The Toronto Argonauts’ new regime in general manager Jim Popp and head coach Marc Trestman brought in instant cachet from their success in Montreal. The pressure was on right from the get-go. They had little over two months to evaluate their current roster before the CFL Draft.
Toronto Argonauts Defence Upgraded in CFL Draft
Heading in, the Argos had numerous Canadian players on the offensive side of the ball. Eight of the 12 offensive linemen on the roster are Canadian, plus a couple of wide receivers too. It’s a realistic to expect five national players to start week one of the season. Knowing this, the team addressed a more urgent need with their picks. The Boatmen held the fewest picks in the draft, but were able to draft highly skilled players who have the potential to become starters down the road.
First and Last Offensive Pick: Mason Woods
Toronto did not have a selection in the first round this season. That pick was a part of the trade where they acquired quarterback Drew Willy from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in mid-September. They had to wait until the first pick of the second round to select offensive lineman Mason Woods.
The 6’9, 320 lb lineman offers everything a team wants: a strong, physical, and athletic player. The major aspect he offers that makes him more valuable is his versatility. He was a three-year starter for NCAA D-1 University of Idaho and during his time played both tackle and strong guard.
Woods was a part of a program that went from 1-10 in his first year (2014) to 8-4 last season and a Potato Bowl championship. He adds more depth to an already stacked Canadian offensive line. This allows the 23-year-old to develop and not be forced in until the Argos feel he’s ready. At one point, Woods was considered a possible first overall pick. But after selecting Woods, Toronto focused on the defensive side of the ball and selected a couple of very athletic players.
Third Round: Evan Foster
At the top of the third round they selected defensive end Evan Foster. The University of Manitoba product is a fascinating pick. Foster ranked at the top in majority of the drills at the combine for defensive ends. He has a combination of strength and agility coming off the end.
Foster was a three time Canada West All-Star, accumulating 121 tackles and 14 sacks during his time in school. The Argos could use his help in the sack category – other than Shawn Lemon, who posted 14 sacks (second most in the league) last year, no other player on the team had more than five.
Steal of the Draft
In the very next round the Argos arguably got the steal of the draft in defensive back Robert Woodson. He earned numerous accolades with the University of Calgary Dinos. A two-time Canada West All-Star, he was also a 2015 first team All-Canadian and the Canada West Defensive player of the year in 2015.
Woodson is fast, physical and can cover from all areas of the field. The double blue lack Canadian content in their secondary, with veteran Matt Black and recently signed Matt Webster the only two defensive backs, so Woodson is a welcome addition.
Rounding Out the Picks
The Boatmen got a great value pick in the fifth round selecting linebacker Nakas Onyeka. The Laurier Golden Hawk product was mention in an early article about possible impact CFL prospects from the OUA for good reason. He has a nose for the ball and loves contact. Those attributes and many more earned him the 2016 OUA defensive player of the year. He’s one of the most athletic players in the field. Nakas sported the best vertical among linebackers at the CFL combine, which shows his explosiveness. Right from day one, the linebacker should start on special teams and could be featured in a short time, if he develops well.
In the last two rounds they added linebacker Justin Herdman from Simon Fraser and defensive lineman Matthew Carson from Calgary.
The Argonauts draft was almost entirely focused on shoring up their defence. They selected players who were the cornerstones for their respective University teams last year, and who also have the tools to succeed at the next level. This was a good draft for the Double Blue under the circumstances. These picks could be seen in uniform and making plays from the first snap of the preseason.