Winnipeg Blue Bombers Canadian Content Analysis Heading into 2015 CFL Draft
by Dan McLaughlin (aka Childress)
The Bombers need to take another step forward with their Canadian content in 2015. Inheriting a real weakness, GM Waters took his first steps to correcting his talent deficit in 2014 and his team showed marked improvement. He'll have to take another step forward if he plans to have Winnipeg compete for the playoffs in 2015.
Bombers' starting Canadians in 2014:
Players added with starting potential:
Based on 2014, their distribution of starting Canadians per game was: 2.5 OL, 2 WR, 1.7 DB, 1 DL. Mike O'Shea was creative with his ratio as he did not have the talent to start as many Canadians on the offensive line as other teams. Starting two Canadians in the defensive secondary is very unusual. It is tough to predict exactly how the Bombers will handle the ratio in 2015, but it is clear that they need to continue to upgrade their talent from 2014 - especially at the offensive line. The Bombers have selections at 2, 11, 15, 33, 38, 46.
Position by position breakdown:
Position by position breakdown:
Receiver: The Bombers started two Canadian receivers in every game last year. What is interesting is that they have traded away Corey Watson, arguably their best. It may have been due to injury problems and age that they decided to get younger at the position. They are returning two receivers who started for them in Rory Kohlert and Julian Feoli-Gudino. For depth, the Bombers have brought in four young Canadians: Kurt Goodrich, Ezra Millington, Jordan Reaves, and Kris Bastien. None of the four have ever caught a CFL pass, so it is reasonable to suggest they will need more development before they will make a serious offensive contribution. Because of this, landing a talented Canadian receiver in the draft is something that would fill a Bomber need.
Running back: The Bombers currently do not have any Canadian running backs. Clearly, they have decided that this will be an import position. Still, they must realize that it is helpful to have a Canadian who can be a viable backup in the event the starter goes down. Otherwise, the team needs to dress two import running backs. Though I could see the Bombers having some interest in a running back, perhaps late in the draft, I do not see this as a large priority with the other holes in the Canadian talent right now.
Fullback: The Bombers have three fullbacks on their roster. Returning Bombers Michel-Pierre Pontbriand and Carl Fitzgerald along with free agent acquisition Tim Cronk from the BC Lions. This does not seem to be a need heading into the draft.
Offensive line: Offensive line is definitely an area the Bombers are looking to upgrade in 2015. Already they have added Canadian free agent centre Dominic Picard from the Riders. With five import offensive linemen on the roster, it looks as though the Bombers are planning to start two imports this season. This idea is reinforced by the fact that they signed two high profile free agent import offensive linemen in Stanley Bryant and Marc Dile. So that leaves three starting positions for the Canadians. The Bombers return four linemen who started for them at times last year in Steven Morley, Chris Graves, Matthias Goossen, and Pat Neufeld and have added CFL veteran Dominic Picard through free agency. It looks like they will have enough veterans to fill out the position in 2015, but they may want to look at drafting and developing another starter - preferably a tackle - so they can start more Canadians on their line in the future - especially considering Picard and Morley will be 33 and 34 this season.
Defensive line: The Bombers started Canadian Jake Thomas at defensive tackle in 2014 and appear likely to do the same in 2015. They do not have a second Canadian defensive tackle on their roster, so this must be of interest to them heading into the CFL draft. The Bombers do have two Canadian defensive ends in Louie Richardson and Ivan Brown, but neither are expected to be more than depth players.
Linebacker: The Bombers have two Canadian linebackers on their roster: Jesse Briggs, who was a second round pick in 2014, and newly signed free agent Sam Hurl from the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Sam Hurl started about half of the 2014 season, so it is likely that he has been signed to play some defense and not simply as a special teams player. Two Canadian linebackers are the least of any team in the CFL. Because they tend to be good special teams players, I could see the Bombers having interest in adding one in the upcoming draft.
Defensive back: The Bombers started two defensive backs for most of the season. Matt Buckner started at cornerback while Teague Sherman started at the strong-side linebacker spot, which really is a position played by defensive backs in the CFL. They have four other defensive backs on the roster starting with Graig Newman, who was expected to challenge for a starting position before suffering a season ending injury early in the 2014 campaign. Derek Jones and Dan West are young players who have played mostly special teams so far and Shea Pierre was a practice roster player in 2014. It looks to me like the Bombers have great depth at this position and are not in need of a defensive back in the 2015 draft.
Kicker/Punter: The Bombers uncovered one of the top rookies in the CFL last year in Lirim Hajrullahu who was a very strong punter and place kicker. As he will only be 25 years old this season, he should be their answer for the position for several years.
The Bombers needs are at receiver, offensive line, defensive line and linebacker. It is tough to predict where they will go with their first pick, #2 overall, though I think it is safe to say it will not be a linebacker. That spot will get filled later in the draft. I would be surprised if the Bombers drafted a fullback, defensive back, or kicker/punter, given their depth at these positions.