Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Jeremy O’Day held on to the number two overall selection and took defensive back Nelson Lokombo out of the University of Saskatchewan in the 2021 CFL Draft.
In a session with reporters the day before the draft, O’Day felt it probably wasn’t prudent to be adding picks in a year where they’ll have two full draft classes to evaluate during training camp with no assurances on just how many players they’ll be able to bring to camp.
O’Day wasn’t alone in that thought, as no trades were made at all during the draft.
What the Riders did accomplish during this year’s draft was add Canadian depth across the board. Something they’ve done every year since O’Day became the man calling the shots for the franchise.
Over that time, O’Day has been able to develop a lot of flexibility for head coach Craig Dickenson and his coordinators when it comes to the ratio. With the selection of Lokombo in the first round and receiver Terrell Jana falling to them in the second, the Green and White have more options than they’ve had in a while when it comes to the starting seven Canadians.
“It’s no secret we’re planning on switching our ratio,” said O’Day.
That shift is more or less being forced by the departure of all-star linebacker Cameron Judge to the Toronto Argonauts.
O’Day did admit that playing a Canadian at wide-side linebacker did remain a possibility, but based on what he said, it appears more like the seventh Canadian spot will either be in the secondary or the receiving core.
Right now, the Riders will almost certainly start Canadians at receiver, safety, defensive tackle, and three along the offensive line.
Where that seventh spot comes from is now in the hands of the coaching staff. O’Day feels the depth has been built up at both receiver and defensive back to support starting another Canadian.
In theory, Dickenson could also slide another Canadian in along the offensive line should last year’s first-round selection Mattland Riley or free-agent addition Brett Boyko play well enough. The team also has some options at linebacker with the addition of the Herdman-Reed twins along with veterans Micah Tetiz and Kevin Francis.
Out of all these scenarios, the latter seems far less likely than the former but the point is the coaching staff has options and that’s what is important.
“It’s huge in the CFL to give the coaches flexibility to decided what’s the best roster. That’s the objective is not to hone it in too much. Where it has to be a specific breakdown,” said O’Day.
“We have the ability now to go five (Canadians) on offence if we want and two (Canadians) on defence. We also have the ability to with three (Canadians) on defence and four (Canadians) on offence.”
Thanks to increased depth at defensive back and receiver, the Riders have the ability to start eight Canadians if they wish, potentially more.
Will the Riders start more than the necessary seven Canadians? Probably not. Although having a flexible roster that can adjust to injuries throughout the course of a season is key and they have that ability.