Bombers Must Trade Down If Ottawa Picks Groulx


I’ve been writing about how the Bombers should invest the second overall pick in the upcoming CFL draft for months now. To quickly summarize my analysis, it is as follows: if there is a legitimate CFL tackle in the draft who fails to attract serious NFL attention, the Bombers should select him regardless of who else is on the board. Game tape led me to believe that Laval’s Danny Groulx could very well be that guy, something that he affirmed with an impressive showing at the CFL combine. The issue is, as good as Groulx’s combine showing was, it might have been too good.

The Ottawa RedBlacks hold the first overall selection in the draft and have long been expected to use the pick on UConn centre Alex Mateas. It’s a match that makes sense on every level. Ottawa needs an interior offensive lineman badly (preferably one who can start right away), and Mateas is an Ottawa native. Picking hometown kids is a bonus for any CFL team, especially one still looking to connect with a new market of fans.

As time’s gone on, however, more and more whispers have arisen speculating that Ottawa will pass on Mateas due to the level of NFL interest he’s received. And if Ottawa passes on Mateas, there’s no way they’re passing on Groulx.

While the draft landscape will shift during and after the NFL draft (April 30–May 2), the Bombers have to be prepared for every possibility. If Groulx’s on the board, you take him. If he’s not, you have to have a plan B. And if the Bombers are forced into such a scenario, I believe the best course of action for the Bomber brain trust to trade away the second overall selection of the 2015 CFL draft. (*ducks to avoid garbage being thrown violently in my direction*)

Yes, that’s right, a trade. I said it. Trade the pick away. Now let me explain why.

As much as any of the top prospects available in the draft would be able to help the Bombers, no player could help the team more than local boy Nic Demski. The club is desperate to add an impact national receiver. Starters Rory Kohlert and Julian Feoli-Gudino are solid young contributors but neither are game changers. As for the club’s back-ups Kris Bastien, Ezra Millington, and Jordan Reaves, they have zero CFL receptions among them. You see where I’m going with this?

Demski could make an immediate contribution to the team as a rookie both on special teams and in a rotational role at receiver. And after that, who knows? The sky’s the limit. By all accounts, Demski would be the best candidate the Bombers have had in twenty years to put up a 1,000-yard receiving season as a national player.

With all this in mind, many of you are probably wondering: if this kid is going to be so great, why not just pick him second overall? My answer is simple: because you don’t have to. I believe that, as the draft currently stands, Demski will fall to at least eighth overall. To prove it to you, let’s take a look at the player rankings for the upcoming draft and the needs of CFL teams around the league.

Rice’s Christian Covington, Yale’s Tyler Varga, UConn’s Alex Mateas, and UNLV’s Brett Boyko can immediately be taken out of consideration due to inevitable NFL opportunities they’ll receive (with that said, Mateas and Boyko could still very well sneak into the first round of the draft depending on what kind of NFL looks they get; for the purposes of this article, however, let’s assume they won’t be selected in the top nine picks).

Calgary’s Sukh Chungh is a surefire top five pick. He will almost certainly go third overall to Toronto (if available). If not, BC will select him at fifth overall. Otherwise, the Lions will select Calgary’s Sean McEwen. Montreal is said to covet SFU’s Lemar Durant at fourth overall, while I expect Saskatchewan to select to Regina’s Tevaughn Campbell or Richmond’s Jacob Ruby at sixth overall. This analysis still doesn’t account for Western’s Daryl Waud or Wilfrid Laurier’s Chris Ackie, the former of whom is expected to be a top-five pick and the latter of whom has made a huge push since a terrific combine performance.

As you can see, there isn’t a lot of room to be had for Demski at the very top of the draft.

The reason I identify the eighth spot as the one at which I’d expect Demski to be picked is Hamilton’s desperation to build depth at national receiver. Andy Fantuz isn’t getting any younger, while free agent signee Spencer Watt recently tore his Achilles, an injury that will keep him out for the entire 2015 campaign. This means that in order for the Ti-Cats to preserve their ratio (2 OL, 2 REC, 1 DT, 2 DB) former Hamilton Hurricane Matt Coates or 2012 Bomber draftee Giovanni Aprile would be thrust into a starting role in week one. That simply won’t work.

This means the Ti-Cats will almost certainly draft Nic Demski at eighth overall, meaning that if the Bombers are to trade down (as I believe they should) it makes the most sense for them to target the seventh overall selection currently held by the Edmonton Eskimos. Fortunately for both Winnipeg and Edmonton, I believe this could be a match made in heaven.

The Eskimos must be desperate to acquire an impact national offensive lineman. Simeon Rottier is the lone standout of a group of Canadian hogs that I wouldn’t hesitate to call patently mediocre. Free agent signee Greg Wojt falls under the same category as Winnipeg’s Patrick Neufeld – talented but never healthy. Justin Sorensen, Alexander Krausnick-Groh, Andrew Jones, Steve Myddelton, and Adam Baboulas are journeymen for a reason. Brian Ramsay, an average starter at his peak, is now thirty-five years of age. Chris Mercer, the lone remaining national offensive lineman on the Eskimos’ roster, is a major project. Adding a blue chip prospect like Sukh Chungh would be a phenomenal pick-up for the green and gold.

Enter Winnipeg, a team that needs to move down in the draft, pick-up an impact defensive tackle to compliment Jake Thomas, get back into the third round of the draft, and add local to a roster that currently features just one Manitoba-born player (here’s lookin’ at you, Jordan Reaves).

With this in mind, here’s the trade I’d propose to both teams.

To Edmonton:

1st round pick, 2015 draft (2)

To Winnipeg:

1st round pick, 2015 draft (7)

3rd round pick, 2015 draft (25)

DT Don Oramasionwu

This trade would work so well for both sides. The Eskimos would move up to get a tremendous young guard they’d never have gotten at seventh overall. The Bombers get a homegrown player in Donny-O, a guy they never should have let leave in 2012, who could rotate with fourth-year man Jake Thomas or start in place of an injured Zach Anderson or Bryant Turner. Winnipeg would also get back into the third round of a monumentally deep draft after trading away their original pick through moves with Hamilton and Saskatchewan. And, of course, the blue and gold would be able to select the man Bomber fans would love to be cheering for come June, former Bison receiver Nic Demski.

The best part of this trade is that, at the end of the day, neither team is giving up a whole lot. The Eskimos already have a great rotation of defensive tackles between Eddie Steele and Gregory Alexandre, while giving up the seventh and twenty-fifth picks in the draft is a no-brainer to acquire the second overall selection. Winnipeg, meanwhile, loses nothing – they get the player they most highly coveted without having to pick him second overall.

Now, the obvious issue with this trade is the possibility of draft day taking an unexpected turn. What if Montreal takes Demski at fourth overall out of the blue? Or what if Hamilton trades up to nab the U of M product at fifth or sixth? In such an instance, the Bombers would still be left with great options at seventh overall – almost certainly one of Durant or Waud, for instance – two players who would still be great bargains at seventh overall.

So while the Bombers have already come out and said they don’t expect to trade the second overall pick, I believe it’s the best thing they could do should Danny Groulx be selected by Ottawa first overall. Picking Demski too high leaves value on the table, while the risk of missing on Demski is far outweighed by the reward of whatever blue chip prospect falls out of the top-six selections of the draft.

Check back to Blue Bomber Talk following the NFL draft for a long-form CFL mock draft.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk


John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.