The newest CFL franchise, the Ottawa RedBlacks, will participate in their expansion draft on Dec. 16, giving them a chance to pick a handful of experienced athletes to fill out their roster.
The three-round draft will expand Ottawa's roster by 24, allowing them to take one Import player from each of the current CFL teams and two Non-Import players.
Beyond that basic structure, there are some other wrinkles as well.
Ottawa cannot draft more than one quarterback from any one franchise, nor can they take a quarterback and a kicker from any one team. That means some teams will be able to gamble a little in terms of leaving quarterbacks and kickers exposed in the draft, as they'll lose one or the other, but not both.
Still, the RedBlacks should be able to get their hands on some excellent players with good CFL experience.
At that critical quarterback position Ottawa will have a number of choices, from seasoned veterans to young up-and-comers.
Jim Morris predicts that the BC Lions will protect Travis Lulay in the expansion draft. That would leave both Buck Pierce and Thomas DeMarco available to Ottawa.
Pierce is a nine-year veteran of the CFL with a respectable career 89.2 passer's rating. At age 32, he could provide some veteran leadership to a young team, although perhaps not for more than a couple of years.
DeMarco just completed his sophomore season with the Lions, passing for 1,325 yards in 2013 while Lulay was out of commission with injuries. DeMarco appears to have some good upside, so he could be a candidate for Ottawa to grab.
The Calgary Stampeders will also have some interesting prospects for the RedBlacks to sort through at the quarterback position.
Tate is still Calgary's No. 1 guy when he's healthy, but his health has been a question mark for much of his career. Glenn has been effective throughout his career, but he'll be 35 at the start of the 2014 season, so he may not be the guy for a new franchise to build its team around.
As noted by Don Landry, the Toronto Argonauts will almost certainly protect veteran pivot Ricky Ray, which leaves Zach Collaros available. Collaros played in 14 games this year as a second-year QB for the Argos, throwing for 2,316 yards and 14 touchdowns while filling in for Ray.
In my opinion, Collaros is the best quarterback prospect the RedBlacks will get a look at.
Ottawa will need more than just a QB, however. If the RedBlacks decide to leave Calgary's quarterbacks alone in the import round of the draft, they could consider snapping up non-import punter Rob Maver who was second in the CFL last year in punting average, at 45.7 yards per.
Maver also has experience as a place kicker and he's just 27 years old, making him a prime candidate to get grabbed up.
Can the Ottawa RedBlacks field a competitive team in 2014?
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats might also have some excellent prospects available for Ottawa to pick over. The Ticats are young and talented and have already earned themselves a trip to the Grey Cup, so they have invaluable playoff experience already.
As Justin Dunk observes, Hamilton will likely protect all its key pieces, including CJ Gable, Andy Fantuz and Brian Bulcke, but they'll have to leave talented young athletes like receiver Onrea Jones (505 yards receiving in 2013), linebacker Simoni Lawrence (team-leading three interceptions) and defensive lineman Brandon Boudreaux (team-leading seven sacks) exposed.
The good news for Hamilton is that all three of those examples are imports, so Ottawa could only get one of them at most. But any one of them could be a future star.
On the non-import side of things, the Montreal Alouettes will be forced to offer a number of interesting acquisitions. Whether it's a four-year veteran offensive guard like Andrew Woodruff or six-year veteran linebacker Shea Emry, Montreal will have some Canadian talent that will help Ottawa be competitive.
The expansion draft starts on Monday, Dec. 16 at 11:00 am ET and is expected to run about four hours. Keep an eye on the results on the cfl.ca Draft Tracker.
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