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If it’s true that good things come to those who wait, Argonauts’ general manager Jim Barker may well be in for a windfall at some point in the near future.
Not all that concerned with instant gratification when it comes to the picks he’s made in recent years, Barker did it again at the 2013 CFL Draft. Cast aside what’s to be in the immediate future for the possibility of what might come farther down the road.
With the eighth overall pick, Barker phoned the CFL’s Football Operations department and spoke the name of Matt Sewell, the standout offensive lineman who’s now ended his stellar university career with the McMaster Marauders.
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Sewell wasn’t expected to be available at that spot – “We were stunned that Matt fell but we were excited about it. It was fantastic,” said Barker – in fact there was some supposition that he may even go first overall to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Ranked as high as second in last winter’s list compiled by the Canadian Football League’s Scouting Bureau, and then fourth in the spring listing released a few weeks ago, there’s a reason he dropped down to be available for the Boatmen at number eight.
Sewell has signed a free agent contract with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and therefore will not be donning pads for Toronto until later this summer, if ever at all.
That possibility probably made some executives a little nervous and led to Sewell’s fall to the Argos. That scenario doesn’t seem to faze Barker, who’s done this kind of thing before and is still waiting for dividends.
“In the first round of the draft, you want to take a player who has a chance to develop into a starter on your team,” explained Barker. That doesn’t mean, necessarily, right away either.
Barker’s penchant for rolling the dice with prospects who aren’t likely to grace the field in Toronto immediately means he has a couple of sensational offensive lineman possibilities south of the border. If those behemoth chickens ever come home to roost, the Argos will be blessed with a crowded coop of Ricky Ray bodyguards.
Sewell is one and Tyler Holmes is the other.
That’s the sticking point, however. The waiting game. It can frustrate you. After taking Tulsa University lineman Holmes seventh overall in the 2011 draft – trading a second and a fifth round pick to move up in order to grab him – The Argos hoped he’d soon be in double blue.
They were fairly certain, last year, that Holmes would be released by the Minnesota Vikings and might well be in the Toronto line up during the summer. But, the Vikings liked his camp, kept him aboard and have him signed through 2014.
Will Holmes ever wear double blue? Hard to say at this point as it is with Sewell. As it is with a number of other Barker picks, high on potential but not on assurance. The GM is confident, however.
“There’s a plan in place and eventually those guys are gonna play. And they love playing football.”
Sometimes waiting longer for a player is about looking down the road a piece. Other times, a general manager can get blindsided a bit. Barker selected Concordia linebacker Cory Greenwood, third overall in the 2010 draft. A week after being drafted by Toronto, he walked on and landed a job with Kansas City. After playing three years with the Chiefs, he’s signed for this year with the Detroit Lions.
Last year, Iowa State defensive lineman Cleon Laing, Rice tight end Luke Willson and Northern Colorado linebacker Herve Tonye-Tonye were selected, even though all of them were heading back to school for another year. None of them are currently Argos. Laing is without a pro contract, currently trying out with the Oakland Raiders.
Not that that kind of pick is exactly rare in the CFL. This year’s draft was not short of “futures” selections – those with another season of college eligibility – and Barker jumped in that pool once again.
In trading three picks to Saskatchewan for the 22nd overall selection, he gambles on the raw talent of a local kid. Receiver Natey Adjei – a native of Mississauga – will enter his final season at the University of Buffalo.
The Argos must love his skill set because they have very little in the way of numbers to crunch. And they approached every team with the three fifth round draft picks that the Roughriders eventually took in exchange. Adjei suited up for seven games with Buffalo in 2012, but the 6-foot, 180 pounder recorded no stats. “This year he’ll be a starter,” said Barker.
“He had a great spring camp. We think he’s definitely a guy who can be a starting player in this league.”
With the drafting of Sewell and Adjei, Barker continues to play the recruitment game with extra patience. So far, in the manner of these picks actually appearing in Argo jerseys, there’s not been much success.
However, winning a Grey Cup in 2012 means that those delays have not been all that important in the grand scheme.
And if the day ever comes when he has Holmes, Sewell, Greenwood and Willson on the roster? Laing and Tonye-Tonye? Jackpot. Well, not everybody at once, warns Barker.
“You try to draft so that your pipeline is full and you can’t keep them all if they all show up right away. So you try to mix in those that are going to be there right away and those that may be a year or two years down the road.”
Not that Barker feels like he’ll wait for everybody. Taking defensive back and Scarborough native Jermaine Gabriel 17th overall in this year’s draft, Barker’s expectation is that Gabriel will “compete hard and be a solid contributor on special teams. He’s gonna be a good player, you watch.”
In the sixth round, the Argos selected offensive lineman Michael Di Domenico out of Tarleton State and in the seventh round, with the day’s final pick, chose Concordia linebacker Paul Spencer.