The CFL draft is often one of the most exciting days of the year and yesterday didn’t disappoint. With the draft being one of the deepest in years, there were plenty of impact players available for GMs to add. Let’s take a look at how Ottawa’s draft played out.
First round: OL Alex Mateas (University of Connecticut)
On Tuesday night, the Ottawa Redblacks held the 1st overall selection for the second year in a row. This time around they didn’t trade it but instead used it to select Ottawa native Alex Mateas, a pick which makes sense on many levels. In a neat twist, the Redblacks had Mateas with them at TD Place and as the draft is held via a conference call, Mateas announced his own pick.
What's cooler than being selected first overall in the #CFLDraft?
How about announcing it yourself!https://t.co/lhXF2qxHXV
— Ottawa REDBLACKS (@REDBLACKS) May 13, 2015
The 6’4”, 309 pound Mateas was a three year starter (29 games) for the University of Connecticut. Though normally a centre, with his blend of athleticism and size, Mateas could shift to guard in the CFL. In addition to what he brings on the field, Mateas gives the Redblacks something off it, as a local guy who played high-school football for Merivale and later with the Ottawa Sooners.
GM Marcel Desjardins explained the team’s thought process saying:
“When we factored everything in — ability, intelligence, level of competition, all those factors and the fact it’s a player who wanted to be here, wanted to be a Redblack, it was really a no-brainer. Our decisions are based strictly on football but when it comes to being able to add that community feel to everything, it’s a bonus. He’s got a lot family here.”
Mateas fills an immediate need for Ottawa, shoring up the interior of their offensive line and has already signed a 3 year contract with the team, which should allay fears that he heads to the NFL, which is especially important considering the rumours that Mateas had been invited to the upcoming New Orleans Saints’ mini-camp.
“It’s a great honour to be drafted number one in my home city. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I’m just happy. I’m home and I’m ready to play some football.”
It’ll be interesting so see how the Redblacks decided to use Mateas, as Jon Gott was an all-star at guard when he played with the Calgary Stampeders, and current guards J’Michael Deane and Nolan MacMillan are capable of playing tackle.
Another thing worth noting is that there are rumours the Redblacks were leaning towards taking Sean McEwen (University of Calgary) first overall, but ultimately decided against him when he began informing teams that he was considering going back to school to finish his degree.
Second round: WR Jake Harty (University of Calgary)
With the #10 overall pick, the Redblacks shocked many when they selected the 6’2″, 207 pound, Calgary native Jake Harty. Last season with the Dinos, Harty made 50 catches for 711 yards and 3 TDs, and has the most receptions over the last three seasons in the CIS. In addition to being highly productive, Harty’s versatility is an asset that should allow him to be a good special-teamer who can backup multiple positions. Yet, while Harty was highly productive, this pick is puzzling on a number of levels.
1) Guys like DL Daryl Waud,OL Brett Boyko, DB Tevaughn Campbell, LB Byron Archambault,WR Lemar Durant and RB Tyler Varga were available.
2) Considering that during free agency the Redblacks added Maurice Price, Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli, Ernest Jackson and Chris Williams to a WR core that already includes Khalil Paden, Matt Carter, Jamill Smith, Scott Macdonell (last year’s 2nd round pick) and Marcus Henry, WR did not seem to be a position of need.
3) If the Redblacks were determined to take a WR, Harty seems like a bit of a stretch, considering both Lemar Durant and Addison Richards were ranked ahead of him. If compared to the Nationals Ottawa already has at WR, is Harty that much of an upgrade over Sinopoli, Macdonell or Carter?
4) As a Calgary native who played for the Dinos, the risk of Harty bolting back to his hometown at the first opportunity he gets cannot be overlooked.
Assistant GM Brock Sunderland doesn’t seem worried about these things, saying:
“Harty is a very polished and big wide receiver, who is a dependable target. His game translates well to the professional level and we had a first-round grade on him, so we were thrilled to get him in the second round.”
