2019 CFL Draft Class Rankings and Analysis

With the dust settled and the draft in the bag, I’ve had time to formulate my thoughts on each team’s draft class. This year, I’ll still be ranking the draft classes but I’ve decided to stay away the archaic practice of assigning each pick a letter grade. Instead, I’ll be focusing on my own opinion of the picks, in all its infallibility. There are picks I love, picks I like, picks I understand, picks I have questions about and picks I’m confused by, but ultimately every player selected has the potential to prove me right or wrong. Only time will reveal the successes and failures of this draft, but here are my draft class rankings for the 2019 CFL Draft.

 

9. Ottawa Redblacks

wesley lewis

Round One, Pick #7
Selection: Alex Fontana, OL, Kansas
Verdict: I Understand It
Thoughts: Fontana is a fantastic player, but this is simply an uninspired selection. Taking yet another lineman in the first round, especially a true center, doesn’t really make their team better, even if they go with five Canadian linemen. They needed a player who could play tackle or to diversify their Canadian content, but instead its par for the course.

Round Three, Pick #27
Selection: Gabriel Polan, RB, Sherbrooke
Verdict: I Understand It
Thoughts: Another uninspired selection. Polan is the type of north-south, no-nonsense back with special teams’ value that Ottawa loves but he doesn’t really make their questionable running back situation better. Polan will be a solid, unspectacular player. Ottawa needed more than that with their second pick.

Round Four, Pick #36
Selection: Thomas Grant, DT, Acadia
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: Grant is a very nice interior presence who can really push the pocket. I also see him as having potential to convert to the offensive side of the ball successfully, not that Ottawa needs the depth.

Round Five, Pick #45
Selection: Wesley Lewis, REC, Houston Baptist
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Lewis is a great value here, given his uncommon size and great catch radius. He gives the Redblacks a tall body to target on the outside instead of blocker Julian Feoli-Guidino.

Round Six, Pick #54
Selection: Chris Larsen, DE, Manitoba
Verdict: I Understand It
Thoughts: Larsen is a solid special teams’ addition, with great speed and a high motor. I don’t know if Ottawa needed to take him this high however.

Round Seven, Pick #63
Selection: Samson Abbott, DE, Manitoba
Verdict: I Understand It
Thoughts: See above. Abbott and Larsen are as close to clones as I’ve ever seen teammates be.

Round Eight, Pick #72
Selection: Clement Lebreux, DT, Laval
Verdict: I’m Confused
Thoughts: A massive space eater who is strong but slow, the markers of a player ill-suited to play professional football in Canada. Lebreux has an injury that will prevent him from playing next year as well. It may be a late round, throw-away pick but none of it makes sense.

Overall: Unspectacular and unimaginative, the Redblacks wasted a prime opportunity to get better and diversify their roster. This is the type of stand pat draft that will allow other teams to take over the top spot in the East Division.

 

8. Edmonton Eskimos

hunter karl

Round One, Pick #3
Selection: Mathieu Betts, DE, Laval
Verdict: I Have Some Questions
Thoughts: Betts is the best player in the draft, but his talents have been duly rewarded by the Chicago Bears. This could be the pick of the draft if he comes north, but the fit and opportunity in Chicago is tremendous. I have a sneaking suspicion that his NFL stay will be a long one. The Eskimos have desperate needs and taking a player who may never play a down with a prime selection is not how to make a bad team better.

Round Two, Pick #12
Selection: Kyle Saxelid, OL, UNLV
Verdict: I’m Confused
Thoughts: Saxelid has an ideal tackle body and excellent testing but his tape borders on the atrocious. He lacks the ability to bend, has weak hand usage and his testing numbers fail to translate into athleticism on film. At best he is a project, and this was way too high to take that chance.

Round Four, Pick #32
Selection: Peter Cender, FB, Grand Valley State
Verdict: I Understand It
Thoughts: Cender is a strong, technical blocker with passable athleticism who will bring special teams’ value. He’ll be a key component at the fullback position going forward but there was far more important needs to address here.

