In the past half decade, the Ticats have done a great job of drafting quality Canadian players, thanks in large part to having one of the league’s best national talent evaluators in Drew Allemang.
Allemang has drafted studs like offensive linemen Brandon Revenberg and Darius Ciraco, as well as uncovering diamonds in the rough like running back/receiver Sean Thomas-Erlington.
While the Ticats haven’t been afraid to spend in free agency to lure talented Canadians to Hamilton — Ted Laurent, Tunde Adeleke, Chris Van Zeyl — it is the draft where they have found most of their national contributors.
Looking at the club’s roster, the first thing that stands out is a lack of Canadian depth at receiver. Mike Jones wasn’t retained in free agency, which means the team has an opening at field-side wide receiver. They currently have just three Canadian receivers on the roster in Marcus Davis, Brian Jones and David Ungerer III, though the trio combined for just two receptions last season.
Jones, a first-round pick of the Argos in 2016, has caught just 14 passes in five CFL seasons, so it’s unlikely he’s due for a breakout year. Davis spent the entire 2019 season on the practice roster and has not seen game action since the team selected him in the fourth-round of the 2018 draft. Ungerer, the 11th overall selection by Hamilton a year ago, remains unproven but likely has the inside track to start. In any event, receiver is a position the Ticats should target on draft day.
Offensive line is always a place to look for help and the Ticats enter the draft with four starting spots locked down. Could it be possible that a Canadian kicks out to left tackle to replace Ryker Mathews, who left for B.C. in free agency? I could see it with Brandon Revenberg moving to tackle and 2019 second-overall pick Jesse Gibbon sliding in at guard.
The Ticats have a ton of developmental offensive linemen (five, by my count) even after the retirement of Mathieu Girard. Adding another blocker on draft day is never a bad idea, however, especially with OUA talents like Jakub Szott (McMaster), Dylan Giffen (Western), and Coulter Woodmansey (Guelph) available.
Hamilton’s defensive line took a hit when Connor McGough opted to head home to Calgary and oft-injured Jamaal Westerman wasn’t re-signed. That leaves just four Canadian defensive linemen on the roster, with none having much experience beyond Ted Laurent. Expect the Ticats to address this at some point in the draft with Mason Bennett (North Dakota), Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund (Southeastern Louisiana), Cameron Lawson (Queen’s) and Sam Acheampong (Wilfrid Laurier) as potential options.
Linebacker Justin Herdman-Reed was signed away from Toronto in free agency and the team re-upped Curtis Newton in January. It’s not a major position of need for Hamilton defensively, but linebackers come in handy on special teams. In 2015, Hamilton spent four of their six picks on linebackers, including one with each of their first three picks. While I don’t expect that many to be selected this year, don’t be surprised if the team does dip their toe into the linebacker pool with Bailey Feltmate (Acadia) and Malik Tyne (Towson) as potential targets.
Lirim Hajrullahu signed with the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams earlier this month, which leaves the club without a national kicker on the roster. If the Ticats want to continue fielding a Canadian specialist, look for the club to select Marc Liegghio out of Western. The native of Woodbridge, Ont. is the best kicking prospect the draft has seen in years and many believe he is capable of performing all three jobs at the CFL level.
Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke is also an intriguing option for the Hamilton, despite the team’s relatively stacked quarterback depth chart. The club took his former teammate Maleek Irons in the third round of last year’s draft and his former number-one receiver, Papi White, recently signed with the team. If Rourke ends up being selected by the Ticats, I imagine viewership in Athens, Ohio for Ticats games could skyrocket.