BY: RODPEDERSEN.COM STAFF
Despite the snow that hit the prairies this weekend, the football world is heating up. The NFL Draft has wrapped up without any of the players listed in the CFL’s Central Scouting being selected. There were a few signed free agent deals while others were given mini-camp chances.
Next on the docket is the CFL Draft this Thursday with training camps scheduled to start in less than a month. All of this with the CBA talks still looming over us.
Keeping all of that in mind, let's head Out of the Tunnel with 10 Burning Questions on the lips of football fans from coast-to-coast!:
1. WILL THERE BE A STRIKE?:
This is the question most CFL fans have at the top of mind and there are many reasons for it. Both sides have dug in deeper than during the 2014 negotiations.
The League has withheld off-season bonuses, tinkered on and off with negotiation dates, and frankly seems to be holding all the cards.
The CFLPA has told their players not to report to training camp and have all but unanimously voted in favour of a strike.
If these two groups don’t get down and dirty in a hurry, there is a good chance we will see a strike. For how long, that’s anyone’s guess.
2. WHO WILL GO #1 IN THE CFL DRAFT?:
In our mock draft a month ago, we pegged wide receiver Justin McInnis out of Arkansas State to go first overall to the Toronto Argonauts.
We still think Toronto would be a great spot for McInnis but after a little more thought and with Toronto having a defence-first coach in Corey Chamblin, don’t be surprised if Laval’s standout defensive lineman, Mathieu Betts nabs the top spot.
3. WHAT ARE THE RIDERS' NEEDS IN THE DRAFT?:
Receivers should be front and centre for the Roughriders. With Jake Harty on the shelf with his injured knee, the Riders have just three Canadian pass catchers on the roster: Patrick Lavoie, Cory Watson (both over 30) and Regina native Mitch Picton. They need to fill this position with one or two picks.
Next would be defensive line help. It doesn’t matter if it’s an end or interior linemen. A quality pick will help the rotation with Zack Evans.
Finally, the offensive line, but the signing of Dakoda Shepley helped this unit out in a big way. There are also a lot of depth players on the roster right now.
4. HOW DOES THE NFL DRAFT AFFECT THE CFL DRAFT?:
In some years, drastically. 2014 saw four Canadians taken: offensive linemen John Urschel and Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff, defensive lineman Brent Urban and receiver T.J. Jones.
This year there wasn’t a ranked Canadian taken in the draft but there were a handful of mini-camp invitees and free agent signings. This shouldn’t affect the draft in 2019.
5. HOW WILL THE RIDERS DO IN 2019?:
This is the million-dollar question and if we had the answer we would be heading to Vegas and laying out our mortgage on a myriad of bets.
All jokes aside, the Riders will be solid. They took some hits with players leaving for the NFL and in free agency but also picked up a couple of new toys.
Having Craig Dickenson leading the way will bring a lot of stability to a football club that needs it and that will go a long way.
But, this gets us to the next question…
6. WHAT ARE THE RIDERS' ISSUES GOING INTO CAMP?:
It begins and ends with the lingering worries over the offence.
Nothing has really changed with the combo of offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo and quarterback Zach Collaros.
They need to instill some life into the pop-gun offence from 2018 if the Green & White want to take the next step towards a Grey Cup title.
The defence will still lead the way, but when it falters the offence has to pick up the slack which they didn’t do enough in 2018.
7. HOW WILL FIRST-YEAR HEAD COACH CRAIG DICKENSON HANDLE CAMP?:
This will be one of the biggest storylines heading into Saskatoon.
We have seen Dickenson around the league for a long time and he has easily handled everything thown at him. Now multiply that by 1,000.
He needs to set the tone with the coaches with the season plan, with the players in the meeting rooms and on the field, with the fans and with the media.
A great start in training camp is a must for Dickenson and the rest of the football club.
The Regina born-and-raised punter may be 37-years-old, but still has one of the best legs in football.
Ryan gave the NFL one last shot and now wants a shot back where he started, in the CFL. He averaged over 45-yards per punt in his final season in the NFL, but with how small the field is, the style of punting is just a tad different with more rugby style punts emphasizing placement.
If signed, Jon would be one of the top punters in the CFL. If he signs with the Riders it would be a great training camp competition with veteran Josh Bartel.
Ryan also shouldn’t have to take a hometown discount. He has done enough in his career and if his leg is still strong enough, pay him what he's worth.
And, if he signs and sticks, just think about how many Ryan jerseys the Riders would sell.
9. IS CFL 2.0 A GOOD IDEA?:
To take the CFL international is a good idea in theory, but the execution will be very difficult.
The league has started by having two separate international drafts focusing on Mexican players and then Europeans. Just how these players are added to the roster and used will be ironed out with the new CBA.
The league also wants to start another route of player-sharing by helping Canadians that didn’t make a CFL roster get a shot in other leagues. This is a solid idea, but it has been happening for a long time with a long list of former U-Sports players heading to Germany or Italy to play.
Then what? Every other pro/semi-pro league in the world plays American rules. So does the CFL want to grow the 110-yard, 3-down game or build upon the American rules already in place?
There are many other questions.
One big one is the influx of international players now flooding into the NCAA. Will they be deemed “international” players because of their birth certificate or will their NCAA training change things?
10. IF NOT 2.0, THEN WHAT?:
The CFL needs to take the first step of getting their house in order with a new CBA and re-establishing the Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver markets. If they die, the league dies.
Secondly, boost the profile of high-level Canadian players in USports and the NCAA. Don’t start three months before the draft but rather, well in advance. Also, scrap the East-West game that pits upcoming U-Sports seniors against each other in May and instead finish off the CFL combine with a game instead of just drills.
Let’s see how a NCAA player does against an USports player on the field. It won’t really affect the scouting process, but it would build fan interest in these players during the process.
Brighten your day.