As the CFL draft approaches, the best way to get a sense of what any given team might do is to assess their current Canadian talent. With that in mind, in the days leading up to the May 3rd talent grab, we’re doing a deep dive on the state of each squad’s Canuck components that examine their starters, backups, special teams depth while also taking a look at what they need.
Here is the piece on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Up next: the Ottawa Redblacks.
Where they’ll likely play their seven Canadian starters:
Offensive line (4): centre Jon Gott, guards Nolan MacMillan and Alex Mateas, tackle Jason Lauzon-Séguin.
Receiver (2): Brad Sinopoli and Julian Feoli-Guidino
Safety (1): Antoine Pruneau.
Backups and other possible starters: Defensive linemen Ettore Lattanzio, Daryl Waud and Michael Klassen, offensive lineman Evan Johnson, running back Brendan Gillanders, defensive end Connor Williams, safety Andrew Lue, linebacker Tanner Doll.
Analysis: Despite a very solid core of Canadian offensive linemen, losing Zack Evans in free agency was a major blow to the Redblacks’ defensive line although it was somewhat offset by the signings of Waud and Klassen. Sticking to the defensive side of the ball, adding quality depth behind Antoine Pruneau is long overdue. Although Pruneau has proven to be extremely durable, a lack of depth behind him has lead to ratio juggling when he’s been forced to take plays off. 2016 second round pick Mikael Charland was drafted to address this issue but ultimately played just three games in a Redblacks’ uniform before being released.
Sinopoli was having another excellent season before suffering an injury late in 2017 and Feoli-Guidino was a key pick up in free agency.
Even though William Powell and Mossis Madu provide the Redblacks with a strong one-two punch at the running back position, Ottawa also has three capable Canadian running backs on the roster in Brenan Gillanders, Wayne Moore and Hec Crighton winner Ed Ilnicki.
Needs and possible draft targets: Before we look at the positions the Ottawa Redblacks may shore up during the upcoming May 3rd draft, let’s first take a look at their drafting history. By examining GM Marcel Desjardins’ choices from the past few seasons, we can see some clear trends.
Here’s a breakdown of the 36 players selected by the Redblacks since 2013.
The first thing that immediately jumps out is that exactly half of the franchise’s draft picks have been linemen. That should come as no surprise as every good CFL general manager knows the importance of stockpiling players capable of playing in the trenches.
It’s clear that Desjardins puts a premium on offensive linemen, using nearly every first round pick he’s ever owned to take one (the exception being Pruneau). It’s a strategy that’s worked out quite well for the Redblacks, with MacMillan, Mateas and Lauzon-Séguin all developing into reliable starters. 2017 first round pick Johnson has also looked good when called upon.
With Ottawa likely to start four Canadians along the offensive line, it’s possible Desjardins again uses Ottawa’s first-round pick to add another big body to protect quarterback Trevor Harris. Peter Godber, Trey Rutherford, David Knevel and Mark Korte would all fit the bill.
Another interesting takeaway is that Desjardins has always selected a defensive lineman in the third round. While it hasn’t always worked out (neither Eli Ankou or Mehdi Abdesmad have played a down in the CFL), Desjardins clearly isn’t afraid to use a mid-round pick on an NFL bound prospect. Amassing more talent for defensive line coach Leroy Blugh to mould is never a bad idea and Bo Banner, Julien Laurent or Mathieu Breton would all be able to immediately contribute on special teams as they developed as rotational players.
If the Redblacks were ever to consider starting a Canadian at running back, adding depth with a player like Atlee Simon, Christopher Amoah or former Gee-Gee Bryce Vieira would make sense.
Of the four receivers drafted by Desjardins, only one (Austen Hartley), is still on the roster. If the Redblacks intend to start two Canadians in their receiving corps (Sinopoli and Feoli-Gudino), they’ll need to add depth. Mark Chapman, Rashaun Simonise, Daniel Petermann, Marco Dubois and Regis Cibasu are all possibilities.
The final word: Look for Desjardins to continue to draft from the trenches out. He’s also not afraid to “reach” for a player he likes, as exemplified last year when he took fullback Anthony Gosselin and long snapper Louis-Philippe Bourassa in the second and fourth rounds respectively. With seven picks in the draft, the Redblacks have the flexibility of gambling on prospects with NFL interest while still supplementing their national depth at key positions.