3DownNation top 100 CFL players: No. 25 to No. 21

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

No. 25 LB Solomon Elimimian, Saskatchewan Roughriders

“We know when a player’s time is up.”

That was the comment Ed Hervey made to TSN radio back in May 2019 when he was still the general manager of the B.C. Lions. Hervey hadn’t re-signed 32-year-old middle linebacker Solomon Elimimian, allowing him to test free agency for the first time in his CFL career.

The four-time league all-star signed a one-year deal with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, which quickly paid dividends for the Green and White when Elimimian recorded 88 tackles, four sacks, and one forced fumble.

The Riders finished the season with a 13-5 record and came close to reaching the Grey Cup in a narrow West Final loss to Winnipeg. Elimimian was named a West Division all-star and was set to return to Saskatchewan in 2020 after signing a contract extension.

Now serving as the president of the CFLPA, Elimimian is currently without a contract for 2021. At 34, it’ll be interesting to see what the future Hall of Fame linebacker has in store.

No. 24 DT Ted Laurent, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Laurent spent his formative years in Georgia where he was a four-star recruit coming out of McEachran High School. He had numerous scholarship offers, but ultimately chose Ole Miss.

He was a three-year starter with the Rebels, amassing 57 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Laurent played in two Cotton Bowls, winning both the 2009 and 2010 editions with wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, respectively.

The six-foot-one, 300-pound defender was selected in the CFL’s supplemental draft in 2011. Given where Laurent’s career has gone, Edmonton’s choice to forfeit a second-round pick in 2012 to secure his rights has to be considered a steal.

Over three seasons with the Green and Gold, Laurent had 65 tackles, eleven sacks and two forced fumbles. He was named a West Division all-star in 2012, the same year he was Edmonton’s nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian.

Laurent entered free agency following the 2013 season with hopes of garnering NFL interest. When that didn’t materialize, he signed with the Ticats just before the start of the regular season.

The 33-year-old has now spent six seasons in Steeltown, becoming a Hall of Fame-calibre player.

Laurent has been named an East Division all-star four times and a league all-star twice. He has totaled 37 sacks in 94 games and has been one of the league’s most dominant interior linemen since his career began.

In nine total seasons, Laurent has amassed 186 tackles, 48 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 142 games, but the stats don’t tell the full story.

Laurent is such a force that he makes those around him better. Whether it was Bryan Hall, Drake Nevis, Davon Coleman, Jason Neill or Dylan Wynn, Laurent has always made life easier for the person playing beside him, so much so that until recently that Ticats have not spent money on their second defensive tackle.

This is also true for the team’s defensive ends. From Justin Hickman and Eric Norwood at the start of his tenure to Julian Howsare and Ja’Gared Davis last year, the edge rushers who play with Laurent benefit from the presence of No. 97.

No. 23 REC Bralon Addison, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Few players in recent memory have epitomized the do-it-all mentality needed in the CFL quite like Bralon Addison.

The former Oregon star was released by the Chicago Bears in May 2017 and spent the year out of football until the Toronto Argonauts signed him in the spring of 2018. He was cut by the Argos before being given a chance to dress and was snatched up quickly by the Ticats, who signed him on September 1.

Addison played in four regular season and two playoff games for the Ticats, making his debut on September 8 against his former team — the Argos. He recorded just one catch in his first three games, but would make an impact in his fourth game.

The five-foot-nine, 200-pound target was given a more prominent role in Hamilton’s regular season finale and he used it to post an eye-popping seven catches for 103 yards and a touchdown in a 30-28 loss to the Als. The game was started by Dane Evans as the Ticats sat a number of regular starters ahead of the postseason.

Addison continued to open eyes in the playoffs, catching 17 passes for 253 yards in Hamilton’s two playoff contests. The hype train had officially started rolling towards the 2019 season.

In Week 2 of last season, Addison caught six passes for 107 yards and found the end zone three times in Hamilton’s 64-14 romp over the Argos, proving 2018 wasn’t a fluke.

The Ticats found many different ways to utilize Addison and, by the end of the season, he had 36 carries for 218 yards and one rushing score to go along with 95 catches for 1,236 yards and seven touchdowns. Addison was a key weapon for a team that went a franchise-best 15-3 in the regular season and made it to their first Grey Cup since 2014.

Addison parlayed his incredible 2019 season into a futures/reserves contract with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, but the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t allow Addison to show the club what he could do and he was released by the team in early August.

