Ranking the nine CFL draft classes

It takes years to fairly judge any particular CFL draft (something I’ve recently done for the 2011, 2012, and 2013 drafts), so the draft rankings below are to be taken with a large grain of salt.

Still, it’s never too early to begin a discussion about which teams may (and I stress the word ‘may’) have come out ahead in Sunday’s draft.

1) B.C. Lions

Rd Pick Pos Player School
1 3 REC Danny Vandervoort McMaster
1 7 DL Junior Luke Montreal
2 16 OL Jeremy Zver Regina
3 24 LB Frederic Chagnon Montreal
4 33 DB Nathaniel Hamlin Carleton
5 42 DL Edward Godin Laval
6 51 REC Dakota Brush Mount Allison
7 60 LB Jordan Herdman Simon Fraser
8 69 REC Mitchell Hillis Saskatchewan
The Lions addressed their two biggest positional needs early in receiver Danny Vandervoort and defensive tackle Junior Luke. Some feel that Vandervoort has already reached his ceiling, but his pro-readiness is an important asset for a B.C. club that recently lost 30-year-old receiver Shawn Gore to retirement.

I also love the additions of Jeremy Zver as a guard/tackle prospect – he’s raw, but he’s got all the physical tools – and Frederic Chagnon and Nate Hamlin as special teamers. We’ll have to see how the Leos bring these kids along, but this looks like a really good haul for B.C with as many as three present/future starters in the mix.

It’ll be interesting to see if Jordan Herdman, once considered a possible first-round talent, contributes to the Lions in some way. His testing numbers at the combine were awful, but he was a tackling machine at SFU.

2) Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Rd Pick Pos Player School
1 1 DL Faith Ekakitie Iowa
1 8 OL Geoff Gray Manitoba
2 15 OL Qadr Spooner McGill
3 23 DB Abubakkar Conteh Grambling State
4 34 K Felix Menard-Briere Montreal
6 50 DL Ian Marouf Guelph
7 59 REC Brendon Thera-Plamondon Calgary
8 68 REC Tylor Henry Alberta

The Bombers added a possible day-one starter in Faith Ekakitie along with two of the best offensive linemen in the draft in Manitoba’s Geoff Gray and McGill’s Qadr Spooner. There is risk associated with the Gray pick – he recently signed with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent – but his selection at eight could end up being the best pick in the draft if he becomes a Bomber at some point over the next two to three years.

Abubakkar Conteh is seen as arguably the best safety of the class, providing instant depth behind sophomore phenom Taylor Loffler. Menard-Briere could end up being an excellent CFL punter, while Ian Marouf is said to have high-round talent if he commits to a higher level of film study and training.

What holds Winnipeg’s draft class out of the top spot is the lack of a solid receiver prospect. With UBC’s Alex Morrison on the board until the fourth round, there was ample opportunity for the club to pick up a national pass catcher. They didn’t.

3) Edmonton Eskimos

Rd Pick Pos Player School
1 5 REC Nate Behar Carleton
2 14 OL Jean-Simon Roy Laval
3 22 LB Chris Mulumba Maine
4 31 DB Jordan Hoover Waterloo
5 40 OL Justin Senior Mississippi State
5 41 DL Kwaku Boateng Wilfred Laurier
6 49 OL Kwabena Asare Carleton
8 67 DL Mark Mackie McMaster

The Eskimos got two home runs early in the draft in Carleton’s Nate Behar and Laval’s Jean-Simon Roy. I see Behar as the CFL’s best receiving prospect in quite some time, while Roy is the perfect player to take over from Justin Sorensen (30) at centre over the next year or two.

I also like the value of Maine’s Christophe Mulumba in the third round, particularly given that the Esks will look to start a Canadian at weak-side linebacker following the free agent addition of Cory Greenwood. Hoover, Boateng, and Mackie will look to make the Esks’ roster as special teamers, while Seattle Seahawk tackle Justin Senior is solid value in the fifth round.

4) Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Rd Pick Pos Player School
1 4 DL Connor McGough Calgary
2 13 OL Braden Schram Calgary
3 21 DL Kay Okafor St. Francis Xavier
5 38 DL Justin Vaughn Fordham
6 46 REC Jacob Scarfone Guelph
7 58 OL Brett Golding Wilfred Laurier
8 66 RB Sean Thomas-Erlington Montreal

I’m skeptical that Calgary’s undersized defensive end Connor McGough (6’0, 245) was worth the draft’s fourth overall pick, but I loved the Ticats’ selections in the second and third rounds.

