Thursday we got our first (and possibly only) taste of the CFL in the form of the Canadian draft. As a sign of just how starved we are for sports that are not just re-runs, TSN set record numbers for people tuning into the draft… despite the fact that the large majority of viewers couldn’t tell you the first thing about any of the prospects (and were no less outraged when their team didn’t pick that other guy they knew nothing about but recognized his name). So let’s take a look at who the Riders picked and how their fared in the draft.
A couple things, first given that the Riders only had 1 pick in the top 30 you really can’t say they had a great draft. They got one solid prospect and a bunch of maybes. Anyone at this point who is raving about our draft class is looking through the world through heavily green tinted glasses. I think O’Day did alright given the picks we had but in absolute terms the lack of top end picks makes this a weaker draft class for us. Also, in fairness, when assessing this draft class you need to include OL Jake Bennett as part of the assessment. He is essentially our 3rd round pick after we selected him last year in the supplemental draft.
OK to the picks
Round 1 – Pick 7 – OL Mattland Riley
The Riders went with a hometown hoggie to open the draft, grabbing Riley who is from Melfort and played at the U of S. I like this pick. I don’t think Riley has the highest ceiling of the OL that were available but I think this is a solid, safe pick. If we had a re-do of 2016 do you think we’d draft for potential or someone who is a safer bet to become a regular contributor? We’ve also had pretty good success with O-linemen from Saskatchewan universities. He’s probably not a guy destined to win Lineman of the Year but I could see him becoming a solid starter and solid Canadian OL Depth is the lifeblood of a successful team.
What I also like is the overall youth movement in the OL. Last year our line was old: Blake (34), Labatte (33), Clark (31), Coleman (34). Clark and Labatte remain but young guys like Shepley, and Cofield are stepping in and our depth guys like Schram, Bennett and now Riley (and to a far lesser extent St John) are all the right side of 30.
Round 4 – Pick 30 – WR Kian Schaffer-Baker
This is the pick that surprised me. After taking both McInnis and Lenius last year with depth guys like Picton and Lavoie I didn’t see receiver as a big enough need as compared to other positions.
At 6’4 he’s got size (he also has a 40 inch vertical to go with his size) and Duane Forde did a quite glowing pre-draft profile on him. I think this might be a case of a guy the Riders liked but assumed would be gone by the 4th round. I know the “I can’t believe he was still available” cliché is stupid and overused by GMs but I think that might actually be the case here given that we had no pick between 7 and 30. So certainly not a position of need but if Duane Forde likes him then I’m intrigued enough to give this pick a chance.
Round 4 – Pick 35 – LB Junior Allen
This pick was on point for me. The offseason departure of Alexander Gagne leaves a big hole on special teams. Sam Hurl is also not back and for all his criticisms he was decent on special teams. So Allen will be competing with guys like Jacob Janke (drafted in the 4th round last year) to be that next wave of Canadian special teamers
Round 5, Pick 44 – DB Vincent Dethier
Similar to Allen, Dethier is all about the search for new special teamers. I mean, yes, we do also need to build depth behind Edem at safety but this pick is much more about what Dethier can do on teams. If he shows promise in the secondary as well that is a bonus.
Round 6, Pick 53 – RB Jonathan Femi-Cole
The late rounds of the CFL draft is where you load up on your grit players. Those guys that fill unheralded but important roles in things like blocking and special teams. Femi-Cole is very much in the mold of a Kienan LaFrance, can run the ball if needed but his other skills are more of interest. O’Day noted that they liked his pass blocking which gives him a chance to compete as a fullback.
Round 7, Pick 62 – OL Jesse Lawson
O-linemen that drop this far in the draft tend to be projects that have some flaw. Either they are undersized, or slow or have poor technique. Lawson falls in to the latter category. At 6’6 he’s got size. He played tackle at Carleton but likely moves inside at the pro level. But he will need to develop a fair bit in his technique. Odds are, a lineman drafted this late never pans out but there have been instances of it happening. A guy with Lawson’s size is worth taking a chance on.
Round 8, Pick 71 – DL Neville Gallimore
Odds are we never see Gallimore north of the border. He was just draft by the Dallas Cowboys in the 3rd round. Had it not been for that Gallimore would have gone 1st overall. He’s one of the best d-linemen Canada has produced in a long time. Now some will criticize this pick saying we should have instead used it on someone who will actually come in to camp. I disagree for the following reasons:
Christopher Judge, Christopher Smith and Marc Glaude
These are the last 3 players the Riders drafted in the 8th round. What has their impact been on the Riders? Zero. So yeah using the pick on someone else might get us a body in camp, but its unlikely to ultimately add any value to the team. So we essential gave up nothing to secure the playing rights of a game changing player forever. Most likely he never plays in Canada and then we are out an 8th round pick (no different of an ending then drafting a guy we end up cutting) but in the off chance he ever comes north its huge. Think of it as a lottery ticket. It’s a way better pick then when Chris Jones used a 4th rounder on David Oneymata, you can still find value in the 4th that just isn’t there in the 8th.
For the picks they had, I thought O’Day did a good job on paper. You can’t actually assess the success of a draft class in the days following the draft (despite many people’s attempts to). We will have to see if any of these picks pan out but on paper, O’Day addressed areas of need and avoided making a pick that people can already tell is stupid.
I hope you enjoyed this brief reprieve from our CFL-less existence. It’s now back to a nothingness that I expect to last until 2021. You’re welcome for this uplifting way to start a Monday.