Sports

First and Goal: Draft Prep


Seldom has a week passed during this Canadian Football League offseason without there being some sort of narrative/discussion/rant unfolding across the media – and, by extension, the diehard fan base – about the ratio.

We’re not here today to revisit any of that, because while those various ratio machinations are being proposed general managers and coaches must tune out all that noise circulating and prepare for the annual CFL Draft over the next 10 days. And, make no mistake, homegrown players remain the lifeblood of his league.

Consider, for example, your back-to-back Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their Canadian content: five of the projected seven starters in 2022 – centre Michael Couture, running back Brady Oliveira, defensive tackle Jake Thomas and guard Geoff Gray, along with receiver Drew Wolitarsky, a supplemental draft pick, were all selected by the club. The sixth and seventh, slotback Nic Demski and guard Pat Neufeld, were both first-round draft picks by the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the former arriving here via free agency and the latter in a trade.

There are more numbers here to reinforce how successful the club’s drafting has been since the current Kyle Walters/Mike O’Shea regime began in 2014. Consider that of the 28 Canadians who suited up for at least one game for the team, 18 were Blue Bombers draft picks. In addition to those listed above that crew also included Jesse Briggs, Shayne Gauthier, Nick and Noah Hallett, Drew Desjarlais, Jonathan Kongbo, Redha Kramdi, Tanner Cadwallader, Brendan O’Leary-Orange, Marc Liegghio, Tui Eli, Robbie Lowes and Nick Dheilly.

Interestingly, of the eight other Canadians only three – offensive lineman Chris Kolankowski and linebacker Nakas Onyeka (Toronto) and kicker Tyler Crapgina (Calgary) – were drafted, while the others were all undrafted. That list includes Andrew Harris, Johnny Augustine, Mike Miller, Mike Benson and James Tyrrell, with Harris now in Toronto and Tyrrell having been released last year.

All of this is a long-winded way of reminding everyone of how important the May 3rd talent grab will be for the Bombers, who have seven selections in the eight-round draft – 9th, 18th, 38th, 47th, 56th, 65th and 74th. Their third-round selection, 29th overall, now belongs to the B.C. Lions courtesy the Sergio Castillo trade last October.

The Blue Bombers have some holes to fill, too, with Desjarlais (New England Patriots) and Kongbo (Denver Broncos) in the NFL, with Harris now in Toronto with Eli still a free agent and the club having moved on from Crapigna, Onyeka, Dheilly and Tyrrell.

The team will have two of its previous draft picks back in camp – running back Kyle Borsa, drafted in the 5th round in 2021, and offensive lineman Ben Koczwara, selected in the 8th round in 2018 – while two other selections from last year, offensive lineman Liam Dobson and defensive back Patrice Rene are not currently in the picture with Dobson in the USFL and Rene unsigned.

Three other Canadians not drafted by the team will be in camp – former Stampeder/Argonaut linebacker Eric Mezzalira, Western linebacker Antonio Valvano and former Wilfrid Laurier defensive back Malcolm Thompson, who suited up for two games last year with the Ticats. More draft stuff and other notes in this week’s edition of 1st & Goal…

1. The fine folks at CFL.ca put together this list of every team’s first-round picks dating back over the last seven years. Two things pop out while perusing the list – first, that group is reminder of just how much of a crapshoot this draft still is even with all the homework teams do, what with so many teams whiffing on so many of their initial picks.

And second, while the Blue Bombers list also has some misses, they’ve also rebuilt their team from laughing-stock to champion through the draft (not included on the list is Matthias Goossen, this regime’s first pick, second overall, in 2014 and who quickly morphed into the starting centre.

2. It’s often been said that teams should wait five years before evaluating their draft classes. Here’s a look at the current regime’s draft classes and two basic factors – games played for the Blue Bombers and starts for the club.

Judge for yourselves…

2014

Rd 1 – 2nd – Matthias Goossen, OL, Simon Fraser
WBB GP:  87 (64 starts)

Rd 2 – 17th – Jesse Briggs, LB, McGill
WBB GP: 104 (six starts)

Rd 3 – 29th – Derek Jones, DB, Simon Fraser
WBB GP: 93 (one start)

Rd 4 – 47th — Quinn Everett, DE, Mount Allison
WBB GP:  0

Rd 5 – 56th – Eisho Aram, LB, McMaster
WBB GP:  0

2014 class total WBB games played: 284. Starts: 71

2015

Rd 1 – 2nd – Sukh Chungh, OL, Calgary
WBB GP: 69 (69 starts)

Rd 2 – 11th – Addison Richards, WR, Regina
WBB GP:  17

Rd 2 – 15th – Brendan Morgan, DB, Queen’s
WBB GP:  29

Rd 4 – 33rd – Chris Normand, RB, Laval
WBB GP:  40

Rd 5 – 38th – Ettore Lattanzio, DL, Ottawa
WBB GP:  0

Rd 6 – 46th – Justin Warden, LB, Bishop’s
WBB GP:  1

Supplemental – Garrett Waggoner, DB, Dartmouth
WBB GP:  36

2014 class total WBB games played: 192. Starts: 69

2016

Rd 1 – Forfeited (2015 supplemental – Garrett Waggoner)

Rd 2 – 9th – Trent Corney, DL, Virginia
WBB GP:  37

Rd 2 – 10th Michael Couture, OL, Simon Fraser
WBB GP: 86 (34 starts)

Rd 3 – 19th – Taylor Loffler, DB, UBC
WBB GP: 50 (46 starts)

Rd 4 – 28th – Shayne Gauthier, LB, Laval
WBB GP: 63

Rd 5 – 37th – Zach Intzandt, OL, McMaster
WBB GP: 0

Rd 6 – 46th – Rupert Butcher, DL Western
WBB GP:  0

Rd 7 – 55th – Alex Vitt, WR, Manitoba
WBB GP:  0

Rd 8 – 63rd – Frank Berroa, LB, Windsor
WBB GP:  0

2016 class: WBB games played: 236. Starts: 80.

