late our impact Canadians have been exiting at an alarming pace. Fantuz, Shologan, Butler, Heenan all gone. I think Demski will develop into one of those impact Canadians. With the average age of our starting receivers pushing the wrong side of 30, Demski is also a needed step in building for the future.
Round 3 – DL Rory Connop – This pick surprised me. We had a lot of needs and D-line wasn’t one of them. Taman said after the draft they are looking at starting a Cdn at Defensive Tackle which explains the pick. By all accounts Connop is a strong physical presence but when you already have Derek Walker (a guy I really really like) at DT it seems odd to think you can solve your ratio problem by replacing him with a group of Cdn DTs drafted in round 3 or later. We do have Ainsworth and Steinhauer but they are more ends than tackles. Curious to see where this all ends up.
Round 4 – FB Matt Rea – Of the non-Demski picks this is the one that intrigues me the most. Everything I’ve read about Rea reminds me of Danny Bateman from The Replacements. In the past 2 years we’ve lost Butler, Newman, Peters and Hurl… a huge chunk of our once vaunted kick cover team. It’s also becoming increasingly obvious that Neal Hughes may be done, meaning we have a need a FB. Spencer Moore is more a TE-type so having a true fullback in the mix who seems to love to hit people is something I like a lot.
Round 5 – DB Kwame Adjei – By this point in the draft it is essentially a scratch lotto ticket. You pray for a jackpot, more often than not you get “better luck next time” but you occasionally get lucky and win $20.The goal with this pick is to build depth behind Keenan MacDougall so the hope is Adjei can turn out like Paul Woldu who was also a 5th round pick.
Round 6 – DL Tyler Langlais and WR Melvin Abankwah. Langlais will be added to the Cdn DL competition. Abankwah had a memorable CFL Combine for both good and bad reasons. The good was he turned heads in the one-on-ones and was tough to cover. While he beat a lot of DBs that weekend one thing he could not beat was a drug test as he tested positive for steroids. Some are chastising the Riders for drafting him but the issue is not with them, it’s with the CFL’s ridiculously lenient drug policy. I fully agree that there should be a least some kind of suspension for taking roids otherwise there is zero incentive for prospects not to take them in the lead up to the Combine. But the rules are what they are and the fact is any team that refuses to draft people who use Vitamin S put themselves at a disadvantage. Last year some teams shied away from Quinn Smith for that exact reason. Calgary did not and were rewarded with a damn good player. The CFL needs to be pressured to fix the rules but in the interim I don’t fault the Riders for playing within the system (even if it is a broken one).
Round 7 – DL Brandon Tennant. Taman said that he was pleasantly surprised that Tennant was still around in round 7. This is of course a load of crap because like the other 8 GMs, Taman repeatedly and consciously passed on him. It’s not like suddenly in Round 7 Taman was like “Wait! Tennant is still available? Why didn`t someone tell me this 3 rounds ago?!?” That may happen in your fantasy draft with your buddies but not in the pros. That said Tennant was a highly rated prospect in early rankings but continually plummeted likely due in part to injury cutting his last year to just 3 games.
Overall I think the Riders did alright in their drafting. My big concern is not what they drafted but what they didn’t. Two of our biggest needs were LB (to back-up Shea Emry) and OL (we are down 2 starters from last year) and not only did the Riders not make those positions a priority, they did not draft a solitary of either. Bold strategy Cotton. I would put our starting line-up up there with any in the league in terms of talent but depth is still a concern particularly Cdn depth at OL and LB. Demski is a great addition and Taman actually has a decent track record for finding talent in later rounds of the draft so I guess we will see.