Chris Jones deemed LB Michael Brodrique ‘too valuable’ to pass up despite ‘ton’ of trade interest for Elks’ second overall pick

Photo courtesy: Montreal Carabins

The 2023 CFL Draft passed without a single draft day trade but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

According to Edmonton Elks’ head coach and general manager Chris Jones, the phone lines were buzzing in the lead-up to his team’s first-round selection. There just wasn’t a deal worth making.

“We had a ton of interest for that number two spot and we had to at least listen to what they had to say,” Jones told TSN 1260‘s Lowetide and Jamieson. “For the last two or three days, we had a lot of discussions and did a lot of mock drafts with and without the second pick. It was just too valuable to give up, I felt, to try to get help this year to help us win football games.”

Jones is no stranger to wheeling and dealing on draft day. He made a major splash in his return to Edmonton in 2022, sending that year’s first overall pick to Montreal in exchange for their fourth overall selection and the rights to NFL offensive lineman Carter O’Donnell. He had already traded offensive lineman Kyle Saxelid and linebacker Grant McDonald to acquire the eighth overall pick the night before, landing strongside linebacker Enock Makonzo and quarterback Tre Ford with the acquired draft choices.

This year, Jones wasn’t willing to tempt fate and risk losing the player on the top of his board. He rebuffed any offers in favour of selecting Université de Montréal linebacker Michael Brodrique second overall, much higher than many pundits projected.

“He’s an extremely versatile player. He can play Mike or Will and he’s gonna be an instant four-teamer. More importantly, I just saw a lot of really strong instincts from the kid. He just found a way to get around the football. He’s very disruptive on film,” Jones explained.

“Once his metabolism slows down, he’s gonna go from 225 to 235 and then he’s gonna be able to play for a long time, as long as he wants to in this league if he stays healthy.”

A 2021 second-team All-Canadian and two-time RSEQ all-star with the Carabins, Brodrique lit up the CFL Combine in Edmonton by posting a 4.59-second forty-yard dash. In 22 collegiate games, the native of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Que. collected 68.5 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a 65-yard pick-six.

Adding Canadian linebacker depth was a clear priority for the Elks this off-season. They dealt their second-round pick to the Ottawa Redblacks in February in exchange for 2022 fifth-round pick Woodly Appolon, twin brother of their own fifth-rounder Wesly Appolon, citing the belief that no better player would be available at that stage in the draft.

“I’m sitting here looking at our depth chart at Will linebacker, our Canadian spot, and it’s [Adam] Konar, Appolon, Appolon, [Kevin] Francis and Brodrique. That’s some strong body types and that’s what you gotta have to cover kicks,” Jones explained.

“If you look at the way Winnipeg has been structured, they’ve got a lot of guys that can cover kicks and they’ve had a lot of success. It’s a true 1/3 of the game on special teams here in this league and I think that’s kind of what we’re trying to build.”

After a disappointing first season back in Edmonton, building through the draft with that philosophy in mind has Jones feeling optimistic heading into 2023.

“I feel a ton better as far as our two-deep going into this year. I can’t wait to get started,” he said. “Our coaching staff is extremely excited. We feel strongly that we added another strong class of guys that can come in and immediately help our program.”