Monday, May 20, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Football!

Sunday training camps around the CFL opened, Huzah! ... well the almost didn't but then they did and that's the important thing.

The O'Day/Dickenson era is officially underway as 90+ guys are in Saskatoon trying to prove they are worth keeping around for more than a few weeks. It's a very different kind of camp as there really aren't any starting jobs up for grabs. Certainly there's a chance a veteran could get beat out by a young up and comer in a few spots. But I could probably guess our starting 24 right now and get 23 of the right. Despite this there are some interesting battles to watch.

Here's what I will be following closely.

Receiver - This should be the most heavily contested in camp. You have the vets in Roosevelt and a surprisingly healthy Arceneaux. You got the 3 young rookies from last season back for year 2 in Evans,  Moore (who I think is in a for a big year) and Cannon (who the team is very high on). Just watching those 5 battle for the starting roles will be fun. Toss the new crop of receivers vying to be the next Moore/Evans/Lambert. Then there is the Canadian side of things where our two big new rookies will have everyone's attention. After what seems like a decade on our practice roster I will be interested to see if Mitch Picton finally gets a chance to step up. Cory Watson is still there but in an ideal world he becomes expendable of suffers an "injury" just before game 1.

O-Line - Cofield and Coleman will man the tackles (and with a chance to play from day 1 I think Cofield will have great year). I can tell you that in some capacity Labatte, Blake, Bladek, Schram, Shepley and Clark (when healthy) will as well. But who the starting 3 are and who the dedicated 6th OL are and up in the air. Looks like Blake-Labatte-Bladek are the starters for now but that could change.

D-line - Five of our 6 man rotation will be Hughes, Johnson, Evans, Leonard, Geter but there is one spot left. Mak Henry is currently in that spot but we have Mafuta, Breton and Dabire in the mix and also could go american there with Edwards or one of the new guys.

QB - Normally the most intriguing part of camp the interest here is pretty minimal (beyond monitoring the Collaros Concussion Count). Collaros will start. Fajardo will back-up the only thing left to decide is whether Isaac Harker can beat out Watford for the 3rd spot. Watford has the edge in terms of experience with it being his 3rd year here. But He's essentially a faster Michael Bishop... strong arm, not strong on the mental aspect of the game. Normally you'd be OK keeping a speedy QB like that around to run your sneaks but Nick Marshall stole that role so if Harker can show any kind of upside in terms of actually being a QB that can do more than run and throw far then you might opt to keep him around and develop him. That said with the amount of hype Harker already has 1 day into main camp I have this sinking feeling he's doomed to flame out gloriously come the pre-season.

DB - Starters are set in Marshall-Gainey-Edem-Purifoy-Butler with Bouka as the depth. But I do believe that if we found another Marshall-type recruit that Butler's spot could be at risk. 

We are just 11 days away from preseason action. Get your family time while you still can and start prepping your liver... Rider season is coming.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Elimimian And Other Thoughts

I was going to try and be like lots of other writers out there an open with a clever pun involving a play on Solomon Elimimian (Better Call Sol is a popular one). But the best I was able to come up with was “Me So Solly” so I gave up on that. Don’t worry, at some point I will bring back Me So Solly.

But enough about the internal monologue of my blog drafting time. The Riders signed Solomon Elimimian last week. It’s a pretty big signing. Yes he’s getting up there in age and yes he’s coming off injury but the fact remains he’s arguably the best middle linebacker in the CFL. 4 time all-star, 2 time defensive player of the year, one time MOP. For as much as take shots at Sam Hurl, he was actually not  terrible last season (Judge also showed promise)… but isn’t it nice to able to say something more positive than “he wasn’t terrible” about a key member of your defense. Also, its not like injuries are piling up on Elimimian. He had a knee a few years back and a wrist this season. For a guy who hits people hard 140 times a season, I’d say he’s been pretty durable. I don’t think he’s the same MOP guy he was in 2014 but he’s still miles better than most people. Just look at the middle of our D: Evans, Johnson and Elimimian.

My only concern is the trend regarding our top players. What do Charleston Hughes, Solomon Elimiman, Manny Arceneaux, Naaman Roosevelt, William Powell all have in common? They are old. We are putting a lot of our hopes on people the wrong side of 30. Now we have a lot of young guys too (I seem to remember we had one of the youngest rosters last season but am too lazy to look it up) so adding some strong vets is not a bad idea (worked okay in 2013). Still I wish we had just a bit less riding on guys having one more great season in them.

