One of the most interesting parts of this year's CFL draft is that Ottawa's taking part, giving the as-yet-unnamed expansion franchise some Canadian talent that will hopefully be ready when they join the league play in 2014. The man making the decisions on who to pick is going to be recently-hired general manager Marcel Desjardins, but he'll have plenty of help; the team announced Friday that Jeremy Snyder has been hired as a pro/college scout and Miles Gorrell has been brought in as a scouting consultant. Both have impressive CFL reputations, and together with Desjardins and the rest of the Ottawa group, they should be able to make picks that will give the franchise a solid core of Canadian players to build around.
Gorrell is the big name here, as he was recently selected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame for his remarkable 18-season, 321-game CFL career as an offensive lineman. Gorrell certainly has plenty of CFL experience that should help him identify talent, and he has a player-evaluation background as well: he's worked as a player-personnel assistant with the Toronto Argonauts. Snyder's addition may be even more significant, though; he's been scouting both opposing CFL teams and U.S. pro and college teams for the Montreal Alouettes for the past three years, and former Als' assistant GM Desjardins has extensive knowledge of what he can bring to the table. Here's what Desjardins said in the release on how he plans to utilize each of his new hires:
“Both of these individuals will be key members of our football operations staff as we prepare to draft and sign players,” said Ottawa’s General Manager, Marcel Desjardins. “Jeremy has the ability to identify talent at the pro and college levels, both in Canada and the United States, and his administrative background will be invaluable to our Football Operations structure. Miles will focus primarily on the CFL and the upcoming CFL Draft. His hands-on approach to scouting and his ability to get to know prospects on a personal level will be of tremendous benefit to our organization.”
The Ottawa expansion franchise won't begin play until the 2014 season, but they'll get to pick a NCAA underclassman at the end of the first, second, third and fourth rounds of this year's draft (9th, 18th, 27th and 36th overall), giving them some Canadian talent that will hopefully be ready to contribute by 2014. That isn't going to be a particularly easy task; making quality picks in the CFL draft has always been tricky, but it's growing even more so thanks to the expanding NFL interest in Canadian players, and things get even tougher when you're restricted to picking NCAA underclassmen. Generally, those players aren't eligible for the NFL draft until after their next college season, so it can be really tough to get a handle on if they're likely to ever play in the CFL.
The classic case in point is Philadelphia Eagles' guard Danny Watkins: B.C. took him fourth overall in the 2010 draft, thinking he might be a late-round NFLer the next year who'd come north before long, but Watkins dramatically boosted his NFL stock with his play for Baylor during the 2010 NCAA season and was chosen by the Eagles in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. As the Watkins case shows, the CFL draft isn't just about finding talent; it's also about judging if that talent's likely to wind up south of the border. That's a difficult thing to do, but Ottawa's assembled an impressive front office team to evaluate prospects, and they've done so nice and early; combines start this coming week, but the draft itself isn't until May 6. We'll see what Desjardins and his team of scouts are able to do then.