While not containing nearly as much fanfare as its NFL counterpart, the Canadian Football League draft is still an event that will draw plenty of interest for football fans in this great nation of ours. It’s where you will see the end result of the hard work that many Canadians have put into forging a career on the gridiron. Whether you went to school in Canada or the United States, all of the sacrifices that you made will finally be rewarded when one of the nine teams of this league calls out your name and officially welcomes you into this very storied brotherhood.
This year, the Montreal Alouettes will be in a very unusual draft spot. Thanks to a less than stellar campaign last year that saw the team miss the Grey Cup playoffs after nineteen straight appearances, Montreal will be the second team on the clock after the Saskatchewan Roughriders choose. With the Winnipeg Blue Bombers foregoing their first round draft pick this year due to last year’s supplemental draft choice, the Alouettes will get their pick of the litter in a rather lofty position.
The architect of this franchise (as well as head coach for the fourth time!) Jim Popp has long stated that his draft strategy is simple; you take the best player available. And after the 2nd overall pick, Popp will also be able to call the players in the 11th, 20th, 29th, 47th, 56th and 64th positions members of the Montreal Alouettes. This year features a new eighth round for general managers to select players with, which will no doubt be used to take a player who will likely try to ply his trade down south first.
It appears that the secret’s out on Canadian talent and football players hailing from the Great White North are garnering a lot of NFL interest. David Onyemata, the consensus #1 player in the CFL Scouting Bureau’s final rankings, was taken by the New Orleans Saints in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft. A CFL team could still draft him tomorrow, but that team will likely have to wait a good couple of years before he considers his playing career in the CFL, if ever. Several other Canucks were signed as free agents as well and likely won’t play on Canadian soil in 2016.
For the second year in a row, the New York Giants invited several of the top 20 CIS players to their rookie mini-camp this past weekend to potentially find another diamond in the rough. But just like last year, none of the invitees impressed enough to warrant an NFL contract. The past two weeks have led to a lot of revising of draft boards for all nine CFL general managers. But the dust has settled and thus the party will commence tomorrow at 7pm EST on TSN, TSN GO and RDS2.
Now comes the fun part; trying to climb inside the heads of Jim Popp, Assistant GM Joey Abrams and the rest of the scouting staff as they make those final decisions as to whom they want in training camp later this month. Last year, every player that the Alouettes selected in the 2015 CFL Draft made the team. So if your name is called tomorrow, you can rest assured that you will certainly be given every opportunity to shine in red/blue/silver.
These are the players that I would like to see being named to the Montreal Alouettes, in no particular order:
Alex Singleton, Montana State (LB)
It would seem out-of-place to draft a National linebacker when Popp let Henoc Muamba go and the Alouettes secured the services of Winston Venable for another season. But Singleton has all the potential to be a heavy hitter in defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe‘s schemes and should Venable walk after next season, this young man can line up with Nick Shortill and Chris Ackie to ensure the Alouettes stay dangerous in the middle.
Jason Lauzon-Seguin, Laval (OL)
Not only is he a top-tier talent, he’s also very much a local boy. Born and raised in Montreal’s West Island, Lauzon-Seguin has succeeded at every level that he’s played at and would shore up Montreal’s talented All-Canadian offensive line. Last year’s first round pick Jacob Ruby will be ready to step in for the departed Josh Bourke and with Lauzon-Seguin in the wings, the very rich will get even richer.
Brian Jones, Acadia (WR)
This would be one of those later round picks that are often a real crapshoot. He’s got the talent and has even been compared by many to Andy Fantuz. But an injury with a 2-3 month recovery time has seen Jones’ stock plummet considerably. Montreal has a dearth of receiver talent already so another team that needs receivers may snap him up sooner. But if Jones is there in the middle rounds, you’d grab him and let him marinate in the slow cooker.
Maiko Zepeda, Montreal (DB)
There`s something about the Carabins that manages to produce some vertically-challenged yet impactful players and this young man is no exception. Having already raided Mikhail Davidson and Anthony Coady from the U de M war chest last year, I can easily see Zepeda with his ridiculous 40 yard dash times at the combine making Alouettes fans sit up and take notice. A certain Jovan Johnson could easily take someone like Zepeda under his wing and help develop him further, much to the delight of Noel Thorpe and special teams coach Kavis Reed.
Arjen Colquhoun, Michigan State (CB)
Jim Popp does love him some Spartans! A lot of early mock drafts had this kid going in the first round of this year’s draft. But his outstanding pro day numbers garnered a LOT of looks down south and he’s already put pen to paper for the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. So Arjen’s playing in the CFL is not likely for a couple of years, if ever. This would be very much a pie-in-the-sky pick for the Alouettes but if nothing else, Popp doesn’t mind waiting a couple of years for real talent.
Last year, Montreal ended up with a very well-rounded draft class and fans got to see that talent contribute throughout the season as names like Brandon Bridge and Alex Charette provided some highlight worthy material. This year’s class won’t be expected to dominate right out of the gate, but rather prepare for a marathon and be ready to go when called upon.
And as many others have pointed out, Jim Popp is certainly no stranger to making a deal on draft day. Last year, he shipped Ryan Bomben to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for a pair of draft picks, which gave him the flexibility to draft the two youngsters mentioned in that last paragraph. Don’t rule out any team making a deal in order to get better, Montreal included!
There are no outright studs in this draft that everyone will be clamouring for and that’s perfectly fine; the ability to develop and nurture Canadian talent is key to this league’s success and the teams of this league better know it if they don’t already. Personally, I’m excited to see who will be joining the Alouettes’ nest in 2016 to start their professional career.
Who do you think Montreal will take with the second pick? Or will they deal it away and make a stellar move in the process? Hit me up on Twitter and let’s discuss it. Only a couple of weeks to go before training camp starts; the off-season is drawing to a close and life as we know it will take a turn for the better. Football is coming back, folks!