They’ve toiled away in relative obscurity for the past 4 years. They’ve sacrificed time spent with friends and family. But hard work is rewarded more often than not and come Sunday, a number of young Canadian men will receive the greatest reward they can possibly hope for when playing university football…..
An invite to the New York Giants mini-camp!!!!
In all seriousness, the reward for their hard work and sacrifice is to get that telephone call. On the other end of the phone is any of the Canadian Football League’s nine general managers welcoming them to play in this great league.
This Sunday at 7pm, the CFL Draft will take place live on TSN, RDS and TSN GO. There will be a different feel to this year’s draft for Alouettes Nation as it will be a new builder looking to make the final call on who will be joining the Birds of Prey. For the first time in its most recent history, it won’t be Jim Popp who will be adding new players to the roster.
Rookie general manager Kavis Reed will be the one with the final say on which university standouts will be lucky enough to don the red/blue/silver of the Alouettes. He has taken major steps to form this team in his own vision, signing some very talented free agents while allowing some fan favourites to seek employment elsewhere. Reed is determined to prove that he belongs in the GM chair and has not been afraid to do what he feels is for the best for Montreal.
This being his first draft, Kavis will no doubt be put up against how Jim Popp drafted when he was the GM in Montreal. Popp’s philosophy was simple; take the best player available when it’s your turn. Will Reed follow that or will he draft based solely on need? All eyes will be on this former special teams coach turned executive.
Alouettes fans will also have to wait a while to find out who will be Kavis’ first pick, as the Alouettes traded their first round pick of this year’s draft to the BC Lions last season in exchange for the rights to Vernon Adams Jr. A risky move at the time because there was no guarantee that Adams was going to pan out in Montreal.
But as the tail end of the 2016 season showed, that trade was a move that I’m sure many fans would want done over again. Despite the Alouettes being less than stellar last season, Adams emerged under interim head coach Jacques Chapdelaine and won the final three games of the season, giving hope that Montreal may have finally found their quarterback of the future.
So if Montreal wants back into the first round of this draft, they will have to swing a trade with another team. Otherwise, they will have a pick in the second, third, fourth, fifth, two picks in the sixth, seventh and eighth round. That’s still eight golden opportunities to select a young player that can help bring this Alouettes team back to its former glory.
It’s hard to prognosticate who will be drafted where on Sunday when a lot of these potential draftees are also getting NFL looks as well. In fact, the Seattle Seahawks saw fit to draft Montreal native Justin Senior, a player that many CFL mock drafts had pegged to go early in the first round. Several other standout Canadian-born players have either been signed by NFL clubs as UDFAs (undrafted free agents) or invited to participate in their rookie mini-camps.
Suffice to say, the rising talent level of Canadian-born players has been both a blessing and a curse for CFL general managers. As they struggle to decide whether they take a flyer on some of these players in the hopes that they will eventually make their way back to the Great White North.
Most players eventually do, such as Samuel Giguere and David Foucault. But then take a look at Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and the absolute success he is having down south. The Calgary Stampeders burned a 3rd round pick on him in 2014 and the odds of Laurent ever suiting up for the Stamps are paper-thin at best.
But Calgary GM John Hufnagel surely felt like he was playing with house money when he selected the future doctor from McGill. After all, the Stampeders do such an outstanding job in developing strong O-Line talent and them appearing in two of the past three Grey Cup games doesn’t happen by accident.
But consider how far we have come; To have such a wealth of talent north of the border that the National Football League comes calling for our youth? Truly, these are very exciting times when it comes to Canada and the sport of professional football.
Now comes the fun part; Who will come to the 514 to help defend the nest?
I spoke with Kavis Reed about the draft last week during the Alouettes’ warehouse sale. I certainly didn’t expect him to give out his entire draft strategy out to a simple blogger. But it turns out that he and I weren’t terribly far apart in terms of who or what would be a good fit on this team.
That being said, I can only offer up who I personally feel would be a great addition to the Montreal Alouettes. So in no particular order, here’s a few names that Alouettes fans should hope to see added to this new-look 2017 roster come Sunday:
Cameron Judge, UCLA (LB)
The Alouettes’ linebacking corps is not getting any younger. While Chip Cox and Kyries Hebert still play at a very high level, Montreal will have to start thinking about the future. And there’s where this Quebec-born (!) monster can come in and dominate. Thought to be just a bit too small for the NFL, he’s got explosive speed and watching him launch towards the quarterback will be a treat. Judge did get an mini-camp invite from the Houston Texans, but I think he’ll end up north and could truly shine for Montreal.
