2021 CFL Global Draft: Instant Analysis

Photo courtesy: CFL

Welcome to my instant analysis of the 2021 CFL Global Draft.

Before we begin, it should be noted that I am not grading the picks. History has shown me that draft grades rarely age well and ultimately success will be determined by the situation these players are placed in and the opportunities they receive. Instead, I will provide instant analysis on each player.

The CFL Global Draft served as my gateway into the world of international football and what a wonderful world it is. Over the last year and a half, I’ve had the chance to cover a number of these players and it’s been an absolute treat to watch their passion for the game in places where pro football seems so very far from reality.

This will be the reward for their hard work. Regardless if they achieve success in the CFL or not, this is something that can’t ever be taken from them.

Whether you are joining us from abroad to see if your favourite local player gets the call or you are a Canadian simply wanting to know who your team just drafted, I’ll do my best to give you the details.

1 (1) B.C. Lions — Jake Ford, Punter, Australia

The first pick on the board in the Global Draft is a punter, a solid selection for a B.C. team desperately in need of one.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on kickers, its not my area of expertise, but statistically Ford was among the best in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision during his time at Ouachita Baptist University. He can pound the football as good as anyone.

2 (1) Edmonton Football Team — Steve Nielsen, OL, Denmark

Six-foot-eight, 323-pounds with tremendous power, Nielsen signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars out of Eastern Michigan and is a natural fit here.

He’ll likely need to move inside to guard due to some challenges against speed, but he is a starting calibre player in the CFL.

3 (1) Toronto Argonauts — Tigie Sankoh, DB, United Kingdom

A former member of the Cleveland Browns via the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, Sankoh has a pro build and tremendous athleticism.

He only lasted two years on the Browns practice roster. His final pre-season was impressive, earning a starting caliber grade of 73.2 from analytics firm Pro Football Focus for his work at safety.

4 (1) Winnipeg Blue Bombers — Les Maruo, LB, Japan

The first Japanese born player to ever start in NCAA Division I football, Maruo spent much of his childhood in Wichita, Kansas before going to University of Texas at San Antonio.

He’s a mean, violent linebacker who moves really well and will instantly be a core special teams player for Winnipeg.

5 (1) Saskatchewan Roughriders — Christopher Ezeala, FB, Germany

A 243-pound fullback who will absolutely knock your teeth out, Ezeala was a linebacker in Germany before converting to offence in two years with the Baltimore Ravens.

Frankly he could play either spot in the CFL, but he’ll be absolutely tremendous on special teams and could become a real Riders fan favourite.

6 (1) Montreal Alouettes — Joseph Zema, Punter, Australia

The Als add a pro calibre punter at number six, as Zema was the top rated leg in the now defunct Alliance of American Football.

With the San Antonio Commanders, his average hang-time was 4.1 seconds. That could be tremendous on the CFL field.

7 (1) Calgary Stampeders — Cody Grace, Punter, Australia

My top punter in this draft, Grace already has a nickname coming out of Arkansas State: “The Thunder from Down Under”.

If that’s not enough for CFL fans to love him, his 40.6-yard net and 4.2-second average hang-time should do the trick.

8 (1) Hamilton Tiger-Cats — Joel Whitford, Punter, Australia

Whitford wasn’t the most consistent of punters over his career, but his senior year at Washington was one for the ages.

If he is able to replicate that almost 43-yard net average in the CFL, watch out.

9 (1) Ottawa Redblacks — Anthony Mahoungou, REC, France

There was some question as to whether Mahoungou would be able to come to Canada but Ottawa clearly believes he will be here.

The Frenchman was a top receiver at Purdue, racking up close to 700 yards and eight touchdowns his senior year before getting a shot with the Philadelphia Eagles. Edmonton briefly signed him as an American but he is a Global now and will be the odds on favourite to be the first Global touchdown scorer.

10 (2) Ottawa Redblacks — Tyron Vrede, LB, Netherlands

With their second pick in a row, Ottawa grabs a kid who will step in and be a special teams stud on day one.

A key part of the defence for North Dakota, Vrede has good speed and lateral quickness with the burst to finish in space.

11 (2) Hamilton Tiger-Cats — Chris Mulumba, DT, Finland

I’m a lot lower than Hamilton is on Mulumba, I find his athleticism problematically lacking, but there is no question he flashed at times for Colorado.

