Monday, May 3, 2021

Monday Morning Sentimonies: CFL Draft 2021

The CFL Draft goes down tomorrow. After watching the spectacle that is the NFL draft, it will seem like a sketchy Asian massage parlour as compered to a swanky Vegas strip joint (or so I’m told) but who cares. Anything that gets us talking about tangible football things makes me happy.

What also makes me happy is how many other people are also talking about the draft. I started this blog in 2007 and at that time I legitimately may have been the second leading media person on the CFL Draft outside of Duane Ford (which was the equivalent of being the 3rd best Manning brother at football). But these days there are a variety of podcasts and mock drafts out there. It really takes the pressure off me. I’m still convinced that no one outside Duane Forde knows anything (including most GMs) but at least others are taking interest.

The format of the draft this year is a bit different. Just 6 rounds and a snake draft format. We could also see a very different approach to the draft. Teams will essentially have a double draft class this year as the 2020 class will be coming to training camp as rookies in addition to the 2021. If I were a GM that would make me way more willing to take a risky high pick on a guy who may be in the NFL for a bit or someone who may be going back to school than in other years. It would actually be a detriment to have too many top end rookies because unless they can be day 1 starters, finding roster spots to keep all of them may be difficult. Thus guys like Chuba Hubbard, Alaric Johnson and Amen Ogbongbemiga may go higher than they otherwise would have.  

Picks: 6 picks, first selection is 2nd Overall

Potential Pipeline: DL David Oneymata (New Orleans), TE Anthony Auclair (Houston), DL Neville Gallimore (Dallas)

Current Strengths:

Heading into the season I would have put money on us taking an OL at number 2. But the free agent addition of Evan Johnson and Brett Boyko suddenly gives us solid OL depth to go with Clark, Labatte, Schram and 2020 top pick Mattland Riley. At WR we have 2019 top picks Justin McInnis and Brayden Lenius. We may have a healthy Jake Harty with Mitch Picton and Kian Schaefer-Baker for depth. We also have Awachie and LeFrance as Cdn role players. Offensively I think we are in good shape.

Defensively we have loads of potential and options. In the secondary we have Edem, Bouka, and G Oneyka (all who have CFL starts), at LB we have Tietz and the Herdman brothers. At D-line we have Dabire (who you know I am very high on) with Mak Henry who is a solid depth/rotation guy. That’s 9 guys to cover 3 Canadian spots on defense and isn’t a complete list of all our Canadians.

One thing we also have is a wealth of solid special teamers: Kevin Francis, Blair Smith, Teitz, Reaves, LeFrance, the Herdmans and the Oneykas (which sounds like the football equivalent of the Hatfields and McCoys).

Current Needs:

Defense we have quantity but not necessarily quality. Edem is an established starter who can make an impact. But with the loss of Judge we really don’t have any other players who fit that mold. Guys like Dabire, G Oneyka, Bouka and the Herdmans have potential but if I’m being honest, are more likely to be solid rather than impact starters (think reliable Mike McCullough vs. playmaker Cam Judge). So we should certainly be looking to boost our talent pool at all defensive positions focusing mostly on DL (where we are the thinnest) and LB.

The other thing I would be looking at is a Canadian RB. I know the league is largely biased against them but when you look at the success guys like Sean-Thomas Erlington, Alex Milanovic-Litre and Johnny Augustine have had when given a chance, a 4th or 5th round pick on an RB when ours is the wrong side of 30 and you have no established back-up might be worth it on the off chance you land the next Erlington.


With a #2 overall pick and a late second rounder, the goal should be to land one player who can contribute this year and one player we may need to wait a year on. Which order you do that in becomes the question. Logic says you use your #2 pick to land an impact player now and use the second rounder on a futures pick. But with so many of the top prospects heading back to school (OL Liam Dobson and Sage Doxater, DL Mohamed Diallo, Daniel Joseph, Deshawn Stevens, DB Alonzo Addae) you could make a case for securing the rights to a top end player you need to wait on at 2 and then finding a player for this year in the second round (given that we don’t have massive needs). Also with our second pick coming late I expect a run on futures players so the top ones might not be left by #17.

I tend to lean toward getting a sure thing at #2 and taking a risk in round 2. Ideally I think we target a D-lineman but with the top options all heading back to school I think any of the immediately available options (Olivier Charles-Pierre, Alain Cimankinda) would be a reach at #2. Nelson Lokombo (a familiar name in this province) would be an option if you go DB. Though they are saying this is a pretty deep draft for DBs unlike some other positions. Or Ben Hladik if you go LB. You could also just play it safe and take an OL like Logan Bandy or Pier-Oliver Lestage. When in doubt draft an OL is not a bad strategy.

