An avid Argos fan & season ticket holder, Don Landry has covered almost every type of news from sports to music to talk radio in his 25 years of broadcasting and has conducted over 10,000 interviews with the likes of Prime Ministers, sports legends, showbiz stars, power brokers and many more. Follow Don on Twitter @argoslandry or visit his website at donlandry.com.
DON LANDRY Argonauts.ca Columnist
TORONTO — Perhaps, Argo fans, you’d think that it would have been nice for your team to have retained its number two overall pick in the 2012 CFL entry draft.
Coming off a season that saw the team finish seventh in an eight team loop, a high draft pick and a young Canadian impact player would have been a nice reward for a disappointing campaign. That number two pick could have been used to snag one of the big three prizes in the draft; University of Saskatchewan offensive lineman Ben Heenan, Laurier receiver Shamawd Chambers, or maybe even Boise State defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford.
Barring an unforseen trade (it would take a bit of a jaw-dropper to pry one of those top three picks away from The Roughriders, Eskimos or Tiger-Cats) the Argos will first make a pick in the second round, 9th overall.
Don’t forget, part of the reason why they’ll remain silent until that point is the fact that they moved their second overall pick to Edmonton as part of the deal that brought star quarterback Ricky Ray east. And that was the biggest move of the CFL’s off-season, improving in very, very large fashion, the Argos’ fortunes at the pivot position.
You can consider then, in a way, that the team got Ricky Ray second overall in this draft. You’d make that pick every time, wouldn’t you?
Now then, what’s a team to do when it waits it out until early in the second round?
According to general manager Jim Barker, if his team can’t move its pick up by way of a trade, he’ll be content to make his selection in the 9-hole.
“There’s a lot of value in this draft. I think there’s a lot of great ‘two-round’ picks,” he said.
The Argos could stand pat, cross their fingers and hope that the best player who would most fit their needs at this time, as well as going forward, somehow escapes detection in the first round.
That player is Laval linebacker Frederic Plesius.
In a draft year that is considered fairly deep at linebacker, Plesius is the top prize at the position. Big, fast and determined, Plesius is ranked number five by CFL Central Scouting. He impressed at the draft combine in March, counting the top linebacker score in the vertical jump and broad jump, a tie for top spot in the forty (along with Harding University’s Rene Stephan) as well as a number two finish in bench press.
While the Argos are well set with one of the best starting linebackers in the league, Jason Pottinger, it is true that their homebrew depth at that position is not what it could be. With the departure of Kevin Eiben to the Ti-Cats, as of now, Tristan Black and Chris Smith serve as Canadian depth insurance. Black has shown to be a capable fill-in as well as a solid special teams player. Smith, since being plucked from the B.C. Lions’ practice roster last season, has seen only limited action due to numbers and his injury situation, so it’s difficult to know just what the Argos have in him. A little more Canadian linebacking depth would be nice. Be it by trade, or by draft, the Argos could add to that depth before training camp opens.
Again, it’ll be a little bit of a miracle if Plesius drops down to the Argos, at 9th overall. If he’s gone, and they’re thinking linebacker anyway, Stephan could be the pick. Sam Hurl and Jordan Verdone (both of the Calgary Dinos), or Herve Tonye-Tonye (Northern Colorado) could hear their name called. Some think there’s an excellent linebacking prospect right in the Argos’ backyard; University of Toronto’s Wilkerson DeSouza, an OUA first team all-star in 2011.
As far as draft strategies go, Barker maps it out this way:
“I’m trying to draft players that can make our football team. To say that we’d go strictly by (positional) need is not correct and to say that it is strictly by best player (available) is not either.”
“You have to be careful about falling in love with one player, because then you end up over-paying for a draft pick.”
“There are players out there that we really, really feel like we need, even in the fourth or fifth round. What I try to do in our mock draft is to place a value on a player. To say this is a player we need, this is where we feel his value lies, and if he’s there when our pick comes around, then we’ll take him.”
THE EXTRA POINT
The fire that razed the Argos’ practice facility in Mississauga last Christmas did more than rob the team of its daily preparation infrastructure. Game film was also destroyed, including the library the Argos had built on potential 2012 draft picks.
“We lost all our draft film in the fire,” said Barker.
The team was not left twisting in the wind, however, as a number of CFL clubs provided replacement video.
“A couple of teams stepped up and helped us in recovering it,” he continued.
This was not mandated at a league office level. Just football neighbours offering to help out a little. Still, even with that help, Barker says the job his staff had to do this off-season was tougher than usual.
“It’s made this off-season more difficult, there’s no doubt about that.”
As far as who, exactly, helped the Argos out, Barker declined to name names.
“I’m not going to single anyone out, because I might forget someone,” he said.