Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday Morning Sentimonies: Camp Battles

Training camp is now less than a week away and I am getting pumped. That feeling was certainly given a boost when my super nice box that contained only a plastic card and a string that was clearly diverted from being used as draw strings in dollar store sweat pants arrived (aka my season tickets).

While the Riders enter 2017 camp with less questions than they did 2016 (at least until Chris Jones starts cutting people), there are still many intriguing battles to watch as camp opens. Here are some of my top areas to watch.

Multiple talented people will not be making this team because the competition here will be so tight. I assume Carter and Roosevelt are safe, but pretty much every other player will have to be showing their top stuff from day 1 if they want to rise to the top. Guys like Holley, Edwards, Collins and Craig who saw action here last year will have to step it up if they want to beat out the vets that have been brought in.

Prophet's guy to watch: Armanti Edwards.
Offensive Line
Jones has stated he wants to start 3 Canadians on the interior of the OL in order to get to 8 starting Cdns. That means the right guard spot is up for grabs. Presumably St John is is the lead horse but guys like Bladek, White and Guy will also have their shot. Also, all Canadians will have to prove that they are a better options that having King play guard and starting 3 imports. 

Prophet's guy to watch: Josiah St John

Muamba will be manning the middle but both outside spots are up for grabs. At the Will Linebacker it will be between Sam Eguavoen, who looked great early last year before getting hurt and newcomer Glenn Love, who proved he can do more than play teams last season. Both are solid options and I expect both will see time on D but one will get the lion's share. At the Sam LB spot, I have no clue. Tyler Hunter spent time there. I think Kacy Rodgers would do good there. Maybe some unknown guy steps up.

Prophet's guy to watch: Dillon Grondin (I like him last year and now that we are starting a Cdn MLB he has a big chance to prove he can be the back-up).

I expect Brouilette to start at Safety, though Edem could push him (also an outside shot they both do well in camp and one gets bumped up to LB). Gainey gets one spot. That's all we know. The other 3 spots are more open that opposing receivers were against us early last season. If he's not an LB expect Rodgers to take a spot. I am just praying we can uncover another Justin Cox (you know, without the all the domestic issues). To me, this is the competition to watch... mainly because if we don't find 2-3 quality DBs then we are screwed.

Prophet's guy to watch: Royce Adams 

You'll note that everyone's favourite position (QB) was not on my list. Regular readers will know why, but in case you are new here and somehow managed to read this far before giving up on me, here's my view on QBs. Kevin Glenn will absolutely dominate all competing QBs. it won't even be close. The only question is whether Vince Young sucks enough to get cut. Or sucks but gets kept around as a back-up due to a pipe dream that he will develop. Given we currently only have 4 qbs under contract, odds currently look good for the latter.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: What I Like?

Hard to believe but we are just a few short weeks away from training camp opening. Alleluia! With that in mind I thought today I go through what I like and what I dislike about the current state of our roster. Now obviously my number 1 dislike is that Vince Young is still on the roster but you already knew that so I'll focus on other things today.

Like: Canadian Depth
When I look at the positions we intend to start Canadians at I see legitimate starters, and good depth to either fight for a starting spot or at the least provide depth. At safety: Brouilette, Edem, Hecht. At DL: Steele, Gaydosh, Mrabure. At RB LaFrance, Morris, Milton. We even seem to be rebuilding our OL depth (another Alleluia). We are a ways off of having the top Canadian content in the league but we have definitely improved over recent years.

Dislike: Defensive End
I love Willie Jefferson (feel free to pause her and chuckle at the fact that I said I love Willie) but I do not like AC Leonard and I see Newsome more as a good rotational guy than an impact starter. Unless this Gary Wilkins is all his mini-camp hype is made up to be (and we all know that hype is rarely ever unfounded, especially in camp), I just don't see much in terms of competition to push Leonard and Newsome. Unless we convert another basketball player or something.

Like: Battle at Receiver
Roosevelt, Carter, Owens, Grant, Holley, Edwards, Collins, Craig.... Minimum of 3 of these guys will not make the team and its not due to talent. To make this team as a receiver means you are going to have to play some damn good football at camp/pre-season. The end result can only benefit our offense.