Braden Schram is a talented guard prospect who had a solid showing at the CFL combine. He’s coming off MCL surgery, so he’ll only get better as he continues to enhance his conditioning. Kay Okafor, meanwhile, is someone who many believe has the highest ceiling of the draft’s CFL-bound defensive tackles — he’s built like a Greek God, but has only been playing football for five years. Given time and coaching, he could be a steal in the third round. Justin Vaughn, a player who some had going as high as the late-first round, could also be a solid depth pick in the fifth.

Like Winnipeg, Hamilton’s draft class suffers from the lack of an impact receiver. Many expected the Tabbies to add local boy Danny Vandervoort at fourth overall, but were beaten to the punch by the Lions.

5) Saskatchewan Roughriders

Rd Pick Pos Player School
1 2 LB Cameron Judge UCLA
2 11 OL Dariusz Bladek Bethune-Cookman
4 30 TE Antony Auclair Laval
4 32 OL Eddie Meredith Western
5 37 REC Mitchell Picton Regina
6 46 OL Danny Sprukulis Toronto
7 55 LB Alexandre Chevrier Sherbrooke
7 57 DL Emmanuel Adusei Carleton
8 64 OL Marc Glaude Montreal

Cameron Judge was the best athlete available in Sunday’s draft, hands down. Should he sign with Saskatchewan (he has a mini-camp invite with the Houston Texans) he could immediately become the Riders’ best special teamer. Judge may also contribute on defence where Saskatchewan will start Henoc Muamba at linebacker.

I also believe Dariusz Bladek was an excellent value pick at eleventh overall. His showing in the one-on-ones at the combine was lackluster, but it’s hard to be critical of a guy with no background in Canadian football who’s a full year removed from the NCAA. I love his physicality at the line of scrimmage and his workmanlike approach to the game.

That’s where Saskatchewan’s draft stops making sense to me. Regina’s Mitchell Picton was a solid value pick in the fifth round with local flavor, but the Riders needed to get more Canadians who can contribute right away. Antony Auclair, now a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, may never play a down in the CFL, while there are questions surrounding Eddie Meredith. With players like Waterloo’s Jordan Hoover, Carelton’s Nathaniel Hamlin, and Fordham’s Justin Vaughn still on the board in the fourth round, the Riders could have gotten a lot more bang for their buck at 30 and 32.

6) Ottawa Redblacks

Rd Pick Pos Player School
1 9 OL Evan Johnson Saskatchewan
2 18 RB Anthony Gosselin Sherbrooke
3 26 DL Eli Ankou UCLA
4 35 RB Louis-Philippe Bourassa Montreal
5 44 DL Mathieu Dupuis Montreal
6 53 REC Austen Hartley Calgary
7 62 RB Ed Ilnicki Alberta
8 71 OL Jordan Filippelli Calgary

Saskatchewan’s Evan Johnson needs some seasoning, but some scouts believe he has enough athleticism to play tackle at the CFL level. This is a huge asset for an Ottawa club that plans to start four Canadian offensive linemen in 2017 and beyond.

Gosselin, who ran a 4.73 40-yard dash at the combine at 250 pounds, could be the next Patrick Lavoie, while Eli Ankou will be the best defensive lineman of the draft should he ever come north. Ankou is currently focused on making the Houston Texans 53-man roster, but getting him in the late-third round is good value.

Calgary’s Jordan Filippeli, once considered a possible top-20 pick, could be an excellent late-round selection if he manages to shed weight and improve his upper-body strength.

7) Montreal Alouettes

Rd Pick Pos Player School
2 12 DL Fabion Foote McMaster
3 20 DB Dondre Wright Henderson State
4 29 REC Alexander Morrison UBC
5 39 OL Zach Annen Carleton
6 45 REC Malcolm Carter Ottawa Sooners
7 56 DB Ty Cranston Ottawa
8 65 TE Oumar Toure Sherbrooke

Foote would have been considered for the first overall pick in the draft if he wasn’t undersized at 6’0, 276. Still, he should be able to contribute right away for an Alouette squad that is expected to start nationals Keith Shologan and Jabar Westerman at defensive tackle.