Malcolm Carter, CJFL (WR)
Montreal is not lacking in talented receivers but aside from Sam Giguere, they are thin at National receiver. Signing Devon Bailey has helped the cause and Alex Charette is going to get serious looks but with the departures of Duron Carter and S.J. Green, there is still a need for a deep threat. This former Ottawa Sooner has incredible hands and his ability to leap skywards will results in several touchdowns for whomever drafts him. Carter tested very well at the CFL combine and I have no doubt that receivers coach Justin Chapdelaine would be eager to have a talent like this to develop further.
Qadr Spooner, McGill (OL)
In the past, Alouette linemen played tough and gritty football. They were all-Canadian and had no problems throwing their weight around. I see a LOT of that in Spooner. He plays with a real nasty streak to him and quite frankly, it’s very exciting to watch. I do have the feeling that barring some trade magic, Qadr will be taken before the Alouettes get a crack at him. Montreal did upgrade the O-Line in free agency but if they can somehow find a way to add this behemoth to their linemen corps, Darian Durant will sleep even better at night.
Jordan Hoover, Waterloo (DB)
Montreal already has a ton of talented players in the secondary. But with the departure of Marc-Olivier Brouillette to the Roughriders and the release of Anthony Coady, the search for the next great safety begins. Jordan Hoover looks like he can one day be that role player for Montreal with just the right bit of seasoning from new DB coach Billy Parker. Hoover has the ability to frustrate quarterbacks with his playmaking and field vision. He can also rotate in as linebacker as well on special teams if needed.
Connor McGough, Calgary (DL)
Montreal is moving slowly but surely to an all-National defensive line. Four years ago, the Alouettes found a real gem from the University of Calgary in Michael Klassen. Perhaps lightning can strike again in the form of McGough, himself also a former Dino. Despite carrying nearly 250 pounds on his six-foot frame, McGough is no slouch on the field. His combine numbers impressed enough to get an invite to the New York Giants mini-camp, but he’s better suited for three down football and would be a welcome addition to the Alouettes as Klassen’s understudy.
Harland Hastings, Acadia (DB)
Much like Jordan Hoover, this young man has the potential to step in and be a force to be reckoned with for Montreal’s secondary. Football teams from Atlantic University Sports don’t typically get a lot of love, but this former Acadia Axeman put up some solid numbers during his university career and was extremely durable despite his lack of size. His footwork is fantastic and he can break up offensive plays with the best of them. If Jovon Johnson needs a pet project, look no further than this Calgary native.
Jean-Simon Roy, Laval (OL)
If Montreal doesn’t draft a member of the Rouge et Or, then were they ever really at the CFL draft? You can almost set your watch to it; the Alouettes drafting a Vanier Cup winner from the Universite de Laval. Other CFL teams has wised up and have now started setting their sights on players who come from this USports powerhouse. Which is why I don’t think that Roy will go undrafted for long; several CFL teams have the need for quality O-Linemen. Even though Montreal drafted Philippe Gagnon from Laval last year, I could see them grabbing Jean-Simon if available and start grooming him to one day replace Luc Brodeur-Jourdain. Care to guess where Luc played his university ball? Yup, with the Rouge et Or.
Kwaku Boateng, Laurier (DE)
I have some bad news for you, Alouettes Nation; One day, John Bowman is going to retire. It won’t be this year, maybe next year? But when he does, you’re gonna want an edge-rusher who can throw QBs to the ground like Bow has done for so many years. That’s when you’ll be glad to have this former Golden Hawk in the lineup. Boateng’s high motor makes up for his atypical size and it was enough to earn him an invite to the Chicago Bears’ mini-camp. I don’t think he’ll go past the third round without being drafted by someone. But sometimes highly ranked talent can slip down on CFL draft day; perhaps Montreal can luck out in order to snag a player of Kwaku’s caliber.
Again, I cannot guarantee that the Alouettes will draft all or any of these players. But if they do, you as a fan of this team should be very excited.
In fact, be very excited no matter what. We are officially in the home stretch of this off-season. Three Sundays from now, training camp will officially be underway! No more waiting and asking aloud, “Is It June Yet?”. Another exciting season of CFL football is drawing close.
This Sunday’s draft should get the juices flowing as you’ll get to see a look into your team’s future. As always, you can follow along on Twitter to find out who will be joining the Montreal Alouettes as they prepare for the 2017 CFL season.
Forget June….is it Sunday yet?