Dislike: Our sad sack attempts at QB recruitment
I'll leave Young out of this for the sake of brevity. Simply put we have yet to recruit a single young QB with potential. Bridge and Bennett came because their former teams let them go. Bennett sounds like he may have potential but thus far our scouting has netted us essentially nothing in the QB department... other than a fine for meeting with Johnny Manziel's publicist to talk about gardening and totally not to talk about that workout that never happened.

Like: Special Teams Play
Its usually not talked about unless its brutal but its tough to be a top end team without great special teams play. With additions like Love and Judge (assuming he signs) we are taking important steps to improve our play on teams. Not since the days of the Hair Force have we really excelled on special teams. This could be about to change.

Dislike: Secondary
It scares me. The loss of Cox was huge. We should be solid at safety. Gainey can cover one spot. But that leaves 3 spots to fill and minimal experience to do so with. Rodgers should take one spot. But we'll need to fill an HB spot (preferably 2 so Gainey can bump out to corner where he plays better). Lots riding on Zavian Bingman to pan out but even if he does we still need more starters, not to mention depth for when injuries hit. It took us half a season to develop a competent secondary and I feel we are only slightly ahead of last year at this point.

We will have to see how founded my concerns are come training camp.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Monday Morning Sentimonies: CFL Draft 2017

Well another CFL Draft has come and gone. All drafted players appear to be still be living so that's a plus. From a Rider perspective, we thus far haven't been fined for anything on draft day, so there's another plus. The only downside was the overt awkwardness of Jim Lawson.

"The (reads car) Winnipeg (reads card) Blue (read card) Bomb (reads card) ers...." 

It would have made my day if TSN cut to the scene from Billy Madison where goes "T-t-t-t-today Junior!"

Though you never really know the value of a draft class on the day of the draft, I though the Riders did well. What I wanted to see with their first 2 picks was a top end O-lineman and defensive player. I probably would have gone in a different order but given how few OL went early, their strategy paid off. Let's take a look a the Rider selections

1st Rd (2) - LB Cameron Judge - We have not drafted an impact defender since Craig Butler. We need to build depth at LB given Muamba being our starter. Lastly, we need to rebuild a strong special teams core. We are lacking impact players there. So based on all that, I think the Judge pick makes a ton of sense.  Sure there's risk as his body of work is small but given how Chris Jones molds former receivers and basket players into defenders, just imagine what he can do with an actual defender.

2nd (11) - OL Dariusz Bladek  - It was so logical for us to take an Ol here that I was almost worried we would overthink it and not do it. Bladek missed a year of football but I still think he will bring much needed depth... I guess I should say quality depth. We were considering him at #2 so to land him in Round 2 is a plus.

4th (30) - TE Anthony Auclair - Now I know what you are thinking. What is a team with questionable Canadian content now, doing using a pick on a future prospect? My preference would be build depth now but even though Auclair signed a priority free agent deal with Tampa, I still think it's worth the risk for a 4th round pick. Tampa drafted a tight end so even though Auclair got some upfront money, he will have his work cut out for him to stick. If he doesn't, his value to us will far exceed the 4th rd cost. We took Oneymata last year in the 4th and he has almost zero chance of coming north. By comparison, Auclair is a more calculated and plausible risk.

4th (32) - OL Eddie Meredith - This is the one pick that concerns me. Meredith was an all-Canadian tackle in 2014 and 2015 at Western. You may be wondering why such a high caliber OL fell this far... well it's because he "hung up his cleats" prior to the 2016 season. Yes, apparently we weren't satisfied with trading for people who then retire, we are know drafting already retired people. Not sure if this pick is a Chris Jones pipe dream or whether he has laid some groundwork behind the scenes for a return to football. Time will tell, but for now this looks like a questionable pick.

5th (37) WR Mitch Picton - A familiar face around these parts. Picton was not among to top tier WRs in this draft, but I think worthy of a chance to compete. We need WR depth so he is a good add.