2017

Rd 1 – 1st – Faith Ekakitie, DT, Iowa
WBB GP: 14

Rd 1 – 8th – Geoff Gray, OL, Manitoba
WBB GP: 19 (12 starts)

Rd 2 – 15th – Qadr Spooner, OL, McGill
WBB GP: 1

Rd 1 – 23rd — Abubakar Conteh, DB, Grambling State
WBB GP: 14

Rd 4 – 34th — Felix Menard-Briere, K, Montreal
WBB GP: 0

Rd 6 – 50th — Ian Marouf, DL, Guelph
WBB GP: 0

Rd 7 — 59th — Brendan Thera-Plamondon, WR, Calgary
WBB GP: 0

Rd 8  – 68th — Tylor Henry, WR, Alberta
WBB GP: 0

2017 class: WBB games played: 48. Starts: 12.

2018

Rd 2  – 12th — Rashaun Simonise, WR, Calgary
WBB GP: 18

Rd 3  – 26th — Daniel Petermann  WR McMaster
WBB GP: 36 (three starts)

Rd 4  – 33rd — Arnaud Gendron-Dumouchel, OL, Montreal
WBB GP: 0

Rd 5 – 41st — Tyrone Pierre, WR, Laval
WBB GP: 0

Rd 6 – 49th — Matthew Ouellet De Carlo, OL, Bishop’s
WBB GP: 0

Rd 7 – 58th — Jake Firlotte, DB, Queen’s
WBB GP: 0

Rd 8  – 67 — Ben Koczwara, OL, Waterloo
WBB GP: 0

2018 class: WBB games played: 53. Starts: 3

2019

Rd 1 – 4 — Drew Desjarlais, OL, Windsor
WBB GP: 32 (24 starts)

Rd 1 – 5 — Jonathan Kongbo, DE, Tennessee
WBB GP: 26 (two starts)

Rd 2 – 14 — Brady Oliveira, RB, North Dakota
WBB GP: 15 (six starts)

Rd 3 – 25 — Connor Griffiths, DL, UBC
WBB GP: 0

Rd 4 – 34 — Tui Eli, OL, Hawaii
WBB GP: 19 (four starts)

Rd 5 – 43 — Malik Richards, WR, Mount Allison
WBB GP: 0

Rd 6 – 52 — Tariq LaChance, DL, Manitoba
WBB GP: 0

Rd 7 – 61 — Nick Hallett, DB, Toronto
WBB GP: 32

Rd 8 – 70 — Kerfalla Exumé, DB, Montreal
WBB GP: 18

2019 class: WBB games played: 142. Starts: 36

2020

Rd 2 – 18th — Noah Hallett, DB, McMaster
WBB GP: 9 (one start)

Rd 4 – 37th — Brendan O’Leary-Orange, WR, Nevada
WBB GP: 3

Rd 5 – 39th — Marc Liegghio, K, Western
WBB GP: 14

Rd 5 – 46th — Nicholas Dheilly, DL, Saskatchewan
WBB GP: 4

Rd 6 – 55th — Kyle Rodger, LB, Ottawa
WBB GP: 0

Rd 7 – 64th — Tanner Cadwallader, LB, Wilfrid Laurier
WBB GP: 14

Rd 8– 73rd — Bleska Kambamba, DB, Western
WBB GP: 0

2020 class: WBB games played: 44. Starts: 1

2021

Rd 1 – 3rd – Liam Dobson, OL, Maine
WBB GP: 0

Rd 2 – 16th – Redha Kramdi, DB, Montreal
WBB GP: 7

Rd 3 – 21st – Patrice Rene, DB, North Carolina
WBB GP: 0

Rd 4 – 34th – Robbie Lowes, LB, Regina
WBB GP: 2

Rd 5 – 39th – Kyle Borsa, RB, Regina
WBB GP: 0

Rd 6 – 48th – Shae Weekes, DB, Manitoba
WBB GP: 0

2021 class: WBB games played: 9. Starts: 0

3. ICYMI: Earlier this week the Blue Bombers were honoured at the Sport Manitoba Night of Champions with the ‘Manitoba Hydro Open Team of the Year Award.’ Slotback Nic Demski represented the club at the soiree and recorded this message which was played during the event.

 

For those interested, a full list of the Sport Manitoba award winners can be found here.

4. And, finally, as training camp nears – rookie camp opens May 11thwith main camp starting on the 15th – we’re getting very close to the start of a new season. For those excited about that and wishing to re-live a bit of 2021, don’t forget this Sunday’s Grey Cup Championship Celebration at Club Regent.

 





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