The CFL draft may have started in unconventional fashion, with Ottawa dealing the first-overall pick (and the rights to retired lineman Marwan Hage) to Calgary for offensive lineman Jon Gott, but the player eventually taken with that pick wasn't a huge surprise. Laval centre Pierre Lavertu was the third-highest-ranked prospect in the league's April rankings, and with #1 and #2-ranked prospects Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and David Foucault receiving notable NFL interest, he looked to be one of the best players out there. TSN analyst Duane Forde said on a call last week that he saw Lavertu as a player who can step in to a CFL role right away, especially when compared to other potential centres such as SFU's Matthias Goosen.
"Lavertu is the most instantly ready," Forde said. "Lavertu may be more ready to step in and go from day one."
While that isn't necessarily as huge for the Stampeders as it would have been for the Redblacks, as Calgary already has a substantial number of talented linemen even after the Gott trade, Lavertu should still be a good fit for them. He was an effective player at Laval, and while he'll likely be asked to slide to guard regularly given that the Stamps have 2013 rookie of the year Brett Jones at centre, his ability to play centre could provide them with some depth if Jones gets hurt. This is a class of offensive linemen that wasn't necessarily incredibly deep at the top, and with Duvernay-Tardif and Foucault seeing so much interest from the NFL, Lavertu is a pick that should be a bit safer. He was highly touted, too; Kent Ridley's draft guide has him rated as an 8.77 (9+ is NFL interest, 8.5+ is CFL first-rounder), higher than anyone not an offensive line prospect and behind only Duvernay-Tardif and John Urschel (another NFL draft pick who wasn't even eligible for this draft thanks to not applying for non-import status). Here's what Ridley said about him:
Here's a four-time All Conference center and three time All-Canadian. Pierre has basically been locked in as the #1 center since the end of the 2012 CIS season. That gap got a lot closer during this off season and it will come down to impressions from the CFL Combine and the interviews there that will dictate draft positioning.
That's the gap between Lavertu and Goosen (who Ridley rates an 8.73, fifth-best amongst OL prospects behind Urschel, Duvernay-Tardif, Lavertu and Foucault), and it apparently stayed wide enough in at least the Stampeders' eyes for them to take him first overall. Lavertu has the advantage of being very proven at the CIS level and being part of some great Laval teams. Laval's also a run-heavy team, so Lavertu should mesh well with Calgary's offence, which is expected to feature a lot of running with 2013 CFL most outstanding player Jon Cornish again this year. We'll see how this works out for Calgary and if Lavertu is able to replace Gott's production, but the Stampeders have taken a promising player who might turn into a great Canadian lineman. He'll be one to keep an eye on this season.