6th (46) OL Danny Sprukulis -  When in doubt, draft linemen. I honestly can't tell you how long its been since we drafted this many OL. I love it. He has nice size at 6'5 , 315 lbs. He will be part of what will actually be a competition this year, not just people making the team by default because they are all we have for Canadians.Temper your expectations for an OL taken this late but there are  examples of late round OL that panned out great (Shane Bergman, Luc Brodeur-Jourdain).

7th (55) LB Alexandre Chevrier - He has a ton of speed and as I mentioned with respect to Judge, we need to rebuild our special teams. We need a new crop of special teams demons and Chevrier is a good add in that respect.

7th (57) DT Emmauel Adusei - We have good depth at DL but another one in the mix can't hurt. 

8th (64) OL Marc Glaude - Seriously?!? 4 OL? Didn't even think that was legal based on our recent history.

Monday, May 1, 2017

CFL Draft 2017 Team Preview: Saskatchewan Roughriders

We conclude our Team Preview with who else but the Riders.

It’s year two for Chris Jones and he enters the draft with the most picks we’ve had in a long, long time. Also first time since 2012 that we have both a first and second round pick (turns out that it’s not against the rules like some previous GMs seem to have thought). The Riders are in a better spot with respect to Canadians than this time last year but there is still lots of improvement needed. Depressing stat that is telling of Saskatchewan’s recent success in building Cdn content: Just 7 players currently on the roster are Rider draft picks and none of them currently hold a starting role.

Picks: 9 picks, first selection is 2nd overall

2016 Draft Assessment: At this point in time there is no way to assess Jones’ first draft class other than brutal. Their haul included: an OL that held out and didn’t look all that great when he finally showed up, 2 guys in the NFL (one of which is unlikely to come north within the next 5 years), a kicker they didn’t need, a LB they traded away mid-season for a guy no longer on our team, and an OL who didn’t make the team. Honestly the only pick that has panned out at this point in 8th rounder Joshua Stanford who provided some semblance of depth last season (not a star but at least above what you’d expect from an 8th rounder). Now I have confidence that St John can still develop into a quality OL and that Bouka will still sign. That would greatly improve the assessment of this draft… but it doesn’t count until hypothetical turns into reality.

Potential Pipeline: DB Elie Bouka (NFL – Arizona), DL David Oneymata (NFL – New Orleans)

Current Strengths: The team finally has some actual starting calibre Cdns not just Cdns we start by default (cough Kevin Francis, cough Mrabure)… you know for those times we choose to abide by the rules and put enough Cdns on the field :) . The additions of Muamba, Brouilette, Steele give them 3 good starting options on D. They also have depth behind most of them with the likes of Jeff Hecht, Tevaughn Campbell Linden Gaydosh (huge addition IF he can stay healthy), Mrabure and Dillon Grondin (who I liked coming into last year and am eager to see what he can do in year 2). Offensively, if LaBatte is healthy (pauses for impassioned prayer for his health) then we get a huge boost. We are slowly improving our depth here with guys like White, Guy and St John (who we should not give up on). Plan A calls for starting 3 import OL (Dennis, Coleman and King at guard) so we aren’t in bad shape. Though I think the team would love it if a young Cdn played well enough for us to change our mind and start 3 Cdns. LaFrance gives us a starting Cdn RB and we have Morris and Milton to provide depth. Still love Demski and Bagg. Lastly we look pretty rock solid in the kicking game with Crapigna, Bartel and Hus.

Current Needs: I would say we are in a better position than last year but far from being where we need to be. Across the board we just need more quality Canadians. We also need to retain them and develop them so we aren’t continually dipping into free agency to fill our ratio holes. Interior of our OL could stand to keep building (who knows how much longer Labatt will be playing. Need more quality depth at receiver. I would be looking for a quality back-up for Muamba. Honestly other than kicker, we have a need.

