All nine CFL draft classes, ranked

Last night I graded every selection made in the 2018 CFL draft and I’ve used that information to rank the nine draft classes. One can’t fairly assess any draft until years down the road, so these rankings are to be taken with a grain of salt.

Still, for now, here is how I would rank each team following the selections they made on Thursday evening.

1. B.C. Lions

Ed Hervey nailed his first draft with the Lions. Armed with two first-round picks, B.C. addressed both sides of the line of scrimmage early by drafting Rice’s Peter Godber and Georgia State’s Julien Laurent. Godber could be a day-one starter at guard, while Laurent is the undisputed number-one defensive tackle in this year’s draft class.

David Mackie is a great add at fullback, while David Knevel — once the consensus top prospects in this year’s draft — was a great value selection at 21st overall. My favourite selection of B.C.’s was Wilfred Laurier defensive back Isaiah Guzylak-Messam at 34th overall — he’s long, fast, and versatile.

The bill for this year’s draft class will come due next May — the Lions gave up their 2019 first-round pick in Wednesday’s trade with Winnipeg — but, for now, the Lions have to be happy with their haul.

2. Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The Ticats paid a heavy price to acquire the first overall pick in this year’s draft, but they came away with an impressive group of selections.

Mark Chapman is the most polished national receiving prospect to come along in years and he’s expected to contribute immediately in June Jones’ run-and-shoot offence. Darius Ciraco, though not a probable day-one starter, should develop nicely into a starting role at either centre or guard.

One of Thursday’s best value selections came when the Ticats drafted Ottawa defensive back Jackson Bennett early in the second round. Bennett, who was rumoured to be in play as high as fourth overall, is a tremendous athlete with the potential to slot in at safety, cornerback or even strong-side linebacker. Simon Fraser receiver Justin Buren was also a nice value pick in the fifth round.

3. Montreal Alouettes

Trey Rutherford is an excellent addition to Montreal’s aging offensive line. Given that he is currently without an NFL opportunity, the Alouettes should be able to get Rutherford under contract quickly and have him contribute immediately as the club’s sixth offensive lineman.

Central Washington’s Bo Banner, the draft’s top pass rusher, fills a depth need behind free agent addition Jamaal Westerman, while Western’s Jean-Gabriel Poulin, Dartmouth’s Ryder Stone, and Toronto’s Paul Kozachuk should play key depth roles in Montreal this season.

One thing that hurts the Alouette’s draft class is the lack of an impact receiver, a position of need for a club that may choose to start national George Johnson at field-side wide receiver.

4. Calgary Stampeders

Local boy Ryan Sceviour was a great first-round pick for a team that lost two talented Canadian offensive linemen to retirement this off-season (centre Pierre Lavertu and tackle Dan Federkeil). Sceviour won’t need long before he’s ready to contribute as the club’s sixth offensive lineman or potentially as a starter.

While I didn’t love the club’s selection of McMaster linebacker Eric Mezzalira in the second round, I thought the late-round additions of Alberta offensive lineman Justin Lawrence and Regina running back Atlee Simon were shrewd. I see Lawrence as a future starter at centre, while Simon is a smooth-running ball carrier and receiver.

Western offensive lineman David Brown could make an impact if he returns to health from a torn ACL, while Gabriel Ferraro — the only kicker selected on Thursday evening — will provide some competition for Rob Maver and Rene Parades in training camp.

5. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Bombers used the 2018 CFL draft to overhaul their national talent at the receiver position. Rashaun Simonise is a polarizing figure — he was arguably the most naturally gifted athlete available on Thursday evening, but some question his character. Winnipeg will look to veterans Weston Dressler and Adarius Bowman to keep Simonise focused on becoming the best receiver that he can be.

McMaster’s Daniel Petermann, a player the Bombers strongly considered in the second round, was a nice value pick at the end of the third round, while Montreal offensive lineman Arnaud Gendron-Dumouchel could be a steal in the fourth.

Laval receiver Tyrone Pierre and Queen’s defensive back Jacob Firlotte are nice depth additions who will look to make the club by contributing on special teams.

6. Ottawa Redblacks

Selecting Alberta’s Mark Korte, the draft’s most athletic offensive lineman, at fourth overall was a shrewd move by Ottawa, a team that has now drafted an offensive lineman in the first round of four consecutive drafts.

I felt the Redblacks selected Laval receiver Marco Dubois a little bit too high at thirteen, but he’ll make an immediate contribution on special teams. One of my top picks of the night came in the third round when Ottawa landed Guelph’s Andrew Pickett, a player I’m sure they were surprised to still find available at 22nd overall.

Concordia linebacker Mickael Cote makes for a nice depth selection, while Carleton defensive end Kene Onyeka will forgo the CFL to return to school for his final year of USports eligibility in 2019.

7. Edmonton Eskimos

Edmonton made an excellent selection at tenth overall in Wilfrid Laurier defensive back Godfrey Onyeka. He has the potential to slot in at field-side cornerback, safety or weak-side linebacker, all of which are national positions in Edmonton’s starting line-up.

Jordan Beaulieu was also a great pick at 24th overall. A rangy safety out of Western, some scouts see Beaulieu as a CFL starter in the not-too-distant future. Acadia’s Gabriel Bagnell could be a quality depth piece, while Western’s Alex Taylor may get a look at running back.

What hurts Edmonton’s draft class is the lack of a first or second-tier offensive lineman. The Esks have a lot of talented hogs under contract, but, for a team that would like to start four or five Canadians on the line, adding a player like David Knevel or Andrew Pickett would have improved the overall quality of this draft class.

8. Toronto Argonauts

The Argos got the best player available in Thursday’s draft when they used the ninth overall pick to select Ryan Hunter out of Bowling Green. The issue is that Hunter, currently a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, may never take a snap in the CFL. There’s nothing wrong with drafting a ‘futures’ player, but ninth overall is pretty early to do so.

I’m not convinced that Nelkas Kwemo has the athleticism to be an impact player at the CFL level, while Regis Cibasu won’t join the Argos until the 2019 season while he completes his USports degree and eligibility.

Laval fullback Simon Gingras-Gagnon could provide some nice depth behind Declan Cross, while Kent State’s Kain Anzovino was one of the top long snappers available.

9. Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Riders entered Thursday evening with just two selections in the draft’s top four rounds. Considering Saskatchewan’s immediate depth needs, the decision to select Dakoda Shepley out of UBC at fifth overall was a head-scratcher. Shepley, now a member of the New York Jets, won’t report to Regina until 2019 — if ever. With talents like Godfrey Onyeka, Jackson Bennett, Ryan Sceviour, and Darius Ciraco still on the board at fifth overall, the risk outweighs the reward for Saskatchewan’s top pick.

Linebacker Micah Teitz was a good positional fit for the Riders, while York offensive lineman Christopher Smith comes as a no-risk tackle prospect at 63rd overall. I’m interested to see if the Riders convert Mathieu Breton, a 6’7 defensive tackle out of Bishop’s, to the offensive side of the ball come training camp.

The odds were stacked against Saskatchewan from the beginning given the club’s lack of picks (five), but I’m not sure Chris Jones and company maximized the value of the selections they had.