John Hodge’s 2020 CFL mock draft 1.0

Photo courtesy: University of Alberta

The CFL’s national combine was scheduled to take place next week, which is why I prepared this mock draft. Sadly, the combine was recently cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its unlikely the event will be rescheduled prior to the draft.

I did a pre-combine mock draft last year and nailed a few selections, including two of the top four picks. Others were off by a round or two, but I was glad to give our readers a general sense of how teams viewed prospects heading into the combine.

This year’s draft isn’t particularly deep, but there are some excellent prospects who will be available to teams across the league. Stay tuned to 3DownNation over the coming weeks to learn more about them.

Round One

1. Calgary Stampeders (via Ottawa) — OL Carter O’Donnell, Alberta

O’Donnell played brilliantly at the U Sports East-West Bowl last May and again at the Shrine Bowl in January. The six-foot-five, 305-pound blocker is starting to garner NFL interest, which may result in him falling down CFL draft boards.

For now, however, O’Donnell is the best player in the draft outside of Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore and Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool, both of whom will be early-round NFL draft picks next month. The Red Deer native is athletic, violent, and a sound technician. He could probably hold his own at tackle in the CFL, though he would be dominant at guard.

Some scouts consider O’Donnell the best U Sports offensive line prospect of the last three to five years, ranking him above players like Sean McEwen, Sukh Chungh, Geoff Gray, Dakoda Shepley, Mark Korte, and Drew Desjarlais. That’s high praise.

2. Toronto Argonauts — OL Tomas Jack-Kurdyla, Buffalo

Jack-Kurdyla was a four-year starter at guard for the Bulls who recently performed well at his pro day. The six-foot-three, 300-pounder is an athletic, power-oriented blocker who is accustomed to playing in a relatively run-heavy offence.

Unlike many NCAA offensive line prospects, Jack-Kurdyla doesn’t need to shed weight to play in the CFL and is considered one of the draft’s most pro-ready blockers. Given his abilities and the proximity of his school, selecting Jack-Kurdyla would be a shrewd pick for the Argos.

3. B.C. Lions — DL Mason Bennett, North Dakota

B.C. needs help along the offensive line, but drafting a top-tier pass rusher might be too tempting for the Lions to pass up. Bennett has a pro-ready frame at six-foot-four and 255 pounds and should contribute early in his career as a rotational defensive end and special teamer.

The Winnipeg native recorded 128 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, and one forced fumble in 43 games with the Fighting Hawks. His dominant junior season — during which he made a team-leading nine sacks — put him on the NFL’s radar, though the cancellation of his pro day will make it trickier to get a contract down south.

4. Edmonton Eskimos — OL Kétel Assé, Laval

The Eskimos covet size along the offensive line and Assé has plenty of it at six-foot-six and 311 pounds. The Rouge et Or left tackle has already drawn some NFL interest, which may affect how CFL teams view his stock.

Assé performed well at his pro day, which eliminated concerns about his mobility. While the native of Saint-Marc, Haiti may be capable of sliding into the guard position, he would optimally remain at tackle. It’s been three years since the Rouge et Or produced a first-round draft pick along the offensive line — expect Assé to end that trend.

5. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (via Montreal) — DL Michael Hoecht, Brown

The six-foot-three, 290-pound defender is a load along the line, capable of rushing the passer and stuffing the run. Hoecht is arguably the most impactful defensive lineman in the draft, including interior players and edge rushers.

Ted Laurent, 32, isn’t going to play forever and the Ticats need to find his heir apparent at nose tackle. Hoecht — possessing a rare combination of size, athleticism, and smarts — could be the club’s future at the position.

6. Ottawa Redblacks (via Calgary) — DB Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Montreal

Marcel Desjardins has used his top pick on an offensive lineman in almost every draft since Ottawa’s first in 2013. The lone exception was in 2014 when the Redblacks traded the first overall pick to Calgary and selected defensive back Antoine Pruneau at fourth overall.

History has a tendency of repeating itself, which is why I believe Dequoy will be heading to the nation’s capital. The six-foot-three, 198-pound defender — who recently ran a brilliant 40-yard dash — is a difference-maker in the secondary who will be a CFL special teams demon from day-one.

