The 2012 Canadian College Draft is right around the corner on May 3rd and the Saskatchewan Roughriders have just three selections in the six-round event. The Odell Willis (I) trade cost them two picks (2nd and 4th round picks) and the team traded their fifth rounder to Winnipeg in some trade I can’t figure out (probably a conditional one that hid under the radar). That leaves the team with the ever-important first overall pick, a third rounder and a sixth round selection.
The team will either have to make trades for more picks (maybe with stockpiling Calgary GM Hufnagel?) or just make their selections very very carefully.
The big question is what will the Riders do with the first overall pick? The overwhelming favourite choice is to draft homegrown Ben Heenan from the University of Saskatchewan, but the Riders already have two solid guards in Brendon LaBatte (NI) and Chris Best (NI). Heenan played some tackle in university and will have to get reacquainted with the position if the Riders draft him. For someone as talented as Heenan, it will be difficult to pass up on him, so the Roughriders may just draft him anyway.
Another option is to select Wilfrid Laurier receiver Shamawd Chambers who had an outstanding E-Camp to boost his stock even further. It depends if the Riders want to go down this road again, since starting three non-import receivers in 2009 and 2010 really hampered the team in 2011 when two of their former starters were MIA for most of the season. The team always talks about increasing their depth here, but drafting a player who will be a starter in this league doesn’t create depth, it spreads yourself out, leaving you more vulnerable to weakness (ala 2011). However, Chambers has been invited to the Philadelphia Eagles mini-camp, which decreases his stock value here. Because of this, I can’t see Saskatchewan taking him first overall anyway.
If the Roughriders aren’t 100% sold on these guys, trading down for more picks might be a good option too. General Manager Brendan Taman has said that the selection should “be staying in Saskatchewan,” but anything can happen. With high picks, it’s always tough to determine who to pick because in recent years it has become more common for Canadians to get National Football League contracts. You can forget about top-ranked defensive end Tyrone Crawford or fourth-ranked offensive lineman Austin Pasztor because they’re getting NFL shots in 2012. Since the Riders don’t have many picks I also don’t see them gambling on the NFL-bound boys, because they need non-import help now. If I had to bet on it, I would say that the team is taking Heenan.
Since Mike McCullough is the only non-import linebacker on the roster, I would have to think the Roughriders will take a linebacker with one of their two later picks. If the coaching staff is looking at slotting current defensive lineman Shomari Williams in at linebacker, then it would also be good to grab some depth. At the 15th overall spot, the Riders might have a shot at drafting linebackers Sam Hurl or Jordan Verdone, both of Calgary, or if they have the patience to wait one year (which they shouldn’t), they could select Northern Colorado’s Herve Tonye-Tonye. By the same accord, if the team has a shot at taking a better overall player, they should do so. With the 15th selection in a deep draft class, they should be able to find good talent there.
The team may also look to add to the defensive line depth, since there isn’t much after starting defensive tackle Keith Shologan. The team could gamble on Laval’s Arnaud Gascon-Nadon who saw his draft stock take a nose dive after his diva attitude at the CFL Evaluation Camp in March. Otherwise Simon Fraser’s Justin Capiccotti, Akron’s Hasan Hazime, or Acadia’s Jake Thomas could all be available at this spot and would make solid selections in a draft class that is deep for D-linemen.
Sticking with defense, the Riders could be looking to add depth in the secondary, especially if Paul Woldu wins himself a starting cornerback role. Even if he doesn’t, the team may need more support behind starting safety Craig Butler than just former Saskatoon Hilltop Graig Newman. Considering the first defensive back in the Scouting Bureau’s top 15 ranks in the 14th spot, the Riders may have access to anyone here. I think management would go with a player who can help the team right away, so Courtney Stephen and Keynan Parker, who would both be returning to school, are out of the picture. Saskatchewan’s Keenan MacDougall or Bryce McCall could be options here, as could St. Francis Xavier’s Dylan Hollohan. It really depends on what the Roughriders want from the position and who would be a better fit.
As for their last pick in the sixth round, I think the Roughriders should draft by need. Since they need a lot of depth everywhere, this could be anything, so I’m not going to speculate much. It could be a receiver, linebacker, defensive lineman or defensive back, since those are the areas that need the most help depth-wise. If there is any way for the team to acquire more picks, they should pull the trigger, because they really need help here. Last year, there were five draft day trades involving six of the eight teams in the CFL, so we’re likely to see something happen, even if it doesn’t involve the Roughriders. That’s also why I don’t do mock drafts – because the event is so volatile, such a thing would be totally inaccurate. Not because I’m just totally wrong. Right?