May 11, 2016

Lions swap picks early, select eight in 2016 draft

The BC Lions have eight new prospects to groom after the conclusion of Tuesday’s 2016 CFL Draft.

It all began with some wheeling and dealing for Wally Buono and company as their highly coveted third overall pick found its way to Steeltown. The Lions traded down to number five with the Ticats who also received the Lions fourth round selection (30th overall), in turn, the Leos received Hamilton’s third rounder. ( 23rd overall)

VAILLANCOURT_CHARLESThe end result saw them select offensive lineman Charles Vaillancourt out of the powerhouse Laval Rouge et or. Neil McEvoy says the early deal was all about ensuring they could still select the player they wanted.

“We felt that each of the top five guys on our draft list was still going to be a player that could make us better,” McEvoy said. “The fact that Charles was available at five was even better for us because at the end of the day, we felt he was the best player in the draft and we were excited to be able to call his name.”

“At the end of the day you have to have the body type, the girth and the foot work to play pro football and he measured out at the top of his grade,” McEvoy added.charles-vaillancourt-2015-1-800x451

Vaillancourt is one of three Laval offensive linemen to be drafted in the first round on Tuesday night. The others were Philippe Gagnon, second overall to Montreal, and Jason Lauzon-Seguin, seventh overall to Ottawa.

“He’s big and he’s physical,” Buono said. “Charles also comes from a tremendous system at Laval and their offensive line coach Carl Brennan has been a guest coach with us many times. We know Charles will come to camp ready to compete.”

In round two, the Lions opted for help in the secondary by choosing Southern Illinois defensive back Anthony Thompson. The Montreal native, whom Geroy Simon says can be an excellent ratio changer, led the Salukis with 55 tackles last season and spent a total of four years at SIU after redshirting at UCLA in 2011. McEvoy was impressed upon meeting and evaluating Thompson at the CFL Combine in March. “He really wanted to compete and that was one of the things Wally and I remembered when it came for us to select at 12. When we did the interview process with him he said it was all about getting on the field and being part of the group. He has the athletic ability to play at this level.”

When round three came around, Buono and company re-acquired the 30th overall selection, along with number 32 from the Ticats in exchange for number 21. With Hamilton’s third round pick from the earlier trade, they opted for more help at receiver by taking Brett Baszko from the University of Calgary. He was part of the Dinos squad that lost the 2013 Vanier Cup to Vaillancourt and the Rouge et or.IMG_0193

With their two fourth round picks, they elected for more offensive line help with Dillon Guy and also took receiver Shaquille Johnson who most recently played with the London, Ontario Junior squad. McEvoy admitted they had Guy ranked much higher than 30th and were thrilled when he was still available.

The Lions rounded out Tuesday’s activity by selecting former Okanagan Sun defensive back Brennan Van Nistelrooy, ( round six, 48th overall) University of Windsor fullback Nathan O’Halloran ( round seven, 58th overall) and wrapped up by going local with their eighth round selection, UBC defensive lineman Boyd Richardson.

McEVoy is intrigued at the possibility of their late round picks evolving into long-term assets. “Brennan is another guy we thought would go higher so again we were excited he was available. We’ve worked him out here with our local guys and he showed the things you want to see in a defensive back. We also felt we wanted a fullback as well as a long-snapper and O’Halloran does both. We feel he can come into our mini-camp and help us out and once the main camp starts, be able to complement Rolly Lumbala and learn from him and hopefully in a couple years he can develop into the player we need.”

It was a long, productive year of preparation for this draft. Eight picks and two trades later, McEvoy feels confident the Lions are a better football club as a result. “As an organization we’re very excited about how things went today. Everyone that we picked we felt great about. We also spoke to each of these kids before we announced the picks and every guy was still engaged, watching the draft and were excited to become BC Lions.”

Matt Baker: