Thursday, April 30, 2020

Rider Prophet Live Draft CFL Draft Day Blogging

Monday, April 27, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: CFL Draft 2020 Primer

We interrupt our look at the best Rider players by number to discuss some actual football! The CFL Draft goes down this Thursday.

I’m admittedly woefully under prepared for this. Usually by now I’ve been doing team draft previews for weeks. But I have a very valid reason for my lack of preparation this year… I have already mentally checked out on the season.

I hate to be a downer on a Monday morning but while its still possible there might be some kind of CFL season, it is highly unlikely. It ain’t happening people. Just because it sucks doesn’t make it any less true. If you want more on my reasons more making this assertion it can wait until another post. The 2020 season may be a pipe dream but the 2020 Draft is very real and dammit we can’t squander the few sporting events we get.

The Riders hold the 7th overall pick in the draft and following that pick you will have time to grab a snack, call your mom, have a nap, clean your house and run to the store for more beer before they pick again. We’ve got no second rounder (traded to Montreal in the deal for Philip Blake and Patrick Lavoie) and no third rounder (used to select OL Jake Bennett in the 2019 supplemental draft). We start back in the 4th  where we have 2 picks thanks to trading Collaros to Toronto. So the reality is we get one solid prospect and then a bunch of depth guys that you hope one turns into a regular contributor.

Jeremy O’Day is looking to turn the tide on a no so great trend of the Chris Jones era… that being an inability to retain and develop Canadians. For Jones’ 3 years of drafting we have retained 6.5 out of 23 player selected (the .5 is awarded to Josiah St John, who was drafted, didn’t come, then came for a bit then left and is now back). It’s early but 5 of O’Day’s 6 draft picks remain on the roster.   

Let’s look at our current strengths and needs:

Strengths: After using both of last years top picks on receivers we are set their. While McInnis and Lenius had minimal impact in year 1 that’s the usual trend for Canadian receivers. I expect both to take a step forward in year 2. Add in Picton for depth (who may spend a record 73rd season on the practice roster) and guys like Awachie, Lavoie and LaFrance who can sub in. We are set there. Edem and Bouka have us alright at DB. We have all our special teamers. Another strength I would say is we know our starters. Judge is a beast. Edem can can be an impact player. I don’t mind our OL depth. Labatte is old but solid when healthy. Dan Clark is coming of a season where I very rarely cursed his name (quite an accomplishment for him) and Shepley is ready to step in as a fulltime starter and add some youth. I really like Braden Schram for depth and have some hope for Jake Bennett. Evans and Dabire can lock down a DT spot between them (though honestly based on last season, I would even go as far as to rank Dabire ahead of Evans).

Needs: Aside from receiver, depth is needed across the board. Teitz is OK but a big step down from Judge if injuries occur. Last season may have been a one off but if Zach Evans can’t be impactful playing beside a constantly double teamed Micah Johnson, do we really think he will improve without Micah? So another DL prospect would be nice. Also Canadian push rushers are a rarity but given that this franchise has not developed a pass rusher since John Chick it would be nice to find a guy like Kwaku Boateng (for the love of god no one bring up Shomari Williams. Just because that experiment failed, doesn’t mean the next one will). You can honestly never have enough OL depth (especially given that our 2 best OL are a combined 64 years old). One other thing we need is to restock our special teamers. The loss of Alex Gagne is a big one. Reaves being healthy again helps but more is needed.

Strategy: Normally guys that have signed NFL deals drop down the draft board. This year that includes top prospects like OL Carter O’Donnell, WR Rysen John, DB Marc-Antoine Dequoy and DL Michael Hoecht. But as I mentioned odds are slim to nil that there will be a 2020 season and even if there is it won’t start until September (when the first round of NFL cuts start returning) so for the 2020 draft I would completely ignore NFL interest and take the best player available (obviously excluding Chase Claypool and Neville Gallimore who were 2nd and 3rd round NFL picks).

Outlook: With only 1 pick in the first 3 rounds I don’t see us getting cute. By that I mean, I see us targeting someone in the trenches (either OL or DL). Defensively I could see guys like DE Mason Bennett or DT Michael Hoecht being of interest. Offensively if one of the top OL prospects (like Carter O’Donnell, Thomas Jack Kurdyla or Ketel Asse) drop to #7 we could grab one of them. I honestly can’t see LB Jordan Williams lasting until pick 7 but if by some miracle he does I think he is the only prospect that would make us not take a lineman (he’s being compared to Alex Singleton and Cam Judge).

I then see us using our 4-8th round picks to restock the special teams/depth shelves with some LBs and DBs and probably a developmental OL prospect as well.

