The CFL Draft is set for Tuesday, May 4 and it’s time to start drawing attention to players who may otherwise go overlooked.
Future NFL players like Jevon Holland, Benjamin St-Juste, and Chuba Hubbard have received a lot of ink, but there are plenty of other quality Canadian players up for grabs.
Below I’ve highlighted five players — plus an honourable mention — you should keep an eye out for in this year’s CFL Draft. They may not be getting a lot of attention now, but each could end up making a strong impact at the professional level.
OL Bryce Bell, Wilfrid Laurier
Montreal’s Pier-Olivier Lestage and Calgary’s Logan Bandy are the two U Sports offensive linemen who have garnered the most attention this year, but Bryce Bell is deserving of buzz as well.
The six-foot-four, 295-pound blocker spent the past two years at right tackle on a Golden Hawks’ offensive line that allowed the fewest sacks in the OUA. Levondre Gordon also became one of the most productive running backs in OUA history during that time, rushing for 2,646 yards and 19 touchdowns over the past three seasons.
Though he’ll likely move inside to guard at the professional level, Bell’s quickness to seal the edge should translate well to the professional level. He has good balance, hand placement, and still has some room to build out his lower body.
DL Alain Cimankinda, Carleton
The 2019 OUA second-team all-star posted 3.5 sacks in his first game at the University of Guelph in 2017 and never looked back. He finished his tenure with the Gryphons with 16.5 sacks and had he played a fourth season with the team, it’s likely he would have broken Mike O’Shea’s all-time record of 19.
The six-foot-one, 245-pound lineman has enough quickness to rush off the edge, but could slot-in at defensive tackle on passing downs. Cimankinda transferred to Carleton but never suited up for the team due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
NCAA pass rushers like Daniel Joseph, Deshawn Stevens, and Mohamed Diallo are garnering a lot of the hype, but don’t sleep on Cimankinda. He’s a versatile player who would be an asset to any CFL defensive line.
RB Deonté Glover, Shepherd
Glover was only added to the draft a few weeks ago, which is why there’s been little to no buzz surrounding him until now. He qualifies as a national through his mother’s citizenship, though he also spent five years in Canada as a child.
The five-foot-nine, 216-pound ball carrier was initially a walk-on at West Virginia but transferred to Shepherd University where he received athletic and academic scholarships. He dominated with the Rams as a senior, recording 2,098 all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns in 2019 as a rusher, receiver, and kick returner.
Glover recorded strong testing numbers prior to the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, including a 6.88 three-cone, 36-inch vertical jump, and 25 bench press reps. In a year when a lot of virtual numbers are being questioned, Glover’s stand out.
DB Redha Kramdi, Montreal
The 2021 CFL Draft is very deep at the defensive back position with a ton of NFL-calibre talent available. It’s easily to forget Redha Kramdi in the shuffle, but doing so would be a mistake.
He played strong-side linebacker with Montreal, though his coaching staff felt he could easily have played cornerback, halfback or safety. In practice he insisted on working against the team’s best receiver during one-on-one drills, ensuring he would face the stiffest competition possible.
The five-foot-eleven, 198-pound defender is extremely physical, tenacious, and smart. He’s got enough speed and cover skills to get by on defence but should really shine on special teams.
TE Bruno Labelle, Cincinnati
Tight ends with 20 career receptions don’t usually generate a lot of hype, but Bruno Labelle could easily be a first-round pick in the upcoming CFL Draft.
Nikola Kalinic was the No. 10 pick in the 2019 CFL Draft and validated that selection by contributing on special teams and catching 12 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown as a rookie. Labelle has the same imposing frame as Kalinic at six-foot-four and 250 pounds, but is faster, stronger, and a better blocker.
Labelle is considered by some as the best fullback prospect since Rolly Lumbala, who was the No. 9 pick in the 2008 CFL Draft. The Montreal native is an elite blocker who will make an impact on special teams and catch passes in the red zone. Don’t sleep on him.
Honourable Mention — QB Mike Beaudry, Idaho
The Regina native probably isn’t a future CFL franchise quarterback, but he’s posted solid numbers in stints at West Florida, UConn, and Idaho. He’s got legit size, a solid arm, and strong leadership skills. There’s been little to no buzz surrounding Beaudry thus far, but I think he deserves to get drafted and compete in a CFL training camp.