The Ottawa Redblacks broke new ground in the city’s 130 years of pro football. As part of the league’s CFL 2.0 international push, head coach Rick Campbell and offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo were in Mexico City and participated in a draft that solidified the partnership between the CFL and LFA (Mexico’s top football league).
The Redblacks used their three selections (2nd, 11th and 20th) to add a kicker, a receiver and a defensive end to their off-season roster.
— LFA (@LFAmex) January 14, 2019
While it remains to be seen how the CFL’s Mexican foray pans out (or if the players drafted are even on the roster come training camp), let’s take a closer look at who the Redblacks selected in Mexico City:
José Carlos Maltos Diaz (Kicker)
The 27 year old, 5-foot-10, 170 pound Monterrey native has the most pro football experience of Ottawa’s three draftees. Diaz went through training camp and played in two pre-season games for the B.C. Lions in 2018. Before that, he had a brief stint in the NFL with the Saints.
Despite his strong leg and pro résumé, his selection doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense. Canadian Lewis Ward is coming off a record setting rookie season as the Redblacks placekicker and American punter Richie Leone was re-signed earlier this off-season. While nobody should be safe from competition, it’s hard to see Diaz making it out of mini or training camp.
Guillermo Alberto Villalobos Zanabria (Reciever)
Of the three players Ottawa drafted in Mexico City, Zanabria might be the most intriguing. The 5-foot-11, 180 pound receiver averaged 14.6 yards per catch in the 2018 season. He totalled 396 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 27 receptions.
As his highlight tape shows, he runs crisp routes, seems to have soft hands and is capable of making a defender miss once the ball is in his hands. That said, his tape needs to be taken with a grain of salt, given that the level of competition he’s going against is a far cry from the calibre of DBs he would be facing in the CFL.
One thing Zanabria may have working in his favour is that the Redblacks’ receiving corps isn’t as deep as it once was. Diontae Spencer is gone to the NFL and with the uncertainty around Greg Ellingson following his legal issues for failing to provide a breath sample at a RIDE check, there’s suddenly a few openings among Ottawa’s pass catchers.
Maximiliano Soto Esquer (Defensive End)
The 25 year old tips the scales at 240 pounds and played the 2018 season for the Borregos Salvajes México. In high school, Esquer played running back and linebacker before being converted to a defensive linemen.