Kyle Walters is a popular person these days.
The Winnipeg GM has the No. 2 pick in the CFL draft Tuesday night and three selections in the top 15 of a very deep talent pool. That’s good news as Walters retools a Blue Bombers squad that missed the playoffs with a 7-11 record last year.
But it also means spending a lot of time on the phone with rival GMs looking to deal in order to move up in the draft.
“Things are hectic, the phone has have been ringing off the hook,” Walters said Monday. “There’s a big difference between making a trade offer and actually making a trade.
“There’s a lot of offers and talk right now but nothing real serious.”
The Ottawa Redblacks once again have the No. 1 pick but last year GM Marcel Desjardins dealt it and the rights to centre Marwan Hage to Calgary (which took Laval centre Pierre Lavertu at No. 1) for all-star centre Jon Gott. Desjardins also sent quarterback Kevin Glenn to the B.C. Lions for the No. 5 spot, then made another deal with Montreal to move up to No. 4 to take Montreal Carabins defensive back Antoine Pruneau.
Desjardins has said he anticipates holding on to the No. 1 pick Tuesday – to likely take an offensive lineman – with Walters expecting to follow. The Toronto Argonauts hold the No. 3 pick, followed by the Montreal Alouettes, B.C. Lions, Saskatchewan Roughriders, Edmonton Eskimos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats before the Grey Cup-champion Calgary Stampeders round out the opening round.
TSN will broadcast the first two rounds live, starting at 8 p.m. ET.
Vancouver’s Christian Covington, a defensive end at Rice, sits atop the CFL scouting bureau’s final top-20 prospects list. But Covington – the son of Canadian Football Hall of Famer Grover Covington – is expected to fall from the first round after being drafted by the NFL’s Houston Texans.
So too are second-ranked prospect Brett Boyko, a Saskatoon-born offensive lineman from UNLV, and Yale running back Tyler Varga of Kitchener, Ont., who finished at No. 4. They signed contracts with signing bonuses with the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts, respectively, as free agents.
Even with Covington, Boyko and Varga expected to fall, Barker said there’s no shortage of blue-chip prospects for clubs to consider with their early picks.
“I think the strength is the depth of it,” he said. “I think you’re going to see more guys in rounds two through four make teams this year.
“I’ve taken more calls this year because I think more people understand that. Usually we’re drafting lower so we don’t get calls but at No. 3 you’re getting one the upper echelon players and we’re happy to be there. It’s going to take a lot to get us to move.”
A look at the remaining top-10 prospects bears that out with four offensive linemen (UConn’s Alex Mateas, Laval’s Danny Groulx and Calgary Dinos Sukh Chungh and Sean McEwen), a defensive lineman (Western’s Daryl Waud) and two receivers (Simon Fraser’s Lemar Durant and Manitoba’s Nic Demski).
“Generally the draft is judged on the depth of the offensive linemen and there’s a good group this year,” Walters said. “There’s four, five, six offensive linemen that are projected to go pretty high and that sort of starts the draft.
“Positionally across the board everybody’s going to find two or three guys at each position they like who’ll help their team.”
Another interesting prospect is quarterback Brandon Bridge. The native of Mississauga, Ont., attended the Dallas Cowboys mini-camp last weekend as an undrafted free agent but didn’t sign an NFL contract.
The six-foot-four, 220-pound Bridge finished ranked No. 19 by the CFL scouting bureau after passing for 1,927 yards with 15 TDs and eight interceptions at South Alabama last season.
Barker has also never been afraid to pull off a draft-day trade. Last year, he made a deal with Edmonton to move up to No. 3 and take Manitoba running back Anthony Coombs.
If Barker makes a trade Tuesday it will likely be to move down in the draft. But it won’t change his approach.
“We’ve always been get the best guy available and the best guy for our team.,” Barker said. “When you have multiple player trades, to me the person who gets the best player wins the trade.
“It’s the same thing in the draft. If you have a chance to get the best player you take it.”