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Why can’t the Bombers find American wide receivers?

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The ability to discover fresh, young American talent is essential to achieving success in the CFL.

The league’s ratio dictates that national players take priority over their international counterparts when it comes to salary cap expenditure. The pool of Canadian talent is smaller and, as such, commands premium dollars.

Being unable to re-sign every international player they’d like means that teams need to find young (and inexpensive) American players to fill important roles every season.

Winnipeg has found some talented young players in recent years. Jackson Jeffcoat, Brandon Alexander, Marcus Sayles, Jovan Santos-Knox, Kevin Fogg, and Chris Streveler have all become major contributors for the team.

There is one position, however, at which the Bombers have struggled to uncover young talent.

Winnipeg has been in need of a game-changing American receiver for a long time — and the club has been unable to find one. Free agent additions Kenny Stafford (2017) and Adarius Bowman (2018) were both busts, adding to the need to recruit young talent.

The Bombers have scouted, signed, and started 18 different American rookie receivers since the first full season of the Kyle Walters/Mike O’Shea era in 2014. The results are… uninspired.

Name Season Games RECs Yards TDs
Kenbrell Thompkins 2018 12 29 421 1
T.J. Thorpe 2017 6 33 302 0
Jace Davis 2016 8 32 291 1
Thomas Mayo 2016 5 24 277 1
Timothy Flanders 2017 10 26 206 3
Justin Veltung 2015 5 17 189 2
L’Damian Washington 2017 7 16 170 1
Corey Washington 2018 3 6 165 1
Gerrard Sheppard 2016 4 13 118 0
Chris Givens 2017 2 5 48 0
Kris Adams 2016 2 3 41 0
Troy Stoudermire 2015 6 8 40 0
Charles Nelson 2018 1 3 35 0
Justin Wilson 2014 1 3 24 0
Jhomo Gordon 2015 2 3 15 0
Mike Willie 2015 1 2 15 0
Kevin Cone 2015 1 0 0 0
Jerrel Jackson 2014 1 0 0 0
Totals N/A 77 223 2,357 10

It should be noted that the Bombers cut both Ricky Collins and R.J. Harris over this period of time. Collins went on to record 1,331 receiving yards and four touchdowns over three seasons with Saskatchewan (2016-2017) and B.C. (2018), while Harris had 697 yards on 49 receptions and two touchdowns this past year in Ottawa.

For the sake of comparison I took a look at the three top receivers each other CFL team has discovered since the 2014 season.

B.C. Lions

Bryan Burnham — 65 games, 268 receptions, 4,159 yards, 22 touchdowns

Lavelle Hawkins — 9 games, 39 receptions, 673, yards, 3 touchdowns

Geraldo Boldewijn — 8 games, 21 receptions, 249 yards, 1 touchdown

Calgary Stampeders

DaVaris Daniels — 36 games, 148 receptions, 2,375 yards, 20 touchdowns

Kamar Jorden — 32 games, 152 receptions, 2,254 yards, 15 touchdowns

Marken Michel — 24 games, 72 receptions, 1,215 yards, 8 touchdowns

Edmonton Eskimos

Derel Walker — 49 games, 297 receptions, 4,208 yards, 26 touchdowns

D’haquille Williams — 31 games, 134 receptions, 2,294 yards, 15 touchdowns

Brandon Zylstra — 22 games, 134 receptions, 2,195 yards, 8 touchdowns

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Naaman Roosevelt — 49 games, 224 receptions, 3,188 yards, 19 touchdowns

Caleb Holley — 33 games, 109 receptions, 1,476 yards, 7 touchdowns

Jordan Williams-Lambert — 17 games, 62 receptions, 764 yards, 4 touchdowns

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Terrence Toliver — 39 games, 146 receptions, 2,176 yards, 16 touchdowns

Jalen Saunders — 25 games, 121 receptions, 1,909 yards, 6 touchdowns

Tiquan Underwood — 17 games, 45 receptions, 711 yards, 3 touchdowns

Toronto Argonauts

Tori Gurley — 26 games, 94 receptions, 1,300 yards, 15 touchdowns

Diontae Spencer — 22 games, 107 receptions, 1,208 yards, 6 touchdowns

John Chiles — 20 games, 73 receptions, 1,200 yards, 10 touchdowns

Ottawa Redblacks

Khalil Paden — 19 games, 39 receptions, 626 yards, 1 touchdown

Dominique Rhymes — 19 games, 37 receptions, 522 yards, 1 touchdown

Joshua Stangby — 14 games, 43 receptions, 500 yards, 5 touchdowns

Montreal Alouettes

B.J. Cunningham — 57 games, 209 receptions, 2,922 yards, 15 touchdowns

Eugene Lewis — 20 games, 51 receptions, 947 yards, 4 touchdowns

TJ Graham — 11 games, 19 receptions, 224 yards, 0 touchdowns

This list doesn’t include Eric Rogers, who originally debuted in Ottawa’s training camp prior to becoming an impact player in Calgary. It also doesn’t include a number of receivers who broke into the league one year prior to the 2014 season, including Duron Carter, Brandon Banks, Greg Ellingson, and Luke Tasker.

22 players on the list have recorded more receiving yards than Winnipeg’s leading receiver (Kenbrell Thompkins — 421 yards). Five players (Bryan Burnham, DaVaris Daniels, Derel Walker, Naaman Roosevelt, and B.J. Cunningham) have single-handedly recorded more receiving yards than all 18 of the Bombers’ receivers combined.

The numbers speak for themselves — the Bombers simply aren’t recruiting the type of talent needed for success at the receiver position.

With Matt Nichols’ passing totals dipping this past year and Weston Dressler set to turn 34 in July (if he’s re-signed for next season, that is), Winnipeg will need to find a way to uncover some fresh receiving talent in 2019.

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About the author

John Hodge

John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.

By John Hodge

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