The good news is that the relative lack of anything else to do in my life means that for the first time since 2017 I will be resurrecting the Rider Prophet Live Draft Day Blogging. You also have nothing else to do so please join me, we can kill time together discussing some actual football.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 10-19

Welcome to part 2 of my look at the greatest Rider players by numbers. Last week we started with the critically acclaimed feature on numbers 0-9… well it was critically acclaimed in that, to my knowledge, no negative reviews were penned. No news is good news.

We jump back into the list today looking at 10 through 19.

10 – A few options here. Henoc Muamba was solid in his tenure here. There’s obviously a lot of sentimental love for Luca Congi (despite the fact that his girlfriend once called me a horrible person on Twitter… a story for another time). He was by no means great but dammit I loved Steve Miller, purely because I gave him the nickname The Space Cowboy. Really wish he would have lasted longer. But the clear cut winner her is WR Dan Farthing. It’s a shame his tenure with the team coincided with one of their least successful decades.

11 – If we were going purely on how awesome they were off the field then Eddie Johnson would have this number in a landslide. But factoring football performance I have to go with DB Ed Gainey. I was pretty skeptical when we first signed him in 2016 but he has been rock solid which is impressive considering the relatively short shelf life of a DB.

12 – This is a popular number amongst QBs with the likes of John Hufnagel, Steve Sarkisian and Rocky Butler wall wearing 12 at some point. But for this one I’m going with a local boy DB Dale West who is a Grey Cup Champion, Plaza of Honour Inductee and a member of the Sask Sports Hall of Fame.

13 – Relatively recent fans might not know this but prior to stealing the 13th man from Seattle (who in turn had stolen it from college ball), 13 was actually a number worn by someone other than a pantsless gopher. TJ Stancil was the last Rider to wear 13 and I always kinda liked him. But P Ken Clark is probably the greatest to wear 13 (hat tip to those on Twitter who helped me figure that out).

14 – I was a huge James Patrick fan (even before he became a starter) but his amazing 2010 season isn’t enough to seal this one for him. Instead I’m going with a man who played a prominent role in the 89’ championship, RB Tim McCray. He was a true offensive weapon, could run, catch and return kicks.  

15 – I do have a great affinity for Nealon Greene (and if you believe that I have some ocean front property in Kindersley to sell you). I’m sure someone will tell me I’m omitting someone more deserving on this but I’m going with DB Lance Frazier. He brought much needed stability and playmaking to the halfback spot during his tenure.

16 – Tom Burgess is certainly one option here, and one that I’m sure many would support. I’m going back further in time than that and going with DB/FB Hank Dorosh. A versatile, hard nosed player.  

17 – This number seems to have attracted some infamous QBs over the years: Reggie Slack, Michael Bishop and Tino Sunseri.  But since we are looking for actual talent, the hands down choice is WR Joey Walters. Simply put he is one of the most talented receivers in the history of the franchise. He holds claim to the two most receiving yards in a single season with 1715 and 1692 in consecutive years. One can’t help but think about what might have been had his tenure with the team coincided with any talent outside of himself being on the roster.

18 – Before I get to the top #18 I just want to do a brief segue to stay that looking in #18 reminded me about Santino Hall. Remember Santino? Far from an all-time Rider great but I did want to mention him just because. Clearly #18 has to go to WR Jeff Fairholm. 4th all time in Rider receiving yards and part of the magical 1989 Grey Cup Championship.

19 – The old guard would probably like to see Steve Molnar here. Some probably would even argue for 2007 Grey Cup hero James Johnson (who regular readers will know I have a love/hate relationship with… in that I hate everything he did outside of that one glorious game).  But there is really only one option for this RB Corey Holmes. Arguably the best returner in franchise history. He was a 2 time CFL Special Teams Player of the Year. He has the third most combined yards in a season at 3455. He’s one of my favourite players of all-time.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Greatest 0-9

In my ongoing effort to produce content on a sports blog in a world with no sports (at least until I can find way to get monkeys delivered to my house and start a monkey knife fighting ring in my basement) I have come up with an idea that will eat up many weeks. Well, truth be told, I stole this idea from someone else and made it my own but lets not dwell on semantics.

Today I launch a series dedicated to chronicling the greatest Roughriders to ever wear every number between 0-99.

A few notes about this listing. First, its my list and any arbitrary criteria I use to determine who the best at any given number is completely up to me. You don’t like it? Start your blog…. Actually, wait! Please don’t. I don’t need more competition. Second, I will warn you that my choices will be heavily biased to players in the 2000s. Those are the ones I’ve seen play the most and am most familiar with. Third, I’m not big on things like research and effort, so its entirely possible I miss someone obvious and important not intentionally but just because I didn’t think of them. Please direct your corrections and outrage to comments sections.

Alright, enough gabbing let’s get to the first 10 people on the list.

0 – Look, 0 is a stupid number. I get that its people trying to be different and cool but the only way you are being different is by being dumb. 2 players come to mind who have worn 0. One is current Rider Elie Bouka. He’s alright but nothing special but your winner is DL – Tobi Antigha From a sack getting DE to an intercepting safety dude was a swiss army knife with the D-Coordinator perfectly suited to capitalizing on his diverse skillset.

