Thursday’s CFL draft is almost upon us, so it’s time for my final mock draft.
1. Toronto Argonauts — OL Zach Wilkinson, Northern Colorado
I’m sticking with Wilkinson as my first overall pick. He’s visited Toronto privately — one of four offensive linemen to do so — and is a perfect fit for the Argonauts.
Wilkinson is a three-year NCAA starter who is physical, smooth, and smart. He projects as a CFL guard.
Toronto is fast-aging along the offensive line with starters Chris Van Zeyl, Tyler Holmes, and Ryan Bomben all over the age of 30. Wilkinson would inject some much-needed youth into that group while also providing cap relief when he’s ready to start.
2. Hamilton Tiger-Cats — REC Brayden Lenius-Dickey, New Mexico
The Ticats use their top pick on an NCAA receiver for the second consecutive year. Hopefully they don’t botch the contract negotiations with this one, too.
Lenius-Dickey has an impressive frame at six-foot-five and 243 pounds. He can play wideout, slotback, fullback, H-back, tight end, and will be a beast on special teams. Teams are salivating over the opportunity to draft this NCAA product, driving his stock up all the way to second overall.
3. Edmonton Eskimos — DL Jonathan Kongbo, Tennessee
Kongbo would be in the NFL had it not been for the torn ACL he suffered in October. The Tennessee product is an excellent athlete with a remarkable wingspan at six-foot-six and 270 pounds.
Scouts see the Surrey, B.C. native as a versatile defender who could contribute at defensive end or as a three-technique. Kongbo will make the perfect rotational player for starting defensive end Kwaku Boateng when he’s healthy.
4. Winnipeg Blue Bombers — REC Justin McInnis, Arkansas State
McInnis is considered by many to be the best receiver prospect in the draft. He produced respectably at the NCAA level, tested well, and has a great frame at six-foot-four and 212 pounds. He checks every box.
McInnis has mini-camp invites from the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans after tearing up the Sun Belt Conference. This would be a nice pick, especially with the Bombers potentially starting three Canadian receivers this year.
5. Winnipeg Blue Bombers — OL Drew Desjarlais, Windsor
The Bombers lost grit and athleticism when Sukh Chungh left for B.C. in free agency. Chungh was more polished coming out of Calgary four years ago than Desjarlais is now but the nastiness and athleticism is there.
Desjarlais is a physical run blocker with a power-oriented game, making him a perfect fit in Winnipeg. With time the Lancer standout should develop the pass protection side of his game to become a well-rounded guard.
6. Saskatchewan Roughriders — OL Jesse Gibbon, Waterloo
Gibbon spent the 2018 season protecting Tre Ford’s blindside at left tackle but will play guard at the CFL level. He’s smooth, smart, and athletic. Multiple people I’ve spoken with feel Gibbon is the best offensive lineman in the draft.
Gibbon is an underrated athlete who interviewed well at the combine. It shouldn’t be long before the Hamilton native is ready to enter the starting line-up in Riderville.
7. Ottawa Redblacks — OL Kyle Saxelid, UNLV
Saxelid has proven he’s a good athlete, especially for someone who is six-foot-seven and 299 pounds. The three-year starter at UNLV is a true tackle, making him a nice depth piece for Ottawa to pair with Jason Lauzon-Seguin.
The Redblacks have taken an offensive lineman in the first round of five of the six drafts in franchise history. I don’t see that trend ending in 2019.
8. Calgary Stampeders — DL Mathieu Betts, Laval
The reigning Grey Cup champions get arguably the best player in the draft, which hardly seems fair. Betts recently signed an NFL undrafted free agent contract with the Chicago Bears, making this a ‘futures’ selection.
Betts is ultra-quick off the line and used his speed to record 35.5 sacks in 33 games with the Rouge et Or. His frame (six-foot-two, 250 pounds) is perfect for the CFL game and he should only improve as he fills out his lower body.
9. Toronto Argonauts — RB Maleek Irons, Ohio
The Chilliwack, B.C. native is fast, big, and recorded more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 28 games with the Bobcats. An excellent add for a team that could look to start a national running back in the not-too-distant future.
10. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (via Montreal Alouettes) — DL Robbie Smith, Wilfrid Laurier
The six-foot-two, 242-pounder tested well at the combine and has good film. He’s also athletic enough to contribute heavily on special teams, reminding some of Tiger-Cat defensive end Connor McGough.
