With the majority of the 2019 Grey Cup-winning roster still under contract, Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Kyle Walters can afford to be patient with his 2021 draft class.
At Tuesday’s CFL Draft, the Bombers used three of their six picks on futures — players who are returning to school this fall and won’t make their way to Winnipeg until 2022 at the earliest. Walters wasted no time selecting a future as he chose Texas State offensive lineman Liam Dobson with the third overall pick. The Ottawa native played three seasons at the University of Maine and was voted their best offensive lineman in 2019, but Dobson transferred to Texas State for his senior season this fall and hopes to get the attention of NFL scouts.
The 23-year-old, who stands at 6-3 and weighs 340 pounds, has already done enough to win over Walters, though.
“There were a lot of good offensive linemen in this draft. We just thought Liam was the most like a Winnipeg Blue Bomber,” Walters said in a conference call Wednesday morning. “He’s going to remind everybody of (Chris) Walby. He’s just a big bear of a man that’s not the nicest guy out on the football field but moves remarkably well for a guy of his size.”
The Bombers also looked to the future in the third round with defensive back Patrice Rene, another Ottawa native. Rene spent five years at the University of North Carolina and will play at Rutgers this season.
In the sixth round, the Blue and Gold called the name of former University of Manitoba Bisons defensive back Shae Weekes. A product of St. Adolphe who starred at St. Paul’s High School, Weekes will play the upcoming season in Minnesota at Bemidji State.
“He was just too good to pass up,” said Walters on Rene. “Long, athletic, started at the University of North Carolina. Film’s good. Just for the value we saw there… he could come in and compete at corner at this level. When we see him a year from now I think he’s got a real opportunity to help us out. What jumped out with Patrice is just how excitable he was in the interview. He’s got really strong leadership qualities for a young man.”
But Walters and his team won’t have to be patient when it comes to the other three names in their draft class as Montréal defensive back Redha Kramdi (second round, 16th overall), Regina linebacker Robbie Lowes (fourth round, 34th overall), and Regina running back Kyle Borsa (fifth round, 39th overall) are expected to be in training camp later this summer, assuming that happens, of course.
“Redha Kramdi, our second pick, was one of our favourite players in the draft. He just loves football, he’s a team captain in his third year at the University of Montreal which is a very, very, strong program,” Walters said. “His special teams film was probably the best out of everybody we watched. Generally, the way a player plays special teams is an indication of how much they love the game… It just shows the way you speak to him, when he talks, the passion he has, and the way he plays.”
All the U Sports players might be a little rusty heading into CFL training camp as their 2020 season was cancelled owing to the pandemic, but Borsa has had the longest layoff out of all of them. In 2018, the Regina native finished second in Canada West in both all-purpose yards (1,340) and rushing yards (613) despite only making three starts at running back.
He wasn’t able to build off that success in 2019 as he was suspended for 16 months for testing positive for a banned substance. At a Regina supplement store, Borsa purchased an over-the-counter supplement that contained higenamine.
But Borsa clearly made the most of his time away from the game as his 4.46-second time in the 40-yard dash was the fastest at the CFL national virtual combine.
“Like Patrice Rene, he was just too good to pass up at that spot,” said Walters. “He was very productive and has got a bit of a chip on his shoulder for what he went through. I’m sure when you guys get a chance to talk to him, he’ll be able to talk through that suspension and how it went down. I think you’ll gain some respect for what that young man has gone through and the way he’s persevered and fought back.”
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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