Monday, March 27, 2023

Monday Morning Senitmonies: Kian Schaefer-Baker and the Rider Receivers

Big news this past week in Riderville was that Schaefer-Baker had undergone hip surgery and would miss “at least the first part of the season”. This is a rumour that had been floating out there for a while but you need to be pretty careful in terms of what Rider rumours you put any stock in otherwise you might still be wondering what Bo Levi Mitchell did with that house he bought in Regina.

Obviously this hurts the Riders in the short-term. Not only is Baker a stud receiver, we are currently a team without a bona fide #1 receiver and he had the best odds of being that guy. Apparently this is something that had been nagging him for a while. So for me the silver lining is that there is a possibility that when he does come back, he will somehow be better than what we have seen so far. A Baker at 100% down the back half of the season and into playoffs (if we happen to be so lucky as to be in contention for that) would be outstanding.

My concern though is the wording they are using. They aren’t really giving a time estimate (though the first third of the season has been mentioned i.e. 6 games). Also, they are using terms like “at least” and vague statements like “the first part of the season”. Reading between the lines I don’t think this is something we should expect an early return from. I’m also a bit worried given our recent history. Just last year Micah Teitz had a hip issue heading into the season that not a lot of details were given on. As the season wore on, the only thing scarcer than offensive TDs was Teitz. He did not play one snap. Now Teitz apparently got injured in May and had a groin issue to go along with it so Baker is certainly further ahead. But the point is that hip issues can drag on. Let’s all keep positive thoughts that it will be sooner rather than later that we see Baker doing his thing on the field again. My early wild ass guess is he makes his triumphant return on Labour Day.

This injury may explain how the NFL seemed to inexplicably pass on him after he tried out for a third of the league.

The short term impacts of Baker’s absence will be double. First and foremost he is our best receiver. Some of you will disagree and point to Walker or Wieneke. I have said this before and will reiterate that I believe both have potential but Walker hasn’t been a number one guy in 4 years and Wieneke has always played beside Geno Lewis and we don’t have a Geno on this roster. Both could be great but are far from a sure thing at this point. The other impact is that Baker is a Canadian. In theory, Lenius, Picton, Brescacin and Emilus should be able to step in. But even communism works “in theory”. I honestly worry that this will make O’Day think he needs to draft another Canadian receiver in the first or second round, ignoring far greater needs elsewhere.

For now we wish Baker a speedy recovery… and eagerly await the chance to talk about positive Rider news… at some point… right?

Monday, March 20, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Random Quasi-Coherent Thoughts


-        Like most of the world I am furious that my absolute zero knowledge of NCAA did not translate into winning my March Madness pool.  I am outraged that teams I put zero effort in to researching failed to make it out of the first and/or second round rather than making the Final Four as I expected.

-        Lots of CFL talk about expansion this week. A tenth team would be great and should be a goal. Not only for the good news story it would be but also from a balanced schedule and increase in TV product.

-        That said, asking someone to own a CFL team at this point is the equivalent of that time Bart Simpson asked to be Mr. Burns’ heir. You are asking people to take on a liability that will at best break even most years. I think the CFL needs to first focus on improving the financial sustainability of their operations through things like expanded US TV deals, streaming deals and more year-round money making events (like CFL week). If people see a reasonable  chance to actually make money they may be more likely to invest.

-        The Riders seem long overdue to release a new overt money grab… err I mean jersey. Even if the jersey is terrible, it’s a guaranteed cash injection in Sask. They could even up the ante and give people what they want… Black Jerseys. Some people love, em some people hate em but they will sell like crazy.

-        St Patrick’s day got me thinking about how its kinda surprising the Riders don’t sell green beer on game day. They could charge $0.50 extra for “Rider Pride” beer (aka low-grade Pilsner and food dye) and people would be all over it.

-        While we are talking easy money makers the Riders are missing out on… Bobby Jurasin bandanas.

-        All I ask is a small commission in return as my consultant fee.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Canadian Receivers

I’ll warn you in advance that today we are going down a rabbit hole. I stumbled down this rabbit hole while researching last week’s post on O’Day’s drafting. While I’m sure this information is relatively useless in the grand scheme of things, I’m sharing it anyway because maybe one of my half dozens of readers will find this as interesting as me (aka I'll feel reassured if someone is as boring and lame as me).

So we know from last week that O’Day likes to draft receivers early. So that led me to a very simple question of “How successful are Canadian receivers drafted in the first round?”. Basically, what is your likely return on investment for a first round WR.

The results are pretty awful. Now I’ll will preface this by saying that receivers are not always unique in this. The number of 1st round CFL picks that pan out is not huge. But receivers appear to be even riskier than the norm. I’m sure teams are worried about passing on the next Clermont or Fantuz but the reality is that is a pretty small risk. 

