Let’s get into the Eskimos’ roster with a sample depth chart as of the weekend before the draft. National players are denoted by a green background, while the the gold background denotes American players.
As it stands, the Eskimos could realistically start eight nationals, one more than the required seven. Special teams and fullbacks aside, there are three Canadians along the interior of the offensive line, two at receiver, one at defensive end, and two in the secondary.
One area of strength is along the defensive line. Kwaku Boateng has 17 sacks over the last two years, while Mathieu Betts should take a step in year two after being selected third overall a year ago. The club also has NFL journeyman Stefan Charles, veteran Mark Mackie, and incoming rookie Evan Machibroda along the interior.
As John Hodge pointed out in his latest mock, the Eskimos could select a defensive end at fourth overall if Boateng and Betts both earn starting roles in 2020. Two potential options are Mason Bennett (North Dakota) and Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund (Southeastern Louisiana).
In the depth chart above, I have Mike Moore listed as an end. He was an interior man in 2019, but it’s tough to list Jake Ceresna as a backup without an incumbent at defensive end.
Regardless, the Esks have a ton of flexibility along the defensive line and should have no problems matching their pass-rushing prowess from 2019.
Tevaun Smith and Anthony Parker are the only two Canadian receivers on the roster who have registered much production in the CFL. Behind them is a platoon of guys waiting for an opportunity, including Shai Ross, Danny Vandervoort, and Hunter Karl. Jimmy Ralph also made good progress with the Argos in 2019 before signing with his hometown club.
There may not be a star in the group, but the Esks won’t struggle to find guys who can play. The club is likely to take a receiver at some point, but I would guess it won’t be early. Some mid-to-late round names to watch include Kian Schaffer-Baker (Guelph), Macho Bockru (Manitoba), Brett Ellerman (Western), and Cordell Hastings (Acadia).
Long-time Eskimo Blair Smith is the team’s only national linebacker, which is concerning for special teams. Although they’ve made great use of fullbacks on specials over the last couple years, it’s reasonable to expect Edmonton to take at least a pair on Thursday. Some intriguing names to consider are Adam Auclair (Laval), Jack Cassar (Carleton), Bailey Feltmate (Acadia), Malik Tyne (Towson), and Aaron Chabaylo (Alberta).
The defensive backfield has a sizeable group of Canadians without much in the way of proven starters. Godfrey Onyeka is highly-regarded by the organization and should start at field-side cornerback. Meanwhile, Jordan Hoover and Jermaine Gabriel are poised to battle for the starting safety job.
Safety is another place that could see a ratio change if an American earns the spot, but that would be a break from current trend. Once again, the Esks are fortunate to have a player base that allows them to field their best guys everywhere regardless of nationality.
You’re very unlikely to find an immediate starter in the draft, but it’s wise to pick up another body or two in the secondary. Local product Shaydon Philip (Alberta) could be an option as a mid-round selection.
Offensive line isn’t a huge area of need, though it’s an area that should still be addressed. Matt O’Donnell will continue to anchor the unit, David Beard recently signed a long-term extension, and Jacob Ruby and Kyle Saxelid both started often. Still, you can always use more depth and there will at minimum be practice roster spots available. Some early to mid-round names worth remembering are Chris Gangarossa (Wagner), Jakub Szott (McMaster), Mattland Riley (Saskatchewan), and Andrew Becker (Regina).
The Eskimos will select fourth overall on Thursday, barring trade, and have nine selections in total (their original eight, plus Toronto’s seventh rounder).
One intriguing name is offensive lineman Carter O’Donnell from the University of Alberta Golden Bears. O’Donnell was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Indianapolis Colts immediately after the NFL draft concluded, so whichever CFL team selects him will be taking a gamble. He also received a $25,000 signing bonus from the Colts, which shows the team is serious about his abilities.
Brock Sunderland took Mathieu Betts at third overall in 2019, who was under contract with the Chicago Bears at the time. Could he take another NFL player in 2020 — this time a local offensive lineman?
Edmonton is in pretty good shape with their Canadian talent, but of course they’ll keep trying to improve. I think Hodge’s mock scenario mentioned above with defensive line, offensive line, and linebacker addressed in the first three picks is fairly likely.