April 26, 2012

Dunk: Chambers an interesting option for Ticats

You never know what could be in the offing when Ticats GM Bob O’Billovich hunkers down with the rest of his football operations staff in the team’s war room on draft day.

Last year, fans were clamoring for one of the draft’s top-rated Canadian receivers: Anthony Parker, Nathan Coehoorn or Marco Ianuzzi with Hamilton’s first round pick (fifth overall).

As we now know, the Ticats opted to trade their pick for two second round selections leaving the Eskimos open to selecting Coehoorn.

Patience paid off however, as Hamilton landed arguably the best homegrown pass catcher in the league in Andy Fantuz, who signed with Steeltown earlier this year.

This year, Hamilton occupies the three spot in the draft, and could easily be faced a similar scenario to what happened in 2011.

This time around there is just one receiver, Wilfrid Laurier’s Shamawd Chambers, who carries a consensus high first-round grade. It is very possible that the rangy receiver could be on the board when the Black and Gold go on the clock.

“That could be a possibility,” O’Billovich said about the prospect of taking the Laurier product at three.

“If you like what you’ve got with your non-imports, you might want to add another one and maybe even change your ratio and start more than two Canadian receivers. Maybe you start with three and have another good young guy to bring along.”

It’s hard to glean whether this is smoke coming from an actual fire or smoke being put up in the form of a screen to entice other CFL clubs who might be infatuated with Chambers to pick up the phone, in order to secure his services.

Of course Chambers has to make it past Saskatchewan and Edmonton for such a plot to play out, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

If Hamilton doesn’t select a receiver in the opening round, with only four non-import pass catchers on the roster, it would certainly seem to be a position the Tabbies will address at some point during the draft on May 3.

Including their first round pick, the Ticats hold six selections, barring a trade, in the 2012 draft. One second round choice (10th overall), a pair of third rounders, one fourth and their last pick in the fifth round.

A portion of Hamilton’s draft currency needs to be spent on upgrading within the trenches.

The Ticats had five non-import defensive linemen see playing time at some point during the 2011 season, two of whom, Luc Mullinder and Matt Kirk, are no longer with the team.

Those bodies need to be replaced if the team plans on employing at least one Canadian starter at defensive tackle.

The Ticats must find some non-import depth behind interior starter Eddie Steele to go along with a still-developing Maurice Forbes.

Eastern Michigan’s Jabar Westerman might be the most CFL-ready inside lineman available and could turn out to be well worth an early round pick.

In the mid-to-late rounds a space-eater like Western University’s Michael Van Praet (6’1”, 303 pounds) could help fill the defensive tackle need as well.

On the flip side, Hamilton has six non-import offensive linemen on the roster, but just three that have starting experience.

Losing Mark Dewit (traded to Calgary), Simeon Rottier (went home to play in Edmonton) and versatile backup Wayne Smith, hurt the overall depth up front.

Yes, veteran Tim O’Neill was signed and 2011 draft pick Pascal Baillargon is healthy again – both should help replenish the depth along the offensive line.

Also, there is a possibility of Connecticut lineman Moe Petrus making his way north, depending how he makes out with his NFL opportunities.

Petrus or not you can never have enough non-import protectors and some solid options could be had in the middle rounds.

For instance, a local prospect that played his university football just down the road from Ivor Wynne, Jason Medeiros from McMaster certainly has the size (6’4”, 315 pounds) required to play at the pro level.

The most intriguing situation that could unfold with regards to addressing the offensive line would be at the top of the draft.

Much like we discussed earlier with Chambers, depending how the initial two selections fall, Hamilton might just find one of the two highly touted prospects at the position, Ben Heenan or Austin Pasztor, within their grasp – both lineman are said to have the ability to contribute at the pro level right away.

Much of the intrigue surrounds the Ticats third overall selection, rightfully so when dreaming about the big time talent and names that could be had.

However, the 2012 Ticats draft class is going to be judged on more than a single pick.

With a solid non-import core currently in place, this draft as a whole presents an opportunity for Hamilton to make their Canadian content into one of the elite groups nationwide.