CFL DRAFT PREVIEW SERIES: Eskimos look to improve aging Canadian content

The 2015 Edmonton Eskimos were an enigma by CFL standards. In a league that often requires top-notch Canadian talent to achieve success, the Esks were able to win 16 of 20 games last season en route to a Grey Cup victory despite possessing middling national content.

Edmonton’s Canadian talent is old and features too many players cast aside by other teams. There’s nothing wrong with signing free agents who struggled with their former teams — players like Cauchy Muamba and Eddie Steele have resurrected their careers in Edmonton — but failing to retain quality drafted players is the best way to deplete your Canadian content over time. Ted Laurent, Shamawd Chambers, and Justin Capicciotti have all been allowed to leave Edmonton under Ed Hervey’s watch.

Just two of Edmonton’s seven projected Canadian starters were originally drafted by the Eskimos — Danny Groulx (seventh overall, 2015) and Nate Coehoorn (fifth overall, 2011). Groulx would also be just one of two Canadian starters under the age of 29, the other being nose tackle Eddie Steele (28 in July).

One thing the Eskimos have done well is compartmentalize its Canadian talent effectively. While some teams have their national players spread evenly across their roster (making it difficult to accrue excellent depth at any specific position), Edmonton knows precisely where it’s looking to develop future starters: the offensive line, receiver, defensive tackle, and safety. That isn’t to say the Esks won’t consider drafting players at other positions — every team needs quality special teamers — but they can do so selectively and sparingly.

Esks Canadian depth chart

Projected starters

To say the Eskimos’ offensive line situation is unclear would be an understatement. Journeyman Justin Sorensen appears set to continue starting at centre, while it is likely that behemoth Matt O’Donnell, signed to a massive free agent contract last September after a stint with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, will continue starting at right guard. After that, the remaining Canadian starters on Edmonton’s offensive line is anyone’s guess.

Despite being in just his second year with the Eskimos, Danny Groulx is already 26 years of age. As such, it is likely that Edmonton will want him on the field as much as possible in order to maximize his development. It is possible that Groulx will get a look at right tackle this season — Groulx played exclusively at tackle with Laval — but it is unlikely that he would be ready to start there at this juncture of his career. Groulx starting at tackle would also disrupt the Eskimos’ ratio.

Starting Groulx at left guard (see above) would force the Eskimos to sit two highly-paid veterans in Simeon Rottier and Chris Greaves. While having a surplus of Canadian offensive linemen is never a bad thing in the CFL, paying big dollars to guys who aren’t playing is never good business. If Groulx proves he is capable of starting at left guard in training camp, expect one of Rottier and Greaves to be traded or released.

Nate Coehoorn, Eddie Steele, and Cauchy Muamba will maintain their starting roles from last season, while long-time Roughrider Chris Getzlaf is likely to receive first-team reps at slotback. If Getzlaf is unable to prove he can still contribute at a high level, expect former Bomber Cory Watson to start in his place.

Draft position and positional needs

The Eskimos traded away their third and fourth round selections in this year’s draft, leaving them with picks at 8, 17, 44, 53, 61, and 70.

With considerable depth

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