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SaltWire Selects: Weekend picks
What you need to know about COVID-19: August 14, 2020
The sports world is still securely under a padlock by the COVID-19 pandemic, but life goes on this week in the form of the 2020 Canadian Football League Draft. Who ends up going where and when will be answered Thursday (6 p.m., TSN). But in the meantime, here’s how we think the first round turns out:
1. Calgary Stampeders: Jordan Williams, LB
6-0, 218 pounds
Ottawa needed their quarterback of the future and got him in Nick Arbuckle, but in return, Calgary general manager John Hufnagel traded for a switch of first-round picks with the CFL’s worst team. Now, Edmonton fans have to suffer watching Calgary select the best player in the draft. Born in North Carolina and playing high school and university in his home state, Williams qualifies as a National due to his mom being from Toronto. Having a Canadian parent gives any American-born player Canadian status.
Williams was a three-year starter for the Pirates (2015-17). At almost 220 pounds, he burned a 4.49-second 40 at an early March CFL regional combine before the coronavirus struck. Linebackers who run sub-4.5 are about as rare as Jason Maas conducting a seminar on good sideline etiquette.
A versatile player who can go inside and outside, Williams had a brief tryout with the San Francisco 49ers in 2018. At 25, he’s one of the oldest players in the draft. What matters far more is his talent. Calgary keeps winning on and off the field.
2. Toronto Argonauts: Tomas Jack-Kurdyla, OL
6-3, 300 pounds
This four-year starter is an easy pick for John Murphy and the Argos. He fits a need and the Buffalo campus is less than two hours from BMO Field. According to one CFL personnel man: “He’ll be a Day-1 starter. He’s as ready to play now as any lineman we’ve seen in this class.”
3. B.C. Lions: Mason Bennett, DE
6-4, 255 pounds
Coming off of a 5-13 season to forget, GM Ed Hervey needs to get this pick right. The Lions 2019 draft was, perhaps, the worst in the league. And the club didn’t fare much better the previous year. Both first-round picks in 2018, Peter Godber and Julien Laurent, have been busts. Laurent was released early in his second season — something almost unheard of for first-round picks. Godbert has spent most of his time in street clothes, hurt.
Although B.C.’s offensive line improved late season after almost getting Mike Reilly killed, Alberta product, Carter O’Donnell, would surely address a need. Some scouts think he’s a guard and others think he came become a starting tackle in the CFL. Most of them agree on one thing – he has all-star potential during his career. That is, of course, if his football future is even in the CFL after signing as an undrafted free agent with the Indianapolis Colts on the weekend.
Our prediction is Hervey and new head coach Rick Campbell will make a safe and smart choice in North Dakota pass-rusher Bennett. His production in NCAA football and his certainty of playing in the CFL is too good to pass up.
4. Edmonton Eskimos: Carter O’Donnell, OL
6-6, 315 pounds
By taking Bennett, Hervey puts his successor in Edmonton, Brock Sunderland, in a tough spot. Several of the best remaining players, the University of Alberta’s O’Donnell, Brown defensive tackle Michael Hoecht, Montreal defensive back Marc Antoine-Dequoy and Simon Fraser receiver Rysen John have all signed NFL contracts: O’Donnell with the Colts, DuQuoy with the Packers, John with the Giants and Hoecht with the Rams.
Coming off of their own disappointing 8-10 season, the Eskimos need to get this pick right, too. Their too-three needs are likely at linebacker, offensive line and a defensive tackle to back up Canadian Stefan Charles, who was drafted by Hervey but spent the last seven years in the NFL. Assuming he earns a starting role, Charles will need a National backup — especially at age 32.
Drafting Canadian offensive lineman Austin Pasztor out of Virginia back in 2012 with the first-round pick from the Ricky Ray trade cost Eric Tillman his job. Eight years later, with close to 50 starts in an NFL uniform, Pasztor has never played a down in green and gold. Now, the Eskimos face the same risk. This time, though, the gamble probably makes more sense with a local product from Red Deer. If O’Donnell becomes an Eskimo in the next year or two, it will be seen as a great decision. But if he makes it in the NFL, it will bring back ugly memories. Being right can be wrong. Pasztor was too good. Is O’Donnell? His head coach with the Golden Bears, Chris Morris, thinks has a real shot of sticking south. At the same time, Sunderland struck gold with first-round pick Mathieu Betts coming back up north last year.
