Here’s nine things worth knowing about the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the 2017 CFL Draft will take place on Sun., May 7 starting at 7 p.m.
1. In order to get a sense of what the Ticats might do on draft day, it’s useful to understand their ratio situation. The team has a number of starting-quality Canadians – team’s need to field seven nationals among their 24 offensive and defensive players – but they are spread all over the field.
Five spots are a virtual lock to feature a Canuck: three offensive lineman (Brandon Revenberg, Mike Filer, Ryan Bomben); a defensive tackle (Ted Laurent) and a defensive back (Courtney Stephen at safety.) After that, it gets a little tricky.
The team will likely start at least one Canadian receiver, choosing from Mike Jones, Giovanni Aprile, Spencer Watt and Felix Flaubert-Lussier. They could also start two, though that seems unlikely given the talent and depth. They could also start two Canadian defensive tackles (Mike Atkinson), a defensive end (Justin Capicciotti.) a linebacker (Terrell Davis or Nick Shortill) or a second defensive back (likely Craig Butler.) In a pinch, they could try four Canadian offensive linemen though the unexpected retirement of Mathieu Girard likely ruined that possibility.
2. Because the ratio is such a dog’s breakfast – there’s lots of good stuff in the bowl but it’s kind of a mess – the Ticats could use some help at any and all of the above positions, gathering some much-needed depth behind their starters. They’ve also lost some key special team contributors, guys like Frederic Plesius (traded to Montreal) as well as Beau Landry and Anthony Woodson (via free agency.)
3. Given all that, the Ticats could likely use a Canadian offensive lineman, a receiver, a defensive lineman to shore up their ratio spots, then address some of those other spots with whatever picks they have left. The good news is there’s some quality guys where Hamilton needs them the most.
4. On the offensive line, Justin Senior and Geoff Gray are the top-ranked prospects but both are getting NFL looks (Senior was drafted, Gray signed as a priority free agent) so taking them is something of a gamble. The Ticats have, generally speaking, shied away from selecting players with clear NFL opportunities after taking defensive end Brent Urban in 2015 (who has yet to play a down in the CFL and likely never will.)
Dariusz Bladek is considered by many to be the most pro-ready while Mason Woods and Braden Schram could also be candidates. On the defensive line, UCLA’s Eli Ankou signed with the Texans while Faith Ekakitie could be the first overall pick to Winnipeg. Montreal’s Junior Luke might make a good protégé for Laurent.
5. At receiver, the feel-good story would see the Ticats select McMaster product Danny Vandervoort and he certainly makes some sense for them, especially if the Ticats want to have the option to start two Canadians at some point this season. Hamilton has also shown an affinity for big body guys who can help on special teams and players like UBC’s Alex Morrison and Saskatchewan’s Julian Lynch would fit the bill.
6. Other guys that could fit into Hamilton’s ratio alignment and special teams needs include linebacker Cameron Judge, fullback Anthony Gosselin and running back Johnny Augustine – again, back ups and developmental players in spots where the Ticats already have quality Canadians.
7. The Ticats have picks at No. 4, 13 and 21 in what’s considered to be a talented but not particularly deep draft. They traded their fourth round and seventh round picks to Saskatchewam as part of the deal that sent Canadian defensive tackle Linden Gaydosh and American receiver Tommy Streeter to Saskatchewan for international offensive lineman Xavier Fulton and Capicciotti. Fulton re-signed in Hamilton and Capicciotti is still here as well while Streeter was released and Gaydosh has yet to suit up for the Riders.
8. Vice president of football operations Kent Austin has swung draft day deals in each of the last three seasons and two of those transactions have paid immediate dividends up front. The 2015 deal that sent the team’s first-round pick to Montreal netted them guard Ryan Bomben, an East all-star the last two seasons, while a swap with the B.C. Lions last May allowed them to select Brandon Revenberg, who blossomed into a starter in his rookie year.
What’s clear is that Austin and company will wheel and deal if there’s a player they really want.
9. Based on all that, what do I think the Ticats are going to do? Draft an offensive lineman in the first round then try and trade up to grab Vandervoort, who may not be there by the time Hamilton picks again at No. 13. After that, look for them to fill in the gaps at the obvious spots where they need Canadian depth.