Nye: Taking stock of National inventory for all nine teams
The CFL Draft is coming up and this my look at the Canadian talent among CFL teams going in.
Here are the top two requirements to win in the CFL; a good quarterback and great Canadian talent. If you don’t have both of those things, you’ll have a tough time winning. They are the toughest things to find and maintain from year to year.
Canadian talent by the Stampeders, along with Bo Levi Mitchell is a major reason why Calgary continues to be in the conversation, although you’re starting to see a depletion in Calgary among their National talent, which why they weren’t as strong in 2019 as defending champs. Oh and it didn’t help Mitchell wasn’t 100% either.
Also, you need to remember the new 10 national starters rule in the CFL. With three being veteran Americans, you’d likely want to see the depth to start natural nationals at eight positions, if not nine.
So let’s dig in on how each team looks going into the draft and their needs on draft day based on the draft order.
Sean McEwen is a huge addition this off-season for an offensive line that has seen a lot of departures over the last few years. They’re also grooming four players drafted in the last two years to start taking on everyday roles. More depth helps some of these players not rushed to starting roles until there are injuries.
Last year’s first-round pick, Hergy Mayala, showed he was more than ready. The Stamps still have decent receiver depth, despite losing Juwan Brescacin to Toronto.
Where you have to start worrying about the Stamps is on the defensive side of things as Alex Singleton and his replacement, Cory Greenwood, are no longer around. With limited depth in the secondary and on the defensive line, if the Stampeders are going to survive an injury bug, they need drastic improvement with depth on that side of the ball.
NEED: They need to make it count with the first overall pick. They need someone who can potentially grab hold of a starting spot, especially if they can get one on defence. Thankfully for them, there’s plenty of defensive talent at the top of the draft.
With a pair of picks in both the third and fourth round, that is where John Hufnagel could make some incredible depth selections, or help trade up in the draft to grab another player with starting potential.
The Toronto Argonauts have three of the first 11 selections, which is a huge win for Pinball Clemons and the team’s front office. I would still say they enter the draft with the most needs for their depth. Yes, they added a lot of Canadian talent in free agency, but keep in mind they lost the likes of Cleyon Laing and the previously mentioned McEwen.
NEED: The Argos still need better offensive line depth as losing McEwen and Chris Van Zeyl over the last two years has taken a big toll on the pass protection in Toronto. If they want to keep Matt Nichols upright, they possibly need to use two of these three picks on offensive linemen.
Signing Dariusz Bladek and Philip Blake from the Roughriders definitely helps but more help is needed.
The Argonauts are okay at linebacker and defensive back for their Canadian starters on defence with Chris Ackie, Bo Lokombo, Arjen Colquhoun and Matt Boateng, who saw more game time late last season.
Juwan Brescacin added to a receiving corps with Llevi Noel was also a big win for the offensive talent for Toronto.
It’s a very top-heavy draft for the Argonauts, with five picks in the first three rounds and only two picks in rounds 4-8.
The Lions are another team I have low in the power rankings of Canadian talent despite some work on that front this off-season.
They have depth at key positions like offensive line, receiver, linebacker and defensive back but there is a difference between depth and having all-star calibre Canadian talent. That is where I’m seeing the big difference for the Lions compared to other teams. Lemar Durant is the top Canadian they have but across the board, you don’t see game breakers with Canadian passports. They’re okay, but they aren’t great.
With the third overall pick, they need a great player who could help win a championship. Look at their Canadians from the 2011 Grey Cup team. Andrew Harris, Brent Johnson and a receiving trio of Paris Jackson, Ryan Thelwell and Shawn Gore.
I don’t see top-end Canadian talent in BC, although they are growing the Canadian depth in the receiving corps with Lemar Durant, Shaq Johnson and Jevon Cottoy.
NEED: There is no big ‘NEED’ but this is absolutely the cliché of pick the best player available. Who has the highest ceiling? Go with them, no matter the position.
The Edmonton Eskimos are moving up my Canadian power ranking depth.
They have all-star talent on the offensive line. Tevaun Smith had a decent debut season in the CFL after bouncing around the NFL. And with Kwaku Boateng and Matthieu Betts on the defensive line, you see the Eskimos have the ‘game-changing’ Canadians that I see lacking in BC.
The Edmonton Eskimos enter the draft without trading one of their selections in any round. They have all eight picks plus an extra one in round seven.
It’ll be interesting to see how General Manager Brock Sunderland handles this draft. It’ll tell us with that first-round pick if he’s completely comfortable with his offensive line depth, or if he continues his trend of just going with the top player on their board, rather than out of need.
NEED: I believe the Eskimos could use offensive lineman early to ensure a solid unit there going
forward but they can’t force it. But they could also pick a guy like Jordan Williams, with a complete lack of Canadian linebacker depth in the organization.
Episode 208: Draft strategy with Kyle Walters
EPISODE OVERVIEW: As we get set for the CFL Draft on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET) we talk to the man in charge of the Grey Cup champions draft: Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters.
EPISODE RUNDOWN: Kyle Walters joins Davis and Donnovan (2:30); How the draft has changed over the years (3:30); Conducting interviews not in-person; Mechanics of draft day amidst COVID-19 measures (13:00); Drinks & snacks during Draft day (15:00); How to weigh prospects with NFL opportunities (17:00); Position needs by round, by team or by year (19:00); Process of scouting a player from start to finish (21:00); Late-round selection value (24:00); Pick timing (26:30).
