Some new Birds of Prey have landed in the 514.
The CFL Draft took place this past Thursday and the stars of tomorrow begin their new career path in trying to become the next great superstar of this league. All nine teams had the same agenda: Pick the best available player that can help the team now and for years to come.
The Montreal Alouettes had the “honour” of going first thanks to a less than stellar 2017 campaign. They could have gone first to pick anyone they wanted. But Alouettes general manager Kavis Reed had another idea in mind. One that can help bolster this team now and for the future.
24 hours before he was scheduled to announce the first overall pick, Reed made a deal with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Going to the Tiger-Cats was that first overall pick along with a fourth and sixth round pick. In exchange, the Alouettes received the second overall pick along with Hamilton’s fourth and seventh round pick.
To further sweeten the deal, the Tiger-Cats included some actual players in WR Jamal Robinson and neg list quarterback Alex Tanney, who’s currently with the New York Giants. But the crown jewel of the trade was Ryan Bomben, who was traded from Montreal to Hamilton back in 2015 on draft day. This now makes the fourth Alouette returning to the nest for the 2018 season, along with Dominique Ellis, Mitchell White and Henoc Muamba.
There’s no way any sane general manager makes a move like this unless they were 100% confident of still getting their targeted player afterwards. And while a lot of Reed’s personnel moves thus far were openly questioned or even mocked by many, this one was widely regarded as a masterstroke. Some folks are suggesting that relative rookie GM Reed may have even fleeced his former boss Eric Tillman, former GM of the Eskimos (where Reed was head coach) and current GM of the Tabbies.
So with all this wheeling and dealing, Montreal got a veteran lineman who is a familiar face along with a few other nice pieces. How did the rest of the draft unfold for this team? Here’s a look at the young men that now call themselves Alouettes and will be in town when training camp opens on May 20th:
Round 1: Trey Rutherford, OL, UConn
As I mentioned in the 2018 draft preview column, Rutherford was committed to playing in the CFL and not wanting to waste his time with an NFL mini-camp, where he may or may not be offered something. Montreal’s O-Line needs all the help and depth it can get and this beast of a young man can provide that.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Trey briefly at the Alouettes’ town hall meeting yesterday. He’s very excited about where this team is going and while he feels he’s more of a natural guard, Trey told me that he’s versatile enough to play anywhere on the line that Montreal needs him to. There is a LOT to like here with this draft pick.
Round 3: Bo Banner, DL, Central Washington
The Alouettes chose wisely with this pick, bringing in a powerhouse that can rush with the best of them. As much as we all love and admire John Bowman, this will be his last CFL season. If the Alouettes can develop Banner by having him learn from men like Bowman and Jamaal Westerman, opposing quarterbacks should be very concerned. Montreal’s dream of an all-National defensive line just became more of a reality.
Round 3: Jean-Gabriel Poulin, LB, Western
Yet another player on my quasi-wish list, this young Quebecer brings a lot to the table for the Alouettes. He’s had a taste of the championship life, winning the Vanier Cup with Western in dominant fashion. Poulin had a fantastic combine and his stock rose rapidly as a result. What drew me to him was his foot speed and hard-hitting ability to tackle, which will only get better as he works alongside some talented linebackers in Montreal.
Round 4: KC Bakker, OL, Carleton
At 6’8, 300 pounds, this behemoth is a project waiting to happen. He still has potentially two more years to go before seeing CFL action but has already drawn rave reviews. That includes participating in last year’s East-West bowl at the Universite de Laval and being named a OUA All-star in his rookie season. The ceiling is very high for this young lineman.
Round 5: Ryder Stone, RB, Dartmouth
To help flesh out Montreal’s National backfield with this pick, Kavis Reed selected a young man who had a prolific career in the Ivy League. In four years at Dartmouth, Stone averaged 5 yards per carry, all on a stout frame similar to current Als running back Tyrell Sutton. While still small compared to other National RBs like Andrew Harris and Jerome Messam, Ryder can turn on the jets and leave the defense chasing their tails.
