Lions followed script in CFL draft

The response is so much a cliché it borders on nausea but when the Canadian college draft was all over Wally Buono pulled out some proof.

At the top of his colour-coded sheet of targeted players by the B.C. Lions for the annual lottery listed the names of his top two picks, receiver Danny Vandervoort and defensive lineman Junior Luke. If the coach/GM of the Lions wanted, he could have probably said his team got the two players they wanted the most.

Buono didn’t go there immediately, perhaps realizing his team’s overall rate of success in the draft, at least relative to several CFL rivals which often have picked a player or two who can make an immediate impact. Eventually, however, he hopes the two live up to the expectations of the man who may have just presided over draft proceedings for the last time.

B.C. has no fewer than five Canadian roster spots available at present, a number which will increase once the Lions dispose of starting safety Mike Edem, whose contract and production has made him fall out of favour with the man in charge.

They drafted nine players Sunday; Buono says he has 10 newcomers with the recent addition of former Montreal draft pick David Foucault. The trick now is determining whether the Lions actually have players who can contribute immediately in Vandervoort, the Barrie, Ont., receiver from McMaster (above), and Luke, a defensive lineman from the University of Montreal.

B.C. draft picks usually get some time to develop but with the amount of departing Canadian talent this winter these two might get fast-tracked.

“The first two guys we picked are more ready than normal, if you look at their makeup and skillset,” said Buono. “They’re both guys we wanted.”

So yes, he actually went there eventually.

“We felt Danny was a first-round pick whether we took him at number three or seven. The biggest attribute with him is his ability to run routes. He plays a lot faster than his speed. I don’t think he’ll be overwhelmed. Luke has tremendous get-off and he’s 295 pounds.”

Truth be told, the Lions had no choice but to look at a receiver initially for the first time in five years because of the retirement of Shawn Gore and knew that Vandervoort wouldn’t get past the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, picking fourth.

That was no problem for Vandervoort, who has never west of Regina and is so pumped about his prospects he was thinking he might head west to Vancouver even before he signs his first contract with the Lions.

And yes, Vandervoort is already aware of the comparisons of him to Jason Clermont.

“I never shy away from competition,” he said, whose 4.7-second speed is balanced by his ability to get open, according to Buono. “I can’t wait to join (the Lions) It’s going to be awesome having Geroy (Simon) around.”

B.C.’s director of Canadian scouting, dealing with an unthinkable tragedy that includes a private funeral for his late wife, Tracy, on Monday, was indeed around for the draft but stayed clear of reporters.

Come training camp, however, the Lions will likely have three new receivers to push Stephen Adekolu, Shaquille Johnson and Brett Blaszko. Thanks to Luke, the Lions also feel there’s a chance they might be able to set aside one defensive line spot for a Canadian again after letting Jabar Westerman walk in free agency. Just like they planned all along.

  LIONS TALES: Buono confirmed he had a deal worked out with Montreal for the seventh pick but didn’t pull the trigger when Luke was still available. Buono said he is talking to one team about a deal for Edem… B.C. is expected to reach out to SFU offensive lineman Evan Telford to determine his interest after he was bypassed Sunday. SFU won local draft bragging rights, with four players selected by CFL clubs, compared to just one pick from UBC, receiver Alex Morrison. Included among the Lions’ selections was SFU special teams candidate Jordan Herdman, who went to this year’s Senior Bowl but whose stock dipped. “Hopefully he proves us right,” said Buono of Herdman, who has a minicamp invitation from the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. “He’s got a big heart and a lot of times those things overcome raw speed.”


 First round selections: 1. Winnipeg, Faith Ekakitie, DL, Iowa; 2. Saskatchewan, Cameron Judge, LB, UCLA; 3. B.C. Danny Vandervoort, WR McMaster; 4. Hamilton, Connor McGough, DL, Calgary; 5. Edmonton, Nate Behar, WR, Carleton; 6. Calgary, from Winnipeg, Randy Colling, DL, Gannon; 7. B.C. Junior Luke, DL, Montreal; 8. Winnipeg, from Calgary, Geoff Gray, OL, Manitoba; 9. Ottawa, Evan Johnson, OL, Saskatchewan.

Lions picks: 3. Vandervoort; 7. Luke; 16. Jeremy Zver, OL, Regina; 24. Frederic Chagnon, LB, Montreal; 33. Nathaniel Hamlin, DB, Carleton. 42. Edward Godin, DL, Laval; 51. Dakota Brush, WR, Mt. Allison; 60. Jordan Herdman, LB, SFU. 69. Mitchell Hillis, WR, Saskatchewan.

UBC/SFU picks: 28. Calgary, Ante Milanovic-Litre, LB, SFU, 29. Montreal, Alex Morrison, WR, UBC; 43. Calgary, Felix Gacusana, OL, SFU; 54, Toronto, Justin Herdman, LB, SFU. 60. Jordan Herdman, B.C.

B.C. bred picks: 10. Toronto, OL Mason Woods, Idaho/Port Coquitlam; 19. Toronto, Evan Foster Manitoba, DL, Chilliwack/Manitoba


Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.