At 28-years-old, and 284 pounds, the Ticats must see the massive Finn as a day one rotational contributor on the interior to select him this highly.

12 (2) Calgary Stampeders — Franklin Agbasimere, DE, Nigeria

A real wild-card, Agbasimere barely played at Mizzou but drew rave reviews for his athleticism and potential.

I wasn’t able to make an accurate assessment on him due to time, but Calgary has the best Global scouting in the game. Agbasimere could be a diamond in the rough game-changer.

13 (2) Montreal Alouettes — Akio Yamagishi, LB, Japan

Upon further reflection, I had Yamagishi way too low in my linebacker rankings, docking him a little for size and slightly slower testing.

He’s been Japan’s best linebacker for years, better than Maruo, and his closing speed in space is impressive. Yamagishi could be an absolute demon in kick coverage.

14 (2) Saskatchewan Roughriders — Kaare Vedvik, K/P, Norway

A young NFL journeyman, Vedvik was most recently with Washington last season and could be a real steal.

The Norwegian punted and kicked at Marshall and while he is better at the former, he could do both jobs in the CFL.

15 (2) Winnipeg Blue Bombers — Tomoya Machino, OL, Japan

Straight up, no holds barred, my favourite player in the draft.

Machino isn’t pro ready yet, he may need to sit on the practice roster, but he is the most natural offensive lineman I’ve seen in awhile. His form is beautiful, his feet are gorgeous and he makes the unnatural look second nature.

If he was Canadian, I’d pound the table for him at the top of the draft. A future starter in the making.

16 (2) Toronto Argonauts — Toshiki Sato, Kicker, Japan

The Japanese record holder for longest X League field goal at 58 yards, Sato rarely misses and has had some NFL interest in recent years.

He can step in right away and compete as the Argos top place-kicker.

17 (2) Edmonton Football Team — Misiona Aiolupotea-Pei, DT, New Zealand

Aiolupotea-Pei is a player who could step in right away in Edmonton’s defensive line rotation because he does something few other big men do well: rush the passer.

That’s what he did in the middle for Washington State and that’s what he’ll continue to do in the CFL.

18 (2) B.C. Lions — Bo Qiao Li, DE, China

This pick just makes sense for B.C.

Li doesn’t have a ton of football experience, but he is a physical freak who can step in right away and play special teams. Perhaps most importantly, he can connect to local demographics as the biggest name in Chinese football.

Li has his own branded clothing line and more Instagram followers than Shaq Evans.

19 (3) B.C. Lions — Takeru Yamasaki, Kicker, Japan

Every bit the equal of Sato, Yamasaki has a huge leg and went viral with a 73-yard practice kick last year.

For a team without a kicker because of Sergio Castillo’s NFL opportunities, Yamasaki could be the guy day one.

20 (3) Edmonton Football Team — Tibo Debaillie, DT, Belgium

Edmonton double-dips in the defensive interior with Debaillie, a tremendous run defender for Towson University. The Belgian out-benched everyone at the Combine and has impressive lateral agility for his size.

One of the first PPI recruits to head to the States under the tutelage of former CFL player Brandon Collier, Debaillie paved the way for a program now producing five star athletes.

21 (3) Calgary Stampeders (via Toronto) — Aaron Donkor, DE, Germany

A raw pass rusher from Arkansas State, Donkor simply bursts off the edge and could be tremendous on special teams.

The Stampeders are gambling here that Donkor’s status as a classic tweener, a 230-pound edge defender, will prevent him from getting one of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program designated practice roster spots.

If it does, this is a tremendous gamble. If not, it could haunt them.

22 (3) Winnipeg Blue Bombers — Ayo Oyelola, LB, United Kingdom

A great coverage linebacker from the British College ranks, Oyelola is another player in the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program program.

He didn’t run well for scouts at his pro day, potentially due to injury, but he’s a lot faster on the field and can be a tremendous special teamer if he falls in the CFL’s lap.

23 (3) Saskatchewan Roughriders — John Henry Nell, Kicker, South Africa

A kicker who didn’t make my rankings, Nell is a rugby convert who’s been very successful in Arena Football.

An intriguing add that might help in both areas.

24 (3) Montreal Alouettes — Taku Lee, RB, Japan

Lee doesn’t ‘wow’ you in any one way but he is the type of solid back with balance and vision that would not be out of place starting in a CFL game.

