The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have been one of the league’s best evaluators of draftable talent over the last few years.
It looks like that trend continued Thursday when the team netted some impressive potential future starters and core special teams players in 2019 CFL draft.
The Ticats used the team’s first pick to snag Waterloo offensive lineman, and Hamilton native, Jesse Gibbon. Despite playing tackle in university, Gibbon projects as a guard or centre in the CFL. Given that the team took their time in re-signing long-time centre Mike Filer this off-season it is not hard to see who Gibbon could be replacing sooner rather than later. Once Gibbon does win a starting spot, it will give the Ticats a trio of talented interior Canadian lineman who are all under the age of 26. That’s the makings of a dominant interior for a very long time.
In the second round, the Ticats selected York fullback Nikola Kalinic. Kalinic played slotback in university, but his six-foot-four, 245-pound frame makes that unlikely at the pro level. While Kalinic will likely not contribute a whole lot on offence, where he will make his impact will be on special teams. He is an absolute beast on specials and was considered the best special teams prospect in the draft. Special teams has been a bit of a cluster the last couple of years, but with Jeff Reinebold’s return and the addition of Kalinic, the Ticats could get back to having the league’s most feared third unit once again.
After whiffing on last year’s first overall pick, Mark Chapman, it was no surprise to see the Ticats go get another speedy receiver, this time it was Idaho product David Ungerer in the third round. He is the perfect fit for June Jones’ offence, given his smaller size (just five-foot-nine and 181 pounds) and blazing speed. He will have a hard time cracking the starting lineup, but he could also provide some explosiveness in the return game if given the chance.
In the fourth round, Hamilton added some reinforcements at running back with the selection of Ohio’s Maleek Irons. Many viewed Irons as the draft’s best running back prospect who has a legit chance to be a ratio-breaking starter for the team in the future. With Alex Green on just a one-year deal and with his history of injuries, it would not shock me to see Irons get plenty of playing time in 2019. With Sean Thomas-Erlington already in the fold, and having proven he is capable of handling the rushing duties when called upon, selecting Irons just adds another weapon for June Jones to employ on a weekly basis.
The Ticats’ final four picks were all on the defensive side with three linemen — UBC’s Sheridan Lawley, Manitoba’s Derek Dufault and University of Toronto’s Malcolm Campbell — and one linebacker — St. FX’s Gordon Whyte — selected, all of which will compete for spots on special teams.
Hamilton’s recent draft hauls have been impressive, with offensive linemen Brandon Revenberg and Darius Ciraco starting their rookie years, while also getting solid contributions from players like running back/receiver Sean Thomas-Erlington and defensive tackle Justin Vaughn, as well as near-elite production (given his position) from receiver Mike Jones. In addition, the team has received solid special teams production from the likes of defensive end Connor McGough and hybrid linebacker-defensive back Jackson Bennett. The Ticats have done well in the draft recently, is what I am saying.
Given all that draft success, the Ticats entered the 2019 pick-fest with very few needs, which gave them the flexibility to draft the best players they could regardless of position. Given the home runs they hit early — our draft expert John Hodge gave the Ticats three A’s and a B- for their first four picks and said on the 3DownNation podcast that he thought Hamilton had the best draft — Ticats fans have to be happy with the results.