The Toronto Argos are looking to take advantage of a strong CFL draft class.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way CFL teams are preparing for the upcoming draft, it hasn’t taken away the fact that it is an important one for the Argonauts.
We got a good look at how the new management regime led by Michael “Pinball” Clemons and John Murphy wanted to strengthen the team’s Canadian talent in free agency. Of the 13 players the Argos added on day one, eight were national players.
It wasn’t just the number of Canadians they added but getting players who can be impactful starters, providing them with flexibility on their roster. Not only that, but it also impacts how they approach the draft.
Going into Thursday night’s draft, Toronto owns four picks in the top 20 selections and the team feels like they are in a position to take advantage of one of the best draft classes in recent memory.
“It’s a deep draft where there are potential future starters and potential impact players in multiple positions all over the field,” said Argos’ Director of Canadian Scouting, Vince Magri.
“That’s one of the really exciting things about going into this draft. With a bunch of picks in the top 20, there are so many good football players here that we’re in a position to make our roster a lot stronger.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, teams have had to adapt their evaluation process for the draft with the scouting combine cancelled and homes becoming temporary offices. This has allowed them to conduct team meetings to go over draft strategy and virtual interviews with prospects.
Magri said not having a combine isn’t ideal but it hasn’t thrown as big of a wrench into the Argos’ draft process. They will just continue to work with all the information they have gathered from scouting trips and the countless hours of film they have at their disposal.
“The biggest thing is just not having verified testing numbers, medicals and in-person interviews. That’s what we’re missing,” explained Magri.
“But by using the phone or using Zoom, there’s ways we can kind of fill those gaps and complete the picture on these prospects.”
Players have also held virtual workouts and testing for teams showing that they are staying in shape, which is important especially during this time. It also allows any prospect who might have had an injury to give teams a sense on where they are in their recovery process.
For the Argos, they understand how important it is to try and find players that can come in and compete right away. Especially considering that has been the recipe for success for the teams that have been able to compete on a consistent basis.
Where the team is looking to capitalize on their work is flexibility in terms of who they can select in the early part of the draft, including their territorial pick at the end of the second round.
“While we don’t want to be picking in this territory round anymore, because it implies that we finished in the bottom two, there are a lot of high-quality local football players at our disposal at that pick,” said Magri.
“Luckily, we’re at a point where we don’t have to reach for somebody that might not necessarily be worthy of being taken that high.”
The Argos have conducted their own mock drafts to prepare for any potential hiccups that could occur on Thursday and considering how successful the NFL was able to conduct their draft, there aren’t many concerns about the process of making a pick.
“Our staff will be videoed into each other and someone will be on a conference call with the league,” said Magri.
“So really, it’s not much different than the way it’s always been since everyone is usually in a war room. The only difference, really, is that our war room is going to be a Zoom room but the way we communicate with teams and the league will be the same as usual.”