The six-foot-eight, 334-pound Richards was the second-ranked draft prospect on the CFL Scouting Bureau’s final top-20 list behind Laval’s Mathieu Betts, who signed last weekend with the NFL’s Chicago Bears.
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Last year, Richards played eight regular-season games at Oklahoma State and capped his college career by helping the Cowboys beat Missouri 38-33 in the Liberty Bowl.
Richards attended the CFL combine in March but was sent home after deciding against testing. Despite that, he was regarded by many league officials as one of the draft’s most pro-ready prospects.
Toronto secured the first overall selection after posting a CFL-worst 4-14 record last season. The Argos finished tied for fifth with B.C. for fewest sacks allowed (38).
Veteran Chris Van Zeyl, a 35-year-old native of Fonthill, Ont., enters his 14th season with Toronto at right tackle. The selection of Richards does allow the Argos the opportunity to go with five Canadians on the offensive line as the club finished 2018 with American Isiah Cage at left tackle.
It’s the first time since ’97 that the Argos held the first overall pick in the CFL draft. That year they took centre Chad Folk, who was a member of two Grey Cup-winning teams from 1997-08.
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The Tiger-Cats followed by taking Hamilton native Jesse Gibbon, a four-year starting offensive lineman at Waterloo. The six-foot-five, 300-pound Gibbon was ranked No. 14 on the CFL scouting bureau’s top-20 draft prospects list and is expected to play guard or centre in the pro ranks.
At No. 3, the Edmonton Eskimos took a flyer on the six-foot-three, 254-pound Betts. The 24-year-old Montreal native is the only player to win the J.P. Metras Trophy as Canadian university football’s top lineman three straight years (2016-18) and was named U Sports’ top rookie in 2015. He also won two national titles with Laval.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, with the first of two straight first-round selections, picked Windsor offensive lineman Drew Desjarlais. The six-foot-three, 310-pound native of Belle River, Ont., finished ranked seventh on the CFL’s scouting bureau top-20 list despite being unranked in October and December.
He’s also scheduled to attend NFL rookie camp with both the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Bombers followed up by taking Tennessee defensive lineman Jonathan Kongbo. The six-foot-five, 254-pound native of Surrey, B.C., started 17-of-30 games with the Vols, seeing action as a linebacker and defensive lineman. However, Kongbo suffered a major knee injury – tearing both the ACL and MCL – in a game last October versus Auburn, ending his senior campaign.
Here are the first-round picks:
1. Toronto Argonauts, Shane Richards, OL, Oklahoma State
2. Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Jesse Gibbon, OL, Waterloo
3. Edmonton Eskimos, Mathieu Betts, DL, Laval
4. Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Drew Desjarlais, OL, Windsor
5. Winnipeg, Jonathan Kongbo, DE, Tennessee
6. Saskatchewan Roughriders, Justin McInnis, WR, Arkansas State
7. Ottawa RedBlacks, Alex Fontana, OL, Kansas
8. Calgary Stampeders, Hergy Mayala, WR, Connecticut.
Note: B.C. Lions and Montreal Alouettes do not have first-round selections.
© 2019 The Canadian Press