Below is how I think the first round of the event will play out. There are nine picks split between seven teams; Montreal and Winnipeg are without a selection, while Toronto and Hamilton each have two.
1. Calgary Stampeders (via Ottawa) — LB Jordan Williams, East Carolina
The native of Fayetteville, North Carolina was a three-year starter with the Pirates who recorded 252 total tackles in 45 games. He also lit up the Ontario regional combine in March 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 for the wide open Canadian game. Calgary started Cory Greenwood at middle linebacker 12 times last season and Williams could help maintain the ratio by taking over the starting spot.
The Stampeders seriously considered Southeastern Louisiana defensive end Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund with this pick, but it’s rare that a team has the opportunity to select a player of Williams’ calibre without having to account for an NFL opportunity. As such, Williams is the perfect choice here for Calgary.
2. Toronto Argonauts — OL Tomas Jack-Kurdyla, Buffalo
Jack-Kurdyla was a four-year starter at guard for the Bulls who performed well at his pro day. The six-foot-three, 300-pounder is a power-oriented blocker who is accustomed to playing in a relatively run-heavy offence.
The Montreal native is widely considered the only offensive lineman in this year’s draft who could start as a rookie but hasn’t signed an NFL contract. The Argos need help revamping the interior of their offensive line and Jack-Kurdyla is the perfect fit.
3. B.C. Lions — DL Michael Hoecht, Brown
The six-foot-three, 290-pound defender moves like a defensive end but plays along the interior. Hoecht is arguably the most impactful defensive lineman in the draft and could help upgrade B.C.’s pass rush in a big way.
Though he recently signed with the Los Angeles Rams as an undrafted free agent, Hoecht would be a ratio-changer for the Lions if he ever comes north. Considering there many not be a season in 2020, taking a “future” selection isn’t as risky as other years.
4. Edmonton Eskimos — OL Carter O’Donnell, Alberta
The Golden Bear is athletic and violent, projecting as a starter at tackle in the CFL. 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.
O’Donnell recently signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent, so it could be awhile before the Eskimos see him. Even considering the risk, it’s tough to pass on a player of O’Donnell’s calibre — especially considering he’s from the nearby city of Red Deer.
5. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (via Montreal) — 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.
6. Ottawa Redblacks (via Calgary) — LB/DB Adam Auclair, Laval
Auclair is one of the most versatile defensive players in the draft, capable of rotating at safety, strong-side linebacker, and weak-side linebacker. He will also contribute heavily on special teams as a rookie, which is an area the Redblacks need to improve its personnel.
I could also see Ottawa picking University de Montreal defensive back Marc-Antoine Dequoy with this selection, but Auclair provides a similar fit without being under contract in the NFL.
7. Saskatchewan Roughriders — LB Jack Cassar, Carleton
The six-foot-four, 240-pound tackler isn’t lacking for size and would provide a punch in the middle of any CFL defence. Posting 157 tackles (20 for loss) and eight sacks with the Ravens, some scouts feel that Cassar projects as a starter at middle linebacker.
Solomon Elimimian had a great season a year ago, but he turns 34 in October. Selecting Cassar here could allow the Riders to turn the middle linebacker position into a Canadian spot regardless of whether or not Cam Judge and Micah Teitz are retained as free agents.
Note: if there is a trade in round one, I believe this is the selection most likely to be dealt. One possible trading partner is the Alouettes, who do not have a first-round selection.
8. Hamilton Tiger-Cats — DL Cam Lawson, Queen’s
The six-foot-three, 285-pound defender posted 19.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks over four seasons with the Golden Gaels. Born just outside of Brampton, Lawson would provide some depth behind Ted Laurent with the potential to develop into a starter on the interior.
The Ticats have a lot of picks without very many needs. As such, this is the earliest I could see a team realistically select Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke.
9. Toronto Argonauts (via Winnipeg) — REC Dejon Brissett, Virginia
The six-foot-one, 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.
The Argos could use another body in the receiving corps and Brissett is the consensus No. 1 pass catcher available. Born in Toronto, he would provide additional depth at receiver and returner while also bringing some local flavour.