Round Five, Pick #40
Selection: Shai Ross, REC, Manitoba
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: Finally addressing the receiver position way too late, the Eskimos get a good one here. Ross has some of the draft’s stickiest hands and great quick feet, the makings of a future starting slot.

Round Five, Pick #41
Selection: Evan Machibroda, DT, Saskatchewan
Verdict: I Understand It
Thoughts: Machibroda is a fantastic interior defensive lineman and will be a great rotation player down the line, but he is returning to school next year. The Eskimos need impact players now though and it doesn’t make sense to take another player to wait on.

Round Six, Pick #50
Selection: Scott Hutter, DB, Wilfrid Laurier
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: Hutter is a physical DB who can compete as a depth player at safety. Good value at this stage of the draft.

Round Seven, Pick #59
Selection: Hunter Karl, REC, Calgary
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Karl is a great possession receiver and route runner who fell way too far in this draft. The Eskimos essentially stumbled into another strong receiving pick.

Round Eight, Pick #68
Selection: Eric Blake, LB/DB, McMaster
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: Blake is a versatile player who will excel on special teams from the start.

Overall: Brock Sunderland is currently seeking chiropractic help to treat a strained back from aggressively reaching. Strong late picks redeem this draft only slightly.

 

7. Toronto Argonauts

jamie harry

Round One, Pick #1
Selection: Shane Richards, OL, Oklahoma State
Verdict: I Have Some Questions
Thoughts: I don’t see Richards being the bust that Josiah St. John was, despite the striking similarities of them both being big JUCO transfer linemen with limited gameplay experience playing in the state of Oklahoma. Richards, unlike St. John, actually shows favourably in his limited tape. Still he is far from a sure thing and not even close to being the best lineman in the draft. This is a case of size and NCAA pedigree distracting a team from the realities of a player.

Round Two, Pick #9
Selection: Robbie Smith, DE, Wilfrid Laurier
Verdict: I Understand It
Thoughts: Smith is a very talented player, but he gets slightly overhyped as teams try to overcompensate for whiffing on Boateng. The Argos could have drafted a impact starter at a position of need but instead end up with a good special teamer and rotational player who could possibly develop in to a starter.

Round Two, Pick #18 (Territorial Exemption)
Selection: Matt Boateng, DB, Fresno State
Verdict: I Understand It
Thoughts: Boateng is a freakish athlete and decent in coverage, but I don’t see him ever becoming a ratio-breaking starter at corner. His inconsistency as a tackler and slight frame also prevent him from being an option at safety. He’ll be a good special teamer and a solid backup option.

Round Three, Pick #20
Selection: Michael O’Connor, QB, UBC
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: O’Connor is a legitimate quarterback with all the tools to become a starter. At worst, his size will make him great in short yardage. It’s a crowded QB room in Toronto but with uncertainty as to who the starter will be, you can never have too many talented pivots around.

Round Three, Pick #23
Selection: Kurleigh Gittens Jr, REC, Wilfrid Laurier
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: This is an appropriate spot for the dynamic playmaker to go, upgrading the receiving corps and giving them a player who can stretch the field.

Round Four, Pick #29
Selection: Maurice Simba, OL, Concordia
Verdict: I Have Some Questions
Thoughts: My minimum requirement for CFL prospects is that they have to be able to beat me in a race. It is a comically low bar, but Simba can’t pass it. He carries bad weight and is slow as molasses in January. Look at the history of the CFL Draft and you will find no precedent for a lineman that slow having a successful career.

Round Five, Pick #38
Selection: Jamie Harry, DB, Ottawa
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Harry is an absolute steal here. Teams dropped him because of concerns about his speed and fluidity in man coverage, but his intelligence, aggression and ball skills indicate to me that he could successfully covert to safety. I think he is a potential starter and guaranteed backup who could replace Matt Black.

