Who would the Riders protect if there was a CFL expansion draft?

Expansion is on the minds of many across Canada right now.

The NHL is going through the process of seeing their league grow to 32 teams with the addition of the Seattle Kraken. That includes the traditional expansion draft in which the Kraken have the opportunity to select a player from the other 31 teams to help establish their roster.

These drafts have changed a lot over the years with the current setup giving the new team a chance at being competitive immediately. Given how much expansion fees have exploded compared to the 1990s and 2000s, it’s fair that teams should expect more of a head start than say the 1992-1993 Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning who more or less had minor leaguers and washed up players to choose from.

The NHL’s expansion draft got me thinking, if the CFL finally did get a team off the ground in Atlantic Canada and an expansion draft was being held this year, who would the Green and White protect?

For the sake of ease, we’ll say the CFL has decided to adopt the NHL’s rules where current teams can protect nine players, but three of them must be Canadian. Other rules like players on rookie contracts and those suffering from long-term injuries or not playing in 2021 being exempt will also apply.

If I was vice-president of football operations and general manager Jeremy O’Day, here’s who I would protect, mostly in no particular order.

Cody Fajardo (QB)

I mean, no explanation is necessary. You’re not going to expose the franchise quarterback.

Dan Clark (OL)

The first of three Canadians off the board is the team’s current longest-serving member of not only the offensive line but the team overall. The Regina native is the anchor of the line without Brendon LaBatte.

Evan Johnson (OL)

Johnson was one of the Riders’ big free-agent splashes and is expected to fill a big hole along the offensive line.

Mike Edem (S)

Edem has found himself a home in the middle of the Saskatchewan secondary. He’s the anchor Canadian on defence with the departure of linebacker Cameron Judge.

Nick Marshall (DB)

The former college quarterback turned defensive back has become a key part of the Riders defence. Marshall was a little boom or bust to begin his career on defence for the green and white, but has settled in nicely since.

A.C. Leonard (DL)

Leonard is expected to carry the pass-rush load following the departure of Charleston Hughes. That role is too important to let go.

Deon Lacey (LB)

Lacey may not have originally made this list but expected starting middle linebacker Larry Dean suffering a pre-camp season-ending injury moved Lacey up the list.

Terran Vaughn (OL)

Vaughn was the team’s left tackle in 2019, with so much change along the offensive line, any consistency is important.

Shaq Evans (REC)

Evans’ chemistry with Fajardo was natural in 2019 and should continue this year.

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