3DownNation top 100 CFL players: No. 75 OL Darius Ciraco, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Photo courtesy: Alex Lupul/AlexLupul.com

A common criticism of CFL draft prospects is that they need more time to develop than their NFL counterparts.

Top NFL draft picks often make a big impact in their rookie seasons — think Joe Burrow, Chase Claypool or Justin Herbert. That’s rarely the case in Canada where players are typically given a few seasons to develop before attaining a starting role.

That’s not the case with Darius Ciraco.

Ciraco played at the University of Calgary where he was named a Canada West all-star and a U Sports second-team All-Canadian in his second year. He missed half the following season due to injury, but returned for a strong fourth year during which he spent time at centre, guard, and tackle.

Ciraco was selected in the first round of the 2018 CFL draft by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, a perfect fit for the native of Burlington, Ont. He impressed in training camp and earned a starting role over a number of veteran players, including a recently unretired Mathieu Girard.

Photo courtesy: Alex Lupul/AlexLupul.com

The former U18 Team Canada member started all eighteen regular season games for the Ticats as a rookie plus two post-season contests. He was the team’s nominee for Most Outstanding Rookie, though he lost out at the divisional level to record-breaking placekicker Lewis Ward.

The six-foot-four, 295-pound blocker returned to the lineup in 2019, starting eighteen games including the East Final and Grey Cup. He helped Hamilton reach a 15-3 record, the best in team history. It didn’t matter who was running behind the Ticats’ offensive line — Cameron Marshall, Sean Thomas-Erlington, Tyrell Sutton or Bralon Addison — all averaged at least 5.8 yards per carry.

Ciraco has the versatility to start at both guard and centre. He’s intelligent, athletic, and effective in both the pass and run game. At 24, his best CFL seasons are still ahead of him. He is slated to become a free agent in February 2021 and it will be interesting to see whether Ciraco remains in Hamilton or cashes in elsewhere.

3DownNation is unveiling its list of the top 100 active CFL players, a project that will run through December 31, 2020. To read the criteria for player eligibility, click here. The list to date can be found below.

76. REC Jalen Saunders, Free Agent
77. QB Dane Evans, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
78. REC Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa Redblacks
79. RET Janarion Grant, Free Agent
80. DE Avery Ellis, Ottawa Redblacks
81. DE Cordarro Law, Calgary Stampeders
82. DB Brandon Alexander, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
83. OL Jermarcus Hardrick, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
84. DB Branden Dozier, Free Agent
85. SAM 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. DE 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

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.