It's been an up-and-down couple of years for Canadian receiver Aaron Hargreaves. 2011 saw the Ladner, B.C. product looking like he might finally fulfill some of the potential he displayed in the college ranks with SFU, which led Winnipeg to draft him 15th overall in 2008. Hargreaves only recorded a combined 23 receptions for 239 yards and a touchdown in his first three CFL seasons, but he surpassed those numbers in 2011 with the Bombers, hauling in 30 catches for 292 yards during the regular season and scoring his second career touchdown in the Grey Cup. That led to a free-agent contract with Edmonton in the offseason, but things soon went downhill from there; Hargreaves appeared in three games with the Eskimos, but was then cut. Now, after sitting out for most of this season so far, he was signed by the Saskatchewan Roughriders as an injury replacement earlier this week. Can Hargreaves build on what he did in 2011, or are his first few seasons more evident of what he can do at the CFL level?
In Hargreaves' favour, it's worth pointing out that it often takes prospects quite a while to make an impact in the professional game. Yes, most of the players from the 2008 draft have either established themselves or fallen off the map by now, but some are just starting to become regular contributors. Examples include Justin Sorensen (taken fifth overall in that draft), who's now starting at centre for Winnipeg, Jesse Newman (taken third overall in 2008), who's still establishing himself with the B.C. Lions' offensive line, Daryl Stephenson (taken 24th overall that year), who's making his mark as a fullback in Hamilton, and Hargreaves' Saskatchewan teammate DB Paul Woldu (taken 36th overall in 2008), who's still trying to consistently work his way into the Riders' lineup. A particularly relevant case is that of Chris Bauman, another talented Canadian receiver, the first-overall pick in 2007 and another guy who struggled for most of his first few seasons, who's having a breakout year in Calgary. If the 27-year-old Bauman can do that this year, age shouldn't write off the 26-year-old Hargreaves.
Opportunities are often fleeting, though, and talent alone doesn't necessarily mean you'll succeed. It often comes down to being in the right situation at the right time. Despite Hargreaves' talent and impressive 2011 campaign, no team took a look at him from his release by Edmonton until now. As he told Rob Vanstone of The Regina Leader-Post, that had him wondering if his football days were over:
Hargreaves was idle until the Roughriders came calling on Monday. While waiting for the phone to ring, he dealt with an uneasy feeling.
"There was a lot of wondering going on: Am I going to get picked up? Am I going to get picked up soon? Am I going to get picked up by the end of the year?'' he said. "There's all that kind of stuff. You can't help but think those kind of things.
"I was trying to stay focused and in the mindset that I would get picked up so that I'd be ready when I got the call, and things worked out.''
Events certainly have worked out for Hargreaves so far, as the Riders could definitely use some receiving depth following Jordan Sisco's injury, and their passing-game issues might compel them to shake things up. Now, he has to seize the opportunity he's been given. It will be interesting to see if he's able to get back to and improve on the form he showed in 2011.