John Hodge’s 2021 CFL mock draft 1.0

Photo courtesy: UVA Athletics Media Relations

It seems odd to publish a mock draft well before combine season is set to get underway.

With COVID-19 still running rampant across North America, however, it’s possible that combines and pro days will be cancelled again in 2021. Considering the NCAA season has wrapped up, we may not have much new information to go on by the time the 2021 CFL draft rolls around.

As with all of my mock drafts, this one is a combination of informed speculation, prediction, and personal opinion. A few of these picks will be bang-on, others will be close, and some will be off by several rounds.

I will post at least one more mock draft prior to the 2021 CFL draft, which will presumably take place in late April or early May. It will feature changes that have come as a result of NFL interest, training, sourcing of inside information, and any combines or pro days that take place.

One more thing: this mock draft has been made with the assumption that Oregon defensive back Jevon Holland, Oklahoma State running Chuba Hubbard, and Iowa offensive lineman Alaric Jackson will be selected in the NFL draft. As such, they won’t be picked in the first two rounds of the CFL draft.

Round One

1. Hamilton Tiger-Cats — REC Terrell Jana, Virginia

The Ticats have a strong roster overall, but there remains a weak spot at national receiver. Adding Jana would help fill that void with a blue-chip prospect who could start at field-side wideout while developing into an impact slotback.

The native of Burnaby, B.C. recorded 123 receptions over 49 games with the Cavaliers for 1,481 yards and five touchdowns. He started over Dejon Brissett — the No. 2 pick in last year’s CFL draft — in 2019 and was voted to serve as a team captain as a senior.

As good as he is, Jana is someone who should still be available midway through the first round of the draft. That means it’s possible we’ll see Hamilton do what Calgary did in 2020 and trade away the No. 1 overall pick to get the player they covet a few selections later.

2. Saskatchewan Roughriders — OL Liam Dobson, Texas State

Liam Dobson is the best offensive lineman in this draft who isn’t guaranteed an extended shot at the NFL, which makes him a perfect fit for the Riders. With Dakoda Shepley still under contract with San Francisco, Saskatchewan needs help along the offensive line.

Dobson has transferred to Texas State after an excellent career at tackle and guard with Maine. He’s got a massive frame at six-foot-three and 344 pounds, yet remains athletic enough to dunk a basketball. If he ever comes north, it shouldn’t take long for Dobson to make an impact as a starter.

3. Winnipeg Blue Bombers — OL Pier-Olivier Lestage, Montreal

The Blue Bombers have long coveted stout, tough offensive linemen who know how to punish the opposition in the run game. Enter Pier-Olivier Lestage.

The 2019 U Sports second-team All-Canadian moves fluidly and gets to the second level with ease. He regularly dominates his opposition in the RSEQ, playing to the echo of the whistle. Unless he’s under contract with an NFL team by draft day, this pick is a no-brainer.

4. B.C. Lions — OL Sage Doxtater, New Mexico State

The six-foot-seven, 320-pound blocker has started 32 of 33 games with the Aggies at left tackle, making him a legitimate ratio-breaking CFL prospect.

B.C. needs help along the offensive line and, though Doxtater may spend some time in the NFL, he’s a blocker worth having in the pipeline. He’ll need to lose weight to cover ground on the larger Canadian field, but the native of Welland, Ont. should be a good one whether he ends up playing tackle or guard.

5. Edmonton Football Team — LB Amen Ogbongbemiga, Oklahoma State

The two-time All-Big 12 Second Team selection is one of the most polished linebacker prospects in the recent history of the CFL draft.

Ogbongbemiga posted 208 total tackles, nine sacks, and four forced fumbles over 48 games with the Cowboys and projects as a ratio-breaking starter at middle linebacker. He’ll be great on special teams as a rookie, which is great for a team like Edmonton that lacks national talent on its cover teams.

6. Ottawa Redblacks — DL Mohamed Diallo, Central Michigan

Believe it or not, this native of Toronto didn’t start playing football until after high school. The six-foot-four, 305-pound defensive tackle was originally a basketball player before playing along the defensive line at Arizona Western College.

Diallo was named All-MAC First Team in 2020 after recording 9.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in just five games. He’s physical, agile, and a perfect positional fit for the Redblacks who need depth behind Cleyon Laing.