Round Six, Pick #47
Selection: Joe Spaziani, LS, Virginia
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: Spaziani is a very talented long-snapper and should give Jake Reinhart a run for his money in camp competition, potentially paying cap dividends.

Round Seven, Pick #56
Selection: Phil Iloki, REC, Carleton
Verdict: I Understand It
Thoughts: Iloki is a talented receiver worthy of draft consideration, though I’m not sure he has the explosiveness or special teams’ upside that several undrafted players do.

Round Seven, Pick #62
Selection: Eric Starczala, OL, Guelph
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: This is a very strong OL depth addition late in the draft and it would not shock me if he had a better career than one or both of the linemen they selected higher.

Overall: The Argos decided to dictate the draft by being aggressively mediocre. They selected some good players but consistently overreached and didn’t help positions of need as much as they should or could have.

 

6. Saskatchewan Roughriders

justin mcinnis

Round One, Pick #6
Selection: Justin McInnis, REC, Arkansas State
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: McInnis is the best receiver in the draft, with uncommon height and ball skills. The current Rider National receiving corps is questionable at best, with 35-year-old Cory Watson being the only proven commodity. McInnis is a massive upgrade and can start from the jump.

Round Two, Pick #15
Selection: Brayden Lenius-Dickey, REC, New Mexico
Verdict: I Have Some Questions
Thoughts: Lenius-Dickey’s size and top-level talent are unquestionable, but that has never translated onto the football field. He blew his way out of Washington and became an unproductive TE at New Mexico. He’s athletic for his size, but not overly athletic compared to other receivers. His body and measurables should make him an H-back but he isn’t a dominant blocker. This reeks of a bust.

Round Four, Pick #35
Selection: Jacob Janke, DB, York
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: I don’t care where he plays, Safety, SLB or WLB Janke will be an impact performer. He does everything well and will be a versatile piece for years to come.

Round Five, Pick #44
Selection: Charbel Dabire, DT, Wagner
Verdict: I Understand It
Thoughts: Dabire is a prototypical American DT, a space eater with good athleticism. Players of his size and play style rarely translate well to the CFL game, regardless of their athletic traits. However, the Riders may choose to employ him in the role currently held by Makana Henry, a run stuffer who rarely rushes the passer. I think he would be an improvement for that limited role.

Round Six, Pick #53
Selection: Vincent Roy, OL, Sherbrooke
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: The Riders desperately needed to draft a center and they got one here. I do think there were better candidates available, but it is hard to argue with filling a need this late in the draft.

Round Eight, Pick #71
Selection: Christopher Judge, DE, Cal Poly
Verdict: I’m Confused
Thoughts: It doesn’t make a ton of sense to draft a professional actor who hasn’t played football in four years, even if he is the brother of one of your players. In fairness to Chris Judge, he had a for more productive college career than Cameron did but that doesn’t mean the years away from the game haven’t eroded him.

Overall: A draft that can’t decide if it’s happening in the Jeremy O’Day era or the Chris Jones one. For every solid pick, there is one that reeks of the gimmicky athleticism and name pedigree that the previous regime so regularly coveted.

 

5. BC Lions

jamel lyles

Round Three, Pick #26
Selection: Noah Robinson, LB, Missouri
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: Robinson was a productive linebacker who tests unusually poorly. Hmmm… sounds like someone I know. Robinson will be the perfect backup to Jordan Herdman.

Round Four, Pick #33
Selection: Hakeem Johnson, DB, Western
Verdict: I Have Some Questions
Thoughts: Johnson is a solid if unspectacular player on tape who got overhyped because of a strong combine performance. I feel strongly that this is a reach and doesn’t fit as a safety, which they desperately need.

Round Five, Pick #42
Selection: Jonathan Harke, OL, Alberta
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Harke is a bull strong, natural center who will provide great depth and prevent the injury bug from wrecking havoc on the position like last year.

