The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have nine selections in Thursday’s CFL draft (4, 5, 14, 25, 34, 43, 52, 61, 70) including two in the first round. It will be a critical day for a team that needs to reinforce its national talent following a number of key departures this off-season.
Here is what Bomber fans need to know ahead of the annual pickfest.
All four one, one four all
It’s a safe bet that the Bombers will use the fourth overall pick in Thursday’s draft to address the offensive line. Sukh Chungh is a member of the B.C. Lions, Matthias Goossen is a police officer, and Arnaud Gendron-Dumouchel — the club’s fourth-round pick from last year — retired after suffering a devastating ankle injury with the Carabins.
Clearly, the club needs an offensive lineman.
Windsor’s Drew Desjarlais is a prime candidate for the selection by virtue of his nasty, power-oriented blocking style. Waterloo left tackle Jesse Gibbon and Kansas centre Alex Fontana are also possibilities, depending on how the first three picks of the draft shake out.
All three project as CFL starters, which puts Winnipeg in a good spot come draft day.
The Bombers hold two first-round draft picks by virtue of last year’s trade that saw Winnipeg send its first-round pick in 2018 to B.C. for the Lions’ first-round pick in 2019 along with a swap of second rounders.
I don’t see Winnipeg using the fifth overall pick on a player that will be in training camp. If the club uses the selection, I expect the Bombers to draft a ‘futures player’ (more on that in a moment).
If the club trades the pick, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the teams without a first-round selection — B.C. or Montreal — ends up being Winnipeg’s trade partner. Stay tuned to 3DownNation this week — if a trade happens, we’ll have the details.
Back to the futures
It’s been two years since the Bombers made an NFL futures pick in Manitoba Bison Geoff Gray, an offensive lineman who was then a member of the New York Jets.
This year’s draft features just one NFL player in Mathieu Betts, an outstanding pass rusher from the University of Laval. Betts signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Bears on Saturday after going unselected in the NFL draft.
Other players who currently have NFL mini-camp invites can be found here. These mini-camps will not take place until after Thursday’s draft, meaning CFL teams will have to pick players without knowing which ones may yet sign an NFL contract.
What about Brady?
Brady Oliveira has been a hot topic of conversation among Bomber fans on social media, as are most highly-touted local products come draft time.
Oliveira enjoyed an outstanding career carrying the ball at the University of North Dakota, recording 2,532 yards and 20 touchdowns in 39 games with the Fighting Hawks. His strength and quickness testing numbers are fantastic, though his forty-yard dash (4.77) was a letdown.
I don’t believe the Bombers intend on starting a national running back beyond Andrew Harris’ tenure with the club. That said, I still think Oliveira would make a great addition to the team. He could be a beast on special teams — people often forget Jon Cornish had 43 special teams tackles over his first three seasons with the Stampeders — and a versatile piece on offence.
Oliveira recently fired his CFL agent, so his status is somewhat up in the air. I could see him going anywhere between the first and fourth rounds of Thursday’s draft.
The Bombers are in a position to draft best-player-available (BPA) through most of the draft, but there are a few spots the club would be wise to address in the draft’s mid-to-late rounds.
Winnipeg should take a receiver if the team plans to start three national pass catchers this season. UConn’s Hergy Mayala should be available in the second round as a possession-oriented slotback. Queen’s Chris Osei-Kusi could be an option as late as the third round, while York’s Colton Hunchak or Calgary’s Hunter Karl — two of my favorite late-round receivers — should be available in round five or six.
The defensive line is also an area of need, which is convenient as it’s one of the draft’s deepest positions. Concordia’s Michael Sanelli shot up into third-round consideration following an excellent combine, while Saskatchewan’s Evan Machibroda should be available in the fourth round as a futures pick (he’s returning to school in 2019).
The Bombers could also stand to add a defensive back, though it’s not a particularly deep class. Ottawa’s Jamie Harry, Western’s Hakeem Johnson, Fresno State’s Matthew Boateng, and Southeastern Louisiana’s Shamar Busby are all mid-round options.