Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters prepares for CFL draft

Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters at the team's recent free agent camp at IMG Acamedy in Bradenton, Fla.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters at the team's recent free agent camp at IMG Acamedy in Bradenton, Fla. Kelly Moore- Corus Radio Winnipeg

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will not have a first-round pick in the CFL draft for the second time in three years — but very few, if any, Bomber fans are complaining.

Toronto acquired that ninth overall pick in the 2020 CFL draft when Winnipeg re-signed quarterback Zach Collaros, whom the Blue Bombers traded for just ahead of the deadline last October.

On Friday, Winnipeg GM Kyle Walters told a media conference call he had, and has no regrets about making that deal.

“It is what it is. When we made that deal the thought was, if we end up re-signing Zach it’s probably because we had a good little playoff run,” said Walters.

“And if we’re sitting at the draft next year without a first-round pick and we’ve won the Grey Cup, unanimously we’ll say it was a good decision. It still feels like a good decision — regardless of what’s going on now.”

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That would be the COVID-19 pandemic that has all nine CFL teams in a holding pattern.

And Walters feels because of that, he is not planning on trading to get back into the first round.

“With not knowing the start date to the season, or training camp, or any of that stuff, I’d just be hesitant to give up too many assets down the road,” said Walters who is going into his seventh full season after taking over on an interim basis in August of 2013.

“In the times of uncertainty, I don’t know that I would risk anything to grab an extra pick or something this year. It would have to be very enticing.”

And while there are some blue chip prospects with the top-rated trio of Ottawa-born, Oklahoma defensive lineman Neville Gallimore, Notre Dame receiver Chase Claypool of Abbotsford and Ohio QB Nathan Rourke — Walters doesn’t see the 2020 draft as exceptional.

“The biggest benefit this year, and the last couple years, is the quality of special teams players. Your traditional linebacker/DB types that come in and battle veteran guys. This is a deeper group this year, in those areas.”

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READ MORE: Blue Bombers GM Kyle Walters preparing for upcoming CFL Draft amid pandemic

In his overall evaluation of the draft, Walters also anticipates there will be a group of offensive linemen who will be taken “early and often”.

The receiving position is solid and maybe a little deeper than normal. So where does that leave the Blue Bombers for the 18th overall pick at the tail end of the second round?

Walters feels the defending Grey Cup champs are pretty sound positionally — right across the board.

The Winnipeg offense is pretty much intact, and while there were some losses on the defensive side of the ball to free agency and the NFL, Walters is comfortable in not having to sacrifice the need for the best player when it’s the Bombers turn to pick.

“Everybody thinks they have good drafts every year because that’s their board. So that’s no different. We will put our top 18 players on our board and we will pick them. I word it as, if all 18 of these guys are still there at 18, which one do we take? So when pick 18 comes around, we will have a very good idea,” said Walters. “It will be a quick process because we will have gone through every scenario.”

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CFL training camps postponed amid COVID-19 – Apr 1, 2020

One thing the Winnipeg GM is pretty sure of going into his seventh draft is that other teams will not have the same 18 that the Bombers have.

“That’s the beauty of the draft,” says Walters.

And the Bomber Football Operations Department isn’t too stressed about the National Combine and two other regional evaluation camps being cancelled because of the pandemic.

“Ted (Goveia), Mike (O’Shea) and myself — we divided and conquered. We’ve spoken (by phone) to our top 100 almost. There’s an information gathering component to make sure you get the accurate information in regards to injury history and academic situations.”

The Bomber brass also picks the brains of prospects about how they train, as well as what their testing goals were and to get a feel of each player’s character and passion for the game. And lest any of the draft class of 2020 think they can use the “remote interview and audition process” to their advantage, Walters and company are well prepared.

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“There’s a whole lot of personal bests in these virtual pro days I’m noticing. So you take everything with a grain of salt. This sums up that old adage in scouting — unless your eyes and watch are on them, you really don’t know what to trust.”

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