April 27, 2022

Hogan: Argos Fully Prepared For The Draft

For fans, the CFL Draft is a sure sign that the season is getting close. For others, it’s among the most important days on the calendar.

Vince Magri is in the latter group. The assistant general manager of the Toronto Argonauts will once again be the main voice when the front office and coaching staffs gather in the offices of BMO Field for not one, but two drafts to be held on May 3.

The CFL has both the main draft and the Global Draft on the same day; the latter beginning at noon, the former at 8:00. It will make for an exceptionally long, at times stressful day for those involved.

Magri was promoted to his current title in February. While he has more responsibility in terms of overall roster composition than he did at this time a year ago, he doesn’t see his job changing in terms of the draft; it’s still his baby.

“I’ll be directing things,” he told Argonauts.ca, “Just making sure that we’re going over every scenario as we go and bringing up all the pertinent questions that we need to be asking ourselves as the night progresses.”

General Manager Michael “Pinball” Clemons has a vision for the team and major input on which positions he would like to see filled. Senior Advisor Jim Barker brings a wealth of experience to each conversation, as does Ryan Dinwiddie, who is back for his second season as head coach. There will also be input from each of the positional coaches.

While Magri’s title has changed, his role will be the same. The same cannot be said of someone who was officially promoted March 4, the same day as Magri. Alex Russell is now the team’s director of football operations and national scout.

He had a seat at the virtual draft table a year ago, but his role in the process has expanded this year.

“Watching the film has remained pretty consistent,” Russell told Argonauts.ca. “This year I’ve been more involved in the vetting process; reaching out and talking to some coaches, calling the players after the Combine, interviewing some of the players at the Regional Combines that weren’t invited to the National Combine.”

Ah, the film. Russell and Magri each watch hundreds of hours of video. They build a detailed profile of a player so when the player personnel group gets together, they have enough of a profile on each one to get into serious discussion about where that player would fit into the team’s draft plan, if at all.

Russell did speak up last year on draft night when certain players were being discussed, but not often. He’ll be more at ease making his voice heard this year.

“Definitely more comfortable,” he said. “Being a little more involved in the vetting process this year I feel I know the guys on a personal level; knowing their story and what type of guys they are.”

That’s an underappreciated aspect of the process. The Argos don’t just want great players, they want great players who will fit into the locker room and the culture of the organization.

One of the key exercises the Argos go through in preparation is a series of mock drafts, where they go through different possibilities of prospects being selected by different teams.

“We’ve done a ton (of mock drafts) internally,” said Magri. “We’ll throw as many different scenarios at the wall as possible, both sane and insane ones. We’ll also have several mock drafts with our entire coaching staffs where we assign coaches to specific teams and give them some data and information about the teams that they’re representing so that they can be as accurate as possible.”

In other words, a coach will take the role of the G.M. of a specific CFL team and draft for that team based on what that team needs, or what it’s anticipated it may do.

Understanding where other teams may go played out on at least two occasions in 2021. Both Peter Nicastro and Tommy Nield were selected where they were as Magri and company believed they may not have been available if the Argos didn’t pull the trigger on picks 7 and 30 respectively; much easier with Nicastro because he was their primary target that night.

What makes the Argos selections difficult to read from the perspective of the other eight CFL teams is there’s not a glaring need at any position. The Argos are skilled and deep at receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker and defensive back.

This year the Boatmen will have nine picks; 6, 10, 15, 26, 35, 44, 53, 62, and 71. The first pick is the most important of the evening and Magri says the Argos are ready.

“If you’re picking at six you want to be able to narrow it down to your top six, you don’t want to be unprepared and have a top five and hope somebody falls to you. So, we’re making sure we’ve crossed all our Ts and dotted all our Is and have six viable names available for the sixth overall pick and likewise for 10 and 15.”

Argonauts.ca asked if they have finalized the group of six yet.

“Yes, yes we have,” said Magri, adding it’s the same for their top ten and top 15 They have a final ranking for all draft eligible players and have narrowed down their list to 75 (there will be 72 players selected), a process they had completed before the Combine in early April, then tweaked it after that weekend’s interviews and testing was complete.

With the list now being set, is there still any level of disagreement among those involved in the process?

“We’re pretty consistent,” said Russell. “If the board is to fall a certain way and maybe there’s a guy that we didn’t necessarily think would be available is there, I think then we could have a conversation and maybe even a debate, but I think we’re all on the same page. We’re pretty aligned at number six certainly.”

How much so? Argonauts.ca asked both Magri and Russell the names of three players they personally and realistically hoped would fall to number six. Both gave the same three names in the exact same order.

Read the post-draft story on Argonauts.ca to see if their wish was granted.