1 – OK onto the real numbers. Lots of great Number 1’s over the years (such as Sandman, Hank before we all hated him). But for me one guy stands out above all the others RB – Kory Sheets. He was dominant. I remember after a solid 2012 season he said he was out of shape and vowed to be better. Turns out he was right and 2013 his quest for 2000 yards was something to behold.

2 – I was extremely surprised to find out what an underwhelming history this number has had. I mean sure, once we get to the 70s they’ll be some weaker choices but number 2? The best options I could come up with were Barrin Simpson, Jason Armstead (circa 2009), Corey Grant and Terryl Ulmer. Now all of these players have some level of merit but none can be considered obvious choices. I’m going to go with DB Terryl Ulmer based purely on longevity compared to the rest.

3 – One of the best CB’s I’ve ever seen was DB – Omarr Morgan. He did where #1 in his second stint with the Riders but we can all agree that his first stint was the best. I’ll never forget his game winning blocked FG to beat Edmonton.

4 – There are 3 very deserving candidates at this number. Kerry Joseph who won a Grey Cup and was the last Rider to be named League MOP. Paul McCallum. Hate him all you want but prior him becoming public enemy #1 in this province he was an outstanding kicker. But for me the winner here is clear. 3 Grey Cup appearances, 1 Grey Cup ring, the most successful Rider QB not named Lancaster… QB – Darian Durant.

5 – This one is an obvious choice and has me getting outside of my 2000s bias. Take a look at the Rider passing records and if any are not held by Ron Lancaster, they are held by… QB Kent Austin. Grey Cup, only Rider to pass for 6000 yards. No question he was one of the best players we ever had… and he would be the first to tell you that.

6 – Obviously the first name that comes to mind is Rob Bagg. But in my mind I was like “sure but there’s gotta be someone better”. I have come to the conclusion, that there is not. Closest I found was Derrick Armstrong, who was arguably more talented but was only around for 2 season. So WR Rob Bagg is it. Heart and soul guy. Over comer of adversity and super brittle knees. Solid Canadian receiver.

7 – Some very deserving options here. Willie Jefferson is hands down one of the most dominant players I’ve seen. Richie Hall also wore #7 and he did alright for himself. But this one goes to a guy even more diminutive than Hall. WR - Weston Dressler. He packed more talent and effort in his 5’7 frame then guys who were twice his size. He burst onto the scene in a game in Hamilton in 2008 and permanently into our hearts.

8 – This number seems to attract a lot of very underwhelming QB prospects from Tino Sunseri, to Ryan “My Eyes will eat your soul” Dinwiddie to Marcus Crandell (though at least Crandell enjoyed some success). My choice is an RB. Before Cates and KK the run game ran through RB Darren Davis who amassed back to back 1000 yard season on not very good teams. I won’t even hold the fact that he was partially responsible for the Nealon Greene era against him.

9 – He was known simply as the Reaper (not to be confused with the Raper). An imposing, physical tackling machine. LB – Reggie Hunt. The one moment etched in my mind is when Clermont came across on a crossing route and he and Hunt collided. Probably the biggest hit I’ve seen from 2 of the toughest dudes playing at the time.

Check back next week from 10-19.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Retro Sentimonies

For today’s Sentimonies we are going to go into the Rider Prophet time machine and resurrect a post from 2011. I did a series of posts saluting the infamous CFL USA expansion. Today’s post was a feature on the very first American CFL team. Enjoy.

Rider Prophet Salutes US Expansion: Sacramento Gold Miners

In 1993, Sacramento became the first American team to join the CFL. They were actually supposed to be one of 2 teams (the other being the San Antonio) to join the League in 1993 but the latter folded before it even really got started when the owner ran out of money (a telling omen of how the whole US expansion thing would go). The Gold Miners came from the remnants of the Sacramento Surge of the World League of American Football.

Years in the League: 1993 – 1994
Overall Record: 15-20-1
Notable Players: QB David Archer (that Rider-hating SOB), WR Rod Harris, DT George Bethune, RB Mike Pringle, RB Mike Oliphant, QB Kerwin Bell


The Good
- They forever etched themselves in the CFL record books by becoming the first American team to defeat a Canadian team… by beating the Saskatchewan Roughriders (pauses to silently shake head in disgust).
- They had some decent talent on their team and showed signs of improvement over their 2 years

The Bad
- Their “stadium” sucked. Most of the seating was grandstands and the closest thing to amenities provided were port-a-potties
- Attendance. They had to give away close to 2000 a game to make the crowds look more respectable you know relatively speaking.

The team relocated to San Antonio following the 1994 season.

Video Evidence:
Here's a clip of a '94 match-up against the Stamps.