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