A new look for the Montreal Alouettes in 2019….and I don’t mean the new uniforms.
The CFL Draft took place yesterday and all nine CFL teams managed to restock their rosters with some young Canadian talent. Over a year’s worth of work has gone into this night, knowing that the fruits of this labour may not be sown for a good while yet. Yes, there is some amazing talent that was selected tonight but no one player that was drafted yesterday is going to change the league overnight.
Fans are hoping that the scouts that hit the road to attend numerous university games while watching hours of film have made the right choices for their squad. The biggest knock on the Montreal Alouettes, among several, was that they didn’t have enough National talent in their lineup.
Free agency this past off-season helped fix a lot of that, but you still need to draft and develop the stars of the future. Alouettes general manager Kavis Reed and Director of National Scouting Miles Gorrell put together a solid draft class last season and were aiming to do the same in 2019.
No deals were made to move up/down the draft order like last year. Reed and Gorrell stood pat and had their sights set on certain players. They got their men and will now focus on getting these youngsters signed, sealed and delivered to training camp later this month.
So without further ado, let’s meet the newest members of the Montreal Alouettes:
Round 1*: Tyler Johnstone, OL, Oregon
While this “pick” isn’t an official part of this year’s draft, the Alouettes chose to get a head start by using their first round pick (so to speak) to select this beast of a man. There was a belief that had Johnstone been a part of this year’s draft, he would have been among the first players taken.
So Montreal gambled on the former Oregon Duck. Now Tyler has had the benefit of being a full-time member of the Alouettes’ locker room and will be leaned on heavily to be a part of this O-Line’s rebirth.
* Player selected in the 2018 CFL Supplemental Draft, thereby forfeiting the Alouettes’ first round pick in 2019.
Round 2: Kaion Julien-Grant, REC, St.Francis Xavier
Montreal finally has some playmaking receivers for their young quarterbacks to use. The past two years saw Malcolm Carter and Richmond Nketiah drafted to add to that talented group. But when you’ve a ridiculously fast receiver like Julien-Grant available to you at #13, you jump right on him without a second thought.
With a great 40 time at the combine and his ability to get open when needed, I can see Kaion as the deep threat that this team has been lacking (or rather, not utilizing properly) for some time.
Round 2: Nate Anderson, DL, Missouri
With the release of Jabar Westerman, a need for a defensive lineman suddenly appeared for the Alouettes. Enter Nate Anderson, fresh off a stint in the SEC with the Mizzou Tigers. His time there was spend as a rush end and considering how often he was in the opposing quarterback’s kitchen, he must be one heck of a chef!
Bo Banner was drafted last year in hopes of one day filling the living legend John Bowman‘s shoes. Anderson will be right behind Banner and these two will make life very miserable for rival quarterbacks.
Round 2: Samuel Thomassin, OL, Laval
Yes, they grow ’em big here in Quebec. At 6’5, 330 pounds, Thomassin is not the kind of guy you want to make angry. A two-time Vanier Cup winner with the Rouge et Or, Samuel was selected by Montreal as their territorial draft pick. The Alouettes selecting a player from Laval seems like a foregone conclusion every year and you won’t find much better than Thomassin.
There’s a lot of raw talent here in Samuel and I hope either Spencer Wilson or fellow Rouge et Or Luc Brodeur-Jourdain takes this big man under their wing. With some legit reps and the chance to showcase his talent close to home, I’d say that Montreal made out like a bandit with this “extra” draft pick.
Round 3: Zach Wilkinson, OL, Northern Colorado
I left this guy off my draft wish list because I honestly expected a team to take him in the first round. But lo and behold, this blue chip prospect fell right into the Alouettes’ lap. A physical force, Wilkinson likes to rag-doll defensive linemen to open up lanes for the offense and I am here for it.
Depth at the tackle position has been a sore spot for Montreal in recent years, but this speedy brute will provide some instant reinforcement for this non-stop “work in progress” that is the Alouettes’ O-Line.
Round 4: Chris Osei-Kusi, REC, Queen’s
As I said in my draft preview, you simply cannot pass up on a playmaker like this. The Alouettes lined up for some quality receivers yesterday; starting with Julien-Grant and book-ending with this gifted pass-catcher from Queen’s.
