While we’d like to think talent exclusively drives the makeup of pro football teams, the reality is that every roster move is made with consideration to costs, value and overall team building. Nowhere is this more true than the CFL, where the ratio adds another key wrinkle to the equation.
Branden Dozier is a classic example. As an All-Star caliber American free safety, he is often the second choice for teams that would rather keep his position Canadian. There are merits to that form of roster construction but, on list based on talent, it would be remiss to exclude Branden Dozier.
A native of Topeka, Kansas, Dozier was an All-City running back and defensive back at Washburn Royal High School, but didn’t have much in the way of college interest as a no-star recruit. Instead of going straight to Division I, Dozier took off on the road less traveled and enrolled at Butler County Community College.
Two years at Butler went a long way to defining the player Dozier would become. The Grizzlies went 20-3 during Dozier’s time on campus, winning back-to-back conference championships. He was named an All-Jayhawk Conference safety and day after day was forced to tackle future star NFL running back Chris Carson in practice. When you see Dozier making plays in the run game, know that he learned against the best.
Still, this did little to attract colleges and Dozier once again received no stars from the nation’s top recruiting services. He did, however, get an offer from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte 49ers. Led by fellow Kansas native Brad Lambert, the football program in Charlotte was only a year old when Dozier jumped on board and he was to be one of its first stars.
Dozier suited up in 22 games over two seasons at Charlotte and posted 135 tackles with 15 passes defended, 2.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions. As a junior in 2014, he became the first 49er to score on an interception return and a fumble return.
At his pro day in 2016, Dozier ran a 4.57 hand-timed 40-yard dash and pushed 225 pounds on the bench press 20 times. Neither his measurables or his production was enough for NFL scouts. Following the 2016 NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers invited Dozier to rookie mini-camp, however, he was not offered a contract at its conclusion.
After a year out of football, Dozier came to the CFL in 2017 with the Montreal Alouettes — the impact was instant. In his first year, the perennial no-star that nobody wanted was named the Alouettes Most Outstanding Rookie. The next season he one-upped himself, earning an East Division all-star nod in 2018. Although, it wasn’t enough for Montreal. The 2019 off-season brought shocking news of Dozier’s release, making way for punishing Canadian safeties Taylor Loffler and Bo Lokombo to take over his role.
After moving on from La Belle Province, Dozier signed with B.C. in late June of 2019 and made an instant impact for a team that was initially hurting on the backend. Dozier started 16 games for Lions, leading the team with 70 tackles and becoming an integral part of a secondary that was one of the rare bright spots on a dismal Leos squad. Once again though, retaining an American safety wasn’t a priority and Dozier left to sign with the Stampeders in free agency.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic killed the CFL season, Dozier opted out of his contract to try his luck south of the border. That opportunity has yet to materialize and should Dozier return north, he will continue to be an instant contributor for any team he joins. While ratio requirements have often pushed him aside, Dozier remains one of the most underrated defenders in the three-down game.
In 51 career CFL games, the 26-year-old has 220 tackles, 40 special-teams tackles, 11 knockdowns, six interceptions, three forced fumbles, two tackles for loss, two sacks, and one fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown. Not bad for a Kansas no-star.
3DownNation is unveiling its list of the top 100 active CFL players. To read the criteria for player eligibility, click here. The list to date can be found below.
85. SAM LB Otha Foster, Saskatchewan Roughriders
86. DB Antoine Pruneau, Ottawa Redblacks
87. RB John White, B.C. Lions
88. LB Avery Williams, Ottawa Redblacks
89. LB Jovan Santos-Knox, Free Agent
90. DB Richard Leonard, Calgary Stampeders
91. REC Armanti Edwards, Edmonton Football Team
92. RB C.J. Gable, Free Agent
93. DT Mike Rose, Calgary Stampeders
94. REC S.J. Green, Free Agent
95. DB Mike Edem, Saskatchewan Roughriders
96. DL John Bowman, Montreal Alouettes
97. DB Taylor Loffler, Montreal Alouettes
98. QB Nick Arbuckle, Ottawa Redblacks
99. ST Mike Miller, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
100. DE Chris Casher, B.C. Lions