7. Toronto Argonauts — DL Daniel Joseph, North Carolina State

The brother of former No. 1 CFL draft selection Faith Ekakitie transferred from Penn State for the 2020 season, which was a shrewd decision. Joseph made 37 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks in eleven games with the Wolfpack, establishing himself as their best pass rusher.

The six-foot-three, 260-pounder is by far the best edge rusher in this year’s draft and Toronto could use him on special teams while rotating him at defensive end with 2019 second-round pick Robbie Smith.

8. Calgary Stampeders — OL Logan Bandy, Calgary

The two-time U Sports second-team All-Canadian has room to continue building his frame and moves well on film. Though he’ll likely play guard at the professional level, Bandy has the potential to fill in at tackle in the CFL if called upon.

The Stampeders already have solid depth along the offensive line, but it’s tough to pass on a blue-chip local product like this. If Bandy’s available at No. 8 overall, Calgary should scoop him up.

9. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (via Montreal) — OL Christopher Fournier, Lehigh

The Ticats have plenty of depth along the offensive line at the moment, but it’s still important to plan for the future. Fournier’s in the process of transferring for the 2021 season, which means he won’t be coming to the CFL until 2022 at the earliest.

The six-foot-four, 280-pound blocker spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons as Lehigh’s starter at left tackle, but also has experience at centre. He’s versatile, smart, and has room to build his frame, making him a nice futures selection for Hamilton.

Round Two

10. Montreal Alouettes — DB Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota

There is a strong possibility that the six-foot-three, 205-pound cornerback will sign in the NFL, which would lower his CFL draft stock. If the Alouettes are able to get him under contract, they’ll have an incredible young pair of local defensive backs in St-Juste and 2020 second-round pick Marc-Antoine Dequoy.

11. Calgary Stampeders — LB Grant McDonald, Calgary

The Stamps don’t have to look far for a potential ratio-breaker at middle linebacker. This six-foot-three, 235-pound tackler was extremely productive through two seasons with the Dinos, making 83 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception.

12. Toronto Argonauts — DB Alonzo Addae, West Virginia

The Pickering, Ont. native had an exceptional season with the Mountaineers in 2020, making 66 total tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, five knockdowns, two interceptions, and one forced fumble. He’s planning to return to college next season, so the Argos will have to wait at least one year to sign him.

13. Ottawa Redblacks — REC Joshua Palmer, Tennessee

It’s possible that Palmer will be selected in the 2021 NFL draft, which would see his CFL draft stock plummet. We’ll keep him here for now, however, as the young impact Canadian receiver that the Redblacks desperately need.

14. Edmonton Football Team — DB Nelson Lokombo, Saskatchewan

The reigning Presidents’ Trophy winner has the ability to make an impact at a number of different positions — cornerback, safety or even strong-side linebacker. Edmonton has often started a national field-side corner in recent years, making this a perfect positional fit.

15. B.C. Lions — LB Ben Hladik, UBC

The two-time U Sports second-team All-Canadian has the ability to play linebacker or defensive end given his six-foot-four, 240-pound frame. He practically lived on the opponent’s side of the field in Canada West, racking up 28 career tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.

16. Winnipeg Blue Bombers — FB Bruno Labelle, Cincinnati

The six-foot-four, 250-pound tight end was an excellent blocker with the Bearcats who has drawn comparisons to retired CFL fullback Rolly Lumbala. He’ll be great on special teams, a fantastic blocker, and shouldn’t look out of place if he’s asked to catch a pass or two.

17. Saskatchewan Roughriders — OL Connor Berglof, Saskatchewan

The 2019 U Sports first-team All-Canadian has extensive experience at centre and guard. Some scouts feel the Saskatoon native is better than former Huskies teammate Mattland Riley, who the Riders selected in the first round of the 2020 CFL draft.

18. Hamilton Tiger-Cats — DB Deane Leonard, Ole Miss

The two-time U Sports first-team All-Canadian is returning to Ole Miss for 2021 to continue pursuing his NFL aspirations. If Hamilton can get the Calgary native under contract by 2022 or 2023, consider this pick a steal.

Best of the rest: DL Alain Cimankinda, Ottawa; REC Will Corby, Toronto; LB/DB Nick Cross, UBC; LB Kean Harelimana, Laval; REC/TE Dominic Johnson, Buffalo; OL Peter Nicastro, Calgary; DB Patrice Rene, Rutgers; DL Luiji Vilain, Michigan.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.