11. Hamilton Tiger-Cats — OL Alex Fontana, Kansas
The six-foot-one, 298-pound Fontana becomes the centre of the future in Steeltown. The Toronto native looked good at his pro day and has all the tools to become a solid CFL starter.
12. Edmonton Eskimos — REC Kaion Julien-Grant, St. FX
A big-bodied play-maker who ran a 4.49-second forty-yard dash at the CFL national combine. Julien-Grant could make an impact as a rookie at both receiver and in the return game — two areas of need for the Esks.
13. Montreal Alouettes (via. B.C. Lions) — DL Nate Anderson, Missouri
Anderson didn’t test brilliantly at the combine, but scouts love his SEC pedigree. A nice positional fit with Bo Banner and Jean-Samuel Blanc already in the fold in La Belle Province.
14. Winnipeg Blue Bombers — DL Connor Griffiths, UBC
Griffiths wreaked havoc in Canada West this past year, using his leverage and power to toss offensive linemen in run and pass situations. The UBC product is disruptive and plays with a mean streak that Winnipeg covets.
15. Saskatchewan Roughriders — REC Kurleigh Gittens Jr., Wilfrid Laurier
The two-time USports All-Canadian put up staggering numbers at Laurier — 200 receptions for 2,656 yards and four return touchdowns in 31 games. A perfect add for a Saskatchewan team that is thin at Canadian receiver.
16. Montreal Alouettes — DL Vincent Desjardins, Laval
Desjardins did himself a lot of favors at this year’s combine, testing well and putting forth a strong showing in the one-on-ones. The six-foot-one, 260-pound lineman is capable of taking reps at both defensive end and defensive tackle.
17. Calgary Stampeders — QB Michael O’Connor, UBC
The most polished Canadian quarterback prospect in years goes to the same team that drafted Brad Sinopoli and Andrew Buckley. The second round might have been too high for a pivot prospect under the league’s old CBA but if quarterbacks count against the ratio in 2019 — and many people believe they will — this becomes a shrewd pick for the Stamps.
18. Toronto Argonauts — REC Chris Osei-Kusi, Queen’s
Osei-Kusi owned the combine testing with an impressive 19 reps on the bench press and a 4.47-second forty-yard dash. Should be able to play some special teams.
19. Montreal Alouettes — REC Hergy Mayala, UConn
Mayala led the Huskies in receptions in each of the past two seasons and is considered by some to be the top route runner in this year’s draft class. Could be the Alouettes’ best national receiver as a rookie.
20. Toronto Argonauts — DB Hakeem Johnson, Western
One of the top risers from this year’s combine who is also the younger brother of B.C. Lions receiver Shaquille Johnson. The Western product runs well, has a decent frame, and looks comfortable in man coverage.
21. Montreal Alouettes — OL Zack Williams, Manitoba
A stout lineman who displays impressive athleticism for his frame (six-foot-five, 318 pounds). Some teams see him as a project at tackle.
22. Hamilton Tiger-Cats — FB Nikola Kalinic, York
Kalinic is the best fullback in this year’s class, also capable of contributing at H-back and tight end. He can block, run, catch, and contribute heavily on special teams.
23. Toronto Argonauts (via Edmonton Eskimos) — DL Michael Sanelli, Concordia
Sanelli showed up to the combine 30 pounds lighter than he did at the East-West Bowl, leading to strong testing numbers and a nice showing in the one-on-ones. Slippery when rushing the passer.
24. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (via B.C. Lions) — RB Brady Oliveira, North Dakota
Oliveira didn’t run a great forty-yard dash at his pro day, but the tailback should contribute on special teams early in his career with the potential to develop into a rare every-down Canadian running back.
25. Winnipeg Blue Bombers — LB Fraser Sopik, Western
A dominant USports linebacker who may play safety in the CFL. One of the top special teams players available in this year’s draft.
26. B.C. Lions (via Montreal Alouettes & Saskatchewan Roughriders) — OL Jaylan Guthrie, Guelph
There are questions surrounding Guthrie’s departure from Guelph, but the big man has the potential to play tackle at the CFL level. An underrated prospect.
27. Ottawa Redblacks — REC David Ungerer, Idaho
Late addition to the draft who produced well at the NCAA level. Lacks size but brings quickness, solid hands, and some return ability. Agile and smooth.