Can I just say this is almost unfair the Tiger-Cats have two picks in the first round as they are the team I have at the top of my power rankings for Canadian talent in the league.
They have all-star offensive linemen, Ted Laurent and Tunde Adeleke. Oh, then they could go Canadian running back this season if they can stay healthy with some young talent there as well.
There is a reason the Tiger-Cats won 15 games last season. Their QB duo was fantastic, with Dane Evans showing he’s a new star in the league but the Canadian talent was and still is top-notch, and when you talk about drafting in a position of power, it is the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
They, like Edmonton, did not trade any of their picks but did acquire Montreal’s 5th overall pick in the famous Johnny Manziel deal.
NEED: Ted Laurent is not getting any younger, so I’m looking to see Hamilton bolster their defensive tackle depth with one of their first round picks. That would be the draft out of need, but overall the Tiger-Cats shouldn’t force it. They have the ability to pick two more players to make all other general managers jealous across the league.
General manager Marcel Desjardins’ philosophy matches what mine would be, as I referenced above. Pay your Canadians, get a quarterback and go from there.
That is what he’s doing in Ottawa. LOOK AT THEIR ROSTER. They have a tonne of Canadians, especially along the offensive and defensive line. With Cleyon Laing joining the fold this off-season, it was a major boost to their top Canadian talent to join Antoine Pruneau and Brad Sinopoli.
I still can’t believe when I look at the REDBLACKS roster that they have nine Canadian offensive linemen. Nolan MacMillan, Alex Mateas, Evan Johnson and Jason Lauzon-Seguin are proven starters.
I don’t see Desjardins drafting another offensive lineman in the first round after taking offensive linemen for five straight years (Mateas, Lauzon-Seguin, Johnson, Mark Korte and Alex Fontana). Although, the investment to the offensive line seems to have paid off.
NEED: I do see a growing need at receiver to help Brad Sinopoli and provide some depth and a future at a usually vital Canadian position in the CFL. Sinopoli is now 32 and it’s the time you have to start thinking about the future of that position. There is some decent receiving talent as well that matches with the sixth overall selection.
The Roughriders enter this year’s draft with a growing and for the most part, young Canadian depth. We’ve seen Cameron Judge step up big in year three of his career. 2018 first-round pick Dakoda Shepley is definitely ready for a starting role alongside veterans Dan Clark and Brendon LaBatte on the offensive line.
Of course, last year, the Riders filled a need to grow their Canadian depth in the receiving corps with Justin McInnis and Brayden Lenius. Unfortunately, injury slowed them somewhat, but in year two they’ll be expecting bigger things from the duo.
The Riders also enter the draft with solid depth at the defensive tackle position with Makana Henry and Charbel Dabire allowing the Riders to scale back on Zack Evans snaps in 2019, while he wasn’t 100%.
Then you have Mike Edem and Elie Bouka in the secondary.
So do the Riders have holes? Definitely.
NEED: I would say losing Dariusz Bladek and Philip Blake is a major blow to possibly the strongest offensive line depth in the league last year. The Riders used their third-round pick in this draft on offensive lineman Jake Bennett in last year’s supplemental draft. But with LaBatte and Clark getting up there in age and with injury history, the Riders need to focus on the offensive line
After that first-round pick, they don’t pick again until the fourth round. Jeremy O’Day needs to make this first-rounder right. O’Day doesn’t need to reach on an offensive lineman if they’re gone already, but I feel like someone will be there.
OUCH! The Johnny Manziel trade will hurt for the Alouettes, who saw some top Canadians leave like Bo Lokombo and Chris Ackie from their defensive talent.
The good news is the Alouettes will have picks at 14, 16, 22 and 25. For instance, the Riders pick 7th but not again until No. 30. The Als don’t have a first-round pick but have four picks in the first three rounds.
I don’t mind these mid-second round picks. You can have some fantastic talent just fall into your lap after some teams draft for need or reach for a player they really like because they don’t think they’ll be there in the third round.
There are plenty of examples of good talent dropping into the 15-30 range. We’ll see if Danny Maciocia’s experience in U SPORTS pays off the last couple of years with the connections to allow him to get some diamonds in the rough to help build the Als.
What do the Alouettes have? They have a decent young group of developing offensive lineman, all-star Henoc Muamba and they’ll hope Taylor Loffler can return to all-star form as well after his knee injury.
They also have an extremely young group of Nationals across the board who have not yet hit their prime and with some departures will get bigger opportunities.
NEED: I would think that Maciocia doesn’t need to scramble but I’d be more willing wager he’d be looking at defence with the players that left this off-season. There could also be some decent receivers still around if defensive and offensive lineman climb up the draft as they usually do with receivers dropping down.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Yes, the defending champs don’t pick until late in the second round but guess what, they gave up their first-round pick in the Zach Collaros trade. That deal gave them the quarterback that won them a Grey Cup, so there are zero criticisms from me for not picking until No. 18.
With strong offensive linemen, Andrew Harris and decent backups, and a good crop of Canadian receivers, the Bombers can afford to wait for their first pick.
When it does get there, I have no doubt they’ll be sitting on a player who they’ll be happy with. Oh and then they don’t have a third-round pick either … also because of the Collaros deal. Again. Grey Cup. Bomber fans should be just fine with that first title in 29 years and only one pick in the first 36 selections.
NEED: I’m saying the Bombers try to find some defensive steals in this draft as it’ll be hard to see them find someone who will make an impact in year one.
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