Round Six, Pick #49
Selection: Charles Nwoye, DE, Langley Rams
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: A raw prospect who is still learning the game and has the potential to be a legit pass rusher. Tremendous value here, even if he just maxes out as a talent special teamer.

Round Six, Pick #51
Selection: Mario Villamizar, FB, Wilfrid Laurier
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: Continuing to prepare for Rolly Lumbala’s eventual retirement, the Lions take the draft’s best pure fullback with a late pick. That is excellent value

Round Seven, Pick #60
Selection: Brad Lyons, DE, SFU
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: The answer to the release of David Menard, Lyons is a solid end who can take reps inside as well. A very solid depth piece.

Round Eight, Pick #69
Selection: Jamel Lyles, RB, Manitoba
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: The man who broke Andrew Harris’ BCFC rushing record goes to the place where Harris started out. Don’t be shocked if Lyles turns into a starter at RB or in the slot. The highest value pick in the entire draft.

Overall: Didn’t have much to work with but made the most of it.

 

4. Montreal Alouettes

zach wilkinson

Round Two, Pick #13
Selection: Kaion Julien-Grant, REC, St. FX
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Julien-Grant is the burner deep threat that the Alouettes have been missing and is instantly the best National receiver on their roster, and its not close.

Round Two, Pick #16
Selection: Nathan Anderson, DE, Missouri
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Anderson is a solid player that simply produces despite a lack of freakish athleticism that other defensive ends in this class possess. His strength on blocks will allow him to rotate inside and out and immediately give the Als enough depth of talent to start a National on the defensive line if necessary.

Round Two, Pick #19 (Territorial Exemption)
Selection: Samuel Thomassin, OL, Laval
Verdict: I Have Some Questions
Thoughts: The Als were slightly hamstrung for options with their territorial pick, but even that doesn’t dismiss my concerns over Thomassin. He is a mountainous man, but he moves very poorly and I don’t see enough pop from him on tape to believe that his success in college was anything more than a product of his size overpowering weaker players. That won’t happen in the CFL.

Round Three, Pick #21
Selection: Zach Wilkinson, OL, Northern Colorado
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: This may be the steal of the draft. Wilkinson is a top tier starting lineman who can play tackle at the CFL level. Concerns over his usually light weight and slight lower body are overblown and will be easily rectified by team nutritionists.

Round Four, Pick #30
Selection: Chris Osei-Kusi, REC, Queen’s
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: I thought a team would overreach for Osei-Kusi given his incredible testing, but the Als stood pat and took him exactly where he should have gone. They have often coveted big bodied receivers in the draft and have missed on most, here they finally get an impact player to contribute in the slot.

Round Five, Pick #39
Selection: Michael Sanelli, DT, Concordia
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Sanelli has a motor that simply doesn’t quit. He’ll be a great rotation piece behind Fabion Foote and give them the option to start him at defensive tackle.

Round Six, Pick #48
Selection: Jeshrun Antwi, RB, Calgary
Verdict: I Have Some Questions
Thoughts: Antwi looks like a professional football player and has impressive tools, but his tape is pedestrian and I don’t think he’ll be the special teamer that teams hope he will be.

Round Seven, Pick #57
Selection: Ben Whiting, LB, Saskatchewan
Verdict: I Have Some Questions
Thoughts: In a weak linebacker class, Whiting’s ideal frame stood out. But he is slow and lacks the strength required to be a special teamer, rarely impressing on tape.

Round Eight, Pick #66
Selection: Cody Cranston, DB, Ottawa
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: Cranston is a solid cover man who fits Montreal’s roster makeup and will feel right at home with his brother already on the roster.

Overall: Got better in areas of desperate need. A couple of reaches drop this draft a little bit.

 

3. Hamilton Tiger-Cats

jesse gibbons

Round One, Pick #2
Selection: Jesse Gibbon, OL, Waterloo
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Hamilton has the best Canadian interior offensive line in the league and the rich get richer here. The Ti-Cats didn’t overthink and took the best player available, upgrading their depth and getting an athlete who will immediately impact in the 6th lineman role that is so integral to June Jones offence.

