Saskatchewan Roughriders still undecided about No. 1 draft pick

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REGINA — Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Brendan Taman said Tuesday he expects the team will hold on to the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s CFL draft.

As to who the team will take with that selection …

“We’ve got it down to … a couple,� a chuckling Taman said during a media get-together at Mosaic Stadium.

University of Saskatchewan offensive lineman Ben Heenan and Wilfrid Laurier University receiver Shamawd Chambers are thought to be the two candidates to go No. 1 in the draft (1 p.m., TSN), but Taman wouldn’t confirm that.

“I can assure you we haven’t made that decision yet,� he said. “We’re still having meetings … It’s still to be debated.�

The Roughriders also are considering trade offers from other teams for the No. 1 selection, including a couple of serious offers that Taman said prompted a discussion among the staff. However, the GM expects the selection “to be staying with Saskatchewan.�

The Roughriders also have picks in the third round (15th overall) and sixth round (39th). Their selections in the second and fourth rounds now belong to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, while the Calgary Stampeders hold the Roughriders’ fifth-round pick.

In the 2011 draft, Saskatchewan addressed a specific area of need — special teams — with many of its selections. With just three picks in Thursday’s lottery, the Roughriders may not be able to concentrate on one area, but Taman said they’ll do what they can by taking the best player available.

“There’s needs and there’s ability and that’s the thing you’ve got to weigh,� Taman said. “We do have some needs. Obviously, (at) receiver, we’re not as deep as we used to be. (At) linebacker, we’re not as deep. (At) D-line, we’re not as deep.

“There’s a number of areas that we are looking at positions to upgrade ourselves, not only with the (No.) 1 pick but with the other picks after that.�

The Roughriders’ plans for the No. 1 pick and their subsequent selections may have been affected by recent moves in the NFL.

Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford was the top prospect in recent CFL scouting rankings, but he was selected in the third round of the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Georgia State defensive lineman Christo Bilukidi (No. 6 in the rankings) was a sixth-round pick of the Oakland Raiders and Virginia offensive lineman Austin Pasztor (No. 4) signed a free-agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Chambers has received an invitation to a Philadelphia Eagles mini-camp set for May 9-11.

“Now it’s sort of a question mark around him, whether or not you’re going to see him in June,â€� said Taman, who noted the Roughriders were making inquiries about Chambers’ future in Philly. “Obviously that would be a concern, but whether or not that’s enough to overcome not picking him, we’ll see …

“You could (gamble on Chambers), but you’d better be sure you’re going to get him quick. You could probably wait half a year on him, but if you don’t see him for a year or two, I don’t think that’s the wisest pick.�

Heenan, too, has been on the radar of NFL teams — he reportedly impressed scouts while participating in the East-West Shrine Game, an NCAA all-star contest — although he hadn’t signed a free-agent deal in the NFL as of Tuesday.

For Taman, the Roughriders want to draft a player who’s most likely to be in Regina when rookie camp opens May 30.

“I don’t think we can wait for a guy that you may see in a year or two,� Taman said. “I think you need a guy that’s going to be in camp and around your team for the next two or three years.�

The draft is seen as being deep in receivers and defensive linemen, while high-quality offensive linemen and linebackers are not as prevalent. Overall, Taman said the talent level in the draft is “pretty good.�

The stress on a GM with the top pick could be significant as draft day approaches, but Taman apparently hasn’t been affected by it.

“You get more pressure having the No. 1 pick, but I don’t want to get in the habit of doing that very often,� he said. “You’ve just got to make sure you make the right decision.

“But you really have to do that with every pick you have. The No. 1 could be as important as your sixth-rounder in the long run because we’ve seen a lot of those guys make it, too.�

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