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.


Anonymous said...

Well said. IMO O'Day has no choice but to go OL with the 1st pick. And there's 3 ranked in the top 7 in the last ranking.

But, to your point, only 2 WR's in top 20, 7 DL, 3 DB, 3 LB, 1 RB & 4 OL. Of the 6 that dropped off the list in January, 4 were OL. So there are a lot of OL available.

Quick add. Walker took a shot at the Elk QB's on the way out, seemingly citing his yardage troubles. When Lawler was injured with 6 games to go, Walker moved up the chart & put up 429 yds the last 6 games - a 1,287 pace. So he can't blame it all on Cornelius. Part of the problem was there were Mitchell & Lawler playing in front of him. The good news - IF he is the main guy in Regina, he should get some good totals. The bad news - iF Walker, not Wieneke or Schaffer-Baker, is the best guy we may be in trouble. I like Walker but his days of being #1 may be in the past. And that's something going from Cornelius to Harris isn't going to fix.

Anonymous said...

Great article. Great points.
I also believe D.Walker is a #2 or #3 receiver nowadays. Hope we got him a great price cuz his best days are far behind him

Anonymous said...

For you so called experts of how walker is going to fail in 2023? Let me remind you how well he did working with Harris and that he is only 31.His stats speak volumes.He averages nearly 15 yards per catch in 7 seasons of play,and that is with 4 diff qb’s and 2 yrs only playing half a season. Jones over spent on his American receivers to try to compensate his young qb’s. And Sask might ve got the steal of the century with this shrewd pick up. O’day knows what every other gm knows. You build from the trenches. The retirements etc from the COVID period hurt were unexpected and proved costly. Most other teams were able to keep most of their players.

Ethan said...

Harris was only in Edmonton for 6 games in 2021 & that's the only season he & Walker were on the same club. In those 6 games they combined for 348 yds receiving & 0 TD's. As noted above, he did better with Cornelius in the same # of games this past year. While he had 32 TD's in 64 games after the 2019 season, which earned him the largest non-QB contract in the league that year, he has had 1 TD the past 2 seasons. Personally I like Derel Walker but Walker at this point would be no better than the 3rd receiver in BC, who had 3 top 10 receivers last year, Edmonton or Winnipeg.

You build your team with what you have. You have a cheap guy like Cornelius & you give him options. Here's another couple of things you can fact check.

Collaros to Lawler 14 games they were both in over 2019 & 2021 - 1073 yds, 76.64 yds/game
Cornelius to Lawler 7 games 602 yds, 86 yds/game

Collaros to rookie MOP Schoen 1441 yds, 18 games, 80.05 yds/game
Cornelius to rising star Mitchell 637 yds, 8 games, 79.63 yds/game.

Not suggesting Cornelius is better than Collaros but give a guy some good receivers & they will produce for him. The point is this - Harris is a better QB than Cornelius BUT that doesn't automatically mean that Walker's stats will improve with Harris. Just like when Lawler went to Edmonton, his production per game didn't go down.

Rider Prophet said...

Clearly should have done this post on Walker haha. He seems to be the big topic.

Well I chime in...

I think Walker could be a #1 receiver. But possibility is not probability. He is definitely worth taking a chance on but let's be realistic here. He hasn't put up #1 receiver production since 2019. How many other guys just suddenly rediscover their stuff 4 years later?

His trend is what most interests my up until the later part of last season you would conclude he was on a heavy downward trend. Dominant in 2018, pretty good in 2019, brutal in 2021. What gives you hope is that there was a small resurgence in 2022. Not a huge one but at least enough to end the consistent downward trend.

I have zero expectation for him and odds are he ends up like Manny Arceneaux role (not that that's a bad thing). But there is definitely a chance he does more. I wouldn't put money on it but do think we made a good move in bringing him here to see for ourselves.