CFL Draft went down on Thursday. Its sad that our only tastes of CFL football since 2019 have been the CFL Drafts. But we are so desperate that we will certainly take it. It was certainly nice to be talking CFL football again. Many people are declaring the Riders the winners of the draft… which is kinda like declaring it the world’s greatest love making session before your pants are even off. Let’s maybe hold off on that talk until someone at least touches the field. History is littered with 1st round picks who never lived up to their hype and late round picks that unexpectedly become impact players.
I overall like what the Riders did with their picks. There wasn’t one pick that made the TSN panel give that awkward pause while they frantically think of some positive way to spin it (see Edmonton taking Nelson Cole at pick 6) so that’s generally a good sign as well.
Let’s take a look at each pick.
Round 1 – DB Nelson Lokombo
This was the logical pick. In a perfect world we wanted a D-lineman. But there were no top end DL that would be available right away. In terms of defensive players who were available right away, what’s not to love about Lokombo? He was the best defensive player in U Sports in 2019 for a reason… he’s a playmaker. He’s a guy that can immediately contribute on teams and provide depth at every position in the secondary plus SAM linebacker. And I also think he has the talent to develop into a starter in the near future. Feels a need, available day 1, talent to start at some point. Ticks all the boxes for a second overall pick.
Round 2 – WR Terrell Jana
I’m very torn on this pick and it was truthfully the one pick that I disagreed with. For me, the pick here should have been DL Mohammed Diallo (who went 2 picks later to the Ti-Cats). We had a chance to use a futures pick on a potential impact player at a position of need and passed. But while I disagree, I get it and don’t think Jana was a bad pick. He slipped further in the draft than most were expecting so using a late second round pick on the top receiver in the draft (excluding Josh Palmer obviously) is not a bad use of a pick. Jana is a talented player and as of right now we don’t have any proven Cdn receivers (just a lot of potential).
My one concern with this pick is that we don’t make it unless there is concern amongst management over 1 or more of McInnis, Lenius and Harty. Granted 2 are unproven and one is hasn’t played since 2017 due to injury but you would like to think that when you use 2 top 15 picks on WRs just 2 years ago that it’s not a position of need so soon. The upside it that this potentially allows us to start 2 Canadian WRs (the ratio flexibility O’Day has created across the board is impressive) and as a prospect there is a lot to like about Jana (not just his physical attributes but his character comes highly regarded from his college career). So I would have preferred going in a different direction but there isn’t much to criticize about this pick all things considered.
Round 3 – TE Bruno Labelle
It was later than I had expected but I do like that the Riders made a futures pick. Labelle signed an undrafted free agent deal with Arizona so we will be waiting on him for a bit. My comparison for him Patrick Lavoie (and not just because both their last names happen to start with La). Great blocker but also has decent enough hands and speed to contribute in the pass game.
Round 4 – DL Alain Cimankinda
This is the pick that intrigues me the most. I have repeatedly said we have a need at DL. Cimankinda was one of the top pass rushers in U Sports with 16.5 sacks over 3 seasons in Guelf. I’m not ready to anoint him as the next Kwaku Boateng (who in hindsight seems ridiculous to have dropped to round 5) but this is a good use of a 4th round pick. He’s athletic and showed a knack for finding the QB in college. With some time to develop as a pro he could be a contributor down the line.
Round 5 – OL Logan Bandy
Lots being made about this pick as Bandy was “a projected first”. Let me drop some truth on you, each year GMs will say that “I can’t believe they dropped this low in the draft” this of course ignores the fact that they themselves had to repeatedly pass on that player for them to drop that low. No team (Riders included) thought Bandy was worth a 4th round pick or higher so that tells you something about his perceived value. Now I’m not saying I don’t like the pick. I think this was a great use of a 5th rounder. OL depth is always important and Bandy certainly has high potential. But I just don’t buy into the notion that the Riders are the winners of the draft because they got a player in the 5th round that obviously was not viewed by anyone as among the top 37 players in the draft.
Now as a 2 time second team all-star at left tackle, I am happy to have Bandy coming into to camp. But I’m treating him like any other late round pick and not placing unfounded 1st round pick expectations on him. He has some things to work on if he wants to make the jump to the pros and hope he can.
Round 6 – DB Matt Watson
Watson is a physical DB and I wish him all the best but in a normal year a 6th round DB is in tough to make a team. With a double draft class and a potentially shortened training/preseason… I wouldn’t put great odds on his tenure being long.