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?
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.
some stats to back my claim:
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)
those same 4 years he has drafted 6 receivers. Of those, 4 were drafted in the
1st or 2nd round.
has used exactly 1 of his 4 first round picks on an OL.
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).
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.
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.