When it comes to drafts, there’s often two schools of thought: do you draft the best player available or choose for need?

More often than not, I believe that it’s more prudent to take who you think is the best player available, even if it’s already a position of strength. Why? Because you can never have too many good players and it’s still possible to fill needs when you’re dealing from a position in strength. More often than not, what you’re getting in return at that point is likely more of a sure thing than if you drafted for need in the first place.

Through the first two rounds of this year’s CFL draft, the Riders drafted for need, but they didn’t necessarily not take the best player available.

There are circumstances where you can draft the best player available and fill need at the same time. On paper, it appears the Riders did that with their first round pick, receiver Justin McInnis.

I know 3DownNation’s John Hodge was suggesting the Riders should have taken offensive lineman Alex Fontana, and perhaps time will suggest they should have, but as it stands right now, they filled a need with a guy who was one of the best players available at the time.

I’ve admitted on numerous occasions that I am not a draft expert, so whether McInnis was actually the best player available or not in my opinion, I couldn’t tell you. That said, by all accounts, it seems like the pick wasn’t a reach. The only risk here is McInnis does have some NFL rookie mini-camp invites lined up, but no contracts have been offered as of yet, so it might be a good gamble.

With a receiver in his back pocket, it was surprising to see general manager Jeremy O’Day go back to that well in the second round by taking Brayden Lenius-Dickey. Could they have added to the receiver depth later on and take say a lineman? Probably.

That said, Leinus-Dickey does seem to be a solid pick and there is some method to their madness.

Despite the TSN panel talking about how the Riders interior offensive line is getting up there in age, which they are, the guys behind them are not. Dariusz Bladek was a second round pick in 2017 and adding Dakoda Shepley (a high pick, fifth overall, just a year ago) not too long ago was basically like picking up an offensive lineman in this year’s draft. Those two are the big names that are poised to eventually make the jump to starters but the team must be high on the likes of Braden Schram to not take an offensive lineman until much later in the draft.

It feels like the Shepley signing more than anything allowed O’Day to get aggressive in the first two rounds and fill a need while still picking smart.

As for the rest of the Riders picks, Jacob Janke seems like a guy who Chris Jones would love. Listed as linebacker but has also played defensive back and safety. Versatile players are good. Versatile guys also usually means they can play special teams. Hard to argue with that in the fourth round.

Once we get into rounds five and beyond, you’re basically rolling the dice on guys and seeing what sticks. So, we’ll have to wait and see if Charbel Dabire, Vincent Roy and Christopher Judge turn into anything beyond players attending this year’s camp. The odd gem comes from the later rounds of the draft, but expectations should generally be low and shouldn’t effect draft grades.

Heading into the draft, I wrote that we would learn a lot about the new Riders under O’Day. It appears O’Day is comfortable taking a safer approach as most of these guys should be at camp this year.

It’s a good start for the O’Day-led Riders. Now we wait and see if the moves pay off.


Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic. He is also a beer aficionado.