Riders GM Jeremy O’Day rolls the dice on Canadian prospects with NFL opportunities

Saskatchewan Roughriders Jeremy O’Day doesn’t mind playing the odds if he believes the result could play out in the Riders favour.

Both of Saskatchewan’s first and second round picks were bigger body offensive weapons in Justin McInnis (sixth overall) and Brayden Lenius-Dickey (15th overall). Each player had accepted NFL rookie mini-camp invites, McInnis the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans and Lenius-Dickey the San Francisco 49ers.

“That’s why they’re there, they’ve got the size. It’s a very competitive league in the NFL, we’ve done some research on those guys, that’s the reality of it we were willing to take the risk and wait if we had to,” O’Day said after the CFL draft.

“The players were too good to pass up in those situations, which is the reason we decided to take them. They’re looking and working hard and trying to get an opportunity in the NFL, so we’ll be in a little bit of a wait and see with those guys.”

Last year Saskatchewan chose offensive lineman Dakoda Shepley in the first round, fifth overall knowing he had signed an undrafted NFL free agent contract with the New York Jets. After spending a season trying to make an active NFL roster, Shepley inked a two-year contact plus an option with the Riders in March.

“I don’t want to roll the dice too many times because it’s not always going to roll the way you want them. But in these cases we’ve had some examples where it’s worked out in our favour,” O’Day said.

McInnis finished his NCAA career with back-to-back productive seasons. He caught 49 balls for 800 yards and four touchdowns in 2017 and followed with 61 grabs for 748 yards and five touchdowns as a senior. Over the last 25 games as a Red Wolf, McInnis put up 110 catches for 1,548 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“A guy that we were hoping to fall to us at six, and fortunately we got him. We thought McInnis would be gone at six,” O’Day said.

“The fact that he’s six-foot-six, 210 pounds and runs a 4.54 (40-yard time) and he blocks, he’s got great hands, he’s played at a high level, productive at that level.”

Lenius-Dickey graduated from the University of New Mexico following a stint at the University of Washington. He recorded 581 career receiving yards and four touchdowns in 46 collegiate contests.

“Brayden has done a lot of different things, we liked his flexibility to play multiple positions. He’s been an outside receiver at Washington – he’s got great size – when he transferred to New Mexico he added some weight and played some tight end, so he can block in the box,” O’Day said.

“We see him at multiple positions that we can use him. He can play inside the box, he can play outside the box depending on where we want to use him. We felt that he would have gotten a chance to go higher and to be quite honest we didn’t think that he would be there that late.”

The Riders have two imposing targets in McInnis and Lenius-Dickey.

“With Justin he also has speed, he’s not a tall, slow receiver and Brayden he does a lot of different things. For someone that is six-foot-five, 2343 pounds and ran a 4.75 (40-yard time), that’s pretty impressive,” O’Day said.

“We like size, we like their length.”

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