Prediction: Two main predictions. The first is that we trade Van Gyslwyk for a mid round pick.  With Bartel and Crapigna locked up longterm, he is an asset we don’t need and could get value from a team who does. As for our actual picks, I see us taking anOL and defender just not sure in what order. My gut says Jones favours the defense, so we take an impact DL (Boateng, Ekakitie) or LB like Mulumba in round 1 and look for a decent OL in round 2. The other scenario see us take an OL like Woods or Bladek and address the D in round 2.

Look I think if we just get out of this draft without a fine, we will all be happy

Saturday, April 29, 2017

CFL Draft 2017 Team Preview: BC Lions

As he has done many times in his tenure with BC, Wally Buono enters the draft with 2 first rounders. This time thanks to sending a QB that had yet to play a snap to a bottom dwelling team.

Picks: 9 picks, first selection is 3rd Overall

2016 Draft Assessment: Draft was all about building depth for the Lions. The picked up OL Charles Vaillancourt in round 1, DB Anthony Thompson in Round 2 and WR Brett Blazko in Round 3. Limited impact for all 3 year 1 but certainly provided needed depth and all could see their roles increase in year 2.

Potential Pipeline: DL Christian Covington (NFL - Houston), OL Brett Boyko (NFL - San Diego)

Current Strengths: The interior of their OL has improved over recent years with Steward, Husband and Fabien in the middle. They have Vaillancourt for depth as well as newcomer Foucault who they may choose to audition at tackle. I like David Menard along their D-line and they now have Ainsworth for depth. At receiver they have Ianuzzi and Gore (who everyone seemed to assume was going to retire but hasn’t yet). They also have a good core of unheralded Canadian role players like FB Rolly Lumbala, RB Shaq Murray-Lawrence, LBs Jason Aragki and Adrian Clarke. I was going to mention that they were solid at safety with Edem backed up by Thompson and Fraser but it sounds like Edem is on the outs and they are headed to an import safety.

Current Needs: Need to restock the defensive shelves to compensate for the losses like Bo Lokombo and Jabar Westerman. Also, I would be looking to add depth at WR as insurance for Gore. Also, if they are serious about Foucault playing tackle then more depth at OL is needed to move to 4 starting Cdn OL. If they are going import safety then they need another Canadian starter somewhere. Logically I’m guessing DL is where they would look so that certainly becomes a priority.

Prediction: The Lions are the most likely to strike a deal to trade up or down in the first round. With the benefit of 2 first round picks I could see them trading one to get more picks in round 2/3. I expect them to emerge from round 1 with 2 linemen, 1 O one D. The O-lineman may be someone like Mason Woods who they may have to wait on a bit. Second round could see them target an LB to help reinforce special teams after losing their best special teamer in Lokombo.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

CFL Draft 2017 Team Preview: Calgary Stampeders

A big key to Calgary’s success is their ability to amass draft picks and then retain and develop those players long-term. Of the 25 players they have drafted in the past 3 years 15 remain with the club. By comparison, BC has retained 10 of their 23 draft picks over the same timeframe and Saskatchewan just 4 of 22.
Picks: 9 picks, first selection is 8th Overall

2016 Draft Assessment: With the 6th overall pick they selected Alex Singleton who they saw as a future starter. The future turned out to be now as be played himself into the start role by mid-season. They also added depth with players like Roman Grozman and Juwan Bresacin. By comparison to other draft classes this was not the Stamps best but it was still pretty good and they certainly have sufficient depth for “pretty good” to be more than enough. The one notable thing is that it was the first year in a long time that they didn’t select someone who was NFL bound.

Potential Pipeline: OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff (Kansas City, though I don’t expect to ever see him up north as he just signed a huge money extension)

Current Strengths: Not a huge surprise that a team that lost 2 games last season, has solid Cdn content pretty much across the board. They are strong at OL with Wllson, Bergman, Lavertu and Federkeil (with Grozman, Lavoie and Thorn for depth). They have a solid combo at DL with Quinn Smith and Junior Turner. As previously mentioned, Singleton locks down with MLB spot (with Landry and Caron for depth). They have Jerome Messam (now backed up by Anthony Woodson). At WR Parker and Durant have them solid (with Brescacin and Kolhert for depth. Rob Cote in my opinion is one of the most undervalued Canadian players in the leagues. Paredes and Maver remain the best kicking combo in the league. They could easily start 8 Cdns.

