Who the Eskimos could (and probably should) take in Thursday’s CFL draft

Photo courtesy: Drew Edwards

The Edmonton Eskimos have eight selections in this year’s CFL draft (3, 12, 32, 40, 41, 50, 59, 68) with a number of needs on their roster.

Here is what Eskimo fans need to know ahead of Thursday’s draft.

I come from a Land down Sunder

Brock Sunderland has made just one first-round pick since becoming the Eskimos’ general manager in April of 2017. That selection was used to draft Carleton receiver Nate Behar, which proved to be a mistake. Behar missed training camp as a rookie due a contract dispute and recorded just 27 receptions in 30 games with the Eskimos before leaving for Ottawa via free agency this past winter.

There isn’t enough of a track record with Sunderland to predict what he’ll do in the first round. It doesn’t help that his longtime mentor, Jim Popp, is also considered a wildcard come draft time.

The Eskimos need help at fullback, receiver, offensive line, and defensive line. The club didn’t hesitate to select ‘future’ players under Ed Hervey, a trend that continued into the Sunderland era in 2017 when the club picked Mississippi State offensive lineman Justin Senior in the fifth round.

Third’s the word

My sources tell me the Eskimos are looking at investing the club’s first-round pick to address its needs along the defensive line. The logical spot for Edmonton to address would be at defensive end where the club starts stud national pass rusher Kwaku Boateng without an appropriate back-up.

Laval’s Mathieu Betts is arguably the best player available in the draft but his contract with the Chicago Bears might scare the Esks off. Tennessee’s Jonathan Kongbo is also great, though he is coming off a torn ACL from October. Laurier defensive end Robbie Smith should also be in consideration considering he was a teammate of Boateng’s at Wilfrid Laurier.

Catching on

The Eskimos finally managed to sign Tevaun Smith this off-season, the club’s first-round pick from 2016. He should be the club’s top national receiver this season following a three-year stint in the NFL.

Edmonton is thin at national receiver beyond Smith with veterans Anthony Parker and Natey Adjei both turning 30 this year. 22-year-old Auburn product Peter Barryman also recently retired, further depleting the pipeline.

I’d like to see the Esks use one of their top selections on a pass catcher, particularly due to the depth this year’s receiver class. If the club passes on Arkansas State’s Justin McInnis at third overall, St. FX’s Kaion Julien-Grant, Wilfrid Laurier’s Kurleigh Gittens Jr. or UConn’s Hergy Mayala would make a fine addition to the club’s receiving corps.

Shopping local

Call me sentimental, but I’d love to see Alberta product and long-time Edmonton Wildcat Jonathan Harke get picked by his hometown Eskimos.

Harke’s got good film, interviewed well at the CFL national combine, and won the bench press with 32 reps of 225 pounds. His frame (five-foot-eleven, 295 pounds) will limit him to playing centre at the CFL level but there should still be a spot for him with the Eskimos.

Edmonton can’t start three American offensive linemen forever. Veteran David Beard — also an Alberta graduate — could eventually kick out to guard, leaving the centre spot vacant. Laval product Jean-Simon Roy would have the inside track to the starting job but he’s a pending free agent.

The Eskimos should be able to get Harke with the club’s fourth-round selection and I think he’d be a good pick. I’ve talked to multiple people who view Harke as a sleeper pick — he’d look good in green and hold.