Wright and Morrison are solid value picks and have the potential to develop into starters. Some scouts preferred Morrison to McMaster’s Danny Vandervoort and Carleton’s Nate Behar, but missing most of his senior season due to injury hurt his draft stock.

Failing to select one of the draft’s first or second-tier offensive linemen is what holds back Montreal’s class the most. You can never have too many quality hogs, even for a club that’s reducing its number of starting Canadian offensive linemen from five to three in 2017.

8) Calgary Stampeders

Rd Pick Pos Player School
1 6 DL Randy Colling Gannon
2 17 REC Julan Lynch Saskatchewan
3 25 DB Tunde Adeleke Carleton
4 28 LB Ante Milanovic-Litre Simon Fraser
5 43 OL Felix Gacusana Jr. Simon Fraser
6 52 DL Alexandre Gagnon Sherbrooke
7 61 DB Adam Laurensse Calgary
8 70 REC Richard Sindani Regina

The Stamps drafted a veteran at sixth overall in Gannon’s Randy Colling. Colling, 27, has been an Arena League star since being released by the Buffalo Bills in 2014 with whom he tried to make the club as an offensive lineman. The pick makes sense for a Calgary team that’s playing to win now — Colling’s already reached his ceiling and he fills a position of need, given that Junior Turner tore his ACL in the Grey Cup.

After that, the rest of the Stamps’ draft class will take time to develop. Saskatchewan’s Julan Lynch was a surprise selection in the second round, while Tunde Adeleke, primary a return specialist, will have to prove he can be a difference-maker in the pros despite an underwhelming 4.58 40-time.

Like Montreal, Calgary’s class suffers from the lack of a first or second-tier offensive line prospect. Simon Fraser’s Felix Gacusana Jr. may prove he can play, but his 6’2 frame may limit him to playing centre.

9) Toronto Argonauts

Rd Pick Pos Player School
2 10 OL Mason Woods Idaho
3 19 DL Evan Foster Manitoba
4 27 DB Robert Woodson Calgary
5 36 LB Nakas Onyeka Wilfred Laurier
7 54 LB Justin Herdman Simon Fraser
8 63 DL Matthew Carson Calgary

In fairness to Toronto, it’s tough to put together a great draft class without a first round pick. Mason Woods is a potential ratio-breaking tackle who some expected to go as high as second overall, but he’s likely the only potential future starter in this group.

Manitoba’s Evan Foster has a great motor for special teams, but 19th overall is too high for the undersized rush end (5’11, 225). Expect Robert Woodson out of Calgary to make the Argos as a depth safety and special teamer, while Nakas Onyeka has a shot to make the club running around on specials.

Despite a poor 2016 season, one could argue the greatest strength of the Argos’ roster is the quality of their Canadian talent. This should help make-up for what is a decent, yet underwhelming 2017 draft class.

John Hodge

John Hodge

John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.
John Hodge
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John Hodge
About John Hodge (229 Articles)
John Hodge is a lifelong follower of the CFL who has been writing about the league since 2014. He is a two-time finalist of the Jon Gott lookalike contest.

29 Comments on Ranking the nine CFL draft classes

  1. mrnehnehincognito // May 10, 2017 at 11:49 am //

    With honorable mention to Laval UofC is a football factory. That combined with the players the Stamps raise for the CFL really makes you wonder if the football gods have blessed the haloed grounds of McMahon stadium. Perhaps a must see place for CFL enthusiasts across this country.

    • greenrider89 // May 10, 2017 at 12:56 pm //

      mrincognito, you were quick to condemn Chris Jones and the Roughriders’ 2017 draft class, yet, I cannot imagine how lowly you must now feel when the rankings from Mr. Hodge have been revealed and the Stampeders rank near the bottom in this year’s CFL draft. It must be rather embarrassing for one of the more polished clubs to rank this low among one of 3downnation’s analysts, yet the Roughriders’ draft class ranks higher than four other clubs including (Yikes) the Stampeders. Your thoughts (with a little egg stained across your face)…

      • mrnehnehincognito // May 10, 2017 at 1:23 pm //

        I agree it wasn’t the best draft please see my criticism below. However we may have the most starter ready player too!

