Breaking down the Redblacks’ draft: Desjardins sticks to his script

Heading into this year’s draft, the Ottawa Redblacks lacked Canadian depth on both sides the trenches, their receiving corps, their defensive line and their secondary. GM Marcel Desjardins wasted no time plugging holes, using his first four picks to shore up most of those positional groups.

If drafting can be compared to ordering a box of donuts at Timmy’s, Desjardins showed us last night that even though he likes an assorted mix (selecting a receiver, a defensive lineman, a linebacker, a defensive back), he still prefers his favourite (taking three offensive linemen).

Here’s a closer look at each of the newest the Redblacks:

First round (4th overall): OL Mark Korte, University of Alberta

For the fourth straight year, the Redblacks used their first-round pick to snag an offensive lineman. The 6-foot-2, 293-pound Korte was an All-Canadian at tackle for the Golden Bears in 2017 and an integral part of an offensive line that paved the way for Hec Crighton winner (and current Redblack) Ed Ilnicki to rush for over 1,400 yards. As a result of his fine play, Korte was named Canada West’s Most Outstanding Lineman.

Widely acknowledged as the most athletic lineman in this year’s draft, Korte fits a familiar mould in the nation’s capital. Much like Nolan MacMillan and Jason Lauzon-Séguin, Korte can play both tackle and guard. With no need to rush him onto the field, Korte instantly provides depth behind Lauzon-Séguin (who likely starts the season at right tackle) as he develops.

Although Korte has pending mini-camp invites from the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets, given Ottawa’s glut of National talent on the offensive line, the team can afford to be patient.

Second round (13th overall): WR Marco Dubois, Laval

Some will say taking the 6-foot-4, 217-pound was a reach, but Desjardins has never hesitated in taking a guy he’s high on. Much of the same “reaching” criticism was levelled last time Ottawa took a receiver in the second round, and yet Jake Harty turned out just fine.

In fact, Dubois fills a void left by Harty’s departure. With the Redblacks likely to start both Brad Sinopoli and Julian Feoli-Guidino at receiver, depth was sorely needed.

Furthermore, he checks off a number of boxes. Big frame? Check. Strong? Check. Tested well at the Combine? Check. Soft hands and a massive arm span? Check. Special teams ace? Check. Bilingual? Check.

The last two boxes are especially interesting to the Redblacks. Arguably the best special teams player in the draft, the former Laval special teams captain will step in immediately and contribute on all of Bob Dyce’s units as he hones his craft as a wide receiver.

As for him being French, bilingualism always plays well in the Ottawa market, specifically among the significant French speaking portion of Redblacks’ season ticket holder base. Plus he’ll fit in seamlessly off the field, joining numerous other French Canadian players in Ottawa’s “French Mafia”.

Third round (22nd overall): OL Andrew Pickett, Guelph

Even if Desjardins had plans to shore up another position with this pick, there was simply no way to look past the fact that Pickett was still on the board. Many mock drafts had the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder, slotted as a top 15 pick.

A two-time OUA all-star, Pickett provides immediate depth to the interior of Ottawa’s offensive line. Moreover, he’s not just a short-term contingency plan. Having a solid prospect at guard locked into a three-year rookie deal could be crucial next off-season, with the contracts of both Nolan MacMillan and Jon Gott set to expire. If either (or both) walk in free agency, Pickett (or 2017 first round pick Evan Johnson) could step into a starting role.

Fourth round (29th pick) : DE Kene Onyeka, Carleton

With the pick acquired in the Odell Willis trade, the Redblacks selected their first Carleton prospect. At 6-foot-2, 244 pounds, Onyeka is an explosive pass rusher capable of hunting down opposing QBs.

The 2017 season was Onyeka’s best to date; he compiled 10.5 sacks (tied for most in the country), 46 tackles (32 solo, 14 assisted), four forced fumbles and two knockdowns. He was also named an OUA All-Star, an All-Canadian and was named the OUA’s Lineman of the Year.

Although widely acknowledged to be among the draft’s best pure pass rushers, Onyeka slipped due to a weak Combine performance and because some around the league question his commitment to football. An engineering student, Onyeka has made clear his desire to finish his degree. That said, perhaps this post-Combine quote demonstrates why Desjardins believes that the Brampton native will indeed suit up for the Redblacks.

“I feel like going into this a lot of the questions were, because of the whole engineering thing, whether I was serious — whether I really want to play football,” he said. “I hope that the way I played, the way I carried myself — even though my personality is a little nonchalant — I just hope coaches can see past that and understand that I care.”

Even if Onyeka does return to Carleton for his final year before joining the Redblacks, he should continue to develop as a football player. In addition to having a final year of eligibility for the Ravens, he’s also been invited to play at the Football Canada Cup in Calgary this July.

Fourth round (30th pick) : LB Mickael Cote, Concordia

A five year player in university, the 6-foot-3, 225 pound Cote will earn a roster spot based on his special teams play. At the Combine Cote flashed good speed but lacked strength, putting up the second fewest reps on the bench press (11) among linebackers.