Quick Hitters:
·        The philosophy of our team will be unchanged in 2019. Great D and adequate offense. Our postseason success is based purely on whether Collaros is healthy when playoffs roll around. We are not hiding our strategy. Meet the new Riders, same as the old Riders. But hey… the lack of Brandon Bridge has got to be a plus.
-    Dan Clark is lucky to be alive. Seriously. I have been campaigning for a different centre for years now but this is certainly not what I had in mind. Hope for a speedy recovery.
·        First Round Pick Justin McInnis was not offered an NFL contract after 2 minicamps. Odds of him being at training camp are trending up.
·        I remain confident that despite all the grandstanding on both sides, a deal between the CFLPA and league will occur at the 11th hour.
·        If not I’m offering my services as a replacement player. I’m no Shane Falco but can probably smoke a cigarette while kicking.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Assessing The Draft

Thursday the Canadian draft went down. By now you’ve probably forgotten about the German receiver we drafted in the European draft or the 3 amigos we drafted in the Mexican draft (pretty sure one was an O-lineman). But the Canadian Draft is the big one… in that there are currently rules allowing them roster spots and a chance that those drafted will actually see the field this season. (I’m not anti CFL 2.0, actually for it, just realistic about the short term impact of it all).

It was Jeremy O’Day’s first draft as GM and he made 6 selections. Overall I’d say he did well… though as O’Day himself said if you’re a GM and you don’t feel good after the draft then you haven’t done a very good job. Everyone thinks their draft class is awesome at this point. As was widely expected the Riders targeted a receiver in Round 1. What wasn’t expected was them doing the same with their second pick. Though unexpected, given their huge lack of depth at the position, nabbing 2 top end WR prospects is not a bad decision. I’ll break down each pick below but if you know anything about the CFL Draft its that Rounds 1-3 are where you get your top end talent and 4-8 are for depth players and the odd player that actually becomes an impact player (lotto tickets if you will). So while I’m not completely discounting our late round picks, odds are, the success of this draft will be dictated by the success of the top 2 WRs.

Let take a look at the picks:

Round 1 – WR Justin McInnis
At 6’6, McInnis is a big bodied WR who has speed to go along with his size. The Riders haven’t had a top end Cdn WR prospect since they drafted Demksi in 2015 and before that Fantuz in 2006. Sure Jordan Sisco appeared in between there but I’m pretty sure Canadian is the only word that applies to him out of top-end Cdn WR. But back to McInnis. He has mini-camp invites to Indy and Tennessee but well worth the risk, given how few mini-camp invites turn into NFL deals.

Round 2 – WR Brayden Lenius-Dickey
I don’t think many (us included) expected him to fall this far. Like McInnis, he has height (6’5) but at 240 lbs he’s a very different type of player. He’s more like a Lavoie-type who can play receiver but also had the size to play tight end or fullback. He also has a mini-camp invite in San Francisco. Assuming Steve McAdoo can actually figure out how to use a versatile player like Lenius-Dickey (for obvious reasons I will insist on using the second part of his last name) we should be a good add. Let’s all remember that we started Josh Stanford and Devon Bailey last season.

Round 4 – LB Jacob Janke
Projects as a safety in the CFL (where we need more depth) and was coveted because of his strong play on special teams. We already have a solid group of special teams players but in the 4th round this is exactly the type of player you can expect to get.

Round 5 – DL Charbel Dabire
He’s 300 lbs and plays DT… that pretty much covers why we targeted him. Obviously he is a developmental project because players this big who are solid are top round picks. But we need depth behind Evans and Henry so it’s the right position to look for developmental projects. Can’t say I’ve ever seen the name Charbel before. It’s almost enough to make me want to endorse him in training camp… thus cursing him to failure.

Round 6 – OL Vincent Roy
You can’t teach size and at 6’5, 285 Roy has that. Being realistic here as a 6th round pick Roy either ends up on the PR or goes back to school (assuming he still has eligibility) and hopefully develops down the road. The victory will be if he sticks around long enough for us to learn if its pronounced Roy like Roy Romanow or like Patrick Roy.

Round 8 – LB Christopher Judge
I had to make sure I heard right when they said he was the older brother of Cameron. He’ll be 28 when camp starts and hasn’t played in a few years. Apparently he was quite the special teams player in college. Look people may make fun at this pick but honestly he’s as likely to pan out as any other 8th round pick.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tuesday Morning Sentimonies: Belated Random Quasi Coherent Thoughts

Apologies for not having my usual sentimonies posted on Monday. I went to see Avengers Sunday and was too distraught to think about football. I mean the musical duet was magical, the Thanos/Hulk romantic relationship was maybe a bit much but what really got me was the plot twist around Captain America actually being Darth Vader's son and turns out he was dead the whole time and they only win when they figure out the flying V formation. Oops sorry for spoiling it for people. 

Anyway, back to football:

- The CFL Draft goes Thursday. I still maintain that the Riders will use their first round pick on a receiver. Hergy Malaya and Justin McInnis are the names that jump out to me but Kaion Julien-Grant and Brayden Lenius-Dickey are also options. In the second round my guess is DL or OL. We need a DB to back up Edem but there are only 2 decent ones in the draft and both are facing possible suspensions. 

