EDMONTON - If you believe Eric Tillman, in his first time at bat here he’ll have done what has never been done before by the Edmonton Eskimos at the CFL’s Canadian Draft.
He’s not saying that; I am.
“We believe this draft has produced three starters,” was what Tillman was saying.
“We had a chance to get two guys who won’t just start here, but might play the entirety of their careers here,”
Everybody, of course, is a genius on draft day. All the picks are potential Hall of Famers.
But if Tillman is correct, he’ll have beat the three best drafts the Green and Gold has ever had.
In the past, there have been only three occasions when the Eskimos have managed to pull off a double whammy and made a pair of picks who clicked:
- Blake Marshall and Pierre Vercheval in 1987.
- Michael Soles and Leroy Blugh in 1989.
- Sean Fleming and Chris Morris in 1992.
Those were the only times they picked a pair of prime-time players.
The storyline for the recently draft-daft Eskimos was that, after all the noise Tillman made about Job 1 being Canadian content, the league’s former flagship franchise only possessed three picks.
Relax, he said.
“Quality, not quantity.”
By the end of Sunday’s draft, Tillman ended up picking No. 2 and No. 5. According to the GM, the players he selected — offensive lineman Scott Mitchell and receiver Nate Coehoorn — could be a pair of aces.
“This was a very good day for us,” Tillman said. “It was just huge for us. Picking No. 2 and No. 5, we’re getting two elite players.”
And then, while the media people were packing up in the third-floor boardroom, he produced a bizarre bit of business in the war room a floor below, swapping defensive lineman Brian Bulcke — last year’s No. 6 selection — for Calgary’s No. 14.
Tillman then selected defensive back Hugo Lopez and declared him a sure-fire starter on special teams this season.
A couple days earlier, Tillman was quite possibly blowing smoke up this columnist’s nose by saying how he thought the Eskimos made a great move last year by drafting Bulcke with that No. 6 pick.
Then he trades him to Calgary for a No. 14?
Tillman, head coach Kavis Reed and Bulcke all have the same agent. Suspect any inside trading on this one?
Bulcke is going to try the NFL. Calgary will eventually get him, but with the possibility of an NFL lockout, it could be a long wait.
In the end, Tillman traded injury-prone fullback Graeme Bell to Saskatchewan for the 46th overall pick.
The Eskimos thus ended up with two first-round picks, a second-round selection and another one in the sixth round, who turned out to be receiver Youssy Pierre.
If nothing else, Edmonton is getting an early introduction into the way Tillman’s mind works. I mean, look what happened here as he began cleaning up Danny Maciocia’s mess.
Tillman was following a decade of disaster in the draft and had to give up fifth- and sixth-round selections to get a player — Taylor Inglis — they’d previously cut.
So all he had to work with were picks 2-10-18.
He turned that into 2-10-13 by trading spare tire kicker Justin Medlock to Hamilton, also gaining the negotiation rights to defensive back Dalin Tollestrup of Brigham Young.
Before he went to bed last night, Tillman made another deal with Hamilton, which wasn’t immediately announced.
He traded the No. 10 and 13 picks to the Tiger-Cats for their No. 5, plus another negotiation list player: import offensive lineman Zipp Duncan.
“With the No. 10 and No. 13 picks, we weren’t sure who would be left,” said Tillman.
“To us, it was a case of get greedy or be smart. By ending up with the No. 2 and No. 5 picks, we’re going to end up with a much better football team.”
Heading into the draft, Mitchell, a very versatile 6-foot-4, 300-pounder who can line up anywhere up front, was the top-rated prospect by the CFL Amateur Scouting Bureau.
With the No. 5 pick, Tillman took Coehoorn, said to be the most pro-ready player in the draft.
“We have plenty to say grace over,” said the GM.