To win in the CFL, Canadian depth on the offensive line is a must. You only need to look at the reigning Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders to see the impact a solid line can have on a team. The Stamps have not only regularly plucked solid offensive linemen from the draft, but guys that can often step right into their lineup and contribute, like Brett Jones (now in NFL), Brander Craighead, Dan Federkeil and Billy Peach.
The Lions offensive line have had their issues the last few seasons, in large part because of the revolving door that’s been spinning because of injuries. But they do have some solid national talent to work with; Kirby Fabien is another season removed from his horrific knee injury, while Hunter Steward showed great promise in his limited action last season. Both have outstanding potential and if they can stay healthy it would be a huge boost to the line and for their continued development.
The Lions might not be satisfied with Matt Norman at centre, and could audition Cameron Thorn for the position at training camp, possibly shifting Norman to a guard spot.
BC are fairly well set at the tackle position, with the traditionally solid Jovan Olafioye and 2014 addition Jermarcus Hardrick, but the interior of the O-line is what they need to shore up with Canadian depth.
T-Dre Player, Cody Husband and veteran Dean Valli round out the group heading into training camp, who will have a fresh face as new offensive line coach Doug Malone comes in from Saskatchewan replacing long time predecessor Dan Dorazio.
The Lions haven’t brought any offensive linemen so far this off-season, so I would be shocked if they didn’t select one with their first pick (5th overall).
National Holdovers from 2014:
|54||Valli, Dean||G||National||6.05||300||1983-10-05||Simon Fraser|
|68||Player, T-Dre||G||National||6.06||275||1992-92-04||Northwestern State|
Given the Lions have the fifth overall pick, they should be in line to get one of the six top ranked offensive linemen in the draft, if they decide to go that route with the pick.
Top ranked National offensive linemen (final CFL Scouting Bureau Rankings):
Protecting Travis Lulay or potentially an inexperienced replacement is going to be paramount for the Lions if they hope to compete in a tough Western Division, never mind an improved Eastern side. They also need to inject life into a running game that hasn’t been as productive as it should be the last couple of seasons, even with one of the best in the game, Andrew Harris, in the lineup.
The draft aside, expect some new bodies from south of the border to be brought in prior to the start of training camp as well.
If history has proven anything, Wally Buono will draft the “best player available” with the 5th pick. But the Lions would do well to come away from this draft with a blue chip hoggie to add to the Den.
Follow Brian Wawryshyn on Twitter: @BCLionsDen