TORONTO – Chris Jones has a decision to make. The Saskatchewan Roughriders‘ head coach/GM said Monday he’s fielded numerous offers for the top pick in Tuesday night’s CFL draft.
The Riders’ have the first selection after last season’s league-worst 3-15 record.
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Usually the first selection would be coveted by a GM like Jones, hired this off-season to rebuild the Riders after leading Edmonton to last year’s Grey Cup as its head coach. The draft pool features many top offensive linemen but no consensus No. 1 player, making it tough for Jones to reap the rewards of a bidding war for the pick.
“We’re still in the process of fielding phone calls from numerous teams in the league to determine exactly what our course of action will be,” Jones said Monday. “We’re going to look at the best offer and then we’ll make the right decision for us.”
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Montreal goes second, followed by B.C., Toronto, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa and Edmonton in the first round. Winnipeg opens the second round at No. 9, forfeiting its first-round selection – which would’ve been second overall – to take Dartmouth linebacker/defensive back Garrett Waggoner in last year’s supplemental draft.
This year’s CFL draft goes eight rounds, up from seven last year.
Oklahoma tackle Josiah St. John is the top available prospect, ranked fifth by the CFL’s central scouting bureau. Other highly regarded offensive linemen include the Laval trio of Charles Vaillancourt (ranked sixth), Philippe Gagnon (No. 9) and Jason Lauzon-Seguin (No. 17), Buffalo’s Dillon Guy (No. 14) and Simon Fraser’s Michael Couture (No. 16).
Grand Valley State offensive lineman Brandon Ravenberg is also garnering interest after not cracking the final top-20 prospects list.
Ravenberg was one of six prospects brought in by Saskatchewan for final pre-draft workouts. The others were St. John, Guy, Calgary running back Mercer Timmis, Northern Illinois receiver Juwan Brescacin and Virginia defensive lineman Trent Corney.
Saskatchewan isn’t scheduled to pick again until the third round, long after all the top-ranked offensive linemen are expected to be taken. That further complicates what to do with the top pick.
“That has been kind of a stumbling block for us … but I feel like we’ve got some pretty good names there in the third,” Jones said. “We’ve got numerous spots we feel like on our football team that we need to always look for, offensive line, receiver.”
“Defensively, you’ve got to have people who can cover kicks. There’s numerous people who are interesting for us.”
But the tough decisions don’t stop there for Jones, who says he spoke to former NFL coach Bill Parcells about the CFL draft. If he keeps the first pick, Jones figures he’ll have to choose between four players.
Don’t expect Manitoba defensive lineman David Onyemata to be that player. The CFL draft’s top-ranked prospect was a fourth-round pick by New Orleans in last month’s NFL draft.
Ditto for Iowa receiver Tevaun Smith, Boston College defensive lineman Mehdi Abdesmad and Michigan State cornerback Arjen Colquhoun – the second-, third- and fourth-ranked CFL draft prospects have signed NFL deals with Indianapolis, Tennessee and Dallas, respectively.
Toronto GM Jim Barker said the sheer depth of this year’s draft pool lessens the sense of urgency to make a deal to move up in the first round.
“This is a year that I think, No. 1 to No. 20 there’s not a huge disparity between them,” Barker said. “That doesn’t bode well for anybody to trade up and things like that.”
“Obviously, as things happen in the draft, you may see more trading to get up into the second round as the offensive linemen or the receivers that you think can play start to dwindle. I think the first round you don’t see as much but we’ll see.”
Predictably, Barker has been working the phones leading up to the draft. In 2010, the Argos traded the first overall pick to Saskatchewan then made a deal with B.C. to take offensive lineman Joe Eppele and linebacker Cory Greenwood – two players then head coach Barker coveted – second and third overall.
The following year, as Toronto’s coach/GM, Barker moved up five spots to No. 7 to take offensive lineman Tyler Holmes.
“We’ve talked to just about every team about every different kind of scenario,” he said. “Are we happy at No. 4? Yeah, I think in the first round it’s the spot to be in.”
“I think there’s four good rounds … this year’s draft, I think, is pretty solid.”