Here is a list of every receiver drafted in the first round since 2011:

·        Anothony Parker

·        Jade Etienne

·        Marco Iannuzzi

·        Nate Coehoorn

·        Shamawd Chambers

·        Devon Bailey

·        Nic Demski

·        Brian Jones

·        Tevaughn Smith

·        Danny Vandervoot

·        Nate Behar

·        Mark Chapman

·        Justin McInnis

·        Hergy Mayala

·        Dejon Brissett

·        Jalen Philpot

·        Sam Emilus

·        Tyson Philpot

What jumps out about that list? … It contains very few studs and very many duds. I’ll reserve judgment for on the Philpott’s for now as they look to have high ceilings. But so far there is only one guy on that list that is a stud. That being Demski. He is literally a once in a decade talent. Other than Demski only two other people on that list has got over 650 yards in a season and only three others have put up 5 or more TDs in a season. That means you have less than a 50% chance of getting even a moderately impactful player and more than a 50%  chance someone who will never top 350 yards. Also worth noting that over the past 10 years, only twice has a receiver drafted in the first round led the league in receiving yards by a Canadian (Fantuz 2016 and Demski 2021).

So based on how many 1st round WR end up being mediocre or worse, it got me wondering how a GM would fare if they adopted a policy of never drafting a receiver in the first round. Not saying someone would or should do it, just curious how it would pan out in theory.

Since 2011, there were 4 years that you would have had to use a 1st round pick to get the best receiver. But the other 7 years, if you have avoided the first round, you still could have gotten the best receiver in the draft (in my opinion). That includes 2011 when a record 4 receivers went in the first round but the best receiver ended up being a 4th round QB (Sinopoli). It also included 2019 when 4 receivers went in the first 2 rounds and the Argos patiently waited and got Kurleigh Gittens in the 3rd. And 2020 when the Argos were at the other end of the spectrum, using the 2nd overall pick on Dejon Brisset when the best receiver was still available 28 picks later in the 4th round when the Riders took Schaefer-Baker.

Not only are your odds better of finding the best receiver in the draft outside of the first round, if we go back to the stat that over the past 10 years, only twice has a receiver drafted in the first round led the league in receiving yards by a Canadian, in the remaining 7 seasons the top receiver was a second rounder 1 time (Durant), third rounder 1 time (Gittens), a fourth rounder 3 times (Sinopoli x 3), fifth rounder once (Getzlaf) and undrafted once (Bagg).

All this to say that while some 1st round WRs do end up being worth it, overall prioritizing drafting Canadian receivers may not be the most effective strategy.

This concludes this week's installment of insight and analysis that is most likely useless.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Monday Morning Sentimonies: O’Day Don’t Draft OL

We are heading into our third year where the primary topic of discussion when it comes to the Riders is the O-line… or lack thereof. A consistent question I have kept hearing over the years is “why does O’Day (an all-star lineman in his day) seem to struggle with that position above all else?” I will add a further element to the question… How does a former all-star o-lineman inherit one of the best OL in the CFL coming out of the 2018 season and turn it into a laughing stock in under 3 years? 

Obviously a lot goes into how well an O-line plays: coaching, health, play calling, whether your QB pre-turtles or spins left right into the pass rush repeatedly. Also some things happen outside of the GM’s control. Shepley going to the NFL and Cofield opting out after Covid set us back a lot and were not O’Day’s fault.

That said, the hypothesis I aim to prove this morning, is that O’Day's approach to drafting is a significant factor in how we got to where we are. As the title of this post implies, that hypothesis is that Jeremy O’Day Don’t Draft O-lineman… or at least, he does not believe that it is a priority. 

Here’s some stats to back my claim:

-        In 4 years as GM, he has drafted a total of 6 O-lineman. Of those, only 2 were drafted in the 1st or 2nd round (and thus far have combined for 0 starts and 1 game played)

-        In those same 4 years he has drafted 6 receivers. Of those, 4 were drafted in the 1st or 2nd round.

-        He has used exactly 1 of his 4 first round picks on an OL.

-        In half of his drafts he has not drafted an OL until the 5th round.

Do these look like the actions of a GM who believes in making Canadian OL a priority? Or someone who thinks the secret to winning a Grey Cup is Canadian receievers? 

If you want a comparison point, over 3 drafts Chris Jones drafted 8 OL and used a 1st or 2nd round pick on an OL every year he was here. People will point to St John but he also brought in Bladek and Shepley (and hell, at least St John at least played football for us). 

Now, I could look individually at each draft and maybe rationalize each decision in isolation. In 2019 we had a stacked OL and a need at WR. In 2020 was a pretty thin OL class and we tried. 2021, Lokombo fit a need in terms of Canadian depth on defense. 2022 the best OL were gone by our 1st round pick and we got a good one in round 2 (supposedly). But the issue is the sum of all these individual decisions. Over a 4 year period, O’Day has not made drafting OL a priority and it caught up with him in a big way.

If we look at the measuring bars of success Winnipeg (the best team in the West 3 years running) has used a 1st round pick on OL twice as much as O’Day. Toronto (reigning champs) have done it 4 times as often. Yes that is not the sole determinant of a championship team but it certainly helps. Also, there are only 2 teams with less 1st round OL picks than O’Day: BC and Montreal. Again OL is not the sole determinant but coincidentally those 2 teams have the longest Grey Cup appearance drought spanning more than a decade each.

 So if O’Day is serious about building a sustainably successful OL, then he needs to alter his approach to drafting and actually make it a priority. O’Day seems to be way more effective at drafting in the later rounds than the early round. His picks in the 4th round or later have netted us Schaefer-Baker, Dabire and Dalke. Outside of Lenius his early round picks have thus far failed to make a noticeable impact. 

Will O’Day learn his lesson? We will see come the 2023 draft in May. Though based on his drafting history it would be a way safer bet to put money on another early round WR being drafted than an OL that will do anything for this franchise.