- Solomon Elimimian has been a topic of conversation across the prairies after news surfaced that he was being released. The Riders are one of 3 teams showing interest. This is definitely a proceed with caution scenario as he's old and injuries are starting to slowly pile up (can't imagine making 100+ tackles year in year out is good for the body). But when healthy dude is one of the best to ever play the position. It will come down to whether the money makes sense. But he is worth exploring. 

- The other name of interest is Jeff Knox. Now he's no Elimimian but he is 5 years younger, more versatile and has experience in our defense. He's also a good player in his own right. He can play outside and middle LB (like Equavoen did). It all depends on how much each of them want salary-wise but there is a case that Knox is a better for for our needs than Elimimian. Also Knox is easier to type, which in my world is a plus (won't someone think of the bloggers?!)

- Maybe I missed something or maybe its just an oversight but Matt Elam does not appear on the Riders' roster on their website. Anyone know what happened?

- The other topic is the ongoing negotiations between the CFLPA and the league. Both sides are doing the best to gain leverage in the negotiations. The League by not paying bonuses and delaying negotiations. The CFLPA by taking a strike vote and threatening to not show to camp. I think that like usual and deal will be made at the 11th hour without any kind of disruption to the season.  If the CFLPA can remain as united as they currently say they are on this reporting to training camp issue it would really strengthen their position but the closer this gets to camp the more I'll be watching for cracks. Easy for Mike Reilly and other top players to not report to camp (Reilly has top hat money) but if you are a new player whose livelihood depends on getting a chance to earn a paycheque a lot tougher to jeopardize that chance.

Friday, April 26, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Toronto Argonauts

We conclude our team previews with the team currently on the clock. The Argos have the first overall pick after a dreadful season. As much of an enviable position as it is, history is not on their side on this one. Looking at the last 4 first overall picks only one has actually panned out.
That’s not great news for the Argos who really need something to show for this pick. Their last 3 top picks (Ryan Hunter, Mason Woods and Brian Jones) are not with the team. Not exactly a recipe for success.
Picks: 9 picks, first selection is 1st Overall

2018 Draft Assessment: Two of their top 3 picks remain unsigned. First rounder Ryan Hunter is in the NFL. 3rd rounder Regis Cibasu got an NFL minicamp invite and then returned to school. They got a decent special teamer in Nelkas Kwemo but when that’s all you have to show for 3 top 20 picks that’s not great. If Hunter and Cibasu end up signing, then that drastically changes to evaluation but for now the impact is very minimal.

Potential Pipeline: TE Luke Wilson (Oakland), OL Ryan Hunter (Kansas City), WR Regis Cibasu (college)

Current Strengths: McEwen, Holmes, Bomben and Van Zeyl have them solid at OL with a number of others for depth. Cleyon Laing is a stud along the D-line and they have good depth behind him. They also have Gabriel at safety with Woodson and Webster for depth. Offensively Coombs and Cross are key playmakers in their offense. Llevi Noel is solid on special teams and developing as a receiver.

Current Needs: Their top OL are starting to be mostly on the wrong side of 30 so they need to keep building there. While they have quantity at receiver they could use a big more quality there. LB is another place they could look to add. Lastly their kicking game was utter crap last season. While the draft likely does not provide the solution for them there its something they should probably look into addressing.  

Prediction: Logic would say trading down makes some sense for a team with no galring needs but with no consensus #1 pick I doubt many teams are interesting in giving up much for it. That means the Argos likely keep the pick and take an OL. Most likely either Drew Desjarlais or Zach Wilkinson. Bonus prediction: with 2 third round picks it would make a lot of sense to offer one of those to the Riders for Tyler Crapigna. Even coming off injury he has to be better than what they had last season.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Ottawa RedBlacks

Since returning to the league Ottawa has been one of the most consistently successful teams in the league (3 Grey Cup appearances in the past 4 years). Now a large part of that success has to do with playing in a division where being mediocre is good enough to be way better than the rest of the teams. But their success has also been driven by their strong Canadian content.

Interesting fact for you from 2016 to present they have only traded away 5 of their picks… total. Some teams manage that in a year. Other interesting fact: the RedBlacks have only 3 people over the age of 30 on their roster.

Picks: 7 picks, first selection is 7th overall

2018 Draft Assessment: It was all about building depth, which is something they have the luxury of doing with a strong set of Canadian starters. First rounder Matt Korte builds depth at OL. Same with second rounder Dubois at receiver. So far the impact has been  minimal but almost every pick is still on the roster so they could yet develop into something with more impact.

Potential Pipeline: DL Eli Ankou (NFL – Jacksonville). They also have the rights to DL Mehdi Abdesmad but he retired.

