CFL DRAFT PREVIEW SERIES: Als not afraid to wheel and deal first rounders

Despite losing two high-calibre Canadian starters, offensive tackle Josh Bourke and linebacker Henoc Muamba, Montreal’s Canadian talent remains strong heading into the 2016 CFL Draft.

Alouettes general manager Jim Popp is known for stockpiling Canuck offensive linemen – nine out of the 10 national blockers currently on the roster were drafted by the Als. That said Popp and assistant general manager, Joey Abrams, who plays a large role in CFL Draft scouting, have created depth at various Canuck positions.

Alouettes Canadian Depth Chart

Montreal will likely start the 2016 season with four offensive linemen, one receiver, one defensive tackle and one safety making up the teams’ required Canadian starters. All those spots are stocked up with multiple backup options if needed. Plus, Michael Klassen has starting experience on the defensive front, linebacker Nick Shortill got a start under his belt in 2015 as did Chris Ackie in the final game of the season.

Those options give Montreal a variety of ways to juggle the ratio and shows that their Canadian talent is deep. Offensive linemen Jeff Perrett, Kristian Matte, Dominic Picard, Philip Blake, receiver Sam Giguere, defensive lineman Vaughn Martin and safety Marc-Olivier Brouillette provide the Als with a really good corps of seven Canadian starters. Also, offensive lineman Jacob Ruby could prove to be ready to start in year two. And 2014 No. 5 overall pick, offensive lineman David Foucault is still in the pipeline as he’s currently with the Carolina Panthers.

That Foucault selection is another example which shows Montreal’s patience with regards to prospects – Jesse Joseph (2013), Blake (2011) and Martin (2011) are other players the Als chose and patiently waited on to come north of the border. Seeing Popp make “futures” picks on ultra-talented athletes that slide down the board because of NFL chances at the moment could be possible.

Popp has eight picks – No. 2, 11, 20, 29, 47, 50, 56 and 64 – at his disposal. He always makes sure to stock up on offensive linemen, drafting 12 since 2010. That ensures Montreal always has a cupboard full of blockers in case any leave through free agency (Bourke), are traded (Ryan Bomben) or suffer an injury (Luc Brodeur-Jourdain).

If the Alouettes believe a defensive player can be a difference-maker they won’t shy away from taking them high. For example defensive back Mike Edem was selected No. 3 overall in 2013, defensive back Andrew Lue No. 10 in 2014, Shortill No. 13 and Ackie No. 4 in 2015.

Expect Montreal to grab an offensive lineman or two, one who can play tackle would be ideal, a receiver and after that Popp can take the best player available and not force any picks because the Alouettes have plenty of Canadian talent on the roster.

And Popp will wheel and deal with first round picks involved when he feels it’s warranted – four straight years Montreal has either traded or made a deal for a first-round selection.

The Als sent their 2012 No. 4 overall choice to B.C. for kicker Sean Whyte. 2013 saw Montreal send kicker Brody McKnight to Edmonton for the No. 3 overall spot, kicker Derek Schiavone and a fourth round pick. Popp moved down one spot in the 2014 first round in a deal with Ottawa that netted the Als the fifth and 10th picks in exchange for the fourth and 13th overall selections. Then last year in the hours leading up to the draft, Montreal shipped offensive lineman Ryan Bomben to Hamilton for first and third round selections.

So don’t be surprised if Popp pulls off a maneuver surrounding a first round pick once again.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.