In his first CFL Draft at the helm of his own football team, Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Kyle Walters solidified his offensive line, pulled the trigger on a trade to move back into the second round, and found some value with his late picks.
And while taking highly-touted Simon Fraser offensive lineman Matthias Goossen second overall on Tuesday night will definitely help in an area of need for the club, it was a swap of draft picks that may prove to be his most shrewd move.
"When Jesse Briggs started to fall a little bit, you could just see Kyle perk up in his chair. ‘We might have a chance here,'" said head coach Mike O'Shea of the Blue Bombers war room on Tuesday night. "And then (he's) working the phone and pulls the trigger and we move up to get a guy that we really value. I think that was a great move. It was fun to be sitting right there watching him work."
Winnipeg entered the draft with no picks in the second round, having sent their original along with Alex Hall late last season to Saskatchewan to acquire offensive tackle Patrick Neufeld — a 25-year-old Canadian they hope to be a ratio-breaking starter on the offensive line.
The Bombers called up a familiar trade partner Tuesday, Roughriders GM Brendan Taman, and exchanged their two third-round picks (20th and 26th overall) for Saskatchewan's second-rounder, taking Briggs 17th overall to add some depth to the linebacker corps.
"Jesse Briggs was a guy that we rated high. We were looking for some depth at linebacker. A special teams player. A phenomenal athlete," said Walters of the 6-foot-1, 222-pound McGill product. "And when we had an opportunity — you're in constant talk with all the other teams — if Briggs is here at this number here's what we'll do. And talking to a bunch of teams. And we were able to get him where we wanted to so we jumped at it."
"Briggs, we expect to push. Losing James Green, Pierre Labbe, we needed that role as a special teams guy," added Walters. "He's going to come in and be given every opportunity to compete and win that role as he pushes."
"He played the SAM linebacker position in college so he is comfortable in space, but we view him in our system as a linebacker. An in-the-box guy that's going to be turned loose and run around."
But the biggest acquisition made Tuesday is the man who the club hopes will soon start at centre. The 6-foot-4, 294-pound Goossen was one of two O-linemen who came to Winnipeg in the past month for private workouts and interviews. The other was Laval's Pierre Lavertu who went first-overall to Calgary.
"I was really impressed by the way that the coaches came across, hearing about how things have changed there," said Goossen in his post-draft conference call. "It's really good to see the changes and I know that it'll be a great year this upcoming year."
Over the winter, Walters mentioned on a few occasions that the team needed and would land a starter with the No. 2 pick, but Tuesday the GM curtailed those statements slightly when speaking specifically of the 21-year-old lineman.
"I'm not going to put any undue pressure on him. He's expecting himself to come in and start," said Walters. "Let's let him get to Winnipeg and let's let him get his feet under (him) before we start putting undue pressure on him."
"Given his age, I mean he is a man," said O'Shea of Goossen. "You see how he's built. His film says that he's got a real good chance at (starting), but being as young as he is I just feel there's a little bit of a difference here. We don't want to stick him in and ruin him, sort of get him shell-shocked and ruin his confidence.
"If camp shows us, and he shows us in camp what he believes he's going to show us and what we think he can do, and that's the logical step for us, then he'll be in there. And if he needs a bit of time then we're quite willing to give him that — afford him that time to develop a little bit. But he's going to be a good player for a long time in this league and it's up to me now and the offensive line coach to make sure we don't put him in a position that's going to hurt his confidence."
"I'm just going to go to camp and try to work as hard as possible and just try to get better every day," added Goossen when asked about potentially starting in his rookie year. "If the coaches want to put me as a starter then that would be great, but right now I'm just trying to get into camp and contribute to the team."
Winnipeg added another Simon Fraser product in the fourth round in 6-foot-1 defensive back Derek Jones. Jones comes from some impressive bloodlines, as his father Ed won five Grey Cups with the Edmonton Eskimos in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Another intriguing prospect was taken in the sixth round with 305-pound defensive lineman Quinn Everett out of Mount Allison, who Walters says will be expected to learn the nose tackle position as well as along the O-line. The club drafted McMaster linebacker Aram Eisho with their final selection in the seventh round.