Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–6–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Packers prospect a risky pick

If Mulumba dons the green, fans here will be cheesed

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Andy Mulumba was Joe Mack's first pick on Monday, but he was his second choice.

The Bombers GM tried to orchestrate a trade with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats until literally the 11th hour on Monday -- the draft started at 11 a.m. and Winnipeg and Hamilton were still talking at 10:45 a.m. -- but Mack was unable to pry loose the first overall pick that Hamilton used to select University of Calgary Dinos defensive tackle Linden Gaydosh.

And so with Gaydosh off the board, Mack settled for Plan B with his second overall pick in the form of a well-regarded defensive end from Eastern Michigan in Mulumba, who by Mack's own admission on Monday is "50-50" -- maybe a bit better -- to even set foot in Winnipeg this year.

Mack admitted to reporters Monday afternoon he'd have preferred to have landed Gaydosh, but said that had more to do with the fact Mulumba has attracted NFL interest (Green Bay Packers) while Gaydosh hasn't than with their respective talent levels.

"I think it will be a challenge for Andy down in Green Bay," Mack told a news conference. "But still, we don't know what's going to happen down there.

"So that's probably the slight unknown that would give us a little bit of a pause initially."

The "pause" with selecting Mulumba on Monday was the same "pause" with so many of the top prospects in this year's draft -- he might be too good for the CFL.

Like fellow defensive lineman Stefan Charles and stud offensive lineman Matt Sewell, Mulumba signed an NFL deal late last month and may never suit up for a single snap of three-down football.

But what sets apart Mulumba from Sewell and Charles -- who went 8th and 10th, respectively -- in the Bombers' estimation is that they think Mulumba has the worst chance of those three of actually cracking an NFL roster, particularly with Green Bay reportedly set on trying Mulumba out at linebacker after a collegiate career at primarily defensive end.

And so Mack rolled the dice that Mulumba's foray with the Packers will be just that -- a brief foray -- and that he will be in a Bombers uniform sooner rather than later.

It's a gamble, but a calculated one. The Bombers have a vacancy at one defensive-end position this season after import Jason Vega signed with the New England Patriots over the winter and non-import Fernand Kashama didn't re-sign.

In a perfect world for Mack, Mulumba will get cut by Green Bay after rookie camp this weekend, come to Winnipeg, impress during training camp next month and then claim that vacant defensive end position as his own in time for the regular season opener at home on June 27.

But the nice thing for Mack -- and, by extension, Bombers fans generally -- is he doesn't need that to happen on a Bombers team that already has its requisite number of starting non-imports.

With all the non-import talent Winnipeg already has at kicker and punter, on the offensive line, at receiver and in the form of the Muamba brothers -- Henoc and Cauchy -- on defence, the Bombers could afford to go once again this year with an all-import defensive line, just as they did for much of last year.

Now in that scenario, Mack would still have to find an import to fill that vacant starting defensive-end position. But if there's anything that Mack has proven in his time in Winnipeg, it's that he has an outstanding nose for import talent.

Would Mack love to have the increased ratio flexibility that Mulumba starting at end would give him? Of course -- who wouldn't?

But the point is he doesn't need Mulumba in a Bombers uniform for Winnipeg to be successful this year, any more than he really needs the three receivers, defensive back and punter he also drafted on Monday.

What Mack accomplished on Monday was really all you can ask of your CFL GM on draft day -- he gave his head coach some more options to work with.

And the coach was appreciative. "I thought we prepared really well for the draft and it kind of fell the way we thought it would fall," Tim Burke told reporters.

"We ended up getting the guys we kind of thought we would get. That doesn't usually happen, so we felt really good about it."

In the end, the only thing the Bombers really must have to be successful this season is something Mack couldn't guarantee even if he had every single pick in Monday's draft.

Because at the end of a long day, this season is still, in all likelihood, going to come down to whether starting QB Buck Pierce can stay healthy.

And that remains Mack's biggest gamble of all.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 7, 2013 D1

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Updated on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 7:10 AM CDT: replaces photo, adds fact box

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