The Calgary Stampeders won’t be playing the new Ottawa team for a year, but they have already started to adjust their strategy to account for the CFL newcomers.
With one eye on building depth for their offensive line and another on the upcoming expansion draft, the Stampeders selected University of Texas-El Paso offensive lineman Brander Craighead with their top pick. Craighead is a redshirt junior, meaning he has one more year of eligibility remaining with UTEP.
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“He is a very athletic young man,” noted Stampeders General Manager and Coach John Hufnagel.
“He’s six-foot-six, 280-pounds and he’s excited. Because of the (expansion) draft for 2013, that redshirt player would not have signed a contract. The one thing I didn’t want to do is sign a player I could lose in six months.”
The delay in starting his professional career poses no problems for Craighead.
“Right now, I’m just focused on training and winning a conference title here,” said the Belleville, ON. native.
“It’s so exciting.”
Craighead may have been excited but so were his El Paso teammates.
“They were calling and texting me (about the selection) before I could call them. My coach called me and told me what a big honour it was,” he laughed.
The selection of Craighead was made for more than expansion draft reasons. The Stampeders entered the draft with no real gaps in their Canadian content.
“I think we're okay with our non-import talent, but you can never have enough and you can never be too good,” said Hufnagel, reflecting on his seven picks.
“You have to draft good players and if you have to wait a year, you have to have the confidence that you can be patient.”
In total, the Stampeders selected three offensive lineman, one defensive lineman, a fullback/receiver and a punter. They also sent a draft pick to Edmonton for veteran defensive lineman Etienne Legare.
In the second round, the club chose a pair of players they did not anticipate being on the board. J. P. Metras trophy winner Ben D’Aguilar (McMaster) was on the board as teams were uncertain of his availability due to some National Football League interest.
They also chose hulking offensive lineman Brett Jones from the University of Regina. Jones is considered a premiere talent but is also attempting to enroll in medical school. The Stampeders felt the chance on a top talent like Jones was worth the potential risks.
The club also added speedy receiver Yannick Morin-Plante (Laval) to compliment their Canadian receiving core. Also taken was receiver Charlie Power from Saskatchewan. The Stampeders view him as a hybrid fullback/receiver.
With their last two picks, the team went with Western University lineman Shane Bergman who Hufnagel refers to as ‘a project’.
The Stampeders’ final pick was punter Dumitru Ionita, a former Concordia teammate of place kicker Rene Paredes. He is expected to report in 2014 and was, in part, selected to provide Canadian depth options for the upcoming expansion draft.
Is the next Jon Cornish in the crop of 2013 draftees?
Those rookies will report later this month and start earning their way into the team’s plans.
Mark Stephen is Sports Director of CHQR Radio in Calgary and has broadcast Calgary Stampeder games since 1996. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkonFootball.
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