He rejoined the Ticats in December 2020 with the team announcing that he’d signed a two-year contract extension. Buckle up, CFL fans — Addison could be ready to reach a new gear in 2021.

No. 22 LB Cameron Judge, Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Montreal native measured six-foot-one and weighed 220 pounds at UCLA’s pro day, running a 4.50 40-yard dash, 6.69 three-cone, 10-foot, one-inch broad jump, 36.5-inch vertical leap and 19 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.

Though he didn’t start a game until his junior season with the Bruins, his outstanding testing number caught the attention of CFL scouts. Chris Jones especially loved his athleticism and made him the No. 2 selection in the 2017 CFL Draft.

Judge was not an overnight success in Regina. He played sparingly as a rookie and played a rotational role in his second season, making 44 total tackles, two sacks, and one forced fumble.

The 26-year-old had an excellent season in 2019, winning a full-time starting job at linebacker. He made 72 total tackles, five sacks, two interceptions, and one forced fumble en route to being named the West Division’s Most Outstanding Canadian.

Judge re-signed with Saskatchewan for 2020 on a one-year deal but opted out of it to test the NFL when the CFL cancelled its season. He remains unsigned for 2021 and would be a highly sought-after free agent should he become available on February 9.

No. 21 OL Chris Van Zeyl, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Chris Van Zeyl’s high school alma mater has produced a number of great athletes — NHLers Paul Bissonette, Matt Ellis, Cal Clutterbuck and former CFL offensive lineman Sandy Annunziata. Van Zeyl, however, might be the most acclaimed.

Growing up in tiny Fonthill, Ont., Van Zeyl attended Notre Dame College School in Welland, Ontario where he played football for the Fighting Irish. Coincidentally, former Ticats’ great and Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee Rocky DiPietro coached at Notre Dame after his playing career ended.

Van Zeyl spent four years at McMaster University where he was a U Sports First-Team All-Canadian in 2007. Despite his 15-year career as a stalwart right tackle, Van Zeyl was a defensive lineman at McMaster, where he amassed 42 tackles, 11 sacks and one forced fumble during his university career.

Van Zeyl’s pro career didn’t get off to the hot start you would expect from someone who is likely to be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. He was a third-round pick of the Montreal Alouettes but never dressed for the team, being released in 2008.

He was soon signed by the Toronto Argonauts, where he spent the rest of the 2008 season on the practice roster. After re-signing with the Argos in the winter of 2009, Van Zeyl finally saw game action in Week 8 against the Calgary Stampeders and he made his first start in a loss to the Ticats.

Van Zeyl became a full-time starter in 2010, starting a nine-year run as the starting right tackle for Toronto. He won Grey Cups in 2012 and 2017 and was a five-time East Division all-star.

On the eve of training camp in 2019, the Argos made the shocking decision to part ways with the highly-paid veteran to avoid paying him a $40,000 report-and-pass bonus. The Ticats quickly swooped in and signed one of the league’s premier Canadian linemen the following day.

Van Zeyl had arguably the best season of his career in Hamilton where he was named a CFL all-star and the league’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman. The 37-year-old recently signed an extension with the Ticats as they look to capture a Grey Cup following a 15-3 regular season in 2019.

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.

34. QB Vernon Adams Jr., Montreal Alouettes
35. DB Nick Marshall, Saskatchewan Roughriders
36. DB Aaron Grymes, B.C. Lions
37. LB Larry Dean, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
38. OL Ucambre Williams, Calgary Stampeders
39. DB Ciante Evans, Montreal Alouettes
40. K/P Justin Medlock, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
41. REC DaVaris Daniels, Toronto Argonauts
42. DT Micah Johnson, B.C. Lions
43. OL Shane Bergman, Calgary Stampeders
44. SAM Don Unamba, Ottawa Redblacks
45. DB Ed Gainey, Saskatchewan Roughriders
46. DB Tommie Campbell, Toronto Argonauts
47. LB Adam Bighill, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
48. REC DeVier Posey, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
49. DT Cleyon Laing, Ottawa Redblacks
50. OL Matt O’Donnell, Edmonton Football Team
51. REC Kyran Moore, Saskatchewan Roughriders
52. SAM Kenny Ladler, Free Agent
53. DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
54. SAM Dexter McCoil, Free Agent
55. OL Sean McEwen, Calgary Stampeders
56. REC Eugene Lewis, Montreal Alouettes
57. DB Greg Reid, Montreal Alouettes
58. DT 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, Edmonton Football Team
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

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.