April 29, 2020

Hogan: Argos prep for vitally important draft

It’s hard to overstate how important Thursday night is for the Toronto Argonauts.

For just the second time since the abolishment of the territorial draft in 1982, the Argos have three selections in the top eleven picks. The Argos have their own first-round selection, second overall. The team acquired Winnipeg’s first-round pick, ninth overall, in last year’s Zach Collaros deal, and has its own second rounder, eleventh overall.

In 2010 the Argos selected offensive lineman Joe Eppele second overall, linebacker Cory Greenwood with the third overall pick, and kicker Grant Shaw at number 11.

This year’s draft crop appears to be better in both front-line talent and deeper in numbers than the Class of 2010. That prognosis will play our in due time, but the anticipation is that Thursday could be an exceptionally good night for the Double Blue.

“I don’t want to say it’s more important that any other one,” said Argos Director of Canadian Scouting Vince Magri, “But after the last couple of seasons we’ve had, and with the benefit of having three picks in the top eleven, it’s vital that we come away with three guys that can strengthen our roster.”

The player evaluation has been intense, and the preparation for a series of mock drafts intriguing. Magri and the Argos Coordinator of Logistics Alex Russell prepared a booklet with a focus on each CFL team. The breakdown included a team’s current crop of Canadian talent, stressing what each team’s needs are. Magri would add what he believes are a team’s targeted players, as well as that team’s drafting trends over the last few years.

The Argos coordinators and positional coaches were then assigned a CFL team to represent in the draft, making picks based on the needs of that team. To assure the mock drafts weren’t the same each time the coaches would select different players, or at times a trade would be announced, which allowed a team to draft in a higher slot, throwing a different look at those making the picks.

Magri, General Manager Michael Clemons, Vice President of Player Personnel John Murphy, and Head Coach Ryan Dinwiddie would take turns drafting for the Argos, giving each member of that foursome a better feel for the prospects and where those players may be picked on Thursday.

“The good thing about our group is guys have been dialed in and we’ve had full buy-in,” Magri told Argonauts.ca. “When we get to the mock drafts, guys aren’t afraid to think outside the box. Their pick might not be the way it plays out, but it stimulates discussion among the group, so when we get to the draft the conversation has already taken place, we’re not trying to jam it into a five-minute window. We’ve already been through all these different scenarios.”

Murphy says the team just about has things in place. It’s now known how many players signed with NFL teams, which may change where a prospect may be slotted, if a team believes that player has a chance of sticking down south.

Now it’s time to come up a final ranking.


“We had a meeting on Monday and will meet again Wednesday afternoon,” said Murphy. “The coaches will meet with us (the player personnel group) first. Everybody is going to get their last say on Wednesday. Then after we’re done with the main meeting, we’ll have a smaller meeting, then literally outside of Mike or Vince no one will see the results of what the final board is going to look like. No one else will see that until we basically start the draft.”

When the draft order is finalized the Argos can focus on who they might add. If Magri and most of the other experts are correct, this is a very deep, very talented draft class, despite two eligible players being drafted in the NFL, four others signing contracts as undrafted free agents.

“I think it’s very good, one of the best and deepest I’ve ever seen. I think you have a lot of high-level talent in multiple positions,” said Magri. “In our three top-eleven picks, and even at twenty, I don’t see a scenario where we’re reaching for anybody, that’s how I view the talent in this draft.”

The Argos have three picks in the top eleven now, but that may change. If the phone of Clemons or Murphy rings, the team will be ready to listen, if it helps the Argos improve their roster.

“A trade up, a trade down, regardless of what is it,” said Murphy about the prospects of making a deal. “Whatever is the best case scenario that allows us to improve our team we can certainly do it, and having picks two, nine and eleven gives us a very good opportunity to come out of the draft with three guys we’ve graded in the top ten who might be key parts of our roster moving forward.”

Have the phones been ringing?

“It’s ringing but in a different way,” explained Murphy. “It’s ringing more from teams that maybe have one player they specifically want, maybe something they didn’t get in free agency, and it’s opened the doors for teams to be kicking the tires ‘would you trade any of these picks?’ My approach is that it’s potentially something that could happen day of the draft, while we’re on the clock, or the day of the draft after some of the picks are made, perhaps at nine or eleven after we see what happens in the top five picks.”

Whatever happens, the Argos are sitting pretty, having multiple picks in each of the first and second rounds in a deep draft. Magri is encouraged that the Argos hard work in rebuilding the Canadian talent base is paying off.

“When you factor in the work we were able to do in free agency, combined with some of the success we’ve had with our draft pick these last few years, I think we’re in as strong a spot as we’ve ever been in terms of Canadian talent and ratio players,” said Magri. “Everyone says they want to grab the best player on their board, but I think we’re in a position where we don’t need to draft for need, but draft to make our roster as strong as possible.”

Thursday’s draft can be seen on TSN starting at 8:00 ET, then continuing on CFL.ca when the network coverage concludes. You can also follow the Argos social media accounts for team updates, and video content throughout the night then check Argonauts.ca on Friday for a behind the scenes look at the Argos draft night.