The Canadian Football League Draft has long been considered the ultimate in crapshoots.
Just like any draft in any pro sport, the CFL's history is dotted with first-round busts and late steals. But it has also notgooriously seen both the Ottawa Rough Riders and Montreal Alouettes draft dead men in the mid-90s.
Oops and double oops.
All of which brings us to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their plans for today's annual Canadian talent grab. With all their stinking over the last few years, the Bombers have selected first, third and second overall in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and have the second pick again for this draft.
What's significant here for the Bombers and their long-suffering faithful is even while stockpiling those high picks, the club currently has very little to show for it. Henoc Muamba, selected first overall in 2011, signed this off-season with the Indianapolis Colts. Tyson Pencer, the third-overall pick in 2012, has battled injury and has played in one game in two years while Andy Mulamba, drafted second overall last year, made the Green Bay Packers last season as a rookie.
The new regime, led by GM Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O'Shea, understand the importance of scoring TDs on their picks better than anyone. Both were Top 10 picks as players -- O'Shea in 1993 and Walters in 1996 -- and know the Bomber roster needs a serious upgrade of homegrown help.
With all that as a backdrop, here are five storylines to follow for today's draft:
1. Who goes first and second?
The expansion Ottawa Redblacks own the first overall pick and both the new kids and the Bombers are eyeing the same area of need -- the offensive line, particularly centre. Ottawa felt it had the centre position covered when it selected veteran Marwan Hage in the dispersal draft, but he has since retired. The Bombers, meanwhile, are looking to replace Justin Sorensen, who signed with Edmonton as a free agent this winter.
The Redblacks are said to be leaning toward either Pierre Lavertu of the Laval Rouge et Or or David Foucault of the Montreal Carabins. Both are also francophone, which can be an important factor in the national capital region. Worth noting: Foucault will attend the Carolina Panthers rookie camp next week, although he has yet to sign.
Interestingly, the Bombers flew only two prospects in for a look-see prior to the draft -- Lavertu, third in the final CFL Scouting Bureau's ranking, and Simon Fraser offensive lineman Mathias Goossen, ranked ninth. If they don't grab whoever is still available, it would be as big a story as drafting a player without a pulse.
2. The Bison watch
The University of Manitoba has two players ranked in the Top 10 -- defensive lineman Evan Gill is listed at six; running back Anthony Coombs at eight. The Bisons haven't had a player selected in the first round since Wes Lysack went fifth overall to Calgary in 2003 and have never had two taken in the Top 10.
Coombs is seen as a versatile Andre Durie-type who could play tailback, slotback and return kicks.
Gill, has packed on some muscle since the end of the Bison season but has spent the last couple of days putting out fires with respect to a quad injury, the extent of which has not yet been determined. He had an MRI last Thursday and has not seen the results, but that did not stop some media speculation that had him out for six to eight weeks.
"I'm at the gym right now working out and moving along as planned," said Gill Monday. "I suspect it is minor. I don't want teams to be alarmed and I don't need this kind of stuff being said in the media, especially if it's not exactly true."
In an attempt to be proactive and upfront, Gill did contact every CFL team about the injury. But how it might affect his draft status won't be known until tonight.
3. The lure of the show
Four Canadians were drafted by NFL teams over the past weekend, the highest-ever total. They are O-lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who won the J.P Metras Trophy as the top lineman in the CIS last year and is the CFL Scouting Bureau's top-ranked player (Kansas City; 6th round/200th overall); D-lineman Brent Urban (Baltimore; 4th round/134th overall), O-lineman John Urschel (Baltimore, 5th round/175th overall) and T.J. Jones (Detroit; 6th round/189th overall). Interestingly, both Urschel and Jones were born in Winnipeg but, because they played high school football in the U.S., would have to fill out paperwork making them eligible for the CFL draft. They did not.
4. Does Kevin Glenn become a draft-day story?
Ottawa selected Glenn in the expansion draft last December and it seemed like he had found a perfect spot to finish up his career. And then Ottawa threw $400,000-plus at Henry Burris and declared him their No. 1 gun. Glenn has since asked for a trade. So the question all winter has been this: Can the expansion Redblacks afford to tie up that much cash in their three QBs, including former B.C. Lion Thomas DeMarco, when they have a team to piece together? Stay tuned.
5. 'X' Factors
Concordia defensive lineman Quinn Smith saw his stock skyrocket when he finished fourth in the final CFL Scouting Bureau rankings. And then he tested positive for a banned substance. How does that affect his status?
Who might be there at No. 20 when the Bombers make their second pick? Look for the Bombers to look for depth and special-teams candidates with the rest of their picks. Whispers around the CFL have a lot of teams, including the Bombers, interested in Montreal defensive back/linebacker Antoine Pruneau -- he could be a safety candidate with Cauchy Muamba released on Monday -- and McGill linebacker Jessie Briggs.