7. Saskatchewan Roughriders — LB Jordan Williams, East Carolina

The native of Fayetteville, North Carolina was recently added to the draft via residency rules. Williams was a three-year starter with the Pirates who recorded 252 total tackles in 45 games. He graduated in 2017 and had a tryout with the San Fransisco 49ers, though he was not offered a contract.

That didn’t prevent Williams from lighting up the Ontario regional combine last week with a 4.48 forty-yard dash, 39-inch vertical jump, and 20 reps on the bench press. The five-foot-eleven, 218-pound linebacker is undersized for the NFL, but a perfect fit in the wide open Canadian game.

8. Hamilton Tiger-Cats — DL Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund, Southeastern Louisiana

Adeyemi-Berglund is a rare prospect in that he was impactful as a starter and on special teams in college. The Dartmouth, Nova Scotia native spent the past two seasons terrorizing quarterbacks while also playing upback on punt team, adjusting formations and calling fakes.

The six-foot-two, 243-pound defensive end recorded 16 sacks over his junior and senior seasons, three of which came against Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow of LSU. Hamilton would benefit from Adeyemi-Berglund’s versatility, providing depth on defence and special teams.

9. Toronto Argonauts (via Winnipeg) — DL Cameron Lawson, Queen’s

The Argos lost an all-star to free agency in veteran Cleyon Laing, leaving the club thin at the defensive tackle position. Lawson would provide the club with a powerful interior defender capable of potentially developing into a starter.

Lawson dropped weight heading into his senior season, checking in at six-foot-three and 280 pounds. Though he continued to draw constant double-teams, the native of Caledon, Ontario still made an impact along the defensive line with seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in eight games.

Round Two

10. Ottawa Redblacks — REC Dejon Brissett, Virginia

The six-foot-two, 200-pound target has little production over the past two seasons, but a strong argument could still be made that he’s the best receiver in the draft. Brissett brings speed and route-running skills along with return experience from his four-year tenure at Richmond.

11. Toronto Argonauts — REC Brendan O’Leary-Orange, Nevada

The son of former all-star CFL running back Doyle Orange has a great frame at six-foot-four and 210 pounds and brings NCAA Division I pedigree. Though not dominant as a senior, O’Leary-Orange had excellent sophomore season, making 39 catches for 618 yards and four touchdowns.

12. B.C. Lions — OL Dylan Giffen, Western

Giffen has a massive frame at six-foot-eight and 335 pounds, which is perfect for a team that covets size along the offensive line. The blocker has drawn comparisons to former Mustang and current CFL all-star Shane Bergman; if his career follows a similar trajectory, this pick will be a slam dunk for the Lions.

13. Edmonton Eskimos — LB Jack Cassar, Carleton

The Esks have virtually no depth at national linebacker, which is a problem the club needs to address. There are some concerns about how well he can run, but Cassar posted elite production with the Ravens with 157 total tackles, eight sacks, and one interception in 31 games.

14. Montreal Alouettes — LB/DB Adam Auclair, Laval

Danny Maciocia was forced to part ways with Boseko Lokombo and Chris Ackie this off-season due to the salary cap. Finding players capable of rotating at linebacker and safety is tough, but Auclair is capable of filling both roles while adding some local flavour.

15. Calgary Stampeders — DL Sam Acheampong, Wilfrid Laurier

The six-foot-four, 275-pound pass rusher showed versatility with the Golden Hawks, slotting in as a 3-4 defensive end and 4-3 defensive tackle. Calgary needs to enhance its depth behind starter Derek Wiggan and Acheampong is the perfect player to fill that need.

16. Montreal Alouettes (via Saskatchewan) — REC Rysen John, Simon Fraser

You can’t teach size and, at six-foot-six, John has it in spades. The Alouettes need to improve their talent at national receiver and the Vancouver native is coming off a dominant season with the Clan, recording 861 yards and ten touchdowns on 53 receptions.

17. Hamilton Tiger-Cats — REC Tyler Ternowski, Waterloo

Ternowski lacks elite size but is one of the most-productive receivers in OUA history with 3,068 yards and 26 touchdowns with the Warriors. Hamilton needs to add national talent at the receiver position and Ternowski brings the extra bonus of being a local product.