Round Two, Pick #10
Selection: Nikola Kalinic, FB, York
Verdict: I Understand It
Thoughts: Kalinic is one of my favourite players in the draft and will be a demon on the teams’. This pick is just a bit high for my liking, given that Kalinic projects as an H-back and Hamilton has rarely employed one in their Run and Shoot offence. Essentially replaces the role of Felix Faubert-Lussier, who only had 11 catches last year.

Round Two, Pick #11
Selection: David Ungerer, REC, Idaho
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: From a pick that is hurt by a system, to one elevated by it. Ungerer is a natural born fit for the Run and Shoot and will be a dynamic playmaker under June Jones. I can not think of a more perfect fit between player and team in the draft.

Round Three, Pick #22
Selection: Maleek Irons, RB, Ohio
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: Irons is a one-dimensional north-south runner who will be the perfect #2 back behind Alex Green and fill the role that Mercer Timmis had done in recent years.

Round Three, Pick #24
Selection: Sheridan Lawley, DT, UBC
Verdict: I Have Some Questions
Thoughts: Lawley is an athletic defensive tackle and is unquestionably talented, but the Ti-Cats already have a glut of talented nationals on the defensive interior. I’m not sure Lawley is better than any of the four players at his position already on the roster and have a hard time figuring out how he’ll get on the field.

Round Seven, Pick #58
Selection: Derek Dufault, DE, Manitoba
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: This is tremendous value for a guy who will be a day one presence on special teams and a nice depth option in the Ti-Cats decide to start a National at defensive end. This is the type of high motor guy that the Ti-Cats love.

Round Eight, Pick #65
Selection: Malcolm Campbell, DE, Toronto
Verdict: I Understand It
Thoughts: Campbell is a great athlete with special teams’ upside, but I don’t think he anchors well enough to challenge for a regular defensive spot. This pick creates a similar logjam at defensive end as they already have at tackle.

Round Eight, Pick #67
Selection: Gordon Whyte, LB, St. FX
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: Whyte has athletic challenges, but his technique and game sense absolutely shine on tape. This is a lunch pail player who will outperform his physical limitations.

Overall: The highest top end of any draft. Hit a couple of solid doubles to go along with their homeruns.

 

2. Calgary Stampeders

hergy mayala

Round One, Pick #8
Selection: Hergy Mayala, REC, UConn
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Calgary had a desperate need at receiver following the departure of Lemar Durant, facing a competition between Richard Sindani and Julan Lynch for a starting role. Adding the draft’s most polished receiving prospect solves that problem instantly.

Round Two, Pick #17
Selection: Vincent Desjardins, DL, Laval
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Desjardins is a highly versatile defensive lineman with a high motor who will have an instant rotational impact for the Stamps. He is a perfect fit for what they want to do defensively, and his selection had the added benefit of screwing up the Als’ territorial exemption pick.

Round Three, Pick #28
Selection: Zack Williams, OL, Manitoba
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: With their current depth and plan to start only two Canadians along the o-line, the Stamps have the luxury to be able to develop the raw Williams behind some veterans and allow him to reach his full potential.

Round Four, Pick #31
Selection: Fraser Sopik, LB, Western
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Sopik will be a fantastic depth piece if the Stamps keep MLB a Canadian position, and although I’m not a fan of converting him to safety, he can fit the role that Adam Berger currently fills. Regardless, he will be an absolute demon on special teams.

Round Four, Pick #37
Selection: Jaylan Guthrie, OL, Guelph
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: Another fantastic developmental lineman that the Stamps can afford to season appropriately before seeing the field.

Round Five, Pick #46
Selection: Malcolm Lee, DB, UBC
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: Though he is likely suspended next season, the Stamps have more than enough Canadian depth to be able to wait for a player of Lee’s calibre.

