To best evaluate the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ draft you have to look ahead to 2016 and ask yourself: Who will be around, contributing on a regular basis after three years?
Take the 2010 Draft for example. By selecting then can’t-miss prospect Shomari Williams with the 1st overall pick, you likely would have given the Riders an ‘A’ for their performance. Fast forward three years to now and Williams has moved east to Hamilton, leaving the Riders via free agency and without any real positive return on their draft investment.
That ‘A’ has transformed itself into a ‘D’.
With the fourth overall selection in this year’s draft, the Riders did well by getting Corey Watman, a player who some consider to be the most pro-ready offensive lineman in the draft.
Watman adds incredible depth to an offensive line that – equipped with the likes of Ben Heenan, Brendon LaBatte and Dominic Picard – is one of the deepest and most talented in the CFL.
Now had Watman to the mix and you are six deep for Canadian offensive linemen.
By picking Watman, the Green and White will not feature a stunning six Canadian’s on their offensive line, with tackle Xavier Fulton being the lone exception.
That being said, I’m giving the Riders an ‘A’ for drafting Watman.
Despite their smart first pick, however, I’m giving them a ‘C’ overall. Here’s why:
Getting only one pro-ready player in seven picks diminishes the overall grade for Saskatchewan. A part of that could be attributed to the fact that General Manager Brendan Taman traded away his 3rd-round pick in exchange for three 5th-round picks, forcing him to sit in silence while the rest of the league stocks up on talent through rounds two to four.
While Taman definitely feels the rest of his crop has plenty of potential, there is a reason his four-player haul in the fifth round were fifth round picks. If they were ‘pro-ready’ someone would have scooped them up earlier.
With his first pick in the fifth round, the Riders pick up Matt Vonk, an offensive lineman that comes from Waterloo. Some believe he is another interior lineman but he did play tackle for the Warriors and could get a long look at backing up Patrick Neufeld at right tackle.
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In regards to receiver Alex Anthony, the team’s second pick in the round, Taman said he was “the guy we would have picked in the third but was there in the fifth.”
From what Taman is selling, Anthony has a great shot and becoming the number three non-import receiver with a good camp in Saskatchewan behind Chris Getzlaf and Rob Bagg. He’ll push Jordan Sisco and Scott McHenry extremely hard for a spot on the roster. Being compared to Bagg as far as work ethic and intelligence is a sign the Riders may have a steal with this Wilfred Laurier product.
Taman then scooped up Levi Steinhauer, who isn’t coming to Saskatchewan to back up Keith Shologan or Zach Evans at defensive tackle, despite being listed as a DT.
He is here to fill a hole left by the departure of long snapper Alex Krausnick-Groh. The Riders could use depth behind long snappers Cory Huclack and Jay Alford. If Steinhauer proves he’s capable of getting the ball back to the kickers with accuracy, quickness and consistency he’ll stay around.
Finally, Spencer Moore is where the Riders start to really cross their fingers.
He and sixth-round pick Thomas Spoletini have to show they can contribute on special teams and not get lost in their respective assignments.
Moore is a big body that isn’t going to come to camp as a receiver but likely to see if he can bring some youth and depth behind fullbacks Neal Hughes and Graeme Bell.
If not, he’ll be gone like fullback Kyle Exume was last year. Moore, like Exume, was sold as the best special teams player in the draft. But as we all saw, Exume proved talk means nothing when you step on the field.
Spoletini, along with special teams, also needs to show he can be relied on in a pinch as a coverage linebacker.
Western offensuiveEric Armitage is the final pick for the Riders and has nothing to lose. Realistically, Armitage is someone the Riders will use and abuse in training camp on scout team. With a load of non-imports in front him; he’ll have a tough time being on the roster after training camp.
Riders Head Coach Corey Chamblin was honest when he said that they picked up some ‘legs and bodies’ to have around at camp. If they’re anything more than that, it’s a bonus. That will be tough to read if you’re among the Riders late round picks. They can also turn that into motivation as well.
While I give the Riders a ‘C’ based on pro-ready talent drafted. There is no doubt the Riders are confident I’ll eat my words when camp rolls around.