An early fit and a late fit for each CFL team’s biggest draft need

Photo courtesy: West Virginia Athletics

The 2021 CFL Draft is set for May 4 and it’s time to start taking a close look at how teams might use their selections.

I’ve identified each team’s top positional need along with two players they could potentially select to address it — one being an early fit and one being a late fit. Teams are often forced to address positional needs in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft depending on how things play out in round one.

B.C. Lions — Offensive Line

Early fit — Sage Doxtater, New Mexico State

The Lions have traditionally coveted size along the offensive line, which is something this six-foot-seven, 350-pound blocker has in spades. Doxtater is a four-year starter at left tackle and has the potential to remain at that position at the professional level.

Late fit — Tyler Packer, Calgary

The 2017 Canada West Rookie of the Year will likely shift to guard at the professional level but could take reps at tackle in a pinch. He’s shed weight to increase his mobility and could become a big contributor if given time to develop.

Calgary Stampeders — Offensive Line

Early fit — Logan Bandy, Calgary

Calgary needs to add help along the offensive line following the off-season retirements of Shane Bergman and Brad Erdos. Bandy projects as a future starter at guard who grew up as a season ticket holder at McMahon Stadium. This is a match made in heaven.

Late fit — Peter Nicastro, Calgary

If the Stamps miss out on Bandy, they don’t have to look far for a strong alternative. Nicastro was a Canada West all-star in 2019 and is capable of playing guard or centre. He’s quick, smart, and would make a solid mid or late-round addition to Calgary’s roster.

Edmonton Football Team — Linebacker

Early fit — Amen Ogbongbemiga, Oklahoma State

The two-time All-Big 12 Second-Team selection will probably get a look from the NFL but he’s by far the best linebacker available in this year’s draft. There’s no question that he could eventually start in the CFL, though he’d be an elite special teams player from day one.

Late fit — Charlie Moore, Calgary

The six-foot-two, 225-pounder had 11.5 tackles for loss in just 17 career games with the Dinos and looked good at the College Gridiron Showcase. He may not get a lot of reps on defence, but he’d be a great addition on special teams where Edmonton needs to add depth.

Saskatchewan Roughriders — Defensive Tackle

Early fit — Mohamed Diallo, Central Michigan

The converted basketball player was sensational in 2020, making 9.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in just five games. He’s extraordinarily athletic for his size and projects as one of the CFL’s best national defensive linemen if he ever comes north of the border.

Late fit — Olivier Charles-Pierre, Houston

The Laval native needs to shed weight to play in the CFL — he’s listed anywhere from 345 and 370 pounds depending on where you check — but he could be a solid addition for a team looking to add depth at defensive tackle. Makana Henry isn’t getting any younger.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers — Defensive Back

Early fit — Alonzo Addae, West Virginia

Even after adding Noah Hallett out of McMaster in the second round last season, Winnipeg could stand to add some depth in the secondary. Enter Addae, a hard-hitting ballhawk who some see as a future all-star at safety. He’s going back to school in 2021 but wasn’t an All-Big 12 Second-Team selection in 2020 for nothing.

Late fit — Redha Kramdi, Montreal

Danny Maciocia might scoop up his former strong-side linebacker early, but Kramdi is a versatile player who will be extra tough on special teams. If he’s still available in round three or four, the Bombers would be smart to scoop him up.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats — Receiver

Early fit — Terrell Jana, Virginia

Jana is by far the most polished receiver available in this year’s outside of Josh Palmer, who is going to be a mid-round pick in the NFL Draft. He’ll need the waggle to produce at a high level, but he runs crisp routes and has great hands.

Late fit — Tommy Nield, McMaster

The Guelph native brings solid size at six-foot-four and should be able to compete on special teams. He’ll never be a 1,000-yard receiver, but he’d make for a nice depth addition to complement 2020 third-round pick Tyler Ternowski.

Toronto Argonauts — Defensive End

Early fit — Daniel Joseph, North Carolina State

The Argos have added a ton of pass rushers since the 2019 season, but they’re all American and most are over the age of 30. It’s possible that Joseph will be off the board by the time Toronto picks at No. 7 but he would make a great addition to the team’s front four.

Late fit — Alain Cimankinda, Guelph

The 25-year-old has the versatility to play at defensive end or defensive tackle, which is an added bonus for a club with Fabion Foote and Sam Acheampong on the roster. Cimankinda should still be on the board if Toronto can scoop him up by the third or fourth round.

Ottawa Redblacks — Linebacker

Early fit — Ben Hladik, UBC

The six-foot-four, 240-pounder can play linebacker or defensive end, which would provide Ottawa with some nice versatility on defence. He would immediately upgrade the team’s cover units on special teams and inject

Late fit — Kean Harelimana, Laval

The 2019 First-Team U Sports All-Canadian closes fast and hits with authority. His brother Brian played at the Université de Montréal — Laval’s hated arch-rival — and now plays for the Alouettes. Why not keep the rivalry going with Kean joining the Redblacks?

Montreal Alouettes — Defensive End

Early fit — Deshawn Stevens, Maine

The Als need to add edge rushers regardless of nationality, though national help is always welcome. Stevens worked his way back from a torn Achilles in September 2019 to make 28 tackles in the Black Bears’ four-game 2021 season and has registered four sacks and fifteen hurries in just 118 career pass-rushing snaps.

Late fit — Luiji Vilain, Wake Forest

The six-foot-four, 255-pounder was once a four-star recruit but played just 156 career snaps over four years at Michigan. He’s transferred to Wake Forest for 2021 and could be drafted at a major discount this year if he goes off with the Deman Deacons.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.