Though I might seem down on this pick, it’s not a reflection on Harty, but rather that Redblacks seemingly reached for a guy who might more be a special teamer and backup due to Ottawa’s depth at the position. Taking into account that the Redblacks had no 3rd round pick, the #10 choice had to be a home run. Some members of R-Nation will struggle to understand why the team targeted a WR when someone like Waud, who was at one point thought to be a top 3 prospect in the draft, was available.
Third Round: No pick
This year the Redblacks had no 3rd round pick as it was dealt to Calgary last year for LB Justin Phillips. Calgary used that pick to select RB Tyler Varga, who is currently signed with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.
Fourth Round: LS/LB Tanner Doll (University of Calgary)
I…continue to be baffled.
— Capital Football (@FootballCapital) May 13, 2015
While perhaps not the sexiest pick, the 6’0″, 221 pound Doll brings an important set of skills to the table. You can never have too many long snappers, and keep in mind that the Redblacks’ lost last year’s long snapper, Kevin Scott, when he retired earlier this off-season. Doll is the kind of depth player and special teamer that might not get fans excited, but that is necessary for a team to be successful. It also helps that he can play LB in a pinch and figures to see lots of action on special teams coverage units.
Fifth round: TE/FB Jefferson Court (Utah State)
With the 37th overall pick, the Redblacks selected a 6’3” 238 pound collegiate TE, who will convert to FB in the CFL. Last season, Court had 6 receptions for 26 yards and 3 TDs. Yesterday it leaked out that veteran FB John Delahunt (who was absent from mini-camp), will be retiring. Desjardins admitted that Court was drafted with that in mind.
Much like Doll, Court figures to feature mainly on special teams.
Sixth Round: RB Kienan Lafrance (University of Manitoba)
The 5’10”, 205 pound RB was a spark plug for the Bisons ground game last season, racking up 785 yards and 7 TDs while averaging 98.1 yards per game. The athletic Winnipeg native gives the Redblacks’ something they didn’t previous have, a Canadian backup at RB. Lafrance projects to be a key special teamer and provides depth at a skill position.
Seventh Round: OL Alexandre Laganiere (University of Montreal)
The Redblacks selected the 23 year old, 6’4″, 300 pound Laganiere with their last pick (the 54th) in this year’s draft. In 2014, Laganiere won a Vanier Cup with the Carabins and helps the Redblacks build depth along their offensive line. Unlike Mateas, Laganiere won’t be expected to step in and start immediately and is more of a development project. He also throws a mean hit
— Redblack Renegade (@RedBlackGade) May 13, 2015
The Redblacks used the draft to continue what they started in free agency, retooling and overhauling their offence. Maybe fans shouldn’t be surprised that only half a pick was designated for the defence. Desjardins wanted to build depth on the OL, which he did with Mateas and Laganiere, and had previously stated a desire for depth at RB, something which Lafrance now provides. Selecting TE Jefferson Court in the 5th round is good value and was necessary with Delahunt retiring.
The issue some fans will have with this draft is that with only 2 picks in the top 25 selections, taking at WR at #10 can’t help but feel like a stretch, especially considering who was available. Even in later rounds defensive guys like Ettore Lattanzio, Christian Covington, Maxx Forde and Brandon Tennant were available and repeatedly passed over. Drafting a long snapper like Doll was smart, but was it really necessary in the 4th round?
Something else worth considering is the impact of the new special teams rules. Perhaps Desjardins took guys like Doll, Court and Lafrance with eyes on how they could help the team either in the return game or on coverage units. Specials teams will be more important than ever this season and guys with significant special teams experience from university might give a team an edge.
Drafting certainly isn’t a science and while it’s much too early to say who drafted well or poorly, the Redblacks deserve kudos for addressing their offensive needs. On the other hand, management must feel quite strongly about the defense as it has pretty much been left as is.
What draft pick do you think makes the biggest impact on the Redblacks in 2015?