The CFL’s ratio dictates that each team must start a minimum of seven national players in every game. This means that Canadian players will account for at least 126 starts over the course of an 18-game regular season for each club.
Canadian content is an off-season series I’ve created to look at how each club deployed its starting nationals in 2019 and project how they may do so in 2020. This information can also give us an idea of how teams will approach the draft in May.
Since we’re moving west to east, our series will begin with a look at the B.C. Lions.
B.C.’s national players accounted for 142 starts in 2019, more than ten percent above the required 126. The Lions were the only team in the league to consistently start three Canadian receivers and play a game in which they started ten national players.
Below is a breakdown of how the Lions fielded their national starters last season. Players who appear at multiple positions have been marked with an asterisk.
Shaq Johnson (14)*
Rashaun Simonise (4)*
Jevon Cottoy (16)
Lemar Durant (15)
Shaq Johnson (4)*
Rashaun Simonise (1)*
Brett Boyko (5)
David Foucault (3)*
David Knevel (1)
David Foucault (15)*
Hunter Steward (11)*
Sukh Chungh (8)
Jean-Simon Roy (4)
Hunter Steward (2)*
Andrew Peirson (1)
David Menard (8)
Junior Luke (4)
Jordan Herdman (7)
Isaac Guzylak-Messam (11)
Anthony Thompson (2)*
Dominique Termansen (2)
Anthony Thompson (4)*
As demonstrated by the wide variety of positions listed above, the Lions fielded their Canadians very sporadically in 2019.
Most teams stick with the same national positions over the course of a season, replacing injured players with backups to maintain the same ratio structure. This helps in building consistency on both sides of the football, allowing players to gel.
Having ratio flexibility is great, but B.C. would be wise to focus its Canadian content more in 2020. The team experienced far too much turnover along the offensive line, while the way in which players were deployed on defence didn’t allow for continuity.
Let’s take a look at how the Lions may deploy their starting nationals this upcoming season, starting with the offence.
The Lions should continue starting at least two national receivers in 2020 with Lemar Durant, Shaq Johnson, and Jevon Cottoy still under contract. American pass catchers Bryan Burnham and Dominique Rhymes can be penciled in as starting on the boundary side.
The club should also limit its Canadian starters along the offensive line to guard and centre. Experimenting with nationals at tackle in 2019 didn’t work, which is why B.C. added former Tiger-Cats’ offensive lineman Ryker Mathews in free agency.
2018 first-round pick Peter Godber missed the entire 2019 season due to injury, which is part of the reason the Lions struggled at centre last season. If the Rice product is ready to play in 2020, he could be a solid anchor along the offensive line.
I do not anticipate that B.C. will start a national running back given that John White and Brandon Rutley remain under contract. With that said, Jamel Lyles, Wayne Moore, and Andrew Pocrnic form a respectable trio of Canadian ball carriers capable of starting if called upon.
Defensively, expect the Lions to start at least one national at linebacker. Jordan Herdman-Reed, Isaiah Guzylak-Messam, and Adam Konar have all been starters in the past and there’s ample depth behind them. Kevin Hayes, an American who has drawn comparisons to Adam Bighill, is projected to earn the starting spot at weak-side or middle linebacker.
B.C. will not start a Canadian along the defensive line in 2020, which is a shift from 2019 when David Menard and Junior Luke — both now with the Alouettes — were often found in the starting lineup. Charles Nwoye and Cameron Walker will be primarily (and possibly exclusively) contributors on special teams.
The Lions started two Canadians in the secondary early last season, though they quickly went to an all-American defensive backfield. Derek Jones started sporadically at safety with Winnipeg, while Hakeem Johnson and Jamie Harry are solid prospects at field-side cornerback. Flexibility is always an asset, but I don’t expect to see any nationals starting at defensive back for B.C. in 2020.
The Lions need to focus their Canadian starting positions more in 2020. Here is where I project them starting their seven nationals this upcoming season.
Receiver — Jevon Cottoy, Lemar Durant, Shaq Johnson (3)
Guard — Hunter Steward, Sukh Chungh (2)
Centre — Peter Godber (1)
Linebacker — Jordan Herdman-Reed or Isaiah Guzylak-Messam or Adam Konar (1)