        • Honestly, I believe it’s much too early as others have stated to rank a player, players, etc. We’ve both been around the block far too long to understand the early ramifications of a draft class. Only time will tell. Realistically, the first two rounds are the most vital in the CFL. Usually, players after the first few rounds are there to fill up a roster — Not in all cases, but in most.

          • mrnehnehincognito // May 10, 2017 at 2:34 pm //

            That is very true greenrider89. If Bladek/ Judge become stars and Auclair comes north. 3-5 years from now people could be talking about this draft being historic for riders..Then again.They may not.

  2. mrnehnehincognito // May 10, 2017 at 12:29 pm //

    Just for Rowdy ,I will state my criticism of the Stampeders first.

    The Stampeders needed to draft more on the o-line.
    I know it wasn’t the richest o-line draft but Calgary should have taken (as an example) a guy like Jordan Filipelli. Considering they took a DB at 7 this is further exasperating to me. In late rounds given the choice between an O-lineman and DB I’d take the O-Line anyday! DBs this late are likely never going to be able to contribute as starters and are disasters in backup rolls when forced into the starting lineup and tend to be marginal ST players.
    That’s not a knock it’s just the trend.

    Further I don’t know why we sacrificed the 34th pick to move up 2 spots in get Colling. Not likely he would have gone at 6 or 7 as he was not on many radars so it was unnecessary IMO .
    Having said that, Colling at 6 was a great choice. The most ready player of the draft and he fills a need with the Turner injury. If Turner can get back in this year it will increase ratio options even further. He might just be the Mike Singleton of 2017.
    Other than that time will tell.

    • greenrider89 // May 10, 2017 at 1:01 pm //

      Just suggesting, but Dariusz Bladek was still available at No: 6.

      • mrnehnehincognito // May 10, 2017 at 1:28 pm //

        Good point greenrider89 and I though of that too. That wouldn’t have been a bad choice either. Colling provides a more immediate need. Lets face it. It’s win Grey Cup now attitude in Calgary. But lack of O-line in this draft could be a problem in the next few years as could it this year if major injuries occur again.

  3. I have to agree with TSN panel that BC, Winnipeg & Edmonton fared best. Sunderland made a difference already & signed undrafted RB Augustine today, OT Colin Kelly the other day. Apparently Sunderland says he has 71 players signed but only 52 or so announced. Only Reilly safe so really curious to see what’s happening in the igloo. I wouldn’t be too concerned about Calgary who didn’t have a lot of needs & never underestimate Hufnagel. That’s the guy Riders were after & should have got but why would Huf leave? As for the Riders, consensus is the 1st 2 picks were great & then……..what the heck happened???? Nice reviews, can’t really disagree with your take, John. Good job.

    • greenrider89 // May 10, 2017 at 1:05 pm //

      I hope you’re not one of those that predicts three years too early and finds out three years later.

  4. While it gives us something to talk aboot while waiting for the season to start, I place little value in grading draft classes days after its taken place. The only valid grades and discussions will start at the end of this season, and for years after that. Having said that, I don’t see any one team having had that much better a draft than anyone else, nor did anyone mess the bed. That’s indicative of this years draft, aboot 20 solid men, with no one (immediately available) standing heads above the rest. C’mon season start already!

    • greenrider89 // May 10, 2017 at 1:23 pm //

      The only things early prognostications provide are bragging rights and a tangent of nastiness amongst all CFL fans. But I enjoy it…to a degree.

  5. Totally off topic. If I was Commissioner I would have the regular season start the beginning of June, and have the Grey Cup on Canadian Thanksgiving Sunday. What say you all?

    • greenrider89 // May 10, 2017 at 1:20 pm //

      Interesting with your take on our season ending on a Canadian national stat the previous month. I’ve always questioned the logic of the CFL to conclude the season on a cold, blustery, end of November Sunday when ending the season a month earlier would give CFL fans and TV viewers a more enjoyable game to witness. Funny, rather sad, isn’t it?