18. Winnipeg Blue Bombers — OL Chris Gangarossa, Wagner

The Grey Cup champions don’t have any pressing draft needs, but a lack of selections means they have little room for error. Selecting a six-foot-five, 295-pound blocker with a propensity for violence seems like a solid pick.

19. Ottawa Redblacks (territorial selection) — QB Nathan Rourke, Ohio

The two-time Jon Cornish Trophy winner is a dual-threat pivot with the perfect skill set for the Canadian game. He may get a look in the NFL, but many expect Rourke to eventually end up north of the border. There’s no better fit for him than Ottawa where Paul LaPolice is looking to develop a young quarterback.

20. Toronto Argonauts (territorial selection) — DB Noah Hallett, McMaster

His older brother, Nick, had a strong rookie season with Winnipeg in 2019 but Noah is the athletic freak of the family. A strong candidate to win the vertical jump and broad jump at the national combine before its cancellation, Noah will be an impact special teams player in 2020.

Round Three

21. Calgary Stampeders (via Ottawa) — LB Bailey Feltmate, Acadia

The Stampeders got a gem last season when they drafted Western linebacker Fraser Sopik at 31st overall. Drafting Feltmate in the third round of this year’s draft would also be a shrewd move given his athleticism at six-foot-two and 230 pounds.

22. Toronto Argonauts — FB Liam O’Brien, Saint Mary’s

Toronto doesn’t have a need at fullback, but O’Brien will make a valuable addition for whichever team secures his rights. The converted quarterback put up 996 receiving yards with the Huskies on 65 receptions while generating nine touchdowns during his tenure with the club.

23. B.C. Lions — K/P Marc Liegghio, Western

Liegghio is capable of performing all three specialist roles — placekicking, punting, and kicking off — and holds the U Sports record for most all-time field goals kicked. Sergio Castillo may return to the Lions following a stint in the XFL, but drafting Liegghio would still be a wise move for B.C.

24. Edmonton Eskimos — LB Aaron Chabaylo, Alberta

The Esks continue to rebuild their depth at national linebacker with the addition of this local product from Sherwood Park, Alberta. Chabaylo doesn’t run at an elite level, but there aren’t many linebackers around who measure in at six-foot-four and 230 pounds.

25. Montreal Alouettes — OL Jesse Lawson, Carleton

The native of Vancouver, B.C. played tackle with the Ravens but projects as a CFL guard. The six-foot-six, 305-pound blocker is raw, but brings legitimate upside for a team willing to invest time and energy in his development.

26. Calgary Stampeders — DB Matt McConnell, Saint Mary’s

McConnell has been out of football for two years due to a doping violation from November 2017. There aren’t many national defensive backs who move as well as he does at six-foot-two and 210 pounds, however, which means he could easily be a mid-round pick next month.

27. Hamilton Tiger-Cats — OL Coulter Woodmansey, Guelph

Hamilton adds a local offensive lineman who has received rave reviews from the Gryphons’ coaching staff. Though not an elite athlete, the six-foot-four, 314-pound blocker is punishing in the run game and plays right to the whistle.

28. Toronto Argonauts (via Winnipeg) — OL Jakub Szott, McMaster

The interior blocker was a second-team all-star in the OUA last season. Toronto needs to continue building depth along the offensive line with Szott capable of being developed at both centre and guard.

Best of the rest

These players weren’t listed above but received consideration for rounds one through three. They are listed alphabetically by position.

RB Dion Pellerin, Waterloo; RB/REC Colton Klassen, Saskatchewan; REC Macho Bockru, Manitoba; REC Brentyn Hall, Wilfrid Laurier; REC Trivel Pinto, UBC; OL Andrew Becker, Regina; DL Nicholas Dheilly, Saskatchewan; DL Andrew Seinet-Spaulding, McGill; LB Malik Tyne, Towson; LB Samuel Rossi, Montreal; DB Bleska Kambamba, Western; DB Stavros Katsantonis, UBC; K Dante Brown, Fort Hays State.

Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore and Notre Dame receiver Chase Claypool are not listed due to their projections as early-round NFL draft picks.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.