Draft remains key for Eskimos

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

With the rest of the CFL intent on improving for next year through free agency, the Edmonton Eskimos are focusing on the more distant future.

Although the Eskimos are expected to miss much of the free-agent action, they certainly won't be dodgy at the draft.

This year, the Eskimos have five selections in the , led by the 10th overall pick, a second rounder.

"We've already started to watch players and we're talking to some of their coaches," said GM Danny Maciocia, who will be at the Canadian combine in person in Toronto March 12-14 along with director of player personnel Paul Jones, head scout Ed Hervey and manager of Canadian Scouting Dan McKinnon.

"The draft is going to be extremely important to us and we've already started the process."

The 10th and 11th overall picks in 2009, offensive lineman Gord Hinse and defensive lineman Dee Sterling, respectively, will look to increase their roles with the club in their sophomore CFL season.

"That ultimately is up to them," Maciocia said. "Sterling played a little bit more as the season went on. We had pencilled him when we first drafted him to give us about 10 snaps a game, which he did.

"Gord Hinse, we think has a bright future. If we didn't think so, we wouldn't have let (offensive centre) John Comiskey go. We are quite happy with Hinse and (starting centre Aaron) Fiacconi at centre or at guard."

Although the 2010 draftees won't count toward the overall number allowed at training camp, the Eskimos will likely have to lose some other bodies before the spring.

"We're talking about it right now," Maciocia said. "The coaching staff just got back to work last Tuesday.

"I would think over the next little while we're going to be making some moves, so I just want to make sure that they take a good, hard look at some of the guys that are in question and make sure that there are no reservations when we do what we're supposed to do."

Giant hole at tackle

He might not have been the most dominating force on the line of scrimmage for the Eskimos, but there's no denying the departure of Eric Taylor has left quite a hole at defensive tackle.

Make that a six-foot-two, 309-pound hole to be precise.

The second-year CFLer was traded last week to the Toronto Argonauts in return for non-import receivers Andre Talbot and Brad Smith.

Although neither was intended to replace the hulking tackle -- their combined weight edges out Taylor's alone by a mere 84 pounds --plans are already in the works to find a suitable candidate.

While the Eskimos aren't expected to be all that busy with free-agent CFL signings, they have occupied themselves with searching for answers elsewhere.

Unfortunately, for now, those answers have to remain a bit cryptic.

"The thing with the Taylor trade is we're going to make some announcements here over the next little while, but we've secured a couple of guys," said Maciocia.

"At least one that's got four or five years in the NFL, someone that we've targeted here the last couple of years.

"We're close to putting pen to paper here, so we'll be making a few announcements over the next little while."

GERRY.MODDEJONGE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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