Argos optimistic, realistic about draft

Argonauts head coach Jim Barker says there's 'nowhere on our roster that we feel comfortable with.'...

Argonauts head coach Jim Barker says there's 'nowhere on our roster that we feel comfortable with.' (Dave Abel/QMI Agency)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:50 AM ET

To his credit, Jim Barker did not burst into a fit of laughter.

Asked whether there’s a part of the Argonauts roster that does not need to be addressed in the Canadian Football League Canadian draft on Sunday, Barker played it straight.

“This team has won seven games in two years,” the Argonauts head coach said.

“There’s really nowhere on our roster that we feel comfortable with.”

But Barker and general manager Adam Rita are well aware that they won’t fill the holes in their lineup, even though they have nine picks on Sunday, including the first, eighth and 11th overall.

This isn’t the National Hockey League, where your first-round pick, especially if it is the top one, is expected to make an impact as a rookie. This is the CFL, where the pro game involves a longer adjustment period and freshmen usually have to learn the ropes on special teams.

Barker and Rita reiterated to a throng of reporters at the team’s practice facility in Mississauga that a) they are open to trading the No. 1 pick if the right offer is made and b) they have not necessarily decided who they will take first if they keep the choice.

But in reality, the pair does not expect a trade to happen, and if you’re a betting man, scuttlebutt has the Argos making Queen’s defensive end/linebacker Shomari Williams the initial selection. Washington State offensive lineman Joe Eppele is another possibility, with Concordia linebacker Cory Greenwood perhaps in the picture. Anyone else would come as a surprise.

“Shomari Williams is an outstanding player,” Barker said.

“He is definitely a candidate who is among three or four guys we are considering at that spot. He warrants that type of consideration.”

More than a handful of players eligible for the draft will be attending NFL mini-camps this weekend or have another year of NCAA eligibility remaining, so where they fall in the draft pecking order is difficult to determine. It’s going to cause a lot of head-scratching across the CFL as teams make their draft decisions.

Barker was the Calgary Stampeders’ director of player personnel last year when the Stamps chose safety Eric Fraser with their first pick. The Stamps knew Fraser had another season at Central Michigan, but took him anyway, and the plan worked when Fraser signed with Calgary on Friday.

“It’s a crapshoot,” Barker said.

“A lot of things can happen in a year. You just don’t know. You have to weigh all of the probabilities when you draft futures

‘Luck’

“It’s about doing your homework and knowing what those guys’ value is going to be in the NFL draft, but you have to have some luck.”

Both Barker and Rita want players who can play relatively soon.

“Whether it is now or within the next few years, you want to find guys who can fit a spot on your roster, and at times that is not always the best player available,” Barker said. “You pick the best player available, you might never see him (because he goes to the NFL). In this draft, it is not as simple as the best player available.”

Had that been the case, the Argos might be picking one of John Bender or Danny Watkins first. But each will be back at his respective school next year, with the NFL a distinct possibility.

Rita isn’t keen on wasting, for lack of a better word, one of the Argos’ top picks on a player who might never make it north of the border.

“Even No. 11 is kind of high for us to pick for the future,” Rita said.

“If there is no one else available, then you pick for the future.

“We did not want the first pick overall (because it meant finishing last the year before). But we have it.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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