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ROB VANSTONE: Saskatchewan Roughriders' Canadian depth is an area of strength

 All signs point toward a long and successful CFL career for Roughriders offensive lineman Dakoda Shepley.
The presence of offensive lineman Dakoda Shepley is one reason why all things are pointing in a positive direction in terms of the Saskatchewan Roughriders' Canadian depth. - Postmedia

This grizzled gargoyle of a columnist has been inundated with at least three inquiries regarding the calibre of players selected by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 2019 CFL draft.

“How did the Roughriders do?” people want to know.

The answer is an authoritative, unequivocal “I have no idea whatsoever.”

Really, who can say at this point?

Justin McInnis, who was selected by Saskatchewan in the first round (sixth overall) on Thursday, is a receiver of considerable promise. At 6-foot-6, he promises to be an inviting target, as he was at Arkansas State University.

Brayden Lenius, the Roughriders’ second-round selection (15th overall), played tight end at New Mexico State last season. He caught only six passes, for 39 yards and one touchdown, in seven games.

At 6-foot-5 and exceeding 230 pounds, Lenius possesses the requisite physical dimensions and appears to be versatile. But how can anyone declare with any certainty that he will be a factor? It is strictly guesswork.

More emphatically, it can be written that the Roughriders are in excellent shape as far as overall Canadian talent is concerned.

They are not in a position, or a predicament, where it is imperative that at least one of this year’s selections is able to start as a rookie.

Compare that to 2015, when the Roughriders stockpiled untested national defensive tackles with the intention of starting a Canadian at that spot.

That desperation draft-day strategy should have been among the first indications that the Roughriders of 2015 were destined for a dismal year.

Compare that situation to the Roughriders’ current wealth of Canadians — 2018 draftees excepted due to the aforementioned uncertainties.

Saskatchewan will likely start three homebrews along the offensive line. Perennial all-star guard Brendon LaBatte is, of course, a lock. Dan Clark is reliable at centre. At right guard, Philip Blake and Dariusz Bladek are both of starting calibre. And does 2018 first-rounder Dakota Shepley factor into the equation? Or the promising Braden Schram?

Expect 2018 trade-deadline acquisition Patrick Lavoie, who can play fullback or tight end, to be a major part of the offence.

Cory Watson, despite being 35, can give the Roughriders what they need — say, 35 catches and 400 yards — at wide-side wide receiver.

And what about former University of Regina Rams receiving star Mitchell Picton?

Zack Evans and Makana Henry will take care of one defensive tackle spot.

At linebacker, the Sam Hurl/ Cameron Judge combo works just fine, thank you.

Mike Edem is entrenched at safety. Last week, the Roughriders also signed national defensive back Elie Bouka. Denzel Radford is also a Canadian defensive back of note.

If need be, the Roughriders could start eight Canadians — one more than what has been the minimum under the provisions of a collective-bargaining agreement that was signed in 2014.

Within a year after that CBA was agreed upon, the Roughriders were facing a crisis situation. They were left scrambling to adhere to the bare-bones ratio requirement.

Now they can assess the roster and feel quite comfortable with the core of Canadian talent.

If any of last week’s draftees pan out, that is simply a bonus.

rvanstone@postmedia.com

twitter.com/robvanstone

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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