Hello and welcome to the first Weird Sports Stuff with Brice for BrewSportsNet.com.
Since this is the first column of what I hope becomes a successful addition to Brew Sports, might as well give a little history of WSSwB. It first started as the ending Monday segment at a sports radio talk show based out of Marquette, Michigan as a way to first mention my favorite National Lacrosse League team relocating. That quickly spun into covering a lot of wacky minor sports, international leagues and crazy sporting contests across the world with the typical commentary the American public has come to expect. After the host moved to Indianapolis to focus on auto racing, WSSwB ended by covering Singapore’s first burrito-eating competition.
But now, we’re back and ready to go! So much so, that we’ll go right over the border to cover the Canadian Football League draft. The CFL is the longest running and biggest American football (or gridiron, as it’s called in many other countries) league besides the NFL. The larger field and the three downs create some completely ridiculous plays like this:
First, the ground rules of the draft and rosters: There are eight rounds, with nine teams picking. Rosters must contain at least 50 percent Canadian players, but the draft is reserved only for Canadian universities or Canadian players that play with US universities. If a player has a parent born in Canada, they apply for dual citizenship and therefore count as a Canadian. Players drafted that play in another league before the CFL must deal first with the teams that drafted them. These rights can be traded for currently-rostered players or draft picks. Besides that, it’s a draft. You know how this works.
CFL Draft Winners:
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
There were no bad options in the first three picks of the draft as long as the Blue Bombers snagged one of them. They did so by grabbing Iowa DL Faith Ekakitie with the first overall pick. Ekakitie is a player that can remove a lot of concerns along the front line for them with little downside. Being able to trade down and still grab the first offensive lineman off the board in Manitoba’s Geoff Gray was also a good move. Gray is expected to compete for a spot with the Green Bay Packers, but I don’t think he will make the starting roster and I doubt he will stay as a practice squad member.
The rest of their picks showed a lot of value, matching needs with best players available. It’s a smart overall draft for a team looking to make a statement in 2017.
The Argos didn’t have a pick in the first round after trading for QB Drew Willy, but grabbed a first-round talent in Idaho’s six-foot-nine OL Mason Woods. Toronto was able to wait for their defensive back in Calgary’s Robert Woodson and had quality depth picks late in the draft for their needs.
A good first draft by CFL legend and recently-hired GM Jim Popp is exactly what this franchise needed with their struggles the last few seasons on the field and in the Toronto sports community.
Simon Fraser Linebackers
Simon Fraser University is one of collegiate sports’ oddities that are more awkward than fun. Out of Bernary, British Columbia, SFU is the only Canadian school to compete in the NCAA. The play in D2’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference and they lost every game last year by a combined score of 508-83. A couple of those schools like Azusa Pacific, Humboldt State and Texas A&M Kingsville were pretty good, but their closest game was a 33-7 loss at Western Oregon.
So what a surprise to see three linebackers get drafted! Ante Milanovic-Litre went to Calgary in the fourth round while the Herdman brothers went in the sixth. Justin is going to Toronto and Jordan is on his way to British Columbia. All three can play coverage as well as stack the box, so maybe they can get something going in linebacker-heavy formations. With only four total drafted players in the draft, this is something SFU can use in recruiting too.
CFL Draft Losers:
Head Coach/GM Chris Jones has turned Canada’s Team into The Canadian Browns. After going a combined 8-28 in the last two years, the Roughriders cannot stop finding new and creative ways to get fined or stop cutting fan favorites from the roster.
Their draft didn’t improve too much either. While UCLA linebacker Cameron Judge at second overall is a nice grab, Bethune-Cookman’s OL Dariusz Bladek was a bit of a reach with their second rounder. Bladek’s recently discovered dual citizenship and the rush on offensive linemen at the end of the first round probably had something to do with it, but Calgary’s Braden Schram or McGill’s Qadr Spooner were better fits.
However none of this excuses the next two picks of TE Antony Auclair and OL Eddie Meredith. Auclair is currently in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ camp with a real chance to make a roster while Meredith didn’t play his senior year at Western. Wasted picks given the immediate needs for Saskatchewan.
For a team that needed the divisional crossover rule to make the playoffs last year, this was a really complacent draft that relies on the future. New GM Brock Sunderland got some decent picks later on in the draft, but they were all in the trenches. Nothing is really pushing competition once the players get into camp, which is an iffy situation for a team that can’t rely on the league’s second-best scoring offense and still go 5-5 in the scary West Division.
Carleton’s WR Nate Behar isn’t necessarily a bad pick, but was a luxury pick with some great players like DL Randy Colling still on the board. It’s like Edmonton did everything opposite of Toronto.
For the second straight year, no quarterbacks were taken in the draft. At all. The last Canadian quarterbacks to be drafted happened in 2015 as South Alabama’s Brandon Bridge went to Montreal and Calgary’s Andrew Buckley went as Mr. Irrelevant to the hometown Stampeders.
National-born quarterbacks have been a sticking point for a lot of fans who are sick and tired of hearing all about Tim Tebow, Colin Kaepernick, Johnny Manziel and now Vince Young trying to “restart their careers” in Canada. Some of these American players become beloved by their fan bases, but not every QB is going to cut it on the larger field and many fans find this disrespectful.
On top of this, five different quarterbacks went on the move in draft-related trades with a sixth falling through between Winnipeg and Hamilton.