Chris Jones’ draft strategy is now crystal clear

Twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern.

It’s pretty obvious at this point how the Riders leader of all things football decides to approach the draft. He’s been at the helm of three drafts since getting the job and at least once every year he’s been willing to take a flyer on a guy who is headed to the NFL. It almost seems like Jones sees having such interest as a good thing, even if it means never having the player play for his team.

Making such a decision certainly comes with pros and cons. On the positive side, the team has chosen a very good football player. On the down side? He might never play a game for you. At the very least, he won’t be seen in your locker room until September.

Taking such flyers on players in later rounds, when you have abundance of picks or when you have Canadian depth that is the envy of the league? That’s fine.

The Riders had/have none of those things. Sure, the Green and White have a pretty good selection of starting caliber Canadians, after that? Their depth is pretty unknown. In 2017, they were pretty lucky for the most when it comes to injuries. I wouldn’t bet on that happening again. The team could have benefited greatly from having as many Canadians as possible at training camp in Saskatoon in a few weeks. They are none counters after all.

If there was a deal to be made, the Riders even could have benefited from trading down and adding to their inventory of draft picks this year. Right now, they need as many guys as possible to help try and improve their Canadian depth beyond their starters.

Instead, their top pick was someone who might not even practice with them this season.

Does this mean the Riders can’t compete for a Grey Cup this year? Of course not. Their overall talent is good enough but it will catch up with them eventually. Sustained success can’t be achieved without smart drafting. It’s true in any sport.

Heading into the draft, Jones told reporters that he didn’t see anyone in this draft that was a starter in year two. That could be true. The team’s recent draft history suggests we should take that thought with a grain of salt. For argument’s sake let’s take it at face value. It’s not all about finding starting caliber players. Building Canadian depth through the draft is essential for special teams and overall depth.

If over the last two seasons, the Riders had more draft picks on their 46-man roster, then there’s no need to sign someone like Sam Hurl to, in all likelihood, play special teams. If you don’t have to pay Hurl, then you have money for something else, perhaps keeping a ratio changing middle linebacker like Henoc Muamba. It’s all connected.

As for the other four picks, it’s hard to find much fault in adding a special teamer/linebacker and linemen. At this point, if they’re going to be CFLers or not is hard to say.

At least we know they’ll be at training camp, but is four enough? I don’t think so.