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Bombers pondering premium picks
Winnipeg Blue Bomber head coach Paul LaPolice slipped out of the latest in a series of the club’s CFL Canadian Draft meetings — no one’s counting, but Tuesday’s session could very well push the discussions total into triple digits — with an intriguing nugget:
D-Day — Draft Day — has been so all-consuming for the Bomber boss and his staff he even found himself throwing more ideas down on paper while on ‘vacation.’
"We’ve run through a lot of different scenarios, we’ve previously ranked our Top 50, reworked the rankings this week after meeting with (GM) Joe Mack and have talked about what it would take for us to trade if team wanted to move up in the third round or up to the fourth-overall pick," began LaPolice. "I’m not saying we would trade, but we just want to have a ready list in case. But we may just take the players we like, too.
"And then last week when I was on vacation where we ranked players by position as to where we think they might go in each round so that we have projections for everyone in our Top 50. It’s totally an inexact science and I can assure you that in Round 1 people will be taken where everybody will go, ‘Whoa?!’ because everybody has different likes and different needs.
"We just want to be prepared as possible for every possibility."
As we continue our series leading up to Sunday’s draft — the Bombers hold the first and fourth overall picks in what could be a franchise-defining event — we’ll focus on the offensive-line class available. What’s important to note here is while the club has seemingly made the commitment to start two imports at right and left tackle, the two-time defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes started five Canadians last year and if the Bombers are searching for ratio-changing prospects, they should begin in the trenches and specifically along the O-line.
Versatile Rice University tackle Scott Mitchell is ranked first by the CFL scouting bureau and this draft also includes an intriguing mix of size (Queen’s tackle Matt O’Donnell stands 6-11) and strength (Michael Knill of Wilfrid Laurier pushed out a record bench-press reps of 47 at the E-Camp). But it’s the uncertainty surrounding three eligible prospects playing U.S. college ball — Phillip Blake at Baylor, Tulsa’s Tyler Holmes and Moe Petrus of Connecticut — that could mess up any CFL team or media member’s draft board.
Initially, the Bombers indicated they would not use their first-overall pick on a player planning to return to school or one who could pop up on the NFL radar screen next year, but the Steven Jyles trade that landed them the fourth-overall selection from the Toronto Argonauts does give the organization the opportunity to at least consider it now.
"I can assure you that Tyler Holmes is on everybody’s list as one of the best players in the draft, but he will fall because a lot of people think he will play in the NFL," said LaPolice. "(Having that No. 4 overall draft choice) makes it a lot easier for you to consider it now. I’m not sure you’d take two juniors because that doesn’t help you right away, but it gives you an option if you’ve already got a player you think will be here this year.
"That second pick in the first round allows you the flexibility to take who you want, to take two players you are really excited about, listen to trade offers, having the possibility to take a guy who shows up in one year."
Consider this, too, while trying to determine whether the Bombers grab an O-lineman with the first or fourth overall picks: centre Obby Khan, turns 31 this season;
Brendon LaBatte, who sniffed around the NFL this winter and according to a source was very close to landing a deal with the Oakland Raiders before the deadline passed will likely get a look down south after this season while Steve Morley turns 30 this summer and veteran Ryan Donnelly, who is 32, didn’t play a down last year.
That said, the Bombers do have some young prospects in the trenches in Chris Greaves, who some in the CFL believe could really morph into a star, along with tackle Chris Kowalczuk and centre Matt Morencie.
Meanwhile, the Bombers — and the rest of the league — are awaiting for word from the CFL as to whether Central Michigan receiver Kito Poblah will be available in the supplemental draft later this month. A blue-chip receiving prospect, the Bombers will have first dibs at bidding for the Montreal product if the questions about his eligibility are answered and he is made available. But if he’s not, it could dramatically affect their draft rankings.
"We’re hoping to know before the draft whether he’s in," said LaPolice. "Every team wants to know."
Free Press football writer Ed Tait will provide a brief synopsis of some of the top Canadian players daily leading up to Sunday’s CFL draft. Today, we focus on Scott Mitchell:
Position: offensive lineman
School: Rice University
Ht.: 6-4; Wt.: 295
Born: Sept. 10, 1989, Montreal, Que.
CFL Scouting Bureau ranking: 1st.
Credentials: Made 38 consecutive starts for the Rice Owls before a foot injury in Week 8 last year ended his collegiate career... Was on the Rotary Lombardi Award preseason Watch List... Second-team All C-USA in 2009, starting at both right and left tackle.... Was named to the All C-USA Freshman team in 2007... Played O and D line in high school in Ottawa, as well as basketball, rugby and hockey.
E-Camp test results from March: Bench: 18 (second-worst among OL at the camp); 40-yard dash: 5.53 seconds (9th among OL); vertical jump: 28.5 inches (tied for 3rd among OL); broad jump: 8.45 feet (3rd among LBs); shuttle: 4.75 seconds (4th among OL); 3-cone drill: 7.94 seconds (4th among OL).
Video profile courtesy CFL.ca:
Why he’d be a good fit for the Bombers: He took turns all over the O-line at the E-camp — at tackle, guard and centre — and was solid. His testing numbers were so-so, but he was solid enough to make 38 starts at a NCAA school and that says something. His best fit is at tackle and he’d be a project inside, but the Bombers must be concerned about their O-line situation after the 2011 season, especially if Brendon LaBatte gets an NFL look. Mitchell is the safe pick at No. 1, but years from now might not be considered as the best player in the draft.
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