Where do the Redblacks new global players fit?

Photo courtesy: Purdue Athletics

Maybe you don’t care about the CFL’s Global initiative. Maybe you’ve tuned out the sporting world because COVID dominates the news, all day, every day. Or maybe you’re like me and you’re thankful that, as vaccines roll out and the world slowly (keyword) returns to something resembling normal, we’ll have days like today with actual CFL news to cover.

Because despite being received with little of the hype, fanfare and coverage that comes from a typical draft, the CFL conducted its second global draft on Thursday afternoon. It saw 36 hopefuls from around the globe see their names called and kept their dreams of playing football at the professional level alive for a least a little longer.

Ottawa Redblacks’ GM Marcel Desjardins used his four selections to take Anthony Mahoungou (a receiver from France) with the 9th overall pick, Dutch linebacker Tyron Vrede at 10, Bahamian offensive lineman Chris Ferguson at 27 and French safety Tony Anderson at 28. It’s worth noting that three of Ottawa four selections were starters at the NCAA Division One level and some had previous interest from NFL teams and CFL teams attempting to sign them as Americans.

These four draftees join the likes of Mexicans José Carlos Maltos  (kicker) and Guillermo Villalobos (receiver) to give the Redblacks a total of six global players heading to camp. In theory, they’re fighting for two spots (unless the league cuts one) but there’s nothing to stop a CFL team from carrying more than the minimum number of mandated global players (although it is unlikely). For those who don’t recall, both Maltos and Villalobos were on the Redblacks’ roster for the entirety of the 2019 season.

Before getting into who has the best odds of actually making the team in training camp, let’s take a closer look at Ottawa’s newest draft selections.

Anthony Mahoungou (REC)

The first receiver off the board in the global draft, Mahoungou clearly has potential, as evidenced by the fact that he spent part of 2018 on the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster. In 2019, he tried out for but failed to make the Edmonton Football Team. The six-foot-three 215-pounder is a polished route runner with soft hands. There was some concern about a personal issue potentially preventing him from playing football in 2021, but evidently the Redblacks aren’t concerned. In his senior season at Purdue, Mahoungou averaged 17.8 yards per reception, making 40 catches for 688 yards and eight touchdowns.

Tyron Vrede (LB)

As per 3DownNation’s global expert (JC), Vrede is a speedy linebacker who boasts excellent lateral quickness, likely a result of his background in flag football. When Vrede initially moved to North America, he played for West Hills Community College and Garden City at the JUCO level before landing at the University of North Dakota. In 23 career games with the Fighting Hawks, Vrede tallied 56 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two pass knockdowns.

Chris Ferguson (OL)

The six-foot-five, 315-pound Nassau native was a two-year starter for the University of Cincinnati, starting all twelve games in 2018 and 2019 for the Bearcats. Ferguson was named team captain in 2019, and played a variety of roles in the trenches, makings starts at both tackle positions and left guard.

Ferguson’s size and strength should allow him to flourish as a run blocker, but his footwork will need to improve if Ottawa hopes to rely on him as an effective pass blocker.

Tony Anderson (DB)

Ottawa’s last pick in the global draft was unsurprisingly, its riskiest. Although Anderson boasts great size for a safety (six-foot-four, 207-pounds), a massive red flag is that over the course of the pandemic, he was one of the few global combine prospects to see his testing numbers decline. Anderson’s most recent virtual tests saw his 40-yard dash time go from a 4.66 in 2020 to a 4.8 in 2021. His broad jump, a key measure of explosiveness and lower body strength, dropped from 9’9” to 8’9”. On the other hand, his bench press improved from five reps in 2020 to ten reps in 2021.

During his senior season at Grand View University, Anderson made 48 tackles, four interceptions and recovered a fumble. Following his college pro day, he was invited to mini-camp tryouts for Indianapolis Colts and LA Rams, although he failed to stick with either team.

Obviously given the COVID world we live in, projecting too far into the future is never a good idea, but for argument’s sake let’s say that not only does the CFL have a season in 2021 but that global players are allowed to fly in and be a part of it. As mentioned earlier, the Redblacks would essentially have six players competing for two spots.

On paper, José Carlos Maltos and Guillermo Villalobos would seem to have an edge given that both spent all of 2019 with Ottawa. But that theory doesn’t quite hold water when you remember that Maltos only saw action in the preseason and Ottawa already has Canadian Lewis Ward as their placekicker (he of the legendary streak) and three-time All-Star American Richie Leone handling punting duties. As for Villalobos, despite dressing for eight games in 2019 and seeing some special teams action, the receiver was never actually targeted in the regular season. In fairness, dreadful quarterback play might have had something to do with that.

Mahoungou vs Villalobos could be one of those intense under the radar training camp battles worth keeping an eye on. Although the Frenchman has the pedigree, Villalobos shouldn’t be counted out, after all, he wasn’t named the LFA’s 2019 championship game MVP and the league’s best receiver by accident.

Ferguson’s size means he’ll receive a legitimate look on the offensive line, but given how the Redblacks’ seem set to manage their ratio (with three Canadian starters at the interior guard and centre positions), for him to hang around he’ll likely need to beat out an American at the tackle position.

If the Redblacks elect not to keep Maltos around as kicking depth, Vrede and Anderson may have the best odds of landing Ottawa’s other global position. Both have the tools to feature on special teams and in 2019 the global players who made the biggest names for themselves (linebacker Thiadric Hansen in Winnipeg and defensive lineman Valentin Gnahoua in Hamilton) did so by becoming regular special teams contributors.

Finally, having a global player (or two) from France on the roster would present the Redblacks with some interesting marketing opportunities given their bilingual market.

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).