When Michael “Pinball” Clemons finally decided to accept the Toronto Argonauts call to right the ship, he made it clear that the priority was to build a culture first but patience was going to be needed as well.
Clemons and assistant general manager John Murphy got a head start on the team’s off-season planning joining the team in October and since taking over, the Argos roster has been through serious turnover. The main focus has been to improve the team’s Canadian talent and Toronto did most of that during free agency.
Out of the seven players the Argos took, four were from Ontario including three from the GTA. Toronto doesn’t appear to be shy to showcase more of the local talent from their own backyard.
Going into this draft, the Argos were looking to take advantage of the four picks they had in the top 20. It was clear they knew which positions they wanted to target and certain intangibles they were looking for with each pick.
There were many surprises from the draft starting with Dejon Brissett at second overall for some who thought maybe that was too early for the Mississauga receiver.
Even though Toronto added some offensive weapons in DaVaris Daniels, Juwan Brescasin and Natey Adjei in free agency, they decided to dip into the local talent pool to add a player they believe can be a difference-maker coming out of the draft.
Brissett saw a big rise up the draft rankings and it was clear that he was on the Argos’ radar leading up to the draft. The team clearly saw the upside he brings considering he can be a factor on special teams and provide insurance if the T.J. Jones situation doesn’t clear up anytime soon.
Considering the Argos had three more picks including two really close to each other at ninth and 11th overall, it was almost a sure bet that the team was going to pick an offensive lineman with one of them then focus on the defence.
With the last pick in the first round, the Argos made another surprising selection in Theren Churchill. As John Hodge mentioned in his draft grades, the Alberta native has good feet and is punishing in the run game.
Mike Hogan mentioned in the behind the scenes look at the Argos draft room, the team believed the drop-off in talent on the offensive line after Churchill made it a priority to get him at nine.
Their next pick might have been one of their better ones in the entire draft getting Jack Cassar from Carelton at 11th overall. He will get plenty of opportunity to learn from a great linebacker in Bear Woods who will certainly have no problem taking Cassar under his wing.
Named the OUA Outstanding Defensive Player and an All-Canadian in 2019, the Mississauga native is a hard-hitting linebacker who likes to get after the quarterback. Hodge mentions that he will have to work on his ability to shed blocks which should hopefully improve with some coaching and if it all comes together, the Argos will have a core piece in the middle of their defence for the foreseeable future.
Getting Sam Acheampong with the territorial selection was a big win for the Argos considering his ability to get off the line quickly with an explosive first step. Like Cassar, it will take time for the Wilfrid Laurier product to carve out a permanent role on the defensive front but his potential is tough to overlook. He will at least compete to get a lot of playing time on special teams.
Continuing the trend of adding players with impressive size and potential, Dylan Giffen was seen as a player that could have been picked much earlier than at 28th overall. He dropped 30 pounds according to Hogan which means he is certainly committed to make the transition to professional football.
By dropping weight, it should help his quickness and the Argos will like that defenders will have a tough time getting through him when they engage. Giffen is a player who could be a steal as a third-round pick.
With their final two picks in the draft, the Argos kept their focus on special teams by getting Dion Pellerin at 42nd overall and Sam Baker at 48.
Looking at the Argos’ roster, it’s easy to make the comparison between Pellerin and Declan Cross because he provides the Argos with similar versatility, imagine a linebacker at the running back/fullback position. As a downhill runner, he has deceptive speed for his size and is a solid tackler.
Baker was productive when on the field as a receiver with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies but he can provide the team with a backup long snapper. Jake Reinhart was re-signed but the Argos lost Joe Spaziani to retirement so Toronto will get some much-needed insurance in case Reinhart suffers an injury.