Saskatchewan Roughriders Canadian Content Analysis Heading into 2015 CFL Draft
by Dan McLaughlin (aka Childress)
The Roughriders need a good draft to address their Canadian content as they lost four starters in the off-season (Dominic Picard, Ben Heenan, Ricky Foley, and Sam Hurl) who accounted for 62 starts, which accounts for nearly half of their Canadian starters quotient in 2014. Combined with losses of Canadian starters Keith Shologan and Chris Butler following the 2013 season, the Riders Canadian content has taken a significant hit since their last cup win.
Riders' starting Canadians in 2014:
Players added with starting potential:
Based on 2014, their distribution of starting Canadians per game was: 4 OL, 1.8 WR, 1 DL, .5 LB, .1 RB. Based on their current roster, it looks like the Riders will be changing their distribution of Canadians significantly in 2014. It appears as though they will be going with 3 OL, 1 LB, 2 WR, and either an additional receiver or safety/weak side linebacker. The Riders have selections at 6, 26, 35, 42, 47, 50, 59.
Next we will do a position by position breakdown:
Next we will do a position by position breakdown:
Receiver: The Riders have leaned on the receiver position for their Canadian content in recent years and 2015 doesn't look to be any different. The Riders are expected to continue to start at least two Canadians in Chris Getzlaf and Robb Bagg. It also seems likely that Corey Watson, acquired in a trade with Winnipeg, will be joining them. One significant concern regarding these three players is that each have missed significant time with injury over the past few years, and so the Riders will need to plan for this eventuality. Backing up these veterans are three players who are not really starter material right now. McHenry has played five seasons and has only caught 30 passes. Alex Anthony, in his second year, was only able to get onto the playing roster three times in 2014. Pierzchalski, a second rounder in 2014, may have the most potential, but still only caught a single pass in 2014. If the Riders want to go ahead with three starting receivers, they will need to add to their talent base in the draft. I would expect them to take a receiver with one of their first two selections.
Running back: Running back is an unsettled position with the Riders. Jerome Messam is the lone Canadian on the roster, and he is an excellent backup and special teams player. As far as starting goes, it seems like the Riders do not have confidence in him as he only started two games in 2014. They seemed to prefer their import options at the position. Though not flush with talent at running back, this is not an area of immediate need for the Riders.
Fullback: The only fullback on the Riders roster is Spencer Moore, a 5th round selection in the 2013 draft. He has been more of a special teams player than an offensive one in his first two seasons. The Riders have a definite need here and I would expect them to add a fullback in the draft, but more likely through their later picks.
Offensive line: The Riders enjoyed starting four offensive linemen in every game in 2014, but are unlikely to repeat the feat in 2015. The Riders released centre Dominic Picard, who is likely to be replaced by third year centre Corey Watman or fourth year Dan Clark. Gone to the NFL is Ben Heenan who the Riders do not currently have a Canadian replacement. To compound matters, the Riders have to prepare for the likelihood of injuries. Christ Best has missed approximately half the season for the past few seasons and Brendan Labatte missed a few games last year. I definitely see the Riders wanting to add to their offensive line with one of their first two selections. Ideally, that would be a player who could play tackle, but they would also be interested in an interior lineman who they thought could start for several years.
Defensive line: The Riders look to be moving to starting all imports on their defensive line in 2015. Gone is the lone Canadian starter Ricky Foley as he has been replaced by import Alex Hall who was a top defensive end for the Bombers and Riders in 2013. The Riders do need to have some Canadians to rotate behind the starters. As of now, they only have two Canadian defensive linemen, Dylan Ainsworth and Levi Steinhauer (both ends), which is the lowest total in the CFL. The Riders definitely have a need at defensive tackle, and I am sure they will be looking in the draft, likely with their later picks.
Linebacker: The Riders made a bold off-season move by adding 2012 CFL all star middle linebacker Shea Emry. He will definitely strengthen a position that was in disarray in 2014. The Riders also signed as a free agent former Stampeder Keenan MacDougall who may compete at weak side linebacker, the position he practiced with the Stampeders, or safety, his natural positon. Backups/special team players include Kevin Regimbald, a fifth round selection in 2012, Joash Geese, who was a free agent signing from the Eskimos, and Ryan Wellman, who was an undrafted free agent. I do not see linebacker as an area of significant need for the Riders. However, they may select someone who they feel may upgrade their current talent available later in the draft.
Defensive back: The Riders went with an all-import secondary in 2014 and are likely to do the same in 2015. The only question regards the signing of Keenan MacDougall, who could play safety which would move Tyron Brackenridge to linebacker. That answer likely will not be clear until the end of training camp. In addition, the Riders have Matt Webster, a fifth rounder from 2014, Michael Carter, a third rounder from 2011, and Kris Robertson, a second rounder from 2013. These three should be able to supply the Canadian depth the Riders need. I do not see defensive back as an area of focus for the Riders in this year's draft.
Kicker/Punter: The Riders currently have three kickers/punters on their roster. The incumbant Chris Milo is being challenged by CFL vet Hugh O'Neil and rookie Denton Kolodzinski. It would be very surprising if the Riders were to add a fourth kicker/punter through the draft.
The Riders biggest needs are the offensive line and receiver. Secondary needs would include fullback and defensive tackle.