May 1, 2012

Landry: Nine is fine for Barker, Argos

Don Landry

Perhaps, Argo fans, you’d think that it would have been nice for your team to have retained its first-round pick (second overall) in the 2012 CFL Canadian College draft.

Coming off a season that saw the team finish seventh in an eight team loop, a high draft pick and a young Canadian impact player would have been a silver lining for a disappointing campaign.

That number two pick could have been used to snag one of the big three prizes in the draft; University of Saskatchewan offensive lineman Ben Heenan, Laurier receiver Shamawd Chambers, or maybe even Boise State defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford, who was selected in the third round by the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Entry Draft over the weekend.

Barring an unforeseen trade (it would take a bit of a jaw-dropper to pry one of those top three picks away from The Roughriders, Eskimos or Tiger-Cats) the Argos will make its first pick in the second round, ninth overall.

Don’t forget, part of the reason why they’ll remain silent until that point is the fact that they moved their second overall pick to Edmonton as part of the deal that brought star quarterback Ricky Ray to town.

And that was the biggest move of the CFL’s off-season, improving in very, very large fashion, Toronto’s fortunes at the pivot position.

You can consider then, in a way, that the team got Ricky Ray second overall in this draft. You’d make that pick every time, wouldn’t you?

Now then, what’s a team to do when it waits it out until early in the second round?

According to general manager Jim Barker, if his team can’t move its pick up by way of a trade, he’ll be content to make his selection in the nine-spot.

“There’s a lot of value in this draft. I think there’s a lot of great ‘two-round’ picks,” he said.

The Argos could stand pat, cross their fingers and hope that the best player, who would most fit their needs at this time, as well as going forward, somehow escapes detection in the first round.

That player is Laval linebacker Frédéric Plesius.

In a draft year that is considered fairly deep at linebacker, Plesius is the top prize at the position. Big, fast and determined, Plesius is ranked number five by the CFL Scouting Bureau.

Plesius impressed at CFL Evaluation Camp in March, scoring the top results by a linebacker in both the vertical and broad jump events. He tied for top spot in the 40-yard dash, and registered second place finish in the bench press.

While the Argos are well set with one of the best starting linebackers in the league in Jason Pottinger, it is true that their homebrew depth at that position is not what it could be.

With the departure of Kevin Eiben to the Hamilton, as of now, Tristan Black and Chris Smith serve as the Canadian depth insurance.

Black has proven to be a capable fill-in as well as a solid special teams player. Smith, since being plucked from the B.C. Lions’ practice roster last season, has seen only limited action due to numbers and his injury situation, so it’s difficult to know just what the Argos have in him.

A little more Canadian linebacking depth would be nice. Be it by trade, or by draft, the Argos could add to that depth before training camp opens.

Again, it will be a little bit of a miracle if Plesius drops down to the Argos, at ninth overall. If he is indeed gone, and they’re thinking linebacker anyway, Harding’s Rene Stephan could be the eventual pick.

Sam Hurl and Jordan Verdone, both Calgary Dinos, and Herve Tonye-Tonye out of Northern Colorado could also hear their names called.

Some think there’s an excellent linebacking prospect right in the Argos’ backyard; University of Toronto’s Wilkerson DeSouza, an OUA first team All-Star in 2011.

As far as draft strategies go, Barker is hoping to immediately improve his roster.

“I’m trying to draft players that can make our football team. To say that we’d go strictly by (positional) need is not correct and to say that it is strictly by best player (available) is not either.”

“You have to be careful about falling in love with one player, because then you end up over-paying for a draft pick.”

“There are players out there that we really, really feel like we need, even in the fourth or fifth round. What I try to do in our mock draft is to place a value on a player. To say this is a player we need, this is where we feel his value lies, and if he’s there when our pick comes around, then we’ll take him.”


The fire that razed the Argos’ practice facility in Mississauga last Christmas did more than rob the team of its daily preparation infrastructure. Game film was also destroyed, including the library the Argos had built on potential 2012 draft picks.

“We lost all our draft film in the fire,” said Barker.

The team was not left twisting in the wind; however, as a number of CFL clubs provided replacement video.

“A couple of teams stepped up and helped us in recovering it,” he continued.

This was not mandated at a league office level. Just football neighbours offering to help out a little. Still, even with that help, Barker says the job his staff had to do this off-season was tougher than usual.

“It’s made this off-season more difficult, there’s no doubt about that.” As far as whom, exactly, helped the Argos out, Barker declined to name names.

“I’m not going to single anyone out, because I might forget someone,” he said.