Instead of scouting players, investing in analytics or watching film, the Montreal Alouettes need a complete revamp of their draft philosophy based around one simple rule: general manager Kavis Reed should not be allowed to trade away picks. Ever. Especially for quarterbacks.
Since taking over in December 2016, Reed has traded two picks to Saskatchewan for the rights to Darian Durant (15 starts, three wins) and two first-round picks to Hamilton as part of the Johnny Manziel trade (eight starts, two wins.) That bill doesn’t come due until 2020 and 2021 and in the meantime, Reed must continue to rebuild the thin national roster he inherited from former general manager Jim Popp.
The thing is, Reed and his staff, led by veteran CFL personnel guy Miles Gorrell, have actually done a pretty good job restocking the Canuck cupboard. Six of their eight draft picks from the 2017 draft are still on the roster, which is a vaguely promising sign, though it’s tough to see any of them projecting as a full-time starter.
But after dealing the first overall pick to Hamilton last year in exchange for the No. 2 and stud Canadian guard Ryan Bomben, the Alouettes grabbed offensive lineman Trey Rutherford, who played in nine games last season before getting hurt. That move looked even better after the guy the Ticats took No. 1, receiver Mark Chapman, didn’t show. Second round pick, defensive end Bo Banner, played in 16 games as a rookie while fifth-round running back Ryder Stone had 25 carries and looked solid.
Going into this year’s draft, the Alouettes don’t have a first-round pick – which would have been second overall – having used it in the supplemental draft on offensive lineman Tyler Johnstone. That was a perfectly justifiable move, though Johnstone’s injury history and the fact that he got hurt in his first CFL game is cause for concern.
Trying to figure out what any team will do in the CFL Draft starts with looking at their seven potential Canadian starters – though that number could certainly change as part of CBA negotiations, something that would help teams like the Alouettes. Montreal has four locks: linebackers Henoc Muamba, safety Taylor Loffler and offensive lineman Kristen Matte and Spencer Wilson. They’ve got four other quality talents on the line with Sean Jamieson, Zach Annen, Rutherford and Johnstone: they could definitely start three nationals up front and maybe four in a pinch.
They’ve also got six Canadian receivers on the roster, though losing George Johnson, who started 22 games over the last two seasons hurts a bit. Felix Faubert-Lussier, signed away from Hamilton, is a capable replacement and perhaps Stephen Adekolu or Malcolm Carter will step up. There’s probably a starter in there, somewhere.
Finally, Bo Lokombo, another free agent pick up, could be a starter at WILL giving the Alouettes another national tandem in the linebacking corps (something they did successfully last year with Chris Ackie and Muamba.)
Anyway, three offensive linemen, Loffler and Muamba would be perfectly fine if the ratio comes down to five. Add a receiver and another offensive lineman or Lokombo if it’s seven. There’s some flexibility in the linebacking corps and at running back and fullback / tight end Spencer Moore always comes in handy.
Which is good because they don’t have a pick in the 2019 draft until No. 13, though they do have three second-round picks, including the “territorial pick” gifted to them (and the Argos) by the CFL. That pick must be a player “born within their territorial limits” which likely means Quebec for the Alouettes.
All in all, Montreal has four of the nine selections between No. 13 and No. 21 and this is supposed to be a deep draft: the Alouettes could get some excellent players if they hit on the picks. With a decent stable of nationals already in house, Reed can also afford to take a chance on a player with some NFL opportunities.
Which brings me to Mathieu Betts.
The Laval defensive lineman makes all kinds of sense for the Alouettes: he’s played at Laval, he’s French they already have a Canadian defensive end in Banner. He’s also really bloody good and the Alouettes will need teams to be scared off by his NFL undrafted free agent contract with the Chicago Bears and the fact that he may want to play at home in two or three years. But if he’s there at No. 13, Reed gets run out of the province on a rail if he doesn’t take him.
Another Laval kid on the CFL scouting bureau’s Top 20 makes sense, position-wise, for the Alouettes as well in offensive lineman Samuel Thomassin (ranked No. 12.) Grabbing a receiver like Brayden Lenius or Kurleigh Gittens Jr. also fits their roster make up, as does Western linebacker Fraser Sopik who can help on special teams while learning behind Muamba and Lokombo. A running back like Maleek Irons or Brady Oliviera would allow them to double down on the Stone pick.
And while the Alouettes already have a Canadian quarterback on the roster in Laval’s Hugo Richard, why not use one of those four selections on UBC pivot Michael O’Connor if he’s still available? Given Montreal’s track record in spending draft picks to acquire crappy and/or washed up quarterbacks, there would be some irony in finding the solution by actually using a selection to acquire one.
Of course, Reed would probably just trade O’Connor away…