Braidwood a diamond or a no-show?

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos have just taken a major gamble in a high-stakes game.

With the first-overall pick in yesterday's CFL Canadian college draft, the club grabbed defensive end Adam Braidwood of Washington State, who could become a bona-fide star at Commonwealth Stadium.

However, the hulking six-foot-four, 270 pounder could also be drafted or signed by an NFL team in the next two weeks - and that's a very risky issue for the Green and Gold.

BRAIDWOOD A RISK

If Braidwood sticks in the NFL, the Eskimos will have completely wasted a rare No. 1 pick - but he's worth the risk, according to head coach Danny Maciocia.

"He was too good to turn down," said Maciocia.

"In the last week, it's all we have been talking about.

"Can we just bypass him, thinking he will never play in the CFL?

"We couldn't do so."

Compared to CFL sack leader Brent Johnson, Braidwood started his last two years in the ultra-competitive Pac 10 conference against some of the best college teams in the U.S., an impressive accomplishment for a Canadian.

A two-time winner of the annual Washington State Cougar strongest man competition, the 21-year-old B.C. native admits he has spoken with the Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans.

The NFL draft is set for April 29-30.

"And I hear a few things, like I might get a free-agent shot (if I am not drafted)," Braidwood said.

But besides that risk with their No. 1 pick, the Eskimos couldn't have asked for a better result during yesterday's CFL draft.

The team's first four picks - Braidwood, Jason Nugent (17th overall), Dwayne Mundle (21st) and Mike Williams (25th) - were actually projected to go in the top 17, according to the Esks' mock draft board.

In fact, Maciocia ranked Nugent as the second-best prospect in the draft, meaning he might become the steal of the 2006 crop.

But he comes with baggage. The 23-year-old University of Rutgers (New Jersey) safety suffered an ACL injury last season and only played a couple of games, explaining why CFL teams shied away.

Under a cloud of secrecy, Nugent was in Edmonton on Wednesday to be checked by Eskimo doctors.

"He'll be touch-and-go as far as training camp is concerned, but we were actually debating up until last week whether he should be the first pick overall, that's how much we like him," said Maciocia.

But Braidwood will forever carry the label of being the first-overall selection and will gladly arrive at Commonwealth Stadium if his NFL aspirations die.

'I JUST WANT TO PLAY FOOTBALL'

"If I don't sign (an NFL free-agent deal) the first day after the NFL draft (ends on April 30), I will sign a contract with the Eskimos," he said.

"I am the No. 1 pick and I definitely owe it to (the Esks), the city and the fans to show up and be my best.

"I'm not one of those guys who wants to hold out. I just want to play football next year."

And the Eskimos are hoping he'll play somewhere on their defensive line for the next 10 years.


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