Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bombers, Eskimos and Lions supplement their drafts

The CFL's supplemental draft doesn't receive anywhere near the attention of the regular Canadian college draft, and that's understandable. Instead of being live on television, the supplemental draft was conducted entirely offline, and it was conducted Monday instead of the original schedule of last Friday. Only four players were declared eligible for this draft, as it focuses on players who didn't get their non-import status approved in time for the regular draft, and only three of them were taken; Central Michigan wide receiver Kito Poblah went to Winnipeg, Ole Miss defensive tackle Ted Laurent was chosen by Edmonton and Wilfrid Laurier defensive lineman Alex Ellis was picked up by B.C., while Tabor College linebacker Stephen Inman was left undrafted. Despite its limited scope, though, this draft may wind up being just as important as the regular one.

The supplemental draft operates on quite a notable premise, combining a traditional draft order with elements of an auction and a high-stakes poker game. In order to make a selection in the supplemental draft, teams have to concede a draft pick in the regular 2012 draft, but that pick can be from any round. Draft order is determined by waiver priority, but the draft is conducted in reverse, so the Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes actually got to make the first bid. Going first is the toughest situation here, though, as later teams can wait and see what's been offered before making their bid (it appears early teams can jump back in as well if their bid is upped, but not if they passed on the first go-round). If multiple teams offer a pick in the same round, ties are also broken by waiver priority, giving those later teams even more of an edge. Thus, Winnipeg had the largest advantage going into this draft, as they had the highest priority, would win any ties and got to make their pick last.

The Bombers took full advantage of that, picking up hotly-coveted receiving prospect Poblah (who wasn't even thought to be eligible for the supplemental draft by the time of the regular draft, but had his status changed shortly afterwards

Four receivers went in the first round of the regular draft, including Saskatchewan's Jade Etienne to Winnipeg (a move that might have changed if the Bombers knew Poblah's status on draft day), but many draft gurus such as Kent Ridley had Poblah ranked above all of them; Poblah got a 8.3/10 on Ridley's prospect ranking scale, while Anthony Parker (third overall to Calgary) earned a 8.0, Etienne (fourth overall to Winnipeg) rated a 6.8, Nathan Coehoorn (fifth overall to Edmonton) ranked at 7.8 and Marco Iannuzzi (sixth overall to B.C.) picked up a 7.5. Thus, there's at least a chance that Poblah might just wind up being the top receiver in this draft class. It's a gamble for Winnipeg to give up a first-rounder on him, but the odds may actually be in their favour; the setup of this draft effectively gave them another first-overall pick, while they're probably not counting on finishing last again in 2011, so their 2012 pick might be lower.

Edmonton's selection of Laurent (pictured above bringing down Heisman Trophy-winner and current Denver Broncos' quarterback Tim Tebow in a 2008 game) is almost as notable. Many had projected him as worth a first-rounder, and there were real questions about if he or Poblah would be the top player in this supplemental draft. Yet, Poblah wound up being the first player up for grabs in the supplemental draft, and that paved the way for Laurent to fall to the Eskimos. As general manager Eric Tillman told Terry Jones of The Edmonton Sun it was quite a combination of circumstances that led to Laurent's availability for only a second-round pick.

"Honestly, we were incredibly lucky. Several clubs had passed in the third round, just assuming, I suppose, that like Poblah, Ted Laurent would be a first-rounder. Only a couple of teams were left to bid, since once you're out of the process you can't get back in."

"Montreal loved Ted, but they have already traded their 2012 first rounder to BC for Sean White. When we bid a second, the Als were knocked out of the process, and BC wasn't allowed to use a traded-for first-rounder in the supplemental draft."

"Suddenly, after our second-round bid, only two teams were eligible to jump ahead of us.

"I got an e-mail from another general manager congratulating us on getting Ted in the second round. He admitted they made a mistake opting out early in the bidding process. Understandably, they just assumed Kito and Ted were going one and two, so they just passed."

"Fortunately, others did the same thing, and, in the blink of an eye, the dominos had fallen perfectly. We secured the rights to a first-round talent, and still maintained our 2012 first rounder, too."

Laurent had a solid career at Tillman's alma mater, the University of Mississippi. He was particularly noticeable against teams with usually-dominant offensive lines, such as Alabama, which bodes well for his ability to succeed in the CFL, and Ole Miss fans are already discussing how they're going to replace him (and the rest of a solid defensive line group). The favourable impressions of him extend north of the border, too; on a conference call Tuesday, Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed said Laurent's size and mobility should make him an effective CFL defensive tackle, and his non-import status will help the Eskimos' ratio.

"He's 6'0'', 300 pounds, extremely explosive and effective against both the pass and the run," Reed said. "We see him as a mainstay on the interior of our defensive line, which allows us to start an American somewhere else."

Laurent may not be available immediately, though, as there's apparently NFL interest in him. That may have been part of what allowed Edmonton to grab him with just a second-rounder. However, the ongoing lockout means he can't sign with the NFL as an undrafted free agent, so that may entice him to consider the CFL more seriously.

The other supplemental draft selection was B.C.'s choice of Ellis in exchange for a sixth-rounder. Ellis is listed as 6'1'' and 306 pounds, so he has the size to perhaps play tackle. However, it's unclear what his football experience is; the only thing that's mentioned in the CFL.ca blurb is that he played for Laurier back in 2007, and Laurier's site doesn't have much more information. It will be interesting to see how he does in camp.

Inman wasn't selected, so he becomes a CFL free agent. There isn't a lot of information out there on him, but he played NAIA football at Kansas' Tabor College. He doesn't appear to have recorded a fumble recovery or an interception last season, though, and their statistics apparently don't include tackles, so it's tough to find out just what he's capable of. We'll probably get a better idea based on if anyone makes him a free-agent offer or not.

The supplemental draft may have only featured four players, and only two of them appear to have drawn a lot of interest, but that doesn't make it insignificant. Both Winnipeg and Edmonton are gambling here, giving away high picks next year in the hopes of grabbing a good player. However, given the information out there on both Poblah and Laurent, those are a pair of bets that could pay off very well. The risk is notable, but the rewards could be substantial.

Ashley Olsen Danneel Harris Veronika Vaeková Eve Brittany Lee

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