Round Six, Pick #55
Selection: Nicholas Statz, DB, Calgary
Verdict: I Understand It
Thoughts: This is quite high for Statz in my opinion, but Calgary loves their local products and they will be very comfortable with Statz as an undersized special teamer.

Round Seven, Pick #64
Selection: Job Reinhart, LB, Guelph
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: I really like Reinhart as a linebacker, where he’ll provide great depth, but he likely becomes a fullback and becomes the true blocker that the Stamps lost when Rob Cote retired.

Round Eight, Pick #73
Selection: Colton Hunchak, REC, York
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Getting a solid possession receiver with the last pick of the draft is a total steal and Hunchak will upgrade their slot depth significantly.

Overall: A draft with a nose for value. The Stamps addressed every need without ever reaching.

 

1. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

NCAA Football 2018: Idaho State vs North Dakota SEP 21

September 22, 2018: Taken during a NCAA football game between Idaho State and the University of North Dakota at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Russell Hons

Round One, Pick #4
Selection: Drew Desjarlais, OL, Windsor
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: This is a wonderfully easy, par for the course pick. Desjarlais solves their offensive line depth issues instantly and could compete to be a day one starter at center. He is the type of player who will turn few heads throughout his career but can be expected to perform at a consistently high level for a decade.

Round One, Pick #5
Selection: Jonathan Kongbo, DE, Tennesse
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: A bit of an unexpected pick for the Bombers but adds a dynamic rotational weapon to their defensive line. Kongbo has underachieved throughout his college career and is recovering from a serious injury, so taking him at the top of the draft is not without risk but I feel he is uniquely built to excel in the CFL game.

Round Two, Pick #14
Selection: Brady Oliviera, RB, North Dakota
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: To me, this is a selection three years in the making. Forget that Maleek Irons is faster, Oliviera is the far superior back and possesses every tool you look for. He is a high character, local kid who I believe can eventually take over for Andrew Harris with little drop in production from a running, receiving or blocking standpoint.

Round Three, Pick #25
Selection: Connor Griffiths, DT, UBC
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Griffiths gives the Bombers another strong inside presence to push the pocket and great opportunities for their athletic ends. Griffiths will be an instant rotational contributor and gives them the flexibility to start a national at defensive tackle if the situation demands it.

Round Four, Pick #34
Selection: Tavita Asotui Eli, OL, Hawaii
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Eli is a mystery wrapped in an enigma but talent wise you can make a strong case that he is the best Offensive Lineman available. A natural center who was converting to left tackle before a knee injury cost him his senior year and he seemingly retired from football. If the Bombers can convince him to resume his career, this pick will have been a coup d’etat. If they can’t, the risk will have still been worth it in the mid-rounds for a team with some of the league’s best Canadian depth.

Round Five, Pick #43
Selection: Malik Richards, REC, Mount Allison
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: The Bombers have four legitimate starting-calibre National receivers on their roster, so being able to add an explosive big-bodied target this late in the draft is simply a case of the rich getting richer.

Round Six, Pick #52
Selection: Tariq LaChance, DE, Manitoba
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: LaChance is the type of versatile special teams’ athlete that you look for in the draft’s later rounds. The fact that he is local is just extra validation that he could be a long-term contributor in that regard.

Round Seven, Pick #61
Selection: Nick Hallett, DB, Toronto
Verdict: I Love It
Thoughts: Hallett is one of the most under-rated defensive back prospects in the draft and he is an absolute steal in the seventh round. He will compete for a back-up role at safety and could be a dark horse candidate to see the field before year’s end.

Round Eight, Pick #70
Selection: Kerfalla-Emmanuel Exume, DB, Montreal
Verdict: I Like It
Thoughts: A good special teams’ addition without reaching, Exume has enough coverage upside and ball skills to make this a smart pick.

Overall: Everything fits perfectly here. An inside the park homerun of a draft that will help the Bombers for years to come.

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