2021 CFL Draft position rankings: receivers

Photo courtesy: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

While the NFL and NCAA may just now be twigging on to the value of Canadian pass catchers thanks to the likes of Chase Claypool and John Metchie III, they’ve been a staple of the CFL Draft since before the Simpsons parodied it.

Chances are your team will have at least on Canadian receiver spot baked into the starting lineup in 2021. In recent years, some have started as many as three. Year in and year out, that makes this a premier position in the draft.

If you want to see the next Royal Canadian Air Force in your city, these are the players that should be on your wish list.

1. Josh Palmer, Tennessee Volunteers (Brampton, ON)

If you only bothered to glance at Josh Palmer’s college stat-line, you might wonder why a receiver who has never gained more than 500 yards in a season is rocketing up NFL draft boards.

The tape tells a different story. Palmer consistently produced despite terrible quarterback play and a less-than-ideal situation in Knoxville. He’s fast and physical, able to stretch the defence and win at the catch point. Among his victims last year was Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, making him one of just a handful of players to ever beat the consensus top cover man in the 2021 NFL Draft for a touchdown.

Palmer should hear his name called on Friday in the mid-rounds of the NFL Draft and is unlikely to ever play in the CFL.

2. Terrell Jana, Virginia Cavaliers (Burnaby, BC)

Though he’s been a consistent producer throughout his college career, Jana has neither the top level athleticism or statistical dominance to garner the same type of NFL hype as Palmer. While he may still earn a free agent opportunity, CFL teams are excited about his availability.

Most productive in the slot, Jana has a knack for finding the uncovered spaces and wins with intelligence. He’s deceptively sudden and extremely sure-handed — the type of player who could make an immediate impact in the CFL.

3. Tommy Nield, McMaster Marauders (Guelph, ON)

A tremendous slotback for the defending Yates Cup champions, Nield has far more juice as a player than you expect at first glance. He has good spatial awareness and a level of subtlety to his routes that you don’t normally see, adept at manipulating defenders with his pacing.

4. Dominic Johnson, Buffalo Bulls (Windsor, ON)

You may not find a bigger projection in this draft class than Dominic Johnson.

A converted quarterback who also plays for the Buffalo basketball team, Johnson has just 11 catches in his college career. At six-foot-five and 220 pounds, he could develop into a size mismatch on the outside and needs to prove it when he returns to school next year.

Either way, Johnson’s success as a blocker and special teams upside will be enough to get him drafted.

5. Will Corby, Toronto Varsity Blues (Burlington, ON)

If you’re looking for a big target to stretch the field, Corby is your man. His tremendous long speed earned him 797 yards and eight touchdown in 2019, averaging more than 23 yards per catch, but that skillset rarely translates from U Sports to the pros.

He’ll need to learn to run the full route tree and some pedestrian testing beyond his forty time makes his special teams value suspect.

6. Luther Hakunavanhu, York Lions (Edmonton, AB)

With an exceptional frame at nearly six-foot-four and 207 pounds, Hakunavanhu shows all the speed and explosiveness to develop into something really intriguing given the right coaching. His length stands out and the fact he made nine tackles in 2019 should get him on the field early in kick coverage.

7. Glodin Mulali, Acadia Axemen (Moncton, NB)

Mulali checks in somewhat smaller than the other top targets available and will have to overcome the AUS stigma, but his skillset is deserving of selection. Quick as a hiccup, Mulali can stop on a dime and make you miss in space.

A talented returner in addition to his receiving prowess, that won’t matter to scouts as much as whether or not he has the physicality to make the jump to the CFL.

8. Dylan St. Pierre, Ottawa Gee-Gees (Ottawa, ON)

At six-foot-two and 220 pounds, St. Pierre has no issue throwing his weight around. While he lacks ideal speed, St. Pierre has the explosiveness and strength to see time at H-back and will be a special teams standout.

9. Matthew Gledhill, Acadia Axemen (Ottawa, ON)

Gledhill looks the part of a pro prospect and his 10-foot-4.5-inch broad jump shows explosive ability that exceeded even Palmer. He hasn’t quite put that together on the field yet and will need significant seasoning to excel in the pro ranks.

10. Alex Basilis, Calgary Dinos (Calgary, AB)

Basilis is pretty much your standard issue Calgary Dinos slotback, of which there are several in the CFL. He is a sure-handed possession target with some physicality and special teams upside, but has flown under the radar after missing much of 2019 with injury.

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.