Current Needs: Despite their depth on paper, the biggest concern is durability along the OL. Spencer Wilson was the only Cdn OL not to miss time due to injury last season. Granted, no teams seems to endure OL changes better than Calgary but still, they should be looking to add reinforcements there. They are also thin at DB. They field an all American secondary so it’s not a pressing need but they could use some new special team/depth guys there. Beyond that, as usual, the Stamps have the luxury of taking the best player available.

Prediction: 3 of the past 4 years have seen the Stamps select an OL first and I see that trend continuing. Qadr Spooner or Braden Schram are options that could be available for them at #8. In the second round I see them targeting an LB like one of the Herdmans. In the 3rd round I see them taking a flyer on an NFL bound player as they have done in the past. Anthony Auclair and Justin Senior will be on their radar.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

CFL Draft 2017 Team Preview: Montreal Alouettes

Just like the Argonauts, the Alouettes don’t even get to benefit from their own futility as they traded away their 1st round pick. But hey, they Vernon Adams thing is sure working out for them. Lots of work to do for Kavis Reed to do to return the Alouettes being contenders. 

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is 12th Overall

2016 Draft Assessment: A very typical Jim Popp draft: some good, mixed with some crazy. Wisely invested the 2nd overall pick in OL Phillippe Gagnon. Questionably used the 11th overall pick on RB Wayne Moore (who didn’t dress for a game in 2016). Not much to show for the rest of the draft other than some players who could potentially be depth players this upcoming season.

Potential Pipeline: n/a (at one point they had DL Tyrone Crawford on their neg list but not sure if they still do… not that it matters, he ain’t coming north anytime soon).

Current Strengths:
Over the offseason, they amassed a crazy stockpile of Cdn DL (Shologan, Oramasionwu, Westerman Klassen and Joseph). Seems like overkill to me but I guess there are worse problems to have. Their O-line is a far cry from the envy of the league it used to be. The move to 2 import tackles will help. An interior of Blake, Matte, and Gagnon with Brodeur-Jourdain and Ruby (who failed epically when they played him at tackle last season) for depth is not too shabby. Jim Popp was never big on Cdn Receivers (generally opting for only a token one) but with Guigere, Charette and the newly signed Devon Bailey, they suddenly have some depth there. I see that trio providing solid special team/rotational defense play. Also, hard not to mention Daryl Townsend who is a solid special teamer. Ackie, Plesius and Boulay add to their strength on teams.

Current Needs:
Big question relates to where they will get their 7th Cdn starter. 3 OL, 2 DL and 1 WR seem to be a given. There is some talk of making Plesius a starter at LB. Hamilton tried that a few years ago and it didn’t work so I would have my doubts. You could also do a second Cdn WR, a 3rd Cdn DL or make Ackie a starter at safety or OLB. They need to build depth wherever they choose to find that 7th starter.

Having to wait to the second round is not a great position for Kavis Reed but unfortunately he has to face the (dare I say) consequences (yes I went there) of his predecessor. I would think that they target either a LB/DB or build OL depth. Then again Reed may be crazy and just keep adding D-linemen.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

CFL Draft 2017 Team Preview: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Thanks to trading a QB they didn’t want for a starting DB and a first round pick, the Bombers are benefiting from both the Argos’ idiocy and futility and have picks #1 and 6 in the draft. When you consider that this team used to have Brendan Taman as a GM (who avoided 1st round picks like the plague) and Joe Mack (who would have been better off trading away his picks rather than using them), they’ve certainly come a long way.

Picks: 7 picks, first selection is 1st Overall

2016 Draft Assessment: Arguably had the biggest haul from the 2016 draft class despite not having a first round pick. They used their 2 second rounders on a quality OL in Logan Couture (who adds to a very strong, young talented core they are building) and an impact player in DL Trent Corney. But the biggest win for them came when they were able to nab Taylor Loffler in the 3rd Round who was a CFL all-star in his rookie season. It was the steal of the draft in retrospect.