In the second round I’m swinging for the fences on a defensive prospect that is either NFL bound or going back to school. If LB Amen Ogbonbemiga drops that low I think you have to take him. Other options would be DL Mohamed Diallo, DL Daniel Joseph, LB Deshawn Stevens or even OL Alaric Johnson.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with all your comments & believe you have to go defence this draft. What worries me is Jake Burt, a 6'5" 230 lb receiver born in Regina who would love to play for the Riders just declared for the draft & we already drafted 3 of these guys as our 1st 2 picks in 2019 & top pick in 2020. He's likely to go high so if we want him it would have to be @ #2, not #17. To me that would be an admission we don't like what we have now in McInnis, Lenius & Schaffer-Baker. OR we think we can start 2 Nationals @ receiver which gives us flexibility to go import elsewhere - read LB. I have real concerns @ the drop off on import receivers past Evans, Moore & W-Lambert as you know. Prospects are just that. McRoberts has been around but couldn't beat out Cannon who is where exactly? Just not very optimistic there & I think we have to see if we can play 2 Nationals there - doesn't mean we need another one. This is the year, having lost Judge & not knowing how much Henry has left @ 34. What O'Day does @ #2 is going to be very telling I think
Still, getting a defensive starter @ 2 is the way to go IMO. There's a good crop of DB's, 6 in the top 20. Even with the top 2 off to the NFL, there's still some really good talent there & adding one to Bouka & Onyeka would set us up really well. That or DT, that's where I would go.

Pantsonfire said...

Like where you're going with this. I'm a stats guy so...2016-2019 drafts. A little history going into the draft. Who excelled, who didn't?
P = # picks, SWT = Picks still with team, SIL = Picks still in league (total including Picks now with other clubs). 3+ = bargain picks, 3rd round or better.

Edmonton P 29 SWT 19 SIL 23 3+ 15
Hamilton P 34 SWT 15 SIL 19 3+ 9
Toronto P 27 SWT 11 SIL 17 3+ 7
Calgary P 33 SWT 12 SIL 16 3+ 9
Ottawa P 31 SWT 14 SIL 15 3+ 10
Sask P 27 SWT 9 SIL 12 3+ 5
BC P 33 SWT 10 SIL 15 3+ 8
Montreal P 35 SWT 11 SIL 15 3+ 8
Winnipeg P 32 SWT 8 SIL 10 3+ 6

Surprises? Winnipeg has rep as good drafters. I can't agree. Edmonton was other surprise. When 23 of 29 draft picks are still in the CFL, that's digging up talent. Getting 15 in later rounds is pretty good indicator too.

Comments on Riders. They have made some very good picks in rounds 1 & 2 but teams should do well there. But the best 3 of the crop are gone. You can't lose Judge over money or not waiting. Bladek wanted to start. Give him starters money, quality minutes spelling off LaBatte. LaBatte played 6 games in 2019. Has lots of miles - 3 year contract? Hello?
This year, you called it. Predictions right on.

Rider Prophet said...

Anon - You are right. If we go WR in rounds 1 or 2 that's not a good indication on how we feel about McInnis/Lenius.

Pantsonfire - Very interesting. Edmonton definitely better than I expected. Winnipeg was also a surprise. No surprise that we are at the bottom. Our best Canadians in past years (Labatte, Edem, Blake, Watson, LeFrance, Evans) we're all trades or FA acquisitions. Even this year E Johnson, Boyko, Herdmans, Oneyka. We tend to buy Cdn talent vs. drafting it. And you nailed it that its not that we aren't drafting well in early rounds (as had been an issue in the past). We just aren't retaining them. And we haven't been finding late round talent. Dabire has a chance there but outside of him the only late round pick to really pan out for us was Alex Chevrier... and again we couldn't retain him.

Pantsonfire said...

One note - I had the Riders 6th ahead of BC & Mtl. They had more players in the CFL but Riders had greater % of roster players for the 27 picks. Ultimately that is the criteria. So, not terrible. One other little surprise. Only 2 teams still had all 2019 draft picks on their rosters. Riders probably belong also. They had 4 of 6 but Roy retired & Chris Judge had to leave the game. Unavoidable. Winnipeg has 5 of 9 picks from 2019 today. If you sign all your picks, why give up on them after 1 season? How bad are they? Two landed in Edmonton. Kongbo is a FA still looking for work so there's that.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the Winnipeg thing is funny. I look at 3Downnation & John Hodge is on about Edmonton's lack of Nationals on cover teams AGAIN, suggesting as much when predicting their #5 pick tonight. Yet, considering teams have to dress 21 Nationals for games, on the entire Bomber roster there are ONLY 25 Nationals, while the EE & Rider rosters have 38 each. How is Winnipeg in a good situation when it comes to National content? I admit I don't like the Bombers but get real.