Round 6: Paul Kozachuk, LB, Toronto
The Alouettes had a lot to consider when it came to the linebacking corps, with the pending retirement on Chip Cox and the release of Kyries Hebert. The general consensus was that this team had to get younger, which the draft helps you do. By selecting Kozachuk, the Alouettes get a disruptive force that will continue to develop and learn this new defensive system. Not afraid to get his hands dirty, Paul led the Varsity Blues in tackles and forced fumbles this past season.
Round 6: Etienne Moisan, WR, Laval
It used to be that the Montreal Alouettes would always select at least one player from the Rouge et Or. So much so, that Laval was even seen by many as the Alouettes’ farm team! But other CFL teams caught on and started raiding the Laval war chest before Montreal was able to. This year, the Alouettes bolstered their National receiver corps by adding this veritable stud to the lineup. Most notable to his hands is Etienne’s blocking ability, opening lanes and protecting the quarterback. We may be looking at the next Rob Bagg here with this pick.
Round 7: Khadim Mbaye, LB, Ottawa
Another Quebec-born product, Khadim brings a wealth of athleticism to the Alouettes. He’s also not afraid to bring the lumber, punishing anyone that happens to have the football in their hands. I can see him working alongside fellow Laval native Jesse Joseph to bring the pain for this Montreal defense. If the Alouettes are looking for a fresh face to get behind with their new marketing, this fluently bilingual young man would be a solid choice.
Round 7: Richmond Nketiah, WR, Waterloo
Despite playing for a Waterloo program that’s had more losses than wins, Nketiah has proven himself on the field with his speed and concentration on the ball. With quick bursts and the ability to catch the ball in traffic, the potential of this player is currently unlimited. Don’t let Richmond’s small frame fool you, Ben Cahoon was also a little guy who made receiving plays happen. Don’t sleep on this former Warrior.
Round 8: Lekan Idowu, DB, Windsor
Montreal has a secondary that has the potential to be the most disruptive and punishing of the entire league. Adding this former Windsor Lancer just adds to it. Hard-hitting and able to read the quarterback, Idowu can help add to the National foundation that the Alouettes have built along with Chris Ackie and Dondre Wright. Where Lekan will shine is on special teams, as Montreal needs to improve greatly in that area.
Overall, this draft class has a lot of true potential. Many needs were addressed and even some future players have been unearthed who will now be given a chance to slowly develop. This new coaching staff will be focusing on development more than anything else and having these clean slates at their disposal will be a blessing.
The Alouettes are evolving and shedding a lot of the baggage of the past. Veteran presence is so important, but this team HAD to get younger. They have done so and I am looking forward to seeing these draft picks come into training camp to match up against the established players already in place.
These new players may not become household names for a while yet, but in 2-3 years these could be the ones that make you leap out of your seat at Percival Molson Stadium with that jaw-dropping play. THAT’s what I am looking forward to.
Now that we know which youngsters will be joining the flock later this month, what’s next here at The ALSternative?
There’s a lot to cover from when the Alouettes trudged off the field early last November, including the aforementioned new coaching staff. We’ll be detailing all that took place and looking forward with the 2018 season preview. If you want in-depth analysis of what to expect at training camp, this is the place to find it.
Be sure to also check out the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast, as Tim Capper and myself will also bring you all kinds of Montreal Alouettes talk, opinions and so much more! You can find it on Podbean, iTunes and Google Play Music.
And as always, you can follow me on Twitter for all the latest news, thoughts and more.
With the draft done, this team is taking shape and will be ready to kick the doors of the new season open, a lot sooner than expected. No more asking, “Is it June yet?” because the season is starting earlier! Which means training camp kicks off on May 20th in Montreal.
No, that’s not a misprint. Your team will be a lot closer to home. Fans will no longer have to make the trek out to Lennoxville for camp. Just hop on the metro and head out to Olympic Stadium to see your Alouettes in action. This is just one of the many exciting news tidbits that this off-season brought. We’ll talk more about that very soon.
As someone once coined every Monday night, are you ready for some football??