However, he is another NFL International Player Pathway Program guy and one who has been heavily praised by former assistant general manager Scott Pioli. He could receive a practice roster exemption and Montreal won’t see him for three years.

25 (3) Calgary Stampeders — Isaac Alarcon, OL, Mexico

Alarcon is Mexico’s best lineman and a tremendous prospect who is currently under contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Therein lies the problem.

In previous years, an NFL International Player Pathway Program player like Alarcon would only get two years as an exemption, but that was recently extended to three. Calgary likely won’t see Alarcon for two years, while the Mexican keeps pancaking Canadian Neville Gallimore in practice.

26 (3) Hamilton Tiger-Cats — David Izinyon, DE/LB, United Kingdom

If you gauge how good this draft class is, Izinyon at number 26 is the closest player to Global standout Thiadric Hansen.

A physical specimen with outstanding measurables and a ferocious attitude on the field, he’ll take the wind out of your lungs when he comes downhill.

27 (3) Ottawa Redblacks — Christopher Ferguson, OL, Bahamas

A two-year starter at right tackle for Cincinnati, Ferguson is a mauler in the run game whose deficiencies against speed hold him back in the run game.

He won’t look out of place at guard for the Redblacks and could provide some much-needed in-game versatility in the event of injury.

28 (4) Ottawa Redblacks — Tony Anderson, DB, France

Six-foot-four, 207-pound safeties don’t come around every day and Anderson has the athleticism to back up that frame.

A standout at National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school Grand View, he got a couple NFL looks and has a well earned reputation for exploding through opponents.

29 (4) Hamilton Tiger-Cats — Dominik Eberle, Kicker, Germany

Another futures pick, Eberle spent last season with the Las Vegas Raiders and will be back for training camp this year.

He’s unlikely to win the job, but the Ticats will have to wait on other NFL opportunities before he even considers Canada.

30 (4) Toronto Argonauts — Max Duffy, Punter, Australia

Perhaps the biggest head scratcher in the draft, Duffy is a former Ray Guy award winner at Kentucky with a cannon for a leg, but most consider him the top punter in this year’s NFL Draft.

Kickers are inherently unpredictable, but I don’t see a world where Duffy ever kicks in Canada.

31 (4) Montreal Alouettes — William James, DB, Sweden

A former starter at safety for North Dakota, James is among the oldest players drafted at 29, but won’t look out of place in the CFL.

His intelligence and impressive change of direction give him a head start on any play and the Swede is physical enough to play in the box, a bonus for special teams.

32 (4) Saskatchewan Roughriders — Sebastien Sagne, REC, Finland

Only the second receiver taken, Sagne absolutely blew up the Combine with some downright impressive numbers.

The Finn is a solid receiver but he also has experience on defence and the measurables for special teams, which is why Sagne goes here and other receivers will be undrafted.

33 (4) Winnipeg Blue Bombers — Arryn Siposs, Punter, Australia

Futures picks are the name of the game and Siposs could be a big one.

The Auburn product is a top punter who is currently expected to compete for the Philadelphia Eagles top job. If he loses out, Winnipeg will benefit.

34 (4) Toronto Argonauts — Sammis Reyes, REC, Chile

This former basketball player from Tulane was so impressive at the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program pro day that the non-draft eligible tight end was straight up signed by the Washington Football Team, rather than having to wait to be assigned by a random division. That means he doesn’t have the protection of a practice roster exemption, but Reyes is highly regarded.

If he comes North eventually, how does a 260-pound tight end even fit in the Canadian game? Maybe it won’t be the Canadian game much longer.

35 (4) Edmonton Football Team — Matt Leo, DE, Australia

A very promising defensive end prospect from the land down under, Leo is currently an NFL International Player Pathway Program exemption player with the Philadelphia Eagles. That means Edmonton could have a long wait for the Aussie.

36 (4) B.C. Lions — Niklas Gustav, DE, Germany

A sack machine for 2019 NAIA champs Morningside, Gustav has the length you covet and good change of direction ability, though he was not always as explosive against lower competition as I would like to see.

The Global Draft had 36 players drafted from 18 different countries.

7 – Australia
6 – Japan
4 – Germany
3 – Great Britain
2 – Finland and France
1 – Bahamas, Belgium, Chile, China, Denmark, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, South Africa and Sweden

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.