With mini-camp going down it seems like a good time to start talking Riders again.
The Riders are hoping to continue on an upward trend with respect to Chris Jones’ drafting. 2016 was fairly abysmal if we are being honest with ourselves. At present time all we have to show for it is a back-up Canadian receiver and Josiah St John diligently standing guard over the sidelines. 2017 was better but not great (as I will get to in the next section). Be nice to see Jones hit one of the park this time around.
With only 2 picks in the top 35 and 5 total there won’t be much room for error if that is to happen.
Picks: 5 picks, first selection is 5th overall
2017 Draft Assessment: Certainly a better draft than 2016 but not a resounding success. A lot depends on the status of #2 overall pick Cam Judge. He got hurt early last year and then went on some nonsensical twitter tirade that left many questioning if he was done with football. No one ever really addressed that so while he’s still on the roster, there are some questions remaining. If he can step into a significant role in 2018 then the combo of him and Bladek make the draft a big success. He could also be the 2nd straight top Rider pick not to pan out. The immediate impact of the draft class is minimal. Outside of Bladek no one really saw any significant playing time. That said, almost all of their draft picks are returning in 2018 which is definitely a positive for a team that in recent years has struggled to retain draft picks. Zero 2015 picks and two 2016 picks remain on the roster
Potential Pipeline: DL David Oneymata (NFL – New Orleans), TE Anthony Auclair (NFL – Tampa Bay), DB Elie Bouka (NFL – Philly, we don’t officially own his rights but given that we released him early I imagine he’ll come back here if he doesn’t stick).
Current Strengths: The repatriation of Zach Evans solidifies the DT spot with a top end Cdn. Steele and Henry for depth have things looking good. The combo of Edem/Hecht/Brouillette leave safety looking solid (not outstanding but sold… though I’m not entirely convinced Brouillette will be a part of things given that we had to coax him out of retirement last season). O-line depth has come a long way. Bladek looks solid so really, as long as one of St John, Zver or Meredith pan out then we are sitting pretty (I still haven't given up on St John but even an eternal optimist like myself may have to concede defeat if he doesn't take a step forward this year). Good depth at Cdn WR with Bagg, Bailey and Harty. Lastly want to recognize the strength on special teams. Radford and Moore are beasts on teams and there is a crop of young LBs waiting in the wings (Bartlett, Grondin, Francis, Chevrier, Gagne) plus Jake Harty has a reputation for solid play on teams as well. Crapigna and Bartel are a rock solid pair of kickers.
Current Needs: Contributing Canadians who aren’t old as balls. Four of our projected starting Canadians are over the age of 30 (5 if Brouilette is included). A youth movement is needed. Additions like Evans and Bladek (and in theory Judge though I’m still not convinced he’s all there) help but more is needed. I don’t think any one area is more pressing than another. If we are set on starting Hurl (which I still pray we aren’t) then I would be looking for depth there. We have quantity of Cdn LBs but not sure they are more than special teamers. An impact receiver to replace Demski would be nice. With both Hecht and Brouilette being 32 and Edem being just alright, a safety would help. When your best O-linemen are all old, drafting hoggies is never a bad idea. Also when Dan Clark is one of your best OL drafting hoggies is never a bad idea. Argument could be made that depth is needed for Messam but I expect when he subs out (or proves to have passed his best before date) an American RB will go in and a Cdn WR sub in instead. Pick a spot we could probably use someone.
Prediction: Ever since the season ended, I fully expected us to go DL in round 1 of the draft but landing Evans and retaining Steele completely changed that. I expect the Riders to take a WR and an OL with their top 2 picks (just not sure what order). I think we are targeting Rashaun Simonise (for some reason I see an athletic freak with character issues and drug suspensions appealing to Chris Jones) but I think we gamble that he is still there in round 2 and grab an OL like Matt Korte or Trey Rutherford first (at least that’s what I would do). We may also take Simonise first and go defense in round 2 (if Jones really believes in the potential of St John, Zver, Bladek and Meredith). Another athletically gifted player like Micah Teitz or Jackson Bennett could be the target on D.
Many are expecting us to trade players for more picks (Hamilton being the obvious trading partner). I’m not expecting that but if we can get a decent pick for someone we don’t really need than perhaps. A guy like Dyakowski comes to mind.