Assessing the Edmonton Elks Canadian content entering the 2022 CFL Draft

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym

The Edmonton Elks have the dubious honour of selecting first overall in the 2022 CFL Draft, thanks to a 3-11 record and ninth overall finish in 2021. 

It seems like a near certainty that they will be taking ultra-versatile linebacker Tyrell Richards out of Syracuse University at the No. 1 spot, no matter how much Chris Jones wink-winks or nudge-nudges about trade calls. How would Richards fit in and what other positions need some support? Let’s start with a rough depth chart:

Green is National, gold is American and blue is Global.

The biggest update is sliding Duron Carter to safety after Jones said that’s where Carter will start camp, which is actually very ratio-relevant news as that has long been a typical National spot for the green and gold.

It also seems to clarify what the likeliest seven starting spots will be, pending collective bargaining agreement changes: three interior offensive linemen, two receivers, one interior defensive lineman and one linebacker. Still, regardless of how the draft pans out the Elks will have a lot of flexibility in terms of where their Canadians can slot in.

The best

Where is Edmonton strongest? I will definitely point at the offensive line. David Beard and Mark Korte are as excellent a pair as you could ask for — as a bonus they’re both local boys — and it looks like they’ll be partnered with 33-year-old David Foucault. If not, we’ll see a recent high draft pick in Tomas Jack-Kurdyla or Kyle Saxelid step in, both of whom have game experience.

Personally I really like the receivers, Mike Jones had the best 2021 season even as Shai Ross broke out, though Tevaun Smith will be hoping to produce more like he did in 2019, when he put up 632 yards and six touchdowns on 55 receptions. 

The biggest question

How much does Makana Henry have to give at age 35? Behind him is fellow veteran Stefan Charles, who turns 34 in June, and 2021 first round CFL Draft pick Cole Nelson.

Jones switches between formations enough that it could probably be described as needing two players between linebacker and defensive line rather than specifically one of each. One simple example is running a 3-4 formation rather than a 4-3: three American linemen plus two National linebackers and two American linebackers as a ‘front seven’ would be a way to mix in Richards, though even with that setup you could keep in a National lineman to run three American linebackers or add another pure coverage guy.

The complements

Assuming Richards is the first selection, he’ll join 28-year-old Adam Konar and a trio of young players as National linebackers. It’s a good group of special teamers, but with a lack of star power Edmonton will be hoping for a Jordan-Williams-esque season from their own rookie, Williams being B.C.’s first overall pick from 2020.

Other than that, there’s a question if Jordan Hoover may be bumped out of a regular role in the defensive secondary, as well as what the plan is at quarterback beyond their starter intrigue, seeing as they added Regina-born Mike Beaudry to the roster, although he could get a look at tight end. 

Best player available

I don’t just mean Richards, even though he is top ranked among those not named John Metchie III who was selected in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft by Houston or Jesse Luketa. I mean follow the rule of taking the top players on your board regardless of position. It’s a big team with a lot of different kinds of jobs.

Drafting for need instead is a great way to hurt yourself in the long run, also taking into account the scarcity of star talent available in the CFL Draft. That will be especially true when you’re digging the franchise out of a very deep hole and could use some depth buffs more or less everywhere.

The Jones-led Elks are off to a pretty good start of collecting such a group of players that they can be reasonably confident in any of their starting Nationals. They obviously have an opportunity to kickstart the turnaround this coming week.

The checklist

With that being said, one could still estimate what the perfect draft would be if ‘best available’ happened to line up with ‘position of need.’ But as indicated above, the Elks will want to add depth everywhere. It should be linebacker first overall, but then any combination of receiver, defensive line (inside and/or outside), defensive back, fullback, and, of course, offensive line is in play.

Basically I’m saying they could add a player or two at every position group — even quarterback, if Tre Ford falls to the third round. Remember that while Edmonton has a pick in every round, their second rounder is territorial at No. 19 overall, so they’re limited until No. 21.

I would pick receiver and defensive back as the places you would most like to hit in rounds three to five.

Globals and supplementals

The 2022 Global Draft is earlier in the day on Tuesday, and the supplemental draft for University of Calgary defensive lineman J-Min Pelley is two days later. It’s a possibility that Edmonton runs a Global punter this year, which a couple other teams have done successfully. Besides Wihan van der Riet, the only other Global they have signed right now is offensive lineman Steven Nielsen.

The Elks will be in position to guarantee they get Pelley since it’s based on whoever is willing to forfeit the highest 2023 draft pick, based on the 2022 order in which they have the top pick. Jones reportedly loves Pelley in addition to him widely being considered a first round talent among the 2022 draft class, so the question may not be if he ends up with the Elks but rather if they will need to give up their first rounder next year to do it, or if it will only be a lower pick.

Regardless, that choice would have the potential to answer the ‘biggest question’ above, which was on the defensive line.

Mike Ludwig enjoys math, chess, and football, all of which are kind of related. He lives in Edmonton and does not endorse Rod Black's metaphors. Follow him on twitter at @CityOfChamps14.