CFL Global Draft Position Rankings: Running backs

German running back Justin Rodney. Photo courtesy: Chris Haas / C-Sportspics / GFL

After breaking down the deepest position group in the 2021 CFL Global Draft on Friday, we start the weekend with one of the shallowest.

Who knows how running backs will be valued on April 15th but it’s unlikely to be high and special teams value will always be paramount. Still, there are a handful of players that deserve a serious look, though not all will make it to the CFL.

In the interest of time, I’ve eliminated Austrian running back Sandro Platzgummer from this list based on the fact he has two years left as a roster exemption for the New York Giants.

Given there is no way to predict the NFL’s decisions, the top player on this list remains, even though he too may soon find employment in the United States.

1. Taku Lee, Japan, Obic Seagulls

A runner with impressive vision and balance, this 26-year-old was once billed as the poster boy for the second wave of CFL 2.0 before being poached by the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program. A team could gamble a future’s pick on Lee, but his pro day was good enough to earn one of the four IPP NFL spots if teams don’t hold his position against him.

2. Chris Ezeala, Germany, Ingolstadt Dukes

Ezeala brutalized opponents as a hard-hitting outside linebacker in Germany before converting to fullback for two seasons on the practice roster of the Baltimore Ravens. The five-foot-eleven, 243-pounder is slated to be one of the stars of the fledgling ELF but would accept a CFL opportunity, though he won’t cross the Atlantic until his first child is born. If the CFL is delayed, that won’t be an issue.

3. Justin Rodney, Germany, Frankfurt Universe

Whether you buy in to his 4.37 combine speed or not, there is no questioning that Rodney has better burst and athletcism than any other Global running back. The question is whether or not a five-foot-seven, 180-pound scat back has enough special teams value for the CFL, even if he is a gym rat.

4. Glen Mbleg-Toonga, United Kingdom, Bialystok Lowlanders

Compact and powerful, Toonga followed up two top five rushing seasons in Germany by ripping up the Polish league. Despite massive improvement from the British Combine to his virtual numbers, Toonga doesn’t have the top end speed of other runners but you feel more comfortable with him standing up physically on the teams.

5. Nico Leonard, South Africa, DHL Stormers (Rugby)

Maybe the biggest wildcard in an already unpredictable draft, Leonard has all the tools needed to excel as a running back and none of the football experience. The electric winger is a gamble worth taking if you are willing to develop him.

6. Micky Kyei, Finland, Helsinki Wolverines

I still believe Kyei is one of the best separators in this year’s draft but a five-foot-eight wide receiver is a hard sell, even if he wasn’t 28. Luckily for Kyei, injuries forced him into the backfield for the Wolverines in 2020 where he showed some home run ability.

7. Atsumi Kobayashi, Japan, Nojima-Sagamihara Rise

Like many young Japanese players, Kobayashi hasn’t seen the field a ton in the X League but the fact that the 226-pounder played defensive end in college and put up 25 on the bench makes him an intriguing fullback prospect.

8. Kevin Brian Correa, Mexico, Artilleros Puebla

There isn’t one thing that Correa does especially well, but he showed versatility and a little wiggle during his college days at UDLAP.

9. Phileas Pasqualini, France, Iron Mask de Cannes

Not invited to the Virtual Combine, this former McGill back has similar numbers to the invited players and some raw special teams upside.

10. Jason Aguemon, France, La Courneuve Flash

A former bobsledder, Aguemon has the measurables to deserve a look but you’d like to see a soon-to-be 29 year old look a little more polished on the field.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.