Potential Pipeline: DL Andy Mulumba (Kansas City), they also have WR Stephen Alli and DL Christo Bilukidi should either ever decide to play football again.

Current Strengths: Pretty solid across the board.  They have some talented young OL (Goosen, Chung, Couture, etc…) Their oldest Cdn OL is 28. That’s an enviable position. They have the aforementioned Loffler (an all-star in his rookie campaign). Also have guys who would be starters regardless of passport like Andrew Harris and Jamal Westerman. They have good depth at most position. They have also assembled a really strong group of special teamers (something their coach holds near and dear).

Current Needs: Only two glaring needs. One is that they don’t have a Cdn back-up for Andrew Harris (who at some point will start to show some wear from his heavy workload, year in, year out). They have the ability to adjust their ratio if need be so it’s not a massive issue. The other need is a quality WR. Feoli-Guidino continues to exceed expectations but at best he is a token WR. Aside from him its been a parade of high picks who never panned out: Jade Etienne, Rory Kolhert and the Addison Richards (who is supposedly Guidino’s depth). Another strong WR would help add depth behind Guidino and allow for easier ratio adapting if Harris goes down.

Also, they probably need to look at some DL depth. Jake Thomas is alright but they could certainly do better than a Thomas/Brandon Tennant combo at DT.

Prediction: Given the luxury of picking any player they want at #1 it would seem to make the most sense to take a lineman (as a I don’t see a player outside the trenches worthy of the #1 pick). They have pretty solid OL depth for a team that starts 2 Cdn OL so that leaves DL as the logical place to go (barring a trade which I wouldn’t rule out). Eli Ankou makes the most sense to me. He helps solidify the Cdn DT spot and could push to start there. With their second pick look for them to target a receiver. I doubt Vandervoot falls that far but Nate Behar should be there for them. I could see them target an RB like Johnny Augustine in round 2.

Monday, April 24, 2017

CFL Draft 2017 Team Preview: Hamilton Ti-Cats

Picks: 7 picks, first selection is 4th Overall

2016 Draft Assessment: Landed a stud OL in Brandon Revenberg with the 3rd overall pick. He will likely be a mainstay in that O-line for years. I’m not really sure why they drafted Mercer Timmis in the 2nd round but he certainly has potential if they ever decide to use him. The pick I would keep my eye on is 3rd rounder LB Terrell Davis. I think he will grow into a solid special teamer/rotational defender for them. Overall a pretty good result for the Cats.

Potential Pipeline: DL Brent Urban (Baltimore)

Current Strengths: They have ample starting calibre Canadians (many of whom are or have been all-stars): Butler, Laurent, Stephen, Bomben, Revenberg, Filer, Capicciotti and Watt (as least as a token Cdn WR). They have a solid core of depth/special teamers (mainly due to their recent history of drafting a ridiculous amount of LBs).

Current Needs: The Ti-cats’ issues in not finding starters but ensuring adequate depth behind them. They have just 5 Cdn OL under contract. Given that they are likely to start 2 Cdn DBs (Butler and Stephen), they don’t have near the depth there they need. Particularly when you consider that Butler is coming off major knee injury and hasn’t played in a year. Depth behind Laurent and Capicciotti is thin as well with only Atkinson and Gill (who I wouldn’t count on given that he seems to always be hurt). The other big hole is the one left by Andy Fantuz. It’s likely he returns to the Ti-Cats once he’s healthy but who knows when that will be and given his age, they need to start thinking of the future. Lastly, for the second year in a row they currently have no kicker. Bold strategy (thought it worked out alright for them last year so why not do it again?)

Prediction:  WR Danny Vandervoot at #4 just makes way too much sense. He’s by far the best WR in the draft. They need a young Cdn WR.  It’s not like picking an impact OL or a DL would be a bad pick at #4 so they can't really go wrong (well ok there are many ways to go wrong, just ask Joe Mack). But Vandervoot is the odds on favourite here. Also, given past history, expect them to take no less than 5 LBs in the draft.