Current Strengths: They have 6 former first round picks at O-line. 5 of their own plus Philippe Gagnon acquired in free agency, That is some enviable depth there. Sinopoli remains the top Cdn WR in the league at this point and they added 2017 first rounder Nate Behar to further solidify that spot. Feoli-Guidino is an underrated contributor there as well. Pruneau gives them a defensive starter at safety. Latanzio and Klassen give them the needed 7th Canadian at DL. Also their kicker is kinda good. Something about breaking a pro football record as an undrafted rookie.

Current Needs: Too bad they can’t draft a new OC. Too soon? I was working on another joke about how at the combine Ottawa likely blocked prospects from interviewing with other teams as well… but I was honestly too lazy to turn it into something decent enough to post (you get what you pay for). D-line would be a good place to build. They finished third last in sacks last season and while Latanzio and Klassen are adequate they are hardly impact players. Given that they start 2 Cdn WR they could use some more depth there. Linebacker is another place to look. Beyond that they have very few glaring needs.

Prediction: In every single draft in RedBlack history except 2014 they have selected an OL with their first pick. They are nothing if not consistent. As much as they are creatures of habit I think this will mark the second time in franchise history they don’t take an OL first. D-line would make the most sense, though in the past their attempts to draft DL high have failed to materialize (Ankou, Abdesmad). Receiver would be the other place for them to look in the early rounds.

Monday, April 22, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Saskatchewan Roughriders

What will the first draft of the Jeremy O’Day era bring? I doubt it will be as interesting or whacky as the Chris Jones era (but then again aside from his wardrobe choices, its tough to be as interesting and whacky as Jones). Outside of 2017, Jones did not have a great drafting record. 2016 was abysmal. With St John not re-signed there is no one left from that draft and we got a solid half season out of him (not a great return on investment for a first overall pick). 2017 was a solid draft (Bladek, Judge, Chevrier). 2018 (as I’ll discuss below hinges a lot on one guy). Hopefully O’Day can prove to be a great drafter because the string of poor drafting GMs we’ve had goes back a while Jones, Taman, Tillman, Shiv.

Picks: 6 picks, first selection is 6th overall

2018 Draft Assessment: Not going to go quite as far as to say the success of this draft hinges entirely on Dakota Shepley but it’s pretty close to that. We took a risk in drafting him as high as we did but it has paid off with us only having to wait 1 year for him. He’s signed and will be in camp (of course pending whatever happens in collective bargaining). If he even comes close to his potential it’s a win. If he ends up not panning out then it’s a bad draft as the rest of the draftees are a solid meh. Teitz seems like he can contribute on teams. Breton and Mufata (I can’t help myself whenever I heart that name I picture Scar yelling “never, ever mention that name!”) are developmental projects that may or may not pan out.

Potential Pipeline: DL David Oneymata (NFL – New Orleans), TE Anthony Auclair (NFL – Tampa Bay), TE Adam Zaruba – neg list (rugby), OL Christopher Smith (college), DB Elie Bouka (free agent, we don’t officially own his rights but given that we released him early, hopefully there is some goodwill there)

Current Strengths: O-line depth looks good with Labatte, Blake, Bladek, Clark, Shepley and Schram (who saw some limited action last season). Some definite playmakers on D with Evans, Edem and Judge. Also a very strong special teams core. Good snapper in Hus. Solid at kicking with Lauther, Bartel, Crapigna (and possibly John Ryan). Gagne and Chevrier had 23 and 16 special teams tackles. Plus the Riders should get Radford back who had 24 in 2017. Patrick Lavoie is a solid utility player.

Current Needs: With Jake Harty out again with injury the Riders' Cdn WR situation is pretty bleak. We have 35 year old Cory Watson who has topped 500 once in the past 7 years and Mitch Picton who has not taken a pro snap. That does not instill much confidence in a team that needs to start a Cdn WR. Depth on defense is concerning outside of LB. We have zero depth behind Edem and while I like Makana Henry, I’d like more than just him backing up Evans. Also, as much as depth at OL is good, 3 of them are the wrong side of 30 and another is moving off season ending injury. Can’t just stand pat.

Prediction: With so many good WR prospects this year and our desperate need there, I have a hard time seeing us not taking one in the first round. Either Justin McInnis or Hergy Mayala. In round 2, we will be looking for a DL or a DB. My guess is that D-line is most likely because the DB crop is so thin.  The other thing to watch is whether we are able to move Tyler Crapigna for an extra mid-round pick. You can bet we are trying.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Montreal Alouettes

The Als are apparently fans of extended waits. For example they haven’t been in the postseason for 4 years now (and based on how things are trending that drought may continue). They also dislike first round picks so much that they have decided not to have a first round pick again until 2022. But don’t worry the 2 they spent on Johnny Manziel were totally worth it. The Als are doing dismal both on and off the field. They may have new owners by the draft and hopefully that will start a slow upward trend for the team.

