Eskimos picks get NFL tries
By GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos hope their first two players chosen in Thursday’s CFL draft are good, just not too good.
After all, both offensive lineman Austin Pasztor and receiver Shamawd Chambers see the CFL as a backup plan to their current NFL opportunities.
Pasztor was signed by the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent shortly after the conclusion of last weekend’s NFL draft, while Chambers is invited to a Philadelphia Eagles mini-camp this weekend.
“We have over 30 Canadians under contract right now and you could either go the safe route or you could take the best players that you feel are available and get a long-term view of what’s best for the franchise,” said Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman. “We feel like we’ve got two guys in the first round who, when they come here — whether that’s soon, whether that’s a year or two — that we think both have tremendous upside.”
Sitting at the No. 2 spot overall thanks to December’s Ricky Ray trade with the Toronto Argonauts, Edmonton ended up trading down from No. 2 and 20 to the B.C. Lions for the No. 4, 14 and 38 selections — a gutsy move considering the attention Eskimos fans had on that second-overall pick they lost their franchise quarterback for.
“I was asked earlier about the Ricky Ray thing,” Tillman said. “We could have picked a guy that we would have gotten right now and probably would have had better headlines and more publicity, or maybe a pick that locally would have been better well-received.
“But ultimately what we’re going to be judged by is the scoreboard and the standings.”
The Eskimos had Pasztor in their sights the longest of any of the 435 players eligible for this year’s CFL draft.
“We met with him covertly in (Mobile, Ala.), trying to keep that a little bit under the radar. One thing I learned is I need to get a bigger car when we go to meet with him,” Tillman said of the six-foot-six, 304-pound Virginia guard, who had a stretch of 781 plays without allowing a sack. “We thought we had a faux-pas in the beginning when we couldn’t get him in the car.”
While the Eskimos might not get him in their lineup right away, either, the plan is to one day use Pasztor as part of an all-non-import offensive line.
“What it gives the Edmonton Eskimos is the opportunity to eventually get back to the five Canadian O-linemen that we’ve talked about for years,” said Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed. “He’s one of those guys to put with the guys that we have, all under 28 years old to grow and develop together.
“Even if we’re not here as a regime, someone will enjoy their presence.”
While the Eskimos can’t count on seeing Pasztor until at least closer to the fall, if at all, Chambers could be here in time for rookie camp, which opens on May 30th — depending on how this weekend works out.
“That’s a one-shot deal for me,” said the Wilfrid Laurier product, who was ranked third among the CFL Scouting Bureau’s top prospects heading in, one spot ahead of Pasztor. “I want to find a home as fast as possible. You have your shot when your shot comes. If they say you’re not ready then you just go to work again.
“Whatever happens, I’m going to control what I can control. I’m excited for the experience and I’m excited for the chance. I’m going to leave it all on the field and just see what happens.”