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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Redblacks general manager expects to keep first overall pick in CFL draft

TORONTO - While Ottawa Redblacks general manager Marcel Desjardins has entertained some offers for his first overall pick in the CFL draft, he says there's a "relatively good chance" he'll make the pick Tuesday night.

"There has been some (interest) but not a whole lot," Desjardins said Monday.

Desjardins says he knows who he wants to take first overall but is keeping it to himself. One player the Redblacks won't use the top pick on is McGill tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the top-ranked CIS prospect for the draft who was selected in the sixth round of the NFL draft Saturday by the Kansas City Chiefs.

"As much as he would've been a guy that we probably would've selected, now that he has a commitment from an NFL team there's no reason for us to go in that direction," Desjardins said.

The popular sentiment is if Desjardins keeps the No. 1 pick, he'll use it on Laval centre Pierre Lavertu. The six-foot-three, 300-pound Lavertu finished third in the CFL scouting bureau's season-ending top-15 rankings, and while he might not have the most upside and potential, Lavertu is generally regarded as one of the most pro-ready prospects in the draft.

Drafting Lavertu first overall would address a need for Ottawa after the off-season retirement of veteran Marwan Hage, whom the Redblacks selected in the CFL expansion draft in December from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

"Offensive line is a need, no doubt," Desjardins said. "But that doesn't necessarily mean 100 per cent that's what we'll do.

"There's a good chance but everybody talks about a certain number of guys, whether it's those two or three other top prospects. Just because they're being written about and spoken about that doesn't mean we have them graded the same way."

For the first time ever, the CFL draft will be held at night, with the first round broadcast live on TSN. That could give teams more time to talk trade with Desjardins, although the Redblacks GM isn't anticipating a lot of last-minute offers.

"Maybe a little bit but I wouldn't think that dynamic would change," he said.

Toronto Argonauts GM Jim Barker said the extra time could prompt some action.

"I'm sure from early in the morning there will be people calling and you'll sit there and probably want to do something," he said. "It will make for a long day . . . but I think it's kind of cool we're doing it in the evening."

If the Redblacks are coveting Lavertu, they might be well advised to take him with the early selection because the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who have the No. 2 selection, are said to be very interested in the Laval centre. So much so that if Ottawa does take Lavertu first overall, the Bombers would then reportedly be willing to deal the second pick to acquire some assets while moving down in the first round and selecting a player who could still help them. A potential trade partner could be the B.C. Lions, who are said to like Simon Fraser centre Matthias Goossen, the CFL scouting bureau's fifth-ranked prospect.

Barker says Lavertu and Goossen are definite players of interest.

"I think there's a lot of teams in this league looking for a centre . . . and there's a couple of them, he (Lavertu) and Goossen," Barker said. "Those are guys who are being looked at by all the teams.

"I wouldn't say he (Lavertu) is the top prospect, he's one of the top prospects, there's no doubt about that. He's a tough guy coming out of a good program."

Hamilton could be another team on the lookout for a centre after losing Hage in the expansion draft. But the Ticats, who have the final first-round pick at No. 9 overall, would have to deal with either Ottawa or Winnipeg to be assured a shot at either Lavertu or Goossen.

All nine teams will make first-round selections Tuesday night. The Edmonton Eskimos will select third overall, followed by the Montreal Alouettes. B.C. is at No. 5, with Toronto, the Calgary Stampeders and Grey Cup-champion Saskatchewan Roughriders selecting before Hamilton completes the opening round.

Another offensive lineman expected to go early in the first round is Montreal tackle David Foucault. The towering six-foot-eight, 300-pound Foucault finished behind Duvernay-Tardif in the final top-15 list and although he'll attend the Carolina Panthers' mini camp this week, it won't be with the security of having signed an NFL contract.

What makes Foucault a top prospect is much more than just his sheer size. Many CFL scouts believe he has the potential to develop into a dominant left tackle, a key spot on any offensive line. Should Edmonton pass on Foucault, it's very likely Montreal will take him with the fourth selection.

Another first-round prospect is Concordia Stingers defensive lineman Quinn Smith, who finished ranked fourth on the top-15 list following an impressive showing at the CFL combine. The six-foot-two, 305-pound Toronto native was solid on both sides of the football.

Last week, Smith announced he had tested positive for the anabolic steroid Stanozolol prior the combine. If Smith's B sample also tests positive, he'll receive a two-year ban from the CIS, thus ending his college career.

But in the CFL, Smith would be deemed a first-time offender of its drug policy and be subjected to mandatory testing and an assessment, followed by counselling.

A second offence would trigger a three-game suspension. The agreement also calls for a one-year ban for a third offence and a lifetime suspension for a fourth.

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