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.