The Bombers will attempt to replenish their Canadian talent on Thursday when the CFL conducts its annual draft.
Winnipeg has six of the first 29 selections, even though it forfeited its first-round pick when it selected receiver Kito Poblah in last year’s supplemental draft.
The Bombers have taken a big hit in terms of Canadian content this off-season, losing their top two Canucks in offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte and defensive tackle Doug Brown. They also lost starting centre Obby Khan when he retired last week.
GM Joe Mack is attempting to move up from the No. 8 overall pick it currently owns via trade, but he was still in a holding pattern late Wednesday afternoon.
“We’ve expressed interest to people, and they’re kinda in the driver’s seat,” Mack said. “We’ve made (known) our willingness to move up if we have the opportunity, and we’ll be aggressive. I think some people have some interest, but whether they decide to do that or not, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
No matter where the Bombers end up making their selections, the focus will be on defence. They are all but guaranteed to start a second Canadian on the defensive side of the ball (safety Ian Logan is the other), so they need linebacker and defensive line depth.
Special teams coach Kyle Walters is Winnipeg’s draft co-ordinator, and he said there is a plethora of quality defensive linemen in this year’s pool of talent. So don’t be surprised if the Bombers scoop one up early. Then again, the Bombers rank their players using “plateaus,” where they group certain players based on their talent level. So, for example, if there is one player left in their “top” plateau at No. 8 and he plays on offence, the Bombers will pick him — even though defence is the priority.
“We’ll take him and then try to get the defensive guys later in the draft,” Mack said.
The top player in the final CFL Scouting Bureau ranking was Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford, but he was drafted in the third round of last week’s NFL draft, so CFL teams will be hesitant to take him. The Roughriders have the No. 1 pick and are expected to choose offensive lineman Ben Heenan, who hails from Grand Coulee, Sask., and plays for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
Another interesting name from a Winnipeg perspective is University of North Dakota punter Brett Cameron, the son of Bomber legend Bob Cameron. Winnipeg just so happens to have punting issues at the moment, as the first player it cut after last November’s Grey Cup loss was punter Jamie Boreham. CFL teams are never more secretive than they are leading up to the draft, and Walters wasn’t about to tip his hand.
“That’s another kid in the draft who we evaluated,” Walters said. “No, Brett’s been around training camp. I’ve met him the last couple years when Bob would be out working with our punters.
“I know the name, and I know what he can do, and he’s certainly a name that we’ve evaluated.”
Blue Bombers Draft Primer
Round 2 — 8th, 13th
Round 3 — 16th, 21st
Round 4 — 23rd, 29th
* Winnipeg has six of the first 29 picks; no team has more before No. 30.
A look at Winnipeg’s original and acquired draft picks for the 2012 draft:
Round 1 , 7th — forfeited after picking Kito Poblah in last year’s supplemental draft
Round 2, 8th — acquired in Odell Willis trade from Saskatchewan; 13th — original pick
Round 3, 16th — acquired in Steven Jyles trade from Toronto; 21st — original pick
Round 4, 23rd — acquired in Odell Willis trade from Saskatchewan; 29th — original pick
Round 5, 37th — traded to B.C. for Kelly Bates
Round 6, 45th — traded, along with a 2011 second-round pick, to Calgary for Lenny Walls and Neil Ternovatsky
Did You Know?
The last time the Bombers picked eighth overall in the CFL draft was in 1989, when they took York University linebacker John O’Brien. According to the Bomber player list, he never suited up for the Blue and Gold.
Other No. 8 Picks
A look at notable No. 8 selections in the last 21 years:
– Bruce Beaton (1991) — two-time Grey Cup champ and three time CFL all-star offensive lineman
— Bobby Singh (1999) — offensive lineman played in the CFL for eight seasons, won the 2006 Grey Cup
— Shawn Gallant (2000) — spent 11 CFL seasons as a special teams stud, including four with Winnipeg
— Jon Oosterhuis (2002) — played nine seasons with the Bombers as a backup defensive tackle and fullback