“Congratulations and welcome to the Montreal Alouettes!”
Last night Jim Popp, the general manager and head coach of this team, uttered these words eight times over as he welcomed a group of talented young men to a very exclusive club. The roster of the Birds of Prey grew bigger yesterday and now these fellas will get to line up with stars like S.J. Green and John Bowman while being coached by luminaries like Noel Thorpe and Anthony Calvillo.
Last night’s CFL draft took place on TSN & RDS2 and the Alouettes were the second team to choose in the first round. The past couple of years saw this team’s esteemed leader make a trade while in the first round and many wondered if Popp would wheel and deal again. Remarkably, he stood pat and rolled the dice on each of his draft positions, choosing who he felt was the best fit for this franchise.
So who will be the new faces at training camp on May 29th? Let’s take a look at who the Montreal Alouettes invited along to the party:
Round 1: Philippe Gagnon, Offensive Lineman, Laval
It was a foregone conclusion that Montreal was going to re-stock the war chest with O-Line players, always ensuring that the front 5 are all Canadian-born players. It’s also no surprise when it comes to selecting a player from Université Laval, which has become the Canadian version of Ohio State University. Both schools produce a wealth of football talent and Jim Popp had his pick of the Rouge et Or litter.
In selecting Gagnon he gets a beast of a man, who showed out at the 2016 CFL combine with some impressive numbers. Philippe’s size and strength are going to pay dividends in creating some lanes for the running backs to plow through. Gagnon will already have a mentor in the lineup with Luc Brodeur-Jourdain, another former Rouge et Or.
Round 2: Wayne Moore, Running Back, McMaster
This pick was a bit of a head-scratcher. By no means am I putting down this youngster, but I don’t think that he was in such high demand to warrant a second round pick. In any event, Montreal gets to add another stout but speedy tailback to go along with Tyrell Sutton and Brandon Rutley. Moore ran for over 1500 yards in his 4 years at McMaster and was one of the better blocking running backs available, which is always a good trait to have if you want a long career in Montreal’s backfield.
Round 3: Sean Jamieson, Offensive Lineman, Western
You don’t go 8-0 unless you have a tremendous football team and Western did exactly that, running the table in the OUA during the regular season. A big part of that success came from the play of Western’s O-Line and Sean Jamieson was a stud, earning first team All-Canadian honours these past two seasons. At 6’6 and over three hundred pounds, I think this Winnipeg-bred monster is going to get a lot of special teams action and make some players uncomfortable.
Round 4: George Johnson, Wide Receiver, Western
Another pick that drew some puzzled looks. But this two-sport star at Western could very well turn some heads at training camp. Johnson is potentially another hidden gem for special teams. At a rangy 6’3 and 188 pounds, his athleticism will come in handy as he tries to stand out among some extremely talented Alouette receivers.
Round 6: A’dre Fraser, Wide Receiver, Guelph
Last year, Jim Popp selected a receiver from Guelph in the CFL draft and it paid off nicely, as Alex Charette got some serious playing time at the start of the season and made the most of it. Popp is hoping that lightning can strike twice with the selection of Fraser. A key contributor to Guelph’s success on the football field, this Halifax native is a surefire playmaker and will be looking to make a name for himself. Perhaps lining alongside his former Gryphon teammate will not only bring out the best in Fraser, but Charette as well. I’m also told that he’s a gem of a person off the field as well. Humble and hard-working are always welcome traits in Alouettes Nation.
Round 6: Emmett Tims, Wide Receiver, Saskatchewan
Surely by now you’re thinking, “Not another receiver!”. But one look at this young man and the one thing you’ll come away most impressed with is his versatility. He can catch the ball but perhaps most interesting for the Alouettes’ brass is that he can SNAP the ball. The long snapper position is firmly held by Martin Bedard, but if he gets injured you need a good pair of hands to chuck the ball to the kicker. Tims’ hands could very well be those for years to come in Montreal.
Round 7: Maiko Zepeda, Defensive Back, Montreal
Called it! As I mentioned in the 2016 draft preview, the Université de Montreal Carabins have been very successful in the CIS and it’s been built on the backs of their small, explosive players. Zepeda is right there on that list and he will benefit from having guys like Jovan Johnson and Marc-Olivier Brouillette (a former Carabin himself!) mentoring him. Maiko has one Vanier Cup under his belt and nearly finished his CIS career with another one. With a bit of seasoning, this kid can be a real gamer in the secondary.
Round 8: Matthew Toppan, Offensive Lineman, Guelph
Jim Popp started this draft by selecting an O-Lineman and he ends it with taking another one, grabbing this Oakville native with the 64th pick. When I watch the film on this kid, I see an awful lot of Ryan Bomben in him; stout, can easily push people around and has a surprisingly good pair of hands! Yes, this youngster scored the ever popular “fat guy touchdown” during a game versus Western in 2014. Toppan will likely spend time on the practice roster to start his career but just like Emmett Tims, you would be wise not sleep on this southern Ontario boy.
So there you have it, the Alouettes draft class of 2016. There’s a lot to like in each pick but you have to wonder if this scouting staff left a lot of points on the table, so to speak. A lot of really good players went early, so that surely affected the thought process when it came time to make that pick. Part of the fun of draft day is the forecasting, seeing who will be the next great star and who won’t even make it past week one of training camp.
I personally would have liked Montreal to load up more on defensive players as that is still this team’s bread and butter. But perhaps by going heavy on the offensive side, it means that Popp and the coaching staff are expecting young Canadians like Andrew Lue and Daryl Townsend to really break out in 2016. That would only benefit this defensive corps as there is great potential for continued success going forward.
At the end of the day, these players have got to want it. And now with some new blood in the ranks, Alouettes fans can get ready to see what this team has in store!
That’s all for now. But be prepared Alouettes Nation; we will have all sorts of coverage coming up here at The ALSternative! As we get closer to the opening of training camp, get ready for our season preview series, as we take an in-depth look at all of the players that will be in Lennoxville later in the month. This team experienced their worst season in 20 years and they will be doing everything they can to make those bad memories disappear.
I’ll be here, ready to inform and entertain you great football fans as well. Be sure to follow along on Twitter for all the latest news and opinions. We’re in the home stretch now; this long off-season is nearly over. Brace yourselves Canada; June IS coming.