CFL Draft Analysis: B.C. Lions need depth in a big way

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 the past pieces on the Hamilton Tiger-CatsOttawa RedblacksMontreal AlouettesToronto ArgonautsWinnipeg Blue BombersSaskatchewan Roughriders and Edmonton Eskimos.

Up next: the B.C. Lions.

Where they’ll likely play their Canadian starters:

Offensive line (3): Centre Cody Husband, guards David Foucault and Hunter Steward
Receivers (2): Shaq Johnson, Cory Watson
Defensive tackle (1): Junior Luke
Safety (1): Anthony Thompson

Backups and other possible starters: Offensive lineman Chris Greaves and Charles Vaillancourt, receiver Danny Vandervoort, defensive lineman Maxx Forde and David Menard, linebacker Jordan Herdman.

Analysis: While there are plenty of factors at play in B.C.’s decline last season, the state of their Canadian talent is certainly an issue. Husband has developed into a nice player and Steward is very solid at guard (though not tackle) but there are still questions about Foucault, who started nine games last year. Greaves started six games for the Alouettes in 2017 and joined B.C. as a free agent in February while Vaillancourt, a 2016 first-rounder, has shown plenty of potential and made five starts last year.

Johnson had a breakout year in his sophomore campaign with 30 catches for 521 yards while signing veteran Cory Watson (27 catches, 350 yards for the Esks last year) gives them a potential second starter, though he’s 34. Vandervoort, last year’s third overall pick, had just one catch and is the only other Canadian receiver on the roster so depth is an issue.

Luke made seven starts at defensive tackle in his rookie season, registering five tackles and two sacks while Forde made four starts and can likely play both inside and outside. Menard made two starts and had five sacks… all three are young (Menard is the oldest at 27) but haven’t established themselves as starters quite yet.

Thompson is another young Canadian showing potential after making 18 starts last season, registering 36 tackles. In a pinch, the Lions could move him to corner and start either Bucknor or Muamba at safety – B.C. does have national depth in the secondary.

B.C. needs to stay healthy and have their young players continue on their upward trajectory – and that’s a lot of uncertainty.

Needs and possible draft targets: Given the state of affairs, it’s no surprise general manager Ed Hervey dealt a second round pick and next year’s first rounder to acquire Winnipeg’ first-round selection, giving B.C. the No. 3 and No. 7 selections Thursday night. Their needs – receiver, offensive line, secondary – dovetail nicely with this year’s class. They’ll likely need players who can contribute sooner rather than later.

The final word: The Lions have lost offensive linemen Jeremy Zver and Dillon Guy to the Riders who plucked them off the B.C. practice roster over the last two years and they’ve also seen high picks decamp for other clubs, including 2015 first-rounder Ese Mrabure. Some of their gambles on guys with NFL opportunities like Brett Boyko and Christian Covington, have yet to pay off either. Giving up first round picks is a risky strategy but the Lions need to upgrade their Canadian talent in a hurry or it could be another long season in Vancouver.