28. Calgary Stampeders — OL Samuel Thomassin, Laval
A polished offensive lineman who could easily be selected higher than the late third round. Thick and strong but lacks lateral quickness.
29. Toronto Argonauts — FB Gabriel Polan, Sherbrooke
Converted running back who will play fullback at the next level. Can run, catch, block, and play specials — a nice versatile addition.
30. Montreal Alouettes — LB Nate Robinson, Missouri
Big-bodied linebacker (six-foot-three, 232 pounds) who will excel on special teams. Not a great tester but teams love his size and NCAA pedigree.
31. Calgary Stampeders — DL Evan Machibroda, Saskatchewan
Machibroda is going back to school this season but the Engineering student might be the best defensive tackle prospect in the draft.
32. Edmonton Eskimos — OL Shane Richards, Oklahoma State
Richards turned some teams off by refusing to participate in this year’s combine testing, but it’s hard to argue with his six-foot-six, 334-pound frame.
33. B.C. Lions — DB Jamie Harry, Ottawa
Tested poorly at this year’s CFL national combine but scouts love his film. Fills a need with the Lions following the departure of Anthony Thompson in free agency.
34. Winnipeg Blue Bombers — OL Eric Starczala, Guelph
Displayed improved quickness this season after dropping thirty pounds following the 2018 USports East-West Bowl. A university tackle who projects as a CFL guard.
35. Saskatchewan Roughriders — OL Jonathan Harke, Alberta
A stout, undersized offensive lineman who put up 32 reps on the bench at this year’s combine. Could be Saskatchewan’s centre of the future.
36. Ottawa Redblacks — FB Mario Villamizar, Laurier
A physical blocker who can contribute on special teams and a little on offence. Tough as nails.
37. Calgary Stampeders — LB Philippe Dion, Western
Slightly undersized linebacker (five-foot-eleven, 213 pounds) who will contribute on special teams.
38. Toronto Argonauts — DL Tariq LaChance, Manitoba
Decent tester who will be able to contribute as a special teamer and rotational defensive end. Looked solid in the national combine’s one-on-ones.
39. Montreal Alouettes — RB Jamel Lyles, Manitoba
A versatile athlete who can contribute as a ball carrier, receiver, and return man. Reminds some scouts of another former Bison in Anthony Coombs.
40. Edmonton Eskimos — DB Matthew Boateng, Fresno State
Undersized cornerback who ran a lightning-fast 4.38-second forty-yard dash at his pro day. Film is limited, which has some scouts concerned.
41. Edmonton Eskimos — DL Derek Dufault, Manitoba
An underrated prospect who tested respectably at the western regional combine. Scouts like his film against the pass and the run.
42. B.C. Lions — DL Sheriden Lawley, UBC
An athletic big man who played both offensive and defensive line with the Thunderbirds after three years at UConn. Missed the combine due to injury.
43. Winnipeg Blue Bombers — DB Shamar Busby, Southeastern Louisiana
Cover cornerback with an average frame and decent testing numbers. Fills a depth role for the Bombers.
44. Saskatchewan Roughriders — OL Maurice Simba, Concordia
Massive offensive lineman (six-foot-seven, 343 pounds) who will need to improve his conditioning at the pro level.
45. Ottawa Redblacks — DL Charbel Dabire, Wagner
Stout defensive tackle (six-foot-one, 301 pounds) capable of stuffing the run at nose tackle. Quicker than he looks.
46. Calgary Stampeders — REC Colton Hunchak, York
A smooth route runner with a solid pair of hands. Won’t blow you away with his size (five-foot-eleven, 190 pounds) but produced almost 2,000 receiving yards with the Lions.
The best of the rest
These players weren’t listed above but could easily be selected in the top five rounds on Thursday. They are listed alphabetically by position.
QB Chris Merchant, Western; RB Jeshrun Antwi, Calgary; RB Levondre Gordon, Wilfrid Laurier; FB Jeremie Lardi, Sherbrooke; REC Hunter Karl, Calgary; REC Wesley Lewis, Houston Baptist; OL Colin Jerome, Guelph; OL Vincent Roy, Sherbrooke; DL Thomas Grant, Acadia; DL Kyle Wilson, SFU; LB Jacob Janke, York; DB Jean-Sebastien Belisle, Montreal; DB Jacob Dearborn, Carleton