Friday, April 21, 2017

CFL Draft 2017 Team Preview: Toronto Argonauts

Toronto will have to sit out the first round as their hard earned 1st overall pick goes to Winnipeg thanks to the infamous Drew Willy trade. I still can’t fathom how at any point (even if alcohol was involved) that ever seemed like a good trade for Jim Barker. Did Kyle Walters have some blackmail material on him? Barker's replacement Jim Popp will now be making the picks (ironically he also traded a first round pick away with his previous employer).
Picks: 6 picks, first selection is 10th Overall

2016 Draft Assessment: Mostly a lot of depth additions like O-linemen Jamall Campbell and DJ Sackey (who really missed his calling in life as a D-lineman, best name ever!). The success/failure of this draft is really tied to the 2 receivers Barker selected: Brian Jones (1st round) and Llevi Noel (4th round). When he cut his entire receiver corp late last season (bold strategy), Barker was confident these 2 could step in as replacements. Count me among those skeptical about this strategy. Remains to be seen if the new regime is as high on Jones as Barker was… especially given that Popp didn’t make Cdn WRs much of a priority in Montreal.

Potential Pipeline: TE Luke Wilson (Seattle)

Current Strengths: Starts up front where Popp now has the ability to start an all Cdn O-line like he had in Montreal. Perrett and Van Zeyl at tackle. Holmes, McEwen and Deane inside. Plus a ton of depth behind them (Dyakowski, Smith, Watman, Campbell, Sakey). Of note are the young guys like Holmes and McEwen which bodes well for the future. Jermaine Gabriel is a quality safety and they have Black and Webster for depth. Anthony Coombs can be a playmaker (particularly if Ray is the QB). Hajrullahu had a bounce back season and proved to be a quality kicker (given how terrible the Argos were he had ample opportunity to prove it).

Current Needs: Their glut of OL assets leaves them free to target other areas (a luxury not shared by many teams). Defense would be the logical place for them to start. At DL they have Daryl Waud (12th overall pick in 2015) but limited depth behind him if they want to push him as a starter (which they may choose to do for ratio reasons). They don’t really have much in terms of Cdn LBs which could impact on their special teams play. I expect Coombs to be heavily involved in the offense and so the departure of Andre Durie leaves a need for some depth at RB.

Prediction: Based on need and what’s likely to be available come the second round, the Argos are likely to take a DL with their first pick (whichever of Faith Ekakite, Junior Luke or Kwaku Boateng is still there). Keep in mind though that Jim Popp is now calling the shots so one of his early picks will be a headscratcher from that no one saw coming. My bet is a fullback. Also, because Popp has never shied away from taking players he has to wait on, I could see Popp taking a flyer on guys like Justin Senior, Anthony Auclair or Geoff Gray (depending on how NFL interest in him pans out).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

CFL Draft 2017 Team Preview: Edmonton Eskimos

Edmonton may not have a GM but presumably somebody will be making picks for them come draft day.

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is 5th Overall

2016 Draft Assessment: A very questionable draft strategy by then-GM Ed Hervey. Used his 1st and 2nd round picks on players bound for the NFL (Tevaughn Smith and Arjen Calquhoun) and did not have a 3rd or 4th rounder. That meant the first tangible selections for the team started in the 5th round. Not a recipe for success (just ask Brendan Taman). Obviously if either NFLer ventures north this assessment could change quickly but currently the value of the 2016 is negligible.

Potential Pipeline: WR Tevaughn Smith (NFL – Indy), DB Arjen Calquhoun (NFL – Dallas), DL Stefan Charles (NFL - Detroit), OL Austin Paztor (NFL - Cleveland), K Shaun Suisham (NFL), LS LP Ladouceur (NFL - Dallas)

Current Strengths:
They have a solid interior to their O-line with O’Donnell, Rottier and Sorensen with Groulx and Beard for depth. Safety position is in good shape with starter Neil King and Andrew Lue and Dubuisson providing depth. Calvin McCarty is one of those unheralded role players that every team needs in order to be successful. Sean Whyte was the most accurate kicker in the CFL last season at 93.8% and has missed only 6 kicks over his 2 years in Edmonton (I still have no clue what Montreal was thinking when they outright cut him but lucky for the Esks I guess). They have a glut of Cdn LBs led by Cory Greenwood (who could start) and solid special teamer Blair Smith.

