Lions think they pushed right CFL draft buttons this time

At first glance, there’s a sameness about the players selected by the B.C. Lions in the latest instalment of the CFL’s Canadian college draft. After all, these guys have gone down a similar path before.

A top pick who is about to get on a plane Thursday in an attempt to make an NFL roster. Another offensive lineman who has been hobbled in the past with knee problems. Sound familiar?

It does, but there’s something different about the way general manager Wally Buono went about flushing out his training camp roster Tuesday to lead even some of their most disloyal followers to think there’s hope for the future.

Fifth-overall pick Charles Vaillancourt (above) could still land a contract this week with the Oakland Raiders at their mini-camp, but the fact he didn’t land a deal with the New York Giants might lead one to think the Lions will see their top prize, which you couldn’t say about all of their picks last year.

Dillon Guy, one of the more intriguing available picks who was finally snapped up by the Lions in the fourth round, may not fully recover from the severe knee and leg problems which derailed his college career at the University of Buffalo, as outlined on 3DownNation.com previously.

But the Lions at least addressed their most compelling needs in the middle of the offensive line, and by the end of the night, had at least targeted a few other spots where help wouldn’t hurt either, in the defensive secondary, receiver and fullback.

No Ese Mrabure-Ajufo or Brett Boyko-like picks this time. Buono would like to think he’s regained his touch.

“There were risks associated with this draft, just as there was last year. The players we took last year were for the right reasons,” said Buono, who had Guy put through a thorough examination by Dr. Bob MacCormack when he visited the Lions 10 days ago. “I think the players we selected this time will be for the right reasons too.”

Vaillancourt could well have been dismissive of the Lions, especially with an NFL shot in his immediate sights, but was quite the contrary.

“I wanted to get drafted by the team that will give me the best opportunity and if the B.C. Lions drafted me its because they know I can be an impact player,” said Vaillancourt, who’ll have his Laval position coach, Carl Brennan, at Lions training camp later this month as a guest coach to ease the transition. “For sure, I’m not mad or disappointed that I’m not closer to home.”

At the very least, if both players make it to Kamloops, the Lions will have at least one player to push Tim O’Neill down the road at centre and other to contest a guard spot, and the beauty for B.C. is that Buono didn’t have to know who’ll be where, such is their new-found flexibility.

As the Lions see things though, it even gets better. Second-round pick Anthony Thompson, according to Buono, not only will get a serious look at safety but also at wide-side cornerback. A UCLA transfer, the 26-year-old Thompson ran a 4.39 at his pro day which left the Lions starry-eyed.

Their two receiver picks, Brett Blaszko of Calgary and Shaquille Johnson of Western, will give B.C. some much-needed depth at a position which has been short on Canadian production the last few years. Buono believes at least four of his picks will earn roster spots this year, and for the Lions that’s a lot based on the recent past.

There were still a couple of head-scratching moments, especially when the Lions traded away the 30th overall pick only to require it again moments later, which gave them eight choices overall.

That not only cost them a chance to take UBC linebacker Terrell Davis and kicker Quinn Van Glyswyk, who was B.C.’s potential fourth-round pick before he was snapped up by Saskatchewan, one of five Thunderbirds to benefit from their Vanier Cup success and earn draft selections Tuesday.

But at least Buono didn’t have anyone wondering if he was about to pick the next O.J. Atogwe this time. On that score, this draft was much different, and possibly better.

CFL DRAFT BOARD

First round: 1. Saskatchewan, Josiah St. John, OL, Oklahoma; 2. Montreal, Philippe Gagnon, OL, Laval; 3. Hamilton, from B.C. Brandon Revenberg, OL, Grand Valley State; 4. Toronto, Brian Jones, WR, Acadia; 5. B.C., from Hamilton, Charles Vaillancourt, OL, Laval 6. Calgary. Alex Singleton, LB, Montana State; 7. Ottawa, Jason Lauzon-Seguin, OL, Laval; 8. Edmonton, Tevaun Smith, WR, Iowa

Lions picks: 5. Vaillancourt, 12. Anthony Thompson, DB, Southern Illinois; 23. Brett Blaszko, WR, Calgary; 30. Dillon Guy, OL, Buffalo; 32. Shaquille Johnson, WR, Western Ontario; 48. Brennan Van Nistelrooy, DB, Alberta; 57.  Nathan O’Halloran, RB, Windsor; 65. Boyd Richardson, DL, UBC

Trades: B.C. acquired fifth and 23rd picks from Hamilton for third and 30th picks; reacquired 30th pick and acquired 32nd pick from Hamilton for 21st pick;

B.C.-bred picks: 10. Winnipeg, Michael Corture, OL, SFU; 19. Taylor Loffler, S, UBC; 21. Hamilton, from B.C.: Terrell Davis, LB, UBC 26. Saskatchewan, Quinn Van Glyswyk, K, UBC; 34. Ottawa, Kevin Jackson, ST, Richmond/Sam Houston State;

UBC/SFU selections: 10. Winnipeg, Corture, OL, SFU; 19. Winnipeg, Loffler; 21. Hamilton, Davis; 26. Van Glyswyk, UBC; 59. Hamilton, Mitchell Barnett, LB, UBC.

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.
Lowell Ullrich
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Lowell Ullrich
About Lowell Ullrich (154 Articles)
Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.