By Michael Mallory
You can’t win in the CFL without high calibre Canadian talent. And there are only three ways to get it. You can trade for it, but you have to give up quality to get quality. You can sign the odd free agent, but the opportunity to sign top players that way is infrequent at best. The only way you can truly build up your bench strength over time is through the draft.
To the unwashed, the CFL draft may appear to be just a fun and exciting day-long event. But in reality the CFL draft is like the proverbial iceberg – you only see about one-seventh of what is actually there. It’s really the behind the scenes preparation that determines how successful a team will be in locking up quality Canadian players.
GM Jim Barker heads up the Argo’s draft effort. “We put a lot of effort into the draft,” he says. “It starts in January. Our staff puts together profiles on every athlete we think will be draft eligible (80 players). We find film showing 10 good plays and 10 bad plays for each of the 80 players. When the coaches arrive in March, this is all ready for them. We involve all of our coaches in the draft preparation, and I think we are the only team that does that. We rank all the players according to our criteria and do several mock drafts leading up to draft day.”
Several trades took place prior to this year’s draft. The preparation and moxie of the Argo staff was on full display as they made two key trades. The first sent their 3rd round pick to Edmonton in return for Jermaine Reid and two 5th round picks. Now armed with three 5th round picks, Argos traded them all to Saskatchewan for their 3rd round pick. The net result of the two trades was that they acquired a starting Canadian DL plus moved up four places in the 3rd round. With that pick they selected Natey Adjei who they had identified as the #1 receiver in the draft. All for the net cost of one 5th round pick. Plaudits to Jim and his staff.
But in some ways the draft is a crap shoot. Argos first round pick in 2010, Cory Greenwood, defied the odds by making an NFL club despite being passed in the NFL draft. Then in 2011, Tyler Holmes did the same thing. On the other hand, Joel Reinders had already signed an NFL contract when Argos drafted him in the fourth round (also 2010). He played in the NFL for a couple of years, and then returned to the Argos last year.
“We selected Matt Sewell with our first round pick this year knowing that he was undrafted in the NFL, but has a tryout with Tennessee.” said Barker. “We wish Matt all the best with the Titans, but we would love to have him in Toronto if it works out that way.”
Only time will tell, but the effort put into this year’s draft is evident. Argos have added high quality talent to a roster already stocked with fine Canadian players. Keep up the good work.