Breaking down the Bombers’ draft picks

Round 1, Pick 1: DL Faith Ekakitie, Iowa

Ekakitie, who was in contract negotiations with the Bombers in the days leading up to the draft, is expected compete for the club’s starting nose tackle position in training camp. With pro-ready size (6’1, 304) and athleticism, Ekakitie will rotate with incumbent defensive tackle Jake Thomas following February’s release of veteran Keith Shologan.

Some pundits have said that Ekakitie doesn’t have the highest ceiling of all players available in the draft, which is probably true. Ekakitie wasn’t a regular starter at Iowa until his senior year during which he failed to record a sack. Still, the kid has value — he’s 24, married, and was a team captain with the Hawkeyes in 2016. He’s an intelligent, high-character guy who fills the Bombers’ only glaring need at defensive tackle.

I don’t love this pick, but it makes sense for a Bomber club that’s looking to end a 26-year Grey Cup drought. The pick is a safe one, but it’s nice balance for the risk associated with the club’s second selection.

Round 1, Pick 8: OL Geoff Gray, Manitoba

Gray, a Winnipeg native, recently signed a three-year undrafted free agent contract with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. The Packers were one of the eight NFL teams to attend Gray’s pro day, after which they invited him to visit the club’s practice facilities. Gray’s deal with the Pack included a $5,000 signing bonus, an indication that the club is at least relatively serious about his future in Green Bay.

Should Gray ever sign with Winnipeg, the former Olympic-style weightlifter projects as an all-star guard or even a ratio-breaking right tackle. The risk of this selection is, of course, that Gray never signs a CFL deal. I’m on the record as saying that the Bombers picked Gray too high — I would have traded down to the early second round to select him — but it’s clear that GM Kyle Walters likes the odds of eventually signing Gray.

At best, Walters only has to wait one year to make that happen. At worst, the Bombers just drafted Andy Mulumba 2.0.

Round 2, Pick 15: OL Qadr Spooner, McGill

Spooner impressed at the combine by putting up 31 reps on the bench press despite his long 33-inch arms. He also put forth a solid effort in the one-on-ones, grading out well against an impressive class of defensive linemen. Spooner played plenty of tackle at McGill, but projects as a CFL guard.

TSN draft guru Duane Forde called Spooner the offensive lineman with the “highest ceiling in the draft,” not including NFLers Geoff Gray and Justin Senior (who was later drafted by the Eskimos in the fifth round). He’s a bit of a project, but the Bombers won’t have to rush Spooner with four solid Canadian offensive linemen (Matthias Goossen, Sukh Chungh, Patrick Neufeld, and Michael Couture) already on the roster to fill just two starting spots.

Round 3, Pick 23: DB Abubakkar Conteh, Grambling State

Raised in Winnipeg, Conteh boasts impressive size at 6’2, 205 pounds. A cornerback at Grambling State, Conteh projects as a special teamer and hard-hitting CFL safety.

Grambling ran a 4.77 40-yard dash at his Grambling State pro day, also posting a 34-inch vertical and 9’3-inch broad jump.

It’s clear the Bombers liked Conteh enough to draft him at 15th overall, considering this tweet surfaced when the club selected him at 23. The tweet was quickly deleted and replaced with one with the appropriate draft spot.

Conteh was the highest-ranked defensive back on Justin Dunk’s final draft prospect rankings.

Round 4, Pick 34: K/P Felix Menard-Briere, Montreal

In a surprising move, the Bombers drafted a kicker despite already having the league’s best in Justin Medlock. Medlock is 33, but he’s hardly shown signs of slowing down after a phenomenal season during which he converted on 60 of 68 field goal attempts.

If there’s one knock on Medlock, however, it’s his punting — an area that happens to be Menard-Briere’s specialty. Posting a 42.4-yard punting average in his senior season, Menard-Briere has earned an invite to the New York Giants’ mini-camp. If he comes north, Menard-Briere will provide an option for the Bombers to hand the punting duties to a Canadian.

Menard-Briere has one year of USports availability remaining, meaning the Bombers may send him back to school.

Round 6, Pick 50: DL Ian Marouf, Guelph

At 6’1 and 312 pounds, Marouf becomes the latest defensive tackle added to the Bombers’ pipeline. He posted a respectable 26 bench reps at the Ontario Regional combine, though he did not participate in the 40-yard dash, shuttle, or three-cone drill.

Expect Faith Ekakitie and Jake Thomas to compete for the starting nose tackle spot in training camp with Marouf and 2016 sixth rounder Rupert Butcher competing for one depth spot behind them.

Round 7, Pick 59: WR Brendon Thera-Plamondon, Calgary

Thera-Plamondon was a depth receiver until his senior year at Calgary that he ended up almost entirely missing due to injury. He’s got decent size at 6’2, but his 4.95 40-time from the Western Combine makes it unlikely that he’ll be an impact player at the CFL level.

Round 8, Pick 68: WR Tylor Henry, Alberta

Henry put up some respectable testing numbers at the Western Combine with a 4.76 40-time and a 35.5-inch vertical, but his 5’10, 185 -pound frame may hold him back in the pros. He recorded 611 receiving yards in his senior season on a Golden Bears club that fielded questionable quarterbacking.

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