Current Needs:
What the Esks really need is something to show for their first selection. Of the past 5 players the Esks have used their first pick on 3 are still in the NFL, 1 is no longer part of the team, and 1 was injured for all but 1 game last season. The Esks really need to land someone who can contribute in 2017 with their first pick.

They currently have only 5 Cdn O-lineman under contract so that is likely an area to focus on (unless they think they can get through the whole season injury-free). The sudden retirement of Nate Coehoorn leaves big hole for them in terms of ratio. Last season they started 3 Cdn receivers so they will either need another Cdn receiver to start or adjust the ratio. Moving Cory Greenwood to a starter is an option (though given his health that would require a solid back-up plan). They could also move to starting 4 Cdn OL which would also require adding some depth as a back-up plan. They have just one Cdn D-lineman but I don’t see that being a concern given their intent to play an all American front 4

Whoever is making the picks for the Esks will be looking to distance themselves from the Hervey legacy, and that means picking a player who they can expect in training camp. Given that they aren’t overly concerned about D-lineman, that leaves O-line as the obvious place to use their first pick. A relatively safe pick like Qadr Spooner or Dariusz Bladek would fit that. If by some chance Hamilton passes on Danny Vandervoot at #4 the Esks may be inclined to forgo that strategy based on the Coehoorn departure. Round 2 will see them look to add a Receiver such as Nate Behar or Mitch Picton (provided they didn’t land one in Round 1).

Monday, April 17, 2017

CFL Draft 2017 Team Preview: Ottawa RedBlacks

We start our CFL Draft team previews with the defending champions. Obviously you don’t win the Grey Cup without solid Canadian content and the RedBlacks certainly have that. Offseason departures have given that content a hit, though they are far from being in dire straits.

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is #9

2016 Draft Assessment: Got a big win with their #7 overall pick Jason Lauzon-Seguin who started 12 games as a rookie, primarily at tackle. That alone makes the draft a success. As for the rest of the draft, mostly depth players like Mikael Charland and Randy Beardy, and players like Jamal Kett and Kyle Fraser Audit looking to make the team in year 2. Interesting play to watch is 3rd round pick Mehdi Abdesmad who is still down south. Overall a decent draft for a team with minimal needs.

Potential Pipeline: DL Mehdi Abdesmad (NFL - Tennessee), TE Tyler Digby (lacrosse)

Current Strengths: Very good depth on both sides of the trenches. On the O-line they have guys like Gott, MacMillan, Mateas, Lauzon-Seguin and Albright. On the D-line, Evans has developed into a stud in the middle (guess Ottawa is lucky a short-sighted GM left him unprotected in the expansion draft, not that I'm still bitter about that) and they have Williams and Gascon-Nadon on the end with Marshall and Lattanzio for depth. A bit of a down year for Antoine Pruneau but he’s still starting material. Also have a solid starter in Brad Sinopoli. They could easily start 8 Canadians (and often do).

Current Needs: If they plan on maintaining 4 starting Cdn OL like they did at the end of last season than more depth is needed there (especially given the offseason departure of J’Michael Deane). Not convinced they have the depth needed to replace Pruneau if he goes down, so another playmaking DB/LB would be a good add. Also given that they gave Milo the boot (he reportedly hit the uprights on the way out), there is some uncertainty at kicker. There isn’t necessarily a starting calibre kicker in the draft but likely a late round addition to the kicking competition is in order.

Beyond that, the RedBlacks have the luxury of taking the best player available.

Prediction: I see them going defense in Round 1. I can’t see Eli Ankou still being there at #9 so for D-line possibly  Faith Ekakitie or Kwaku. I think the greater need is an LB/DB depth so most likely they end up with like Christophe Mulumba or Dondre Wright. Round 2 sees them address OL depth. The mid to late rounds will be used to add WR and LB depth as well as the previously mentioned kicker.