Lowetide said...

Eskimos picked a guy not ranked in the first round but they did similar with Beard a few years ago. I like the Roughriders pick.

Ethan said...

I was thinking about Beard as well, Lowetide. He was a good athlete, played basketball, I seem to recall, & was converted to OL at the U of A, wasn't he?. Sunderland pulled off the surprise of the draft in 2020 as well when he selected Alain Pae, a freakish athlete who ran a 4.65 40. A gymnast, he recorded 25.5 tackles & 6 sacks in his one year with the Gee Gees. Now, Nelson, who grabbed a top 5 overall performance on the CFL website. His 4.96 40 & 4.76 shuttle stands out for a 315 lb guy. It will be interesting if the EFC is looking at 2 Cdns on DL. Besides those 2 they have Betts, 3 USports o/s D player, & Evan Machibroda, 2 time All Cdn USports DT. Risky picks but you can't teach athleticism.
On the RIder side, getting back on track, I think the Riders won the draft this year. Really good picks the first 2 rounds & did really well with late rounders. Looks like they may have some decisions to make @ receiver. They have the talent to go with 2 Nationals there & I would not be surprised to see 2 starters @ DB. Onyeka started some games @ wide side CB & Safety. Lokombo & Bouka give them some good choices. This really beefs up the depth. I see LaBelle as a good fit @ FB which wasn't the same when Spencer Moore left. O'Day & his crew did a good job this year.

Lowetide said...

Ethan: Good points on Sunderland valuing high-end athletes. Also agreed SK Roughriders won the draft. I told my wife (diehard Roughriders fan while I am an EFT fan) SK had a dynamite draft and she thinks I'm lying to her. Cannot WAIT for the season!

Pantsonfire said...

Quick initial take on draft.

BC-Joseph & Hladic solid. Good chance Jackson comes down the Road. Like it.
Cal-Bryce Bell helps address OL losses. If they get Amen & Hubbard they win the draft. Get Amen & it's a success.
Edm-Nelson? Raw, raw, raw or rah, rah, rah. Worth a look. McDonald is good pick. See Glover as returner. High risk, possibly high reward. Jury's out.
SK-O'Day surprises in a good way. Like every pick. Addresses a bunch of needs, depth wise. My 5 star team this year.
Wpg-Like their top 3. Another Cdn RB? Go to the back of the line behind Harris & high draft picks Oliveira & Augustine. Maybe Andrew needs lots of help @ 34.
Ham-needed help @ National REC. Check. Could use some DB's. Check. TiCats always have solid draft.
Mtl-Danny has said he wants to go 4 Cdns @ OL. Hello pick 1, 2, 3. Added K they don't need. A late round LB to help with loss of Muamba. So-so draft unless they score big on their early picks.
Ott-Like their top 2. Pretty decent overall. Kicker? They have Leone & Ward so....puzzler. Would have liked to have seen Jana go there to help out LaPolice. They had 2 shots @ him.
Tor-addressed OL which is top need. Took DL @ 3 who gets to train behind the all-star geezers. Decent draft.

I like what the Riders got, RP. Fans should be happy - for at least one day, yes?

Ethan said...

Lowetide. Nice to see your contribution here. Listen to your show & know all about your wife. LOL You can't please Rider fans but you can please your wife. I bought my wife a new driver last month - her old one is 15 years old but she doesn't need one. When I presented it to her - the usual initial reaction. What did it cost? Why are you buying this when I have a perfectly good one now. If I can't hit it on the range, I'm using the old one & this one goes in the closet. Two days later I bought her a complete new set of clubs. That's not quite the end of the story. She felt a little guilty so she said she was going out to buy me a new driver. It took me too long to answer, big mistake. SO she said - you already bought yourself one, didn't you, & THAT's why you bought me a driver. Yes, I had, but I swear to this day that wasn't the reason & I'm not lying to her. Join the party.

Rider Prophet said...

Lowtide - Certainly a curious first round pick by the Esks but I remember similar questions when Cleyon Lang was taken by the Argos so high, so who knows.

Ethan - Good points about Sunderland and I love the driver story!

Pantsonfire - Yeah I like what the Riders did overall. Never know for sure til guys start playing but I think they did well.