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is 13th Overall

2018 Draft Assessment: In true Kavis Reed fashion, even when he did something good he found a way to screw it up. They wisely traded down from the first overall spot and still drafted OL Trey Rutherford (who I believe was their target all along). It cost them a 2019 first rounder but they got vet OL Ryan Bomben. Good deal. But they only kept Bomben for 6 games before trading him for an import DB and a 3rd round pick. Not such a good deal. Outside of Rutherford it was a case of quantity over quality. They had 9 other picks but other than Bo Banner who has potential as a rotational DL the rest of the group seem to be depth people at best. The addition of OL Tyler Johnstone may have cost them their 2019 first rounder but he should be a solid addition.

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).

Current Strengths:
Improving their Canadian content was a priority this offseason. They added proven Canadian guys like Taylor Loffler, Bo Lokombo and vet OL Spencer Wilson. Loffler along with Henoc Muamba give them 2 impact Cdn defenders. Johnstone and Rutherford give then a good young core to go along with their vets (Matte, Brodeur-Jourdain, Wilson).

Current Needs:
Finding 7 quality Cdn Starters will be tough. They have 2 defenders and 3 OL but after that it gets scary. In theory Johnstone could play tackle and give their 4 OL. They have a lot of Cdn WRs but none of them are starting material. They lack enough talent to start a D-lineman. So those are both big areas of need. Also given that Matte, Brodeur-Jourdain and Wilson are all the wrong side of 30, continuing to build at OL would be a good idea.

I think the ALs have to take a DL or WR with their first pick (in round 2). But with having 2 second rounders and a high third (13, 16 and 19 overall) I could see them trying to swing a deal to trade up higher to get a more impactful player. With new ownership coming I have a feeling this will be Kavis Reed’s last draft… which is great news from the Alouettes but sad news for a blogger like myself whose gimmick is making fun of things.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Hamilton Ti-Cats

We take a look at the first East team of this preview today. Over the last 2 years Hamilton has loaded up on early round picks. They had 4 top 20 picks that season and have another 3 this year. Side note

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is 2nd Overall

2018 Draft Assessment: Tough to call a draft a success when you use the first overall pick on a guy that still has not signed. That said, despite that 2018 was still pretty good for the Ti-Cats. Their other first round pick turned into Darius Ciraco who started every game in his rookie season. They also got Jackson Bennett in round 2 who had some good plays on special teams and I think is a guy poised for a step forward in year 2. Add in a few other depth picks and you have a pretty good draft class. If Chapman ever reports it could end up being a great one. 5th round pick Justin Buren was a guy they were high on (he started the last 6 games) but he retired.

Potential Pipeline: DL Brent Urban (NFL – free agent), DL Nathan Shepard (neg list, NY Jets), WR Mark Chapman (AAFL)

Current Strengths: Pretty solid across the board. The interior of theor O-line is good and young. Mike Filer is the “old” one at 29. Ciraco and Revenberg have turned out to be great first round picks for the Ti-Cats. Add in Girard and Rice for depth They have 3 potential starters at D-line with Laurent, Westerman and Cappicciotti (man I hate having to type that name). Add in McGough and Vaugh for depth and they are set there. Mike Daly, newly signed Tunde Adleke and Jackson Bennett have them solid at DB. Mike Jones had a breakout year at WR. RB Sean Thomas-Erlington (and 8th round pick in 2017) turned some heads last season and proved he can be a solid rotational RB.

Current Needs: The ratio likely dictates starting 2 Cdn Wrs. Mike Jones has one of those spots. But the other one? Chambers has played more than 6 just once in the past 4 years so I wouldn’t be counting on him. Brian Jones is serviceable (honestly to Rider fans even remember he played for us last year?). So unless they get Chapman under contract, they will need more depth there. While they are OK at OL for now the Ti-Cats have only drafted 4 Cdn OL in the past 5 years… that is not a typo. They could also use to build some depth at LB/special teams. While they did just re-sign Hajrullahu if you have followed his career he tends to be really good only in alternating years. Given that last year was pretty good that doesn’t bode well for 2019.

Prediction:  I see the Ti-Cats using two picks on and OL and a WR. I’m just not sure in what order. With no clear cut #1 receiver and picking second overall my guess is they go OL in the first round (Drew Desjarlais, Zach Wilkinson, Jesse Gibbon) and then target a WR like Kayon Julien-Grant or Kurleigh Gittens in Round 2.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Calgary Stampeders

Guess how many Canadians on the Stampeder roster were not drafted or originally recruited by the Stamps? 4. That’s how well they draft and develop. They rarely need outside infusions of Canadian talent. They are lucky they do though because if you look back at their Round1-3 picks from 2014 through 2017, they have just 4 of 16 remaining on the roster, none of which were first round picks.

