Canadian content is an off-season series I’ve created to look at how each club deployed its starting nationals in 2019 and project how they may do so in 2020. This information can give us an idea of how teams will approach the draft in May.
Hamilton’s national players accounted for 136 starts in 2019, ten more than the required 126. Mike Filer took over at centre from American Demetrius Rhaney early in the year, while starting a national running back often meant fielding eight Canadians. The team also started national Nick Shortill during Simoni Lawrence’s two-game suspension in August.
Below is a breakdown of how the Ticats fielded their national starters last season.
Sean Thomas-Erlington (4)
Maleek Irons (4)
Anthony Coombs (3)
Jackson Bennett (1)
Mike Jones (18)
Chris Van Zeyl (15)
Kay Okafor (1)
Darius Ciraco (18)
Brandon Revenberg (17)
Jesse Gibbon (1)
Mike Filer (16)
Brett Golding (1)
Connor McGough (1)
Ted Laurent (15)
Brett Wade (1)
Nick Shortill (2)
Tunde Adeleke (16)
Mike Daly (2)
The team consistently started four Canadian offensive linemen along with one wide receiver, one defensive tackle, and a safety. Starting an extra national at running back was just a bonus for a team with strong national depth across the board.
All ten of the team’s national offensive linemen are back for 2020, including the CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in Chris Van Zeyl. Jesse Gibbon has a bright future as the second overall pick of the 2019 draft, while Mathieu Girard and Kay Okafor are long-term project players who should be ready to contribute.
Sean Thomas-Erlington had a breakout season in 2019, recording 417 yards from scrimmage on 47 touches in just four games. The depth behind him is solid in the elusive Jackson Bennett and a bruising Maleek Irons. Hamilton may elect to start American Don Jackson after signing him in free agency, but the Ticats’ national ball carriers should still contribute heavily.
Hamilton didn’t retain veteran receiver Mike Jones in free agency, which means the field-side wideout spot is up for grabs. Ungerer III had two catches as a rookie in 2019, while former fourth-round pick Marcus Davis has yet to record a reception in his career. Brian Jones is a former first-round pick but didn’t catch a pass in nine games with the team last year.
Ted Laurent continues to dominate at defensive tackle, though the team could stand to add more depth behind him. Brett Wade has twenty games to his name along with two tackles and two sacks. Derek Dufault and Malcolm Campbell are late-round selections from 2019 who should contribute predominantly on special teams.
Justin Herdman-Reed was brought over in free agency to help fill the void left by Nick Shortill, while Curtis Newton and Lucas Korol are exclusively special teams players. The Ticats will start American linebackers in 2020 — Simoni Lawrence and Larry Dean are elite — but this an area the club would be wise to address in the draft.
Tunde Adeleke, Mike Daly, and Courtney Stephen form an excellent trio of national defensive backs all capable of starting at safety. Adeleke is also a capable kick returner and strong-side linebacker, while Stephen can start at field-side cornerback if called upon.
Hamilton’s national depth is very strong overall, though there are areas in which it could be reinforced. Its real strength is along the offensive line where the team has drafted and developed well over the last half-decade.
Expect the Ticats to use their selections in this year’s draft to address the receiver, defensive tackle, and linebacker positions. The team has two first-round selections, so acquiring high-end talent won’t be difficult.
Receiver — Marcus Davis or David Ungerer III or Brian Jones (1)
Tackle — Chris Van Zeyl (1)
Guard — Brandon Revenberg, Darius Ciraco (2)
Centre — Mike Filer (1)
Defensive tackle — Ted Laurent (1)
Safety — Tunde Adeleke (1)