The CFL draft will tell us a lot about the new Riders

The CFL draft goes on May 2 and we’re about to learn a lot about the new look Saskatchewan Roughriders.

While many of the players poised to be taken don’t carry much of a profile in this country, lots are set to become important cogs in the league that we love for at least the next few years if not longer.

This draft will be particularly interesting for the Riders as it’s the first under the watchful eye of new VP of football operations and vice president Jeremy O’Day. What happens between now and the end of the draft will tell us a lot about O’Day’s philosophy when it comes to building a roster in the CFL.

Under the man who previously held that job, and others, Chris Jones, the Riders were very willing to roll the dice at the draft, taking at least one player every year who was likely bound for the NFL. Most of those players either haven’t returned north yet or the few who have, have already left the club.

The CFL draft by nature is a bigger roll of the dice than most drafts, so going big or going home can be a valid strategy if you already have some Canadian depth in place or have other plans to fill the void in the meantime.

You could argue that the Riders didn’t have that luxury but rolled with it anyway.

To Jones’ credit, out of all of the NFL bound guys he took, the most important one ended up in Riderville one year later when Dakoda Shepley signed on the dotted line.

This was a big signing for the Riders as their depth along the offensive line has improved immensely with the signing. What was a weakness for the team, suddenly isn’t. The Riders will be bringing back an offensive line that improved over the course of last season, with some reinforcements behind the starting five. Something they didn’t really have last year, especially when it came to the Canadians.

I’m not ready to declare the offensive line one of the team’s strength’s, but it should be vastly improved at the very least with another year together and better depth.

So, what should O’Day do at the draft? You can never go wrong with getting more Canadian offensive linemen. So, that should remain a priority.

After that, if the Riders believe that this is a good draft, then they might want to consider adding some picks if at all possible. As it stands, they have the fewest number of selections with just six. They weren’t lucky enough to be bad enough to warrant another pick, apparently.

Could they make a move for a couple of picks the Bombers appear to be dangling in the first round? Would moving down to add some selections be a good idea? Perhaps.

While the Riders aren’t in a rebuild mode, everything they do should be done with 2020 in mind. Giving themselves as many potential Canadians as they can would be a wise move.

Over the last few years, the Riders have taken a high risk, high reward approach to the draft. You don’t get the feeling that O’Day will approach the draft in the same way his predecessor, but it’s hard to say until we see what he does.

Either way, we’re going to learn a lot about the Riders new philosophy very soon.