If you were to pick one strong-side linebacker over the past ten years with the best combination of size, speed, cover skills, and pass-rushing ability, you’d probably have to go with Dexter McCoil.
The six-foot-four, 220-pound defensive back signed with Edmonton in May 2014 and quickly became a key player in Chris Jones’ defence. He was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie after recording 73 total tackles, six interceptions, four sacks, and two touchdowns in 18 games.
Simply put, it was one of the best rookie seasons by a defensive player in league history. McCoil was named a CFL all-star, which is extremely rare for a first-year player with virtually no NFL experience.
His game had come a long way since he committed to Tulsa in 2009 out of Lutcher High School. He was still an excellent college player — he made 310 total tackles, 18 interceptions, ten knockdowns, and seven tackles for loss — but his body looked very different.
McCoil committed to Tulsa weighing just 168 pounds. At six-foot-four, he looked more like a basketball player than a football player. He built his frame over four years with the Golden Hurricane, preparing him to play in the front-seven of a CFL defence.
The native of Metairie, La. had an excellent second season with Edmonton in 2015, helping the team win a Grey Cup. He made 78 total tackles, three interceptions, two sacks, and one forced fumble and was named a West Division all-star. He caught the attention of NFL scouts and signed with the San Diego Chargers in January 2016.
McCoil made the team’s 53-man roster out of training camp and worked his way into the starting lineup by Week 3. He made 25 total tackles, five knockdowns, and one interception with the Chargers, appearing in all 16 regular season games.
The 29-year-old split the 2017 season between San Diego and San Francisco, making five total tackles over ten games. He spent the end of the 2018 season on the Chargers’ practice roster.
McCoil returned to the CFL late in 2019, signing with the Calgary Stampeders ahead of the postseason. He appeared in two regular season games, making five total tackles and one interception. He dressed for the West Semi-Final and made six total tackles, though his team was defeated by the eventual Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Calgary released McCoil to pursue the NFL and he eventually signed with the St. Louis BattleHawks of the XFL, making 36 tackles and one sack in five games. He has remained a free agent since the league suspended operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Strong-side linebacker is one of the most challenging positions to play in the CFL. If the 2021 season goes ahead, there will be many teams looking to add a game-changer like McCoil into the fold.
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.
55. OL Sean McEwen, Calgary Stampeders
56. REC Eugene Lewis, Montreal Alouettes
57. DB Greg Reid, Montreal Alouettes
58. DL Mike Moore, Edmonton Football Team
59. OL Ryker Mathews, B.C. Lions
60. DB Tunde Adeleke, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
61. LB Jameer Thurman, Free Agent
62. QB Matt Nichols, Toronto Argonauts
63. DB Jamar Wall, Calgary Stampeders
64. DB Loucheiz Purifoy, Saskatchewan Roughriders
65. REC Lemar Durant, B.C. Lions
66. OL Brendon LaBatte, Saskatchewan Roughriders
67. OL SirVincent Rogers, Ottawa Redblacks
68. QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Free Agent
69. DB/RET Frankie Williams, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
70. DB T.J. Lee, B.C. Lions
71. QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
72. SAM Anthony Cioffi, Free Agent
73. DB Shaquille Richardson, Toronto Argonauts
74. REC Kamar Jorden, Calgary Stampeders
75. OL Darius Ciraco, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
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