Chris will make his presence felt once training camp opens. The minute he breaks one open and soars downfield, I think a lot of heads will be turning and tongues will be wagging. That complaint about a lack of receiver talent in Montreal? I believe it has been thusly addressed.
Round 5: Michael Sanelli, DL, Concordia
There is a clear goal when it comes to the Alouettes’ defensive line; it’s gotta be nastier. Even though the Alouettes already got a stud defensive end earlier in the draft, Sanelli will likely stay inside. Like a buzzsaw, he just slices through offensive lines with one goal in mind: get to the quarterback. And more often than not, Michael does.
One guy who is glad to have Sanelli in Montreal is new teammate Hugo Richard, whose Rouge et Or faced off against the Concordia Stingers many times. As a result, Sanelli would often get right in Richard’s grill and proceed to introduce the Laval QB to the turf. Other quarterbacks in the CFL will now get to know the special kind of hell that Hugo went through in the RSEQ.
Round 6: Jeshrun Antwi, RB, Calgary
I wasn’t expecting Montreal to draft another running back, especially after landing Ryder Stone in last year’s CFL Draft and signing Jeremiah Johnson in free agency. But drafting Antwi is a depth move that could yield some pleasant results for the Alouettes’ ground game.
Antwi is another big body runner with great burst. He led the Dinos in rushing, averaging 8.6 yards per carry in the process. I won’t say Montreal’s backfield is now crowded, but the number of true reps that Jeshrun gets will depend on the health of both Stone and incumbent tailback William Stanback.
Round 7: Benjamin Whiting, LB, Saskatchewan
Every year, there always seems to be that one head-scratcher of a pick. That’s not to say it’s automatically a bad one but when there isn’t a lot written about a prospect, it makes you wonder a little. There’s not much to say about Whiting nor is there any video of him to take notes from.
But his head coach at the University of Saskatchewan is former Alouette Scott Flory. So you can already imagine that Whiting has been given plenty of championship-calibre advice from the three-time Grey Cup champ. Whiting does bring some physical gifts to the table and can learn a lot in camp from guys like Henoc Muamba and Bo Lokombo.
Round 8: Cody Cranston, DB, Ottawa
This Alouettes secondary has gone through a major overhaul and looks poised to become a major threat in the Canadian Football League again. That secondary will need some depth and they certainly got that in Cody. In fact, he might even be better than his brother Ty, whom the Alouettes drafted in 2017.
A pure ball-hawk that is disruptive in nature, Cody already looks polished and won’t seem out of place in Montreal. Brother acts are common in the CFL (such as the Muambas and Westermans) and having the Cranstons in camp together should make for a fun dynamic. Well, expect for the opposing team in the preseason games.
The Alouettes went in on two highly-ranked National receivers and also added some nice pieces on both the offensive and defensive line. Even with a couple of potential wild card choices, Montreal didn’t draft with desperation. They took advantage of their three picks in the second round and continued to address their needs.
Of course, it’s far too soon to tell if this draft class is a win or a bust. But these young men will be given every opportunity to shine when training camp gets underway later this month. The young players that are already Alouettes will have to step up to fend off these hungry lions.
There’s only so many spots to go around on a CFL roster and not everyone will make the cut.
With the CFL Draft done for another year, what’s next here at The ALSternative?
The Alouettes made a fair bit of news this off-season and it may not be over yet! With launching a new identity and the talk of a potential change in ownership, it made for an interesting winter in the 514. We will be looking at it all, along with a look at the faces that will be at training camp, in the 2019 season preview. Make sure you have this site bookmarked for all your Montreal Alouettes thoughts and analysis.
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 the podcast online at iTunes, Google Play Music, Stitcher and Spotify.
As always, go ahead and follow me on Twitter for all the latest news, thoughts and more.
A new CFL season is slated to get underway later this month. There’s still the slight matter of a new collective bargaining agreement that needs to be ironed out, but hopefully the league and the players will start ramping it up to get a deal done. If all goes well, training camp will open May 19th and life as we Canadian football fans know it will be back to normal.
Be excited; we are one step closer to getting football back, folks. Thanks for reading.