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Suitor: Redblacks' first win came at the CFL Expansion Draft

Glen Suitor
12/17/2013 3:58:45 PM
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On Monday, the Ottawa Redblacks registered the first win of their inaugural season. It won't count for two points in the standings in 2014 but in Monday's CFL Expansion Draft, Ottawa GM Marcel Desjardins and his staff picked the 24 players that will become the foundation for the new franchise in Ottawa, and all indications are that they got it right.

Now, no win is perfect and there were a couple of questionable picks, especially in the first round. However, overall it was mission accomplished when it was clear months ago that the mission was to find a quarterback that gave the team a fighting chance and an offensive line to protect that player.

It wasn't a secret that Desjardin was looking for a combination of an experienced, proven quarterback, and a young pivot that could become the team's future franchise player. In Kevin Glenn he gets a quarterback that has played in 222 games and has led a team as recently as 2012 to the Grey Cup, when he was the Stamps' starter in the championship game against Toronto two years ago. He is also coming off, arguably, the best two years of his career, where he had career-highs in completion percentage at over 66 per cent in 2012 and 2013. He is 20-8 as a starter over that period of time, and last year registered a QB efficiency rating that was a personal-best in his 13 seasons in the CFL.

The numbers speak for themselves, but what is perhaps as important as the numbers and the experience is that he sounds like he sincerely wants to be part of this unique once in a lifetime opportunity in Ottawa. In a conference call on Monday, Glenn said, "I am very excited about the opportunity to lead a brand new team that is starting from scratch like this." Skeptics might suggest that he had to say that and is making the best of a tough situation, in leaving a team like the Stamps that has played in the West Final the last two straight years. However, Glenn sounded like he was being genuine and remember; he was the backup to Drew Tate in Calgary, not the starter. He may have taken more snaps, but he was the number 2 in Calgary and won't be in the Nation's Capital.

Now, it is always difficult to predict if a young quarterback will actually become a team's franchise player, and former BC Lions QB Thomas DeMarco has a lot of work to do to prove he is that guy. However, spend twenty minutes talking to the quarterback from Old Dominion and you quickly see that he is an intelligent, team-first player with tremendous leadership qualities. He has a strong arm, is mobile, and proved on September 22 in Saskatchewan that he has the composure to win a tough game in hostile territory, when he led the Lions to a last minute win against the Grey Cup champion Roughriders.

There are never any guarantees in sports but by his selections in the draft at quarterback, Desjardins has sent the message to all the potential free agents on the market that at the most important position on the field, the team will have a fighting chance.

It was also Ottawa's goal in the expansion draft to make sure that they can protect the quarterback in 2014 and with six offensive lineman picked, they are well on their way to putting a checkmark on the "to-do list" in that category as well. Desjardins has an offensive captain and great pro in Marwan Hage from the Hamilton Ti-Cats to lead the group, and also picked three fullbacks on Monday to make sure that Glenn, DeMarco, and/or free agent Matt Faulkner out of San Jose State, don't spend the teams inaugural season on their backs.
Now, I mentioned that not every win is perfect and there were a couple of surprising picks in the first round of the draft, starting with Chevon Walker of the Hamilton Ti-Cats. Walker did show signs of greatness early in the 2012 season but this past year lost his job to CJ Gable and was relegated to a backup roll where he carried the ball just thirty times all year. Now Desjardins has, on a couple of occasions, reminded fans that due to free agency and the ten man protected list, there was not as much talent available as most may think. That may have been the case with his decision to take Walker. Also, everyone's evaluation of a player is personal and can vary greatly depending on many factors, like the system that you want to run. In other words, Walker may not have been a good fit in Hamilton last year but could be in Ottawa's offensive system in 2014.

However, the argument that free agency limited the choices isn't as strong when it comes to Desjardins' pick in the first round out of Edmonton, when he took a relatively unknown receiver by the name of Carlton Mitchell. Again, if you put ten GMs in a room and asked them to make up a draft list, you would likely have ten very different looking lists. But this year in the import category, the Esks had just seven potential free agents and even after protecting the next ten imports, there would have been some veteran names available. Pick any ten of the fourteen names here and see what you are left with and I think it is fair to say that Carlton Mitchell may become a great player. But there were accomplished vets passed over to get him. In no particular order:

1. JC Sheritt
2. Rennie Curran
3. Marcus Howard
4. Fred Stamps
5. Adarius Bowman
6. Marcus Henry
7. Thaddeus Coleman
8. Aaron Grymes
9. Cliff Louis
10. Almondo Sewell
11. Odell Willis
12. TJ Hill
13. Eric Samuels
14. Chris Thompson   

Desjardins said after the draft he likes Mitchell's size (he stands 6'4") and thinks he has a huge upside, but when we head into training camps at the start of the 2014 season, we will say that about a lot of relatively unknown receivers.

Again, no win is without a few questionable calls and if Carlton Mitchell becomes a star in Ottawa, good on Desjardins for doing his homework and going off the board a little bit.

That being said, a win is a win and on Monday in the expansion draft the Redblacks won. They have quarterbacks that give them hope and the start of what should be a solid offensive line to give those QBs a fighting chance. 

It won't be reflected in the standings but the Redblacks are 1-0 on the season.

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