If you listen to all of the speculation leading up to this years Canadian College draft, it seems like a done deal that Saskatchewan Roughrider GM Brendan Taman will use the Riders' first pick overall to take University of Saskatchewan offensive linemen Ben Heenan. It makes a lot of sense for so many reasons, a few of which are, that he is the consensus first pick overall among all the GM's in the league, he is a Saskatchewan native, and it is common knowledge that any time you can get a quality Canadian offensive lineman in the draft you take him and consider yourself fortunate.
Many of the CFL's talent scouts have said that Heenan won't take long to make the adjustments necessary to get to the next level of football. In fact, a few have said that Ben Heenan could become the next Gene Makowsky, the Rider great who just retired after a Hall of Fame 17 year career in Saskatchewan. On the surface this seems like a no-brainer, take the Saskatchewan kid, with star potential and give the Rider Nation a new local hero to cheer for over the next decade or more.
However, when you step back and take a good hard look at the Riders current situation it is not a stretch to think that Brendan Taman could look to trade that first pick and acquire a player that could fill a more urgent need this year, and possibly also add a lower round pick in next years draft. This is all hypothetical, but it allows me to make an argument.
First there are the moves that Taman made in the off-season through free agency. The Rider GM went after and acquired two of the top lineman on the market when he signed Brendon LaBatte and Dominic Picard. With those two names added to a fairly young and improved O-line it appears that, at least on paper, he has more than addressed the issues up front, and taken real positive steps to fill the void that will be left by the departure of Makowsky.
Secondly, with the O-line fixed - again on paper - he could look to make a move to try and shore up other more urgent positions on the field. For instance, with Andy Fantuz signing in Hamilton and Rob Bagg coming off an injury, a trade involving a starting and proven receiver for a number one pick could at least be a conversation worth having for Taman. If he could swing a deal for a starting receiver and also pick up a low second or high third round pick in 2013 in the deal, he could address a need this season and still be able to draft perhaps an O-lineman for the future next year.
Third, you have to believe that the search for a dominant pass rusher is back in full swing in the Rider front offices due to the recent legal issues with Odell Willis. It looked like Taman had found a solution to his D-line problems when he traded for Willis, which still may be the case, but to cover their bases you have to believe that the intensity to find or acquire a dominant pass rusher has been ramped up a notch or two.
And finally, there are some intangibles in Saskatchewan that aren't easy to measure but you have to believe exist. The team is coming off a terrible season where at playoff time they found themselves on the outside looking in. It was widely speculated after the 2011 season that Taman didn't have full control of personnel, which if true, would make it unfair to hold him totally accountable for what happened last year. However, all that has changed and Taman is now in full control as the team's general manager. He has hand-picked a new young and enthusiastic coach in Corey Chamblin to lead the team and now has to make sure that he gives his coach the right tools to work with in the form of talent. If you believe as many do that the O-line looks good as it is, then that first overall pick could be used to fill a hole elsewhere. In a business where winning is everything and if you don't win you are out of a job, it goes without saying that every GM understands the urgency of winning now. However, is there a GM in the league that has more pressure on him to win this year than Brendon Taman in Saskatchewan?
Which again leads us to that first overall pick in the Canadian College Draft? It would be easy, safe and a crowd pleasing decision to pick Ben Heenan first overall. The Riders would be thrilled to have him, and the same would be said for Heenan getting a chance to play for the team he grew up cheering for.
But maybe it isn't the lock that most think it is. Again, this is purely speculation but based on the Riders current situation, I would not be surprised at all to hear that there has been a trade made for that first pick overall.