Riders add Dakoda Shepley to practice roster but don’t expect him to play in 2018

While the injury to offensive lineman Dariusz Bladek and the signing of Geoff Gray Winnipeg has sparked some speculation around the possibility of Dakoda Shepley signing with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Indeed, the team’s 2018 first round pick is checking out the club– he’s been added to the practice roster – but don’t expect him to sign a contract for the 2018 season.

Bladek went down in the 31-0 loss to Winnipeg and the diagnosis is a torn medial collateral ligament, which has a four-to-twelve week timeline for recovery varying between athletes. Most importantly, there’s no surgery required. Trading for veteran offensive lineman Philip Blake at last week’s deadline was prudent from a depth perspective, however, the deal is even more important after the Bladek injury.

The Riders chose Shepley fifth overall in the CFL Draft knowing he had signed an undrafted NFL free agent contract with the New York Jets. The 23-year-old was released by the Jets at the end of a promising training camp. There was hope for a practice roster spot, but earlier in the season NFL teams want players who can help quickly and Shepley was viewed as a developmental player. Near the end of the year, franchises down south ink athletes to futures deals giving those players the opportunity to grow in the off-season programs and organized training activities.

Shepley is still a strong candidate for another shot at the NFL. He worked out at Eastern Michigan University’s pro day in the spring because it’s within 50 miles of where he graduated from Holy Names High School in Windsor, Ont. More than 20 NFL teams were in attendance and that will benefit Shepley – along with the tape he has from Jets camp – as he looks to get another NFL chance. The University of British Columbia product has shown patience and checking out the Riders can allow him to continue assessing NFL options. The plan is Shepley won’t play for the Riders in 2018.

If the Riders want national reinforcements on the offensive line, Saskatchewan could activate Braden Schram from the practice roster where he’s been since July or find free agent options (Kirby Fabien, Peter Dyakowski) or just roll with the current group: Blake, Brendon LaBatte, Dan Clark and Josiah St. John and now Shepley up front.

St. John, the 2016 first overall pick, came into the Bombers game after Bladek went down and held his own. With St. John being a pending free agent, it would benefit the player to step up and the Riders want to see what the six-foot-five, 309-pounder can do in order to make a more informed decision on him in the off-season.

Shepley won’t be part of the offensive line equation in 2018.

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