    • mrnehnehincognito // May 10, 2017 at 2:15 pm //

      Grain I see the logic behind your thinking, a few thoughs:
      Thanksgiving weekend is a nice idea but it’s also a big travel weekend which could affect Gray Cup interest.
      In 2017 from first week of June until Thanksgiving is 20 weeks. Even without the bye weeks this wouldn’t be long enough to complete the season. To play Grey cup TG long weekend and still have the byes (which are necessary) would mean training camps would need to start mid April with preseason late April-early May and regular season early-mid May which still posses weather issues.
      Secondly you would be going head to head with Stanley Cup playoffs. I remember 2004 Calgary’s preseason home game was postponed because it coincided with game 6 of Calgary Tampa Bay Stanley Cup Final. Further it would coincide with TSN’s NBA playoffs coverage which TSN wouldn’t want.
      Lastly, weather is just an excuse people give for not going. If 50,000 plus Canadians have no problem watching hockey games outdoors in minus 30 in middle of winter Canadians can watch CFL playoff football in November.
      I’m a traditionalist and like the season as it is. End of Grey Cup is my beginning of the Christmas season.

  6. 1) Those picking early in the draft should always have better drafts than those picking late.
    2) I understand the low rating on the Stampeders draft based on what the mock drafts were saying. However, it is hard to ignore the fact that the Stampeders record over the years suggests they know far more than the mock drafts suggest. I have a tough time believing that this draft will be the 8th ranked in 4 years when most of the questions will be asked. I don’t think Huf has ever had a draft that would have been ranked in the bottom half of the league – even though they all should be because he is picking at the bottom every year.

    • mrnehnehincognito // May 10, 2017 at 2:18 pm //

      Lets remember Mike Singleton last year! Colling could be the same for us this year

  7. Greenrider everyone predicting now is picking 3 years early from what happens 3 years from now – not sure what your point is. As for Bladek, the Stamps could have got Woods @ that point &, for what it’s worth, he was rated higher. We’ll see how that works out. It’s fine that Jones thinks Bladek was the best OL in the draft but he thought the same about St. John. As I mentioned once before, it is noteworthy that 3 OL from St. John’s class were Rookie of the Year nominees from their teams last year, starting a # of games & contributing while St. John couldn’t find a spot on a bad Rider OL & is likely a backup this year. So if one doubts Jones’ assessment of Bladek as the best OL available, evidence from last year may suggest otherwise.

    • Funny though that he wasn’t about to and didn’t pay him the going #1 pick’s salary, hence why he sat out and missed a bunch of camp. I don’t think there was any illusion that he was the next Ben Heenan.

  8. mrnehnehincognito // May 10, 2017 at 2:48 pm //

    IMHO Bladek is a better prospect than Woods. Woods is a total shot in the dark as far as I’m concerned.

  9. Antlerman // May 10, 2017 at 2:51 pm //

    Its entertaining to listen to these writers opinions but lets face it they are just guessing on who did the best nobody can actually see in the future . And if they were correct on picking a winner or who going to be the best football player in the future they wouldn’t be writing they be working for a football team in the NfL.
    So remember its opinion not fact with these columns

  10. Ronald Tuthill // May 10, 2017 at 4:25 pm //

    I agree that drafting a DB late is risky but sometimes you great a diamond in the rough. In the 2013 draft Hamilton selected Mike Daly in the 6th round and he returned to school that year but the next year he made the team and has backed up admiraly at safety and played darn good when Butler was injured and now has had his contract extended through to the end of the 2018 season. Not bad for a 6th round draft pick.

  11. mrnehnehincognito // May 11, 2017 at 12:18 am //

    Can someone tell me. Is Riders preseason home game in Saskatoon or new stadium?

    • The Riders conduct preseason camp in Saskatoon, but travel back to Regina for games.

  12. These experts are funny. Would anyone believe a guy who tells you your 6/49 ticket is better than the other guy’s 6/49 ticket ???

    I get it. It is fun during the LONG off season but it is all pixie dust.

  13. Just love it – Slant.

  14. Mr Curling // May 11, 2017 at 11:57 am //

    When the whole line is bad, a rookie will also be bad. If you take out your worst lineman and replace him with a star, everyone else will look better. Same thing on defence, when Chick was in his prime you had to use 2 guys on him, so the rest of the line looked way better. If our new left tackle and Labatte work out then the right guard will look better whoever it is

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