Desjardins sticks to his formula with another solid draft

Through four drafts as the Ottawa Redblacks GM, Marcel Desjardins has stuck to a tried and true formula; building from the trenches out and shoring up special teams.

Those trends continued Sunday night, with the Redblacks selecting two offensive linemen, two defensive linemen, a fullback, a running back, a long snapper and a receiver.

While many of Ottawa’s picks weren’t the sexy big name prospects hyped in mock drafts, R-Nation should feel confident that yet again, the Redblacks’ Canadian depth has been reinforced.

Let’s take an individual look at each player the Redblacks added.

First round (9th overall): OL Evan Johnson, University of Saskatchewan

It says a lot about how much the Redblacks like Johnson when you consider the fact that when they took him, every other offensive lineman not signed with a NFL team was still on the board.

In Johnson, Ottawa is getting an athletic 6-foot-4, 280 pounder who is capable of playing multiple positions. Given the names still available, some might be surprised that the Redblacks chose Johnson, but as Desjardins explained in a Facebook Live interview, Johnson was the highest ranked offensive lineman on his board.

With the glut of Canadians on Ottawa’s offensive line (Jon Gott, Nolan MacMillan, Lauzon-Seguin, Matt Albright and Alex Mateas), Johnson won’t be rushed into the lineup. In the short term, his selection provides the Redblacks with the luxury of starting four Canadians, as he is capable of playing both tackle and guard. Furthermore, though he isn’t overly polished, a year of tutelage under OL coach Bryan Chiu will work wonders at turning raw athleticism into honed technique. Long term, Johnson’s selection gives the Redblacks some insurance if MacMillan or Mateas wind up leaving in free agency.

Second round (18th overall): FB Anthony Gosselin, Université de Sherbrooke

With his second pick of the night, Desjardins chose to bolster his special teams by taking Anthony Gosselin, a 6-foot-1, 250 pound back who runs a 4.7 40 yard dash. Gosselin, who put up 30 reps on the bench press at the Combine, is incredibly powerful yet still nimble enough to be a nightmare on special teams.

The Sherbooke product is a bruiser, capable of grinding out first downs in short yardage situations. Gosselin is also a stellar lead blocker with soft hands, which makes for an excellent check down option in the flats. How many DBs are going to be eager to get in his way once he’s got a full head of steam?

Gosselin figures to cut his teeth on special teams while backing up Patrick Lavoie on offence. His selection also gives the Redblacks another Francophone player, which always plays well in a bilingual market.

Third round (26th overall): DL Eli Ankou, UCLA

Much like 2016, when the Redblacks took DL Mehdi Abdesmad with the 25th pick, Desjardins once again chose to gamble with his third round pick. Ankou, an Ottawa native, is undoubtably the most talented defensive lineman in the draft. In four seasons at UCLA, the 6-foot-3, 284 pounder registered 91 tackles (8 for a loss), 1.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, one blocked kick and three knockdowns.

The gamble is that Ankou might never play a down for the Redblacks, because following the NFL draft, he immediately signed a three year contract with the Houston Texans. The payoff is that if he does wind up in the CFL, the Redblacks will have a disruptive game changer on their hands.

Fourth round (35th pick) : RB/LS Louis-Philippe Bourassa, Université de Montréal

If there’s one pick that was seemingly came out of left field, it was this. With long snappers Kevin Malcom and Tanner Doll both already on the roster, it’s a little strange to see Desjardins add another specialist another to mix. Still, in 32 career CIS games, the 6-foot-3, 231 pound Bourassa never had a bad snap. At the very least it sets the stage for a training camp battle at a position most fans don’t pay much attention to.

Fifth round (44th overall): DL Mathieu Dupuis, Université de Montréal

A 6-foot-2, 296 pound lineman, Dupuis will be a rotational player as he develops and refines his technique under the watchful eye of DL coach Leroy Blugh. Dupuis provides depth behind Zack Evans and Connor Williams and will contribute immediately on special teams. Pascal Dupuis’ younger brother put on a show at the Eastern Regional Combine, flashing strength and agility with 31 bench reps and a shuttle time of 4.59 seconds.

Sixth Round (53rd overall): WR Austen Hartley, University of Calgary

Despite being plagued by injuries in 2016, Hartley was still named a conference all-star. The 5-foot-10, 190 receiver runs crisp routes and has a knack for getting open, as evidenced by his 45 catches for 661 yards and 4 TDs (14.7 yards per catch). Hartley provides depth behind Brad Sinopoli, Jake Harty and Scott MacDonell, and like the latter two, figures to feature mainly on special teams.

Seventh round (62nd overall): RB Ed Ilnicki, University of Alberta

The 5-foot-10, 220 pound RB was a key cog for the Golden Bears’ offence attack last season, turning 151 carries into 750 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and 16 catches into 165 yards (10 yards per catch). Ilnicki fills the void left by the departure of Kienan LaFrance and projects to be a key special teamer.

Eighth round (71st pick): OL Jordan Filippelli, University of Calgary

Mr. Irrelevant is this year’s draft is a 6-foot-6, 323 giant that started every game in 2016 at left tackle for the Dinos. Filippelli is a development project but provides the Redblacks with another big body capable of playing tackle down the road.

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).