CFL Draft analysis: Eskimos set to build on an already solid foundation

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 Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Up next: the Edmonton Eskimos

Where they’ll likely play their Canadian starters:

Offensive line (4): Centre Justin Sorensen, guards Simeon Rottier and David Beard, tackle Matt O’Donnell
Linebacker (1) Adam Konar
Defensive end (1): Kwaku Boateng
Safety (1): Neil King
Corner (1): Arjen Colquhoun

Backups and other possible starters: Offensive linemen Jacob Ruby, Jean-Simon Roy and Mason Woods, receivers Natey Adjei and Nate Behar, linebackers Blair Smith and Christophe Mulumba-Tshimanga, safety Josh Woodman, fullback Calvin McCarty.

Analysis: The Eskimos have made it clear they’d like to start five Canadian offensive lineman but will likely have to settle for four until some of their younger players like Roy (two games last year) and Woods (acquired in the trade that sent QB James Franklin to Toronto) develop. O’Donnell should be able to handle right tackle but he needs to stay healthy (he’s started 17 or more games four of five seasons) and how much the 34-year-old Rottier has left in the tank remains to be seen after he played in just four games last season.

Still, Edmonton has plenty of flexibility – we’ve actually listed eight starters instead of the league-required seven. Konar has been sensational when healthy (though that’s been an issue) and was a key re-signing in the off-season. Back ups Mulumba-Tshimanga (nine starts last year) and Smith (one start) provide good depth behind Konar. Colquhoun is a legit ratio-breaker at corner – he spent time in 2015 with the Dallas Cowboys – and is still just 25, though there isn’t much behind him. King is serviceable at safety while Woodman made four starts in his sophomore season.

Then there’s Boateng, who was initially projected as a first or second round pick in 2017 but fell to the Eskimos in the fifth round. He played in all 18 games last season, making one start and registering four sacks and could be poised for a breakout year.

Edmonton could also start a receiver, though neither Adjei (who led the team in special teams tackles) or Behar caught a pass last season and Kohlert had just seven catches in Calgary last year.

The Eskimos could also have two more Canadians in-house shortly. Highly-touted offensive lineman Justin Senior, taken just a pick before Boateng, has been released by the Seattle Seahawks and is a free agent – he was considered by many to be the best player in the 2017 draft who fell because of NFL interest. Receiver Tevaun Smith, taken eighth overall in 2016, signed a futures contract with the Jaguars in January but has played in just two NFL games over two seasons.

Needs and possible draft targets: The Eskimos traded the sixth overall pick to Hamilton on Wednesday for a second and a third rounder. That had previously dealt their second-rounder to the Ticats in the John Chick trade – not a great move, in retrospect – and their third-rounder to Toronto in the Franklin deal.

All those deals leaves them without a first-round pick in a top-heavy draft, though they do have the first pick in the second round (No. 10) then don’t select again until late in round three (No. 24.)

With the offensive in relatively good shape and some players in development, the Eskimos could use some help in the secondary. While taking Godfrey Onyeka or Jackson Bennett at No. 10 makes sense as would grabbing one of the top-end receivers like Rashaun Simonise or Daniel Petermann.

The final word: General manager Brock Sunderland had a tremendous first draft in 2017, one that will look even better if Senior – the only player selected who isn’t currently on the roster – shows up. Without a first rounder, things are a bit more tricky this year and the Esks need to be careful about dealing away picks if they are going to continue to have success building up their Canadian talent.