Picks: 9 picks, first selection is 8th Overall

2017 Draft Assessment: Tough to get a good assessment on the draft at this point as they’ve had next to no impact. That is more a product of Calgary having strong Canadian talent and new players having to bide their time waiting for playing time. Even first round pick Sceviour only suited up for 1 game. In true Stamps form this group may develop into contributors but its’ too early to tell.

Potential Pipeline: OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff (NFL - Kansas City, though I don’t expect to ever see him up north)

Current Strengths: Mrabure, Turner and Wiggan have them set at DL. Despite the loses of Durant and Parker, Brescasin and Lynch should be able to hold down a WR spot. Courtney Stephen give them a legit starting DB. Bergman and Erdos are solid OL. Can’t go wrong with the kicking combo of Parades and Maver.

Current Needs: This is the first time in a long time where I have looked at the Stamps roster and not been overly impressed by their Canadian content. They aren’t in dire straights by any stretch of the imagination. But loses of guys like Singleton and Adeleke along with a lot of the rest of their top picks not panning out (Colling, Lavoie) have them in need pretty much across the board.

Prediction: O-line would seem to be a natural place to focus early as they need depth there. In Round 2 my guess is they target DB Malcolm Lee. It’s a thin class for LB and DB so they will try and get what they can early.

Monday, April 15, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Bombers have had some pretty solid Canadian depth for a few years now (quite the accomplishment given their Taman/Mack history). But this offseason has been a tough one for them. Between retirements and free agency they lost 4 former 1st or 2nd round picks and 3 of their 7 Canadian starters. That’s quite the hit in one offseason. Definitely a need to re-stock the shelves. Having 2 top 5 picks is a good way to start that.

Picks: 9 picks, first selection is 4th Overall

2018 Draft Assessment: Immediate impacts were not huge but it could well be an important group as it develops. They traded out of the first round to get an extra first rounder this year. They then drafted 2 receivers in Rashaun Simonise and Daniel Petermann. Both showed promise in their first year and both could take a step forward in year 2 (particularly the athletic Simonise). Third rounder Arnaud Gendron-Dumouchel retired and the rest were mostly depth players. So beyond the WRs the returns were minimal. 2017 first rounder Geoff Gray finally signed after some time down south which is a boost.

Potential Pipeline: None. Though they do have DL Andy Mulumba, WR Stephen Alli and DL Christo Bilukidi should they ever decide to play football again which at this point is highly unlikely.

Current Strengths: What stands out is their Canadian offensive weapons. Obviously Andrew Harris is a beast. Add in guys like Demski, Wolitarski (who had a breakout season) , Petermann and Simonise and they appear pretty solid… plus their OC knows how to use them all. They also have a group of very solid special teams players like Thomas Miles, Chad Rempel and Mike Miller.

Current Needs: Losing 3 Canadian starters in a year is rough. They have Couture who is ready to step in and take one spot and the hope is Gray is ready as well. Regardless they will need to rebuild depth there as they are suddenly thin. Replacing Loffler is not quite as easy. Hecht is an adequate fill in but they should be looking for better. The thing is, they can start 6 Cdns on O (3 OL, RB and 2 WR) so really they only need 1 defensive starter which could be Jake Thomas. So while depth is needed at safety and D-line it’s not a burning need.

Prediction: I’ll be straight-up shocked if the Bombers don’t use one of their first rounders on an OL. Depending on how the top 3 picks go they could get the 2nd best OL in the draft (who that is is a judgment call). Guys like Jesse Gibbons, Shane Richards or Kyle Saxelid are possibilities.  They may also use the benefit of a second first rounder to take a flyer on a guy with NFL interest like say Mathieu Betts. After that look for them to look to build depth at DL and more at OL.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: Edmonton Eskimos

The Esks seems to have a bi-polar condition when it comes to the draft. In recent years they seem to alternate between good drafts and bad ones. 2014 was bad (Devon Bailey, Aaron Milton), ’15 was good (Groulx, Beard, Konar), ’16 was bad at the time (though Tevaughn SMith showing up suddenly improves things), ’17 good (Behar, Roy, Mulumba, Boateng). 2018 was a whole lot of meh. I guess that means 2019 should be another good one.

