Draft preview: Alouettes have talent but very little depth

As the CFL draft approaches, the best way to get a sense of what any given team might do is to assess their current Canadian talent. With that in mind, in the days leading up to the May 3 talent grab, we’re doing a deep dive on the state of each squad’s Canuck components that examine their starters, backups, special teams depth while also taking a look at what they need.

Here’s are the past pieces on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Redblacks.

Up next: the Montreal Alouettes.

Where they’ll likely play their seven Canadian starters:

Offensive line (3): Centre Luc Brodeur-Jourdain, guards Kristen Matte and Phil Blake.
Linebacker (1): Henoc Muamba
Defensive end (1) Jamaal Westerman
Safety (1): Chris Ackie
Corner (1) Tevaugn Campbell

Backups and other possible starters: offensive linemen Phillipe Gagnon and Sean Jamieson, receiver George Johnson, defensive tackle Jabar Westerman, linebacker Nicolas Boulay, running back Shaq Murray-Lawrence and fullback Patrick Lavoie.

Analysis: Montreal’s seven starters are a decent group after the addition of free agents Muamba and Westerman (at a significant cost) and a veteran group of offensive lineman. Brodeur-Jourdain’s age (35) and injury history are a concern but Gagnon (19 starts in two seasons) and Jamieson (three starts as a rookie) provide some decent depth. Ackie (six career starts in three seasons) and Campbell (14 career starts in two seasons) are young players with plenty of upside.

But the Alouettes depth and ratio flexibility – or lack thereof – is a significant concern. Boulay has made two starts in five years and will be primary insurance behind Muamba. If Montreal needs a starter at receiver, their best option is likely Johnson, who made eight starts as a rookie last season, registering 13 catches for 117 yards. Similarly, if Jabar Westerman is pressed into service, he started 13 games last season and put up nine tackles and a sack. Murray-Lawrence has explosive speed but has played in just five games since the start of 2017 and none last year. Collectively, these are not numbers that inspire confidence.

Needs and possible draft targets: The Alouettes have the first overall pick but no second rounder which was dealt to the Saskatchewan Roughriders to acquire the rights to quarterback Darian Durant (a deal that didn’t make much sense at the time and looks even worse now.) The upshot can only count on getting one sure-fire prospect in a deep draft and, given their issues, they can’t afford to gamble on a player with NFL prospects: they need someone who can help them win games now. With a solid group of offensive lineman already in place, taking one of the highly-ranked receivers would give them the depth and flexibility they so badly need. Central Michigan’s Mark Chapman showed at the combine that he’s the most polished and pro-ready of a very solid group.

The final word: The Alouettes were 3-15 last season and a lack of Canadian talent played a significant role in that record. Unfortunately for general manager Kavis Reed, building a stable of national players takes time and cap space. He’s gone some way to address those concerns by adding Muamba and Westerman and will get the chance to add another key piece in the draft. But if the Alouettes’ Canadian starters can’t stay healthy, it could another long year in La Belle Province.