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, over the days leading up to the May 3 talent grab, we’ll be doing a deep dive on the state of each squad’s Canuck components that will examine their starters, backups, special teams depth while also taking a look at what they need.
Up first, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Where they’ll likely play their seven Canadian starters:
Offensive line (3): centre Mike Filer, guards Ryan Bomben and Brandon Revenberg
Receiver (1): Shamawd Chambers
Defensive tackle (1): Ted Laurent
Defensive end (1): Justin Capicciotti
Safety (1): Courtney Stephen
Backups and other possible starters: OL Landon Rice, RECs Felix Faubert-Lussier and Mike Jones, LBs Nick Shortill and Terrell Davis, RB Mercer Timmis, DT Justin Vaughn, DE Connor McGough, DBs Jay Langa and Mike Daly.
Analysis: A solid group of veteran starters led by Bomben and Laurent, both perennial all-stars, as well a stud-in-the-making Revenberg who can play multiple spots. Chambers has yet to fully realize his potential but showed flashes after coming over in a trade from Edmonton while Capicciotti had seven sacks last season after a down year in 2016. Stephen played in all 18 games for just the second time in his career in 2017 and has eight interceptions over the past three years.
Hamilton also has a solid group of backups and ratio flexibility in case of injury. Rice can play both guard and tackle – perfect for a sixth man – while speedster Jones was a starter for a good chunk of last year. Linebackers Shortill and Davis are both excellent special teams players who could start if needed though it would require taking a quality American off the field. Vaughn started one game at tackle last season and McGough was a rotational player in his rookie season while leading the team in special teams tackles. There might be some concern starting either of those two for extended stretches in their sophomore campaigns, however.
Needs and possible draft targets: with veteran C.O. Prime still unsigned, the Ticats don’t have a fullback on the roster and while the team does have some offensive lineman in development, including last year’s No. 13 overall pick Braden Schram, grabbing another sure-fire prospect up front makes sense – especially with Bomben and Filer going into the last year of their deals. Depth at receiver could be an issue as well, especially if Hamilton decides to start two nationals.
The final word: The Ticats have a whopping five picks in the top 20 of the draft, including three of the first 11 so they have a golden opportunity to both address some current needs and plan for the future. They are in good enough shape going in that they can draft the best player available and take some gambles on prospects with NFL potential.