Picks: 8 picks, first selection is 3rd Overall

2018 Draft Assessment: With only one pick in the top 20 it was not a high impact draft class for the Esks. They traded out of the first round to add another mid-round pick. Mostly a lot of special team/depth players. Godfrey Oneyka could develop into an impact player in year 2 but the early returns on the 2018 class are minimal so far. They did however get a pick boost this offseason by finally signing 2016 first round pick Tevaughn Smith

Potential Pipeline: OL Justin Senior (NFL), DL Stefan Charles (free agent), OL Austin Paztor (NFL – Tennessee), LS LP Ladouceur (NFL - Dallas)

Current Strengths:
They only played with 2 Cdn OL last season but have the depth to go back to 3 if they choose with the likes of O’Donnell, Ruby, Roy, Woods and Spooner. Kwaku Boateng is an impact D-end. 2017 first rounder Behar bolted in free agency but the addition of Smith along with Anthony Parker and Adjey for depth have them alright at WR still. Adam Konar and Christophe Mulumba have them good at LB though with all the offseason acquisitions of American LBs (Santos-Knox, Dean, Unamba) they may not plan on starting Konar anymore (a curious move because he’s pretty good). Solid in the kicking department. Lastly feel the need to mention Calvin McCarty. He may be like Paul McCallum old but he’s still valuable player for them.

Current Needs:
They need to figure out what they are doing with the ratio (short of crossing their fingers that the League agrees to lower it before the season). Last season they stared 4 Cdn defenders but they currently have no Safety and if Konar gets bumped to back-up duty they need to fill 2 spots. They can easily switch back to 3 Cdn OL (maybe even 4 if they had too). But they will need to add where ever they choose to put the 7th Cdn Starter. If its safety they need a safety. If it’s a second Cdn WR, they need more depth there. They also need some depth behind Boateng as its pretty minimal there.

With the 3rd overall pick and some very talented D-line prospects up for grabs that’s where I would see them going in Round 1. They could certainly roll the dice on Mathieu Betts despite likely NFL interest but I see them going a safer route with a Robbie Smith or Connor Griffiths. In round 2, they will likely look to add at DB but could also look to keep building at OL as they have only drafted one O-lineman in the first 3 rounds over the past 3 years.

Monday, April 8, 2019

CFL Draft 2019 Team Preview: BC Lions

 It’s time to start my annual CFL Draft Preview. This year I feel compelled to tell you I’m talking about the Canadian draft, not the Mexican, European or Uzbekistani draft. This is starting to get confusing even for a die hard like me.

Anywho, each year I preview each team in advance of the Canadian Draft to look at where they are at, what they might need and point anything comical about them that I can find or make up. It’s a good time, so let’s start with Ed Hervey and the new look BC Lions.

Through some outstanding management of their draft picks, the Lions do not pick until late in the 3rd round. At least they have a couple young Canadians form last draft to show for their lost first rounder. They have Tyrell Sutton’s memory to show for the lost 2nd rounder.

Picks: 7 picks, first selection is 24th Overall

2018 Draft Assessment: Pretty good draft for them. Beefed up both sides of the trenches with Peter Godber and Julien Laurent in Round 1. Added depth with David Mackie in 2. The pick I’m watching is 3rd Rounder David Knevel. If he reaches his potential, he will look like a steal.

Potential Pipeline: DL Christian Covington (NFL - Houston), OL Brett Boyko (free agent)

Current Strengths: They currently have 8 former first round picks on the roster. Its starts in the trenches where they are pretty loaded with young top end OL. Vaillancourt, Godber, Foucault, Chung and Steward are all former 1st rounder picks and none of them are over 30. The returning Shaq Johnson and Danny Vandervoot along with newcomer Lemar Durant have they pretty solid at WR. They have Josh Stanford too but hey, we can’t all be perfect. Menard is an underrated DL and they are building youth there with Laurent and Luke.

Current Needs: They have a lot of young, not so proven guys at DB with Woodman, Guzylak-Messam and Hamelin and currently lacking a proven safety. They could certainly look to add there. They are a bit thin at LB. Finally while they look ok at OL part of the reason they plummeted in the standings in recent years was that their OL was garbage and part of the reason for that was only drafting 8 OL in the 5 years prior to last draft (and only retaining 2 of them). With a new franchise QB to protect I would think continuing to build a wall in front of him is a good idea. They also need a kicker with floppy mcfloperson… err I mean Ty Long in the NFL.

Prediction: Ed Hervey does not have the greatest track record with his first pick. He has used in on the likes of Stefan Charles (never played a down in the CFL), Devon Bailey (well, you’re a Rider Fan, you’ve watched him play), and Tevaughn Smith (only coming north now, 2 years after Hervey was fired in Edmonton). He also will gladly take a risk on a guy with NFL interest. Options will be fairly limited with no pick until #24. Unless he makes a trade to get back in the top rounds its likely a depth draft for him. OL and LB seem like likely targets. Not really a top end kicker in the draft so he’ll have to look elsewhere for that.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: This and That

Repeat after me: Check the date on the calendar before freaking out about anything you read online today. Please!

Ok with that public service announcement out of the way let's get to some football talk. It's going to be a smattering of this and that (i.e. only slightly less coherent than normal). 