5. Hamilton Tiger Cats: Rysen John, WR
6-7, 230 pounds
This pick comes after a trade made by two former Eskimos – Kavis Reed and Eric Tillman. Johnny Manziel is no longer in the CFL and this is the first of two first-round picks the Ticats will get for the former NFL quarterback. John passes the eyeball test and he’s been productive at SFU. The native of Vancouver had 53 catches for 861 yards as a senior. The worry is the New York Giants are giving him a look. But we’re hearing he’s unlikely to last down there.
“Is he this year’s Alex Singleton? I don’t know, but we love his size and blocking. Three years from now people who passed on him might regret it,” said a personnel man.
6. Ottawa Redblacks: Marc Antoine Dequoy DB
6-3, 198 pounds
The worst record in the league was due to the worst talent in the league, and there are plenty of needs in the nation’s capital. Good news is Dequoy was one of the best ever defenders to play for Danny Maciocia at Montreal. He Has size and athleticism, and if he doesn’t stick in Green Bay, he would give Ottawa a great special-teams player until he becomes a starting defensive back in the pros – and a good one, at that.
New head coach Paul LaPolice needs another National receiver, but there will be some good ones available when Ottawa picks again at 10th overall. The depth at Canadian receiver makes this pick on defence even easier.
Geography works in Ottawa’s favour here too. A player who is less than three hours from home is more likely to be a lifer in red and black.
7. Saskatchewan Roughriders: Issac Adeyemi-Berglund, DE
6-1, 250 pounds
Coming off of a 13-win season, the Roughriders could host the Grey Cup in their own stadium if this CFL season is played. Jeremy O’Day’s decision to promote Craig Dickenson to head coach appears to be a good one. The Riders have pretty good National talent, but could probably use an upgrade in depth at receiver.
In their dreams, Mason Bennett falls this far, but that’s not likely. Hervey or Sunderland will have scooped him up already.
If so, Nova Scotia native and defensive end Issac Adeyemi Berglund is one of the best defensive player left on the board. Like Ottawa, the Riders may take the Louisiana school defender and wait to draft a receiver in Round 2. Receivers like Tyler Ternowski (Waterloo), Dejon Brisset (Virginia) and Brendan O’Leary-Orange (Nevada) will be tempting for Riders new offensive co-ordinator Jason Maas, if he gets a say on draft day.
8. Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Michael Hoecht, DT
6-4, 305 pounds
Former Eskimos defensive tackle Ted Laurent has been an all-star for the Ticats, but he’s 32 now and head coach Orlondo Steinauer needs to find his replacement. Hoecht was born in Ontario before moving to Ohio. He was a three-year starter and team captain at Brown – which I just found out is an Ivy League school – so Hoecht must be smart. But he’s another NFL risk, though, signing with the Los Angeles Rams.
“He’s more athletic than you think,” one CFL personnel man said. “Good strength, character. We like him. He’s what O (Steinaur) wants in their locker-room down there.”
9. Toronto Argonauts: Dejon Brisset, WR
6-1, 195 pounds
The Argos got this pick from Winnipeg right before the trade deadline in the Zach Collaros deal by John Murphy and Kyle Walters. The Bombers won their first Grey Cup since 1990 with Collaros at the helm, but the Argos got rid of a big salary and a player with an injury history.
And now, with the last pick in the first round, the Argos will have some pretty decent choices. Wagner offensive lineman Chris Gangarossa would add more needed offensive line depth. He’s from Ontario.
Brendan O’Leary-Orange, from Nevada, son of former Argos running back Doyle Orange, would add a needed upgrade at receiver.
Virgina receiver, DeJon Brisset, who is from Mississauga, Ont., is another possibility.
Same for Waterloo receiver Tyler Ternowski, who accumulated more than 3,000 career receiving yards.
All-purpose Western kicker Marc Liegghio might be too good to pass up. The Argos added veteran kicker Boris Bede in the off-season, but he counts as International.
Look for the Argos to give new head coach Ryan Dinwiddie a new offensive weapon. Brisset wore blue at Virginia. Time to double down in double blue.
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
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