Fifth round (No pick):

Traded to Calgary for QB Drew Tate last off-season. Tate has since been released.

Sixth round (No pick):

Forfeited when Ottawa selected WR Austin Reuland last July in the CFL Supplemental Draft. Reuland was released last week.

Seventh round (55th overall): DB Justin Howell, Carleton

Through 23 games with the Ravens, the 5-foot-10, 199 pound Howell has proven himself to be a reliable special teamer and cover man in the secondary. Howell tested well at the CFL combined, running a respectable 4.69 in the 40 yard dash and putting up 18 reps on the bench press.

A strong open field tackler (he had 30 tackles in 2017), R-Nation can expect to see Howell contribute immediately on special teams. Perhaps even more importantly, Howell addresses a massive need by providing depth behind Antoine Pruneau.

If Howell fails to impress in training camp, he could return to the Ravens for another season, as he still has one year of university eligibility remaining.

Eighth round (46th pick): OL Jacob Czaja, St. Francis Xavier

Tipping the scales at 6-foot-3, 289 pounds, Czaja has played 34 games for the X-Men since joining team. A physical blocker known for playing to the whistle, Czaja’s mean streak should serve him well at the next level. Czaja is a work in progress but provides the Redblacks with another big body capable of playing guard down the road.

Like Onyeka and Howell, Czaja has one year of USports eligibility remaining.

Santino Filoso

Santino Filoso

Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)
Santino Filoso
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Santino Filoso
About Santino Filoso (225 Articles)
Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)

9 Comments on Breaking down the Redblacks’ draft: Desjardins sticks to his script

  1. Sheltz // May 5, 2018 at 1:56 pm //

    Johnson was drafted in 2017 not 2016.

  2. RANDALL HOOK // May 5, 2018 at 2:04 pm //

    Okay the draft is over and they did a fairly good job. However, now it’s time for the Gen. manager to get his act together and start seriously thinking about the future quarterback Mr. Davis I believe he has the makings of a starter in CFL but Trevor Harris as good as he can be is also very injury prone and they cannot put all their eggs in his basket the other two guys they have on the roster were required to long to truly develop. Therefore I think the red black management and start seriously thinking of adding to their roster at quarterback I know one time they still had the rights to David FALES but who knows if and when he will ever come to the CFL. Might I suggest they look in their name such as Ryan MASSIB, JERROD Johnson, Thad Lewis to name a few. When you’re starting quarterback is so fragile you cannot afford not to have a fallback position!

  3. Dennis Prouse // May 5, 2018 at 4:15 pm //

    MD should have traded up to get Jackson Bennett at the top of the second round. Giving Hamilton an asset to swap spots would have been worth it, as the gap between a stud like Bennett and the dude we drafted instead is massive. Bennett is going to be a ten year CFL starter – guys like that do not grow on trees…

    • Bennett and this guy will be “special teams” players, neither as starters.

  4. RalphInTheCreek // May 5, 2018 at 4:55 pm //

    Missing out on Bennett for Ottawa was a big.

  5. MJ Bandit // May 5, 2018 at 5:48 pm //

    Desjardins has an ultra limited view of how Canadian talent fits on his roster – sticking to standard CFL script of Canadians playing at certain positions, and Americans only at other positions.

    While they have done a very good job of drafting and developing some very good Canadian O-linemen (and added a few more this draft); Desjardins has shown he will ignore other positions in the draft in favor of drafting back-up fullbacks, long-snappers or special teamers only (using an early pick on this Dubois guy – special teamer only who barely played receiver for Laval – shows how myopic and lacking in drafting finesse Desjardins is.

    He passed on drafting Boateng and 2 very good MLB prospects (Mulumba & Jordan Herdman) last year, and this year could have drafted a good receiver or DB or LB prospect, but instead used an early pick on a special teams only player. Just not good enough and ultra limited, IMO – done some good things with the draft but could have done way better.

    • Desjardins knows how to spot talent.
      It is ridiculous to say that Ottawa ignores “other positions”, Ottawa will be the only team in the CFL with TWO starting Canadian receivers – Sinopoli and Guidino.
      Desjardins is smart enough to know that the only possible starters in the draft will be O-linemen, why take a chance at other positions when we know by past history that draft picks end up as special teams or backups.
      You build a team through FA, NFL draft guys that didn’t get selected and NFL cuts.

  6. rogieshan // May 5, 2018 at 10:07 pm //

    Thought the GM could have traded down in the 2nd round and picked up an extra pick if he was targeting Bennett and had to “settle” for Dubois, but getting Pickett at 22 was a huge bonus.

  7. bill dehoog // May 6, 2018 at 8:08 am //

    overall I think Marcel picked up who he wanted and needed.
    Too bad Bennett or a DL wasn’t picked earlier but you can’t have everything
    All indications are that there will be some good additions from the US tryouts
    I am sure we will be in the mix for top spot

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