Let's start with the NFL preseason game that is officially not coming here. People are mad at the Riders for allegedly saying no to the proposed game. My question is why? What do you expect them to say? Please kick us out of our stadium for a week. Please make getting the stadium ready for our home game a giant hassle. And please do all of this with zero monetary benefit to us. Yes the Riders certainly seem like jerks for not wanting a game that posed them risk for zero potential reward. You should be directing your anger towards the city... they own the stadium and stood to benefit greatly from this game. While they certainly should consider the views of the Riders, they are not bound to do their bidding. At the end of the day while I'm disappointed, I've filed this under "things that aren't worth spending time being angry on". It didn't work out, oh well. That said, I'd be lying if I said that potentially losing this game to the like of Winnipeg has to burn you just a bit. If at any point someone chooses willingly going to Winnipeg over you, you have failed at something. 

Next up is the new voice of the Riders, Derek Taylor. I was very surprised to hear he was hired... but pleasantly so. Like many I assumed we'd find someone local to become the next voice of the Riders. While I'm sure there are qualified people locally, I like that the Riders cast their nets wider. Taylor's hiring was big news across the country. Do you think a convenience hire like Ballsy would have drawn that attention? Plus Taylor is just a great hire. Smart, passionate, good on the air. The only down side is the loss of "The Details" on TSN. Their search for the next stats nerd begins now. 

Side note: I did submit an audition tape but was not quite what they were looking for. The feedback was that my commentary was a but too profanity laden, frequently involved me pointing out the stupidity of some Rider fans and frequently segued to long winded side stories and sitcom references that were only loosely tied to the goings on in the game and that only like 4 people would understand. It did make me wonder though, if there would be a market for Rider game tape dubbed over with official Prophet commentary."Welp Brandon Bridge is in the game... we're screwed. I'm going to leave now to beat the traffic to the bar."

Please don't forget about the checking the calendar thing. If you message me about some ridiculous headline I will respond by calling you an idiot (or some colourful various thereof).

Monday, March 25, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Canadian Needs

This past weekend the nation's top prospects were on display at the CFL Combine. There were also a number of European players looking to make their mark as CFL 2.0 takes its next step forward. By the way, the term 2.0 is grossly misused these days. It comes from software versions where various iterations would be released. 1.0, 1.1, 1.5, 2.0, 2.1, etc... But now we just skip over all the iterations and go right to 2.0. If there was nothing between 1 and 2 you can just drop the .0

Well you probably didn't come here for random rants about trivial things in life that bother me. And if you did I have a great rant about when people misuse the word "humbling" when getting an award. Anyway how about some actual football talk. 

The combine got me thinking about the current state of the Riders' Canadian talent and where they might be looking to add heading into the draft.

The addition of Dakota Shepley is huge and really shores up our OL depth. You can never have enough depth there but with Shepley in the fold longterm, I like where we are at there. We are also deep at Canadian LB. Judge may be the only starter but Hurl is a good rotation guy. Gagne and Chevrier are great on special teams and could be rewarded with some time on D. We also have Bartlett and Teitz. I also like how we sit in terms of our starting 7. Three on the OL. Evans, Judge and Edem on D (all impact players). Provided we can find a token Cdn Receiver, we are looking pretty good (which is a nice change from a couple years ago).

So what do we need?

Priority #1 - Receiver
We have a 34 year old Cory Watson and Mitch Picton. That's it. Technically you can add Lavoie to the mix but he is a mixture of a TE/FB/SB and is more a utility guy than a fulltime starter. Dan Clark could legitimately be the 3rd best Cdn WR on our roster. As mentioned above, short of adjusting our ratio, we will need to start a Cdn WR. So at this point its all on you Mitch Picton. Don't choke. We have actually lacked an actual quality Cdn WR since Demksi left. Harty would have been a great solution to this problem but health has not been on his side. We started Josh Stanford for goodness sake. We tried Bailey but he can't do anything but a jump ball deep. Rob Bagg was legitimately the best we've had for the past 2 years. I love Bagg (pause for immature giggle) but we need an injection of young talent here.

Priority #2 - Depth in the secondary
Skill testing question for you. Who is Mike Edem's back-up? It's a trick question, we have none. I guess technically Radford can play DB but that's in an emergency situation only. Edem is a great player and stayed healthy last season but at least bringing a second Canadian DB to training camp might be a good idea.

Priority #3 - Depth at D-line
Unlike DB we at least have some depth behind Zach Evans. Makana Henry is a solid depth player. But last year we also had Eddie Steele and currently we have yet to replace him. Jordan Reaves usually makes the roster but he is mostly just a special teams guy. We drafted and have been grooming Breton and Mufata but I'm not ready to just assume they are now good to go.  Not a pressing need but certainly worth addressing.