2021 CFL Draft position rankings: defensive back

Photo courtesy: Josh Schaefer, GetMyPhoto.ca/Huskie Athletics

The deepest position in the 2021 CFL draft is defensive back.

No, you’re not living in an alternate reality — the new age of Canadian DBs has arrived and it’s here to stay. The two top Canadians chosen in an historic NFL Draft both play in the defensive backfield and there are players available that could start anywhere in the secondary.

It’s a brave new world and teams will be adjusting their ratios accordingly. Here are the top defensive backs they might target.

1. Jevon Holland, Oregon Ducks (Coquitlam, BC)

Let’s not waste too much time at this spot because Holland is an absolute star at the safety position and unlikely to be selected on Tuesday after being drafted No. 36 overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 2021 NFL Draft. He’ll be an impact player up high or in the slot at that level for many years to come.

2. Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota Golden Gophers (Montreal, QC)

Drafted 74th overall by the Washington Football Team in the NFL Draft, St-Juste has a body that doesn’t come around very often. Six-foot-three, 203-pound cornerbacks who can move as well as he does are unicorns and St-Juste fits the more physical press coverage schemes of certain NFL teams better than he does the CFL.

3. Alonzo Addae, West Virginia Mountaineers (Pickering, ON)

A transfer from New Hampshire, Addae lit it up as a Second-Team All-Big 12 selection in his first year starting for the Mountaineers, dropping some crazy highlights along the way. Listed at five-foot-ten and 190 pounds, he boasts NFL production without elite NFL physical traits and could be a long-time starter in free safety in the CFL if you are willing to wait a year or two.

4. Deane Leonard, Ole Miss Rebels (Calgary, AB)

As dominant a U Sports cover man as has existed in recent memory, COVID opened the door for Leonard to jump to the SEC in 2020 and he adjusted quickly to the highest level of college football. Returning to school, he could get himself on the NFL radar with a strong 2021 season thanks to his impressive speed and length.

5. Nelson Lokombo, Saskatchewan Huskies (Abbotsford, BC)

The reigning Presidents’ Trophy winner as U Sport’s best defensive player, Lokombo seems to play at a different speed than everyone else. With tremendous instincts and the ability to close in a heartbeat, Lokombo is the rare Canadian who could play almost any spot in the secondary.

6. Patrice Rene, Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Ottawa, ON)

At his best, Rene is a fluid cover corner with all the traits to be an elite ratio-breaker at the position. Unfortunately, he falls down the board through no fault of his own.

Rene tore his ACL in 2019, costing him the entire season. He may have rushed back too early in 2020 and looked like he lost a half-step, going from the undisputed top corner at North Carolina to part-time player.

That will scare some teams but the second year after an ACL injury can feature a big jump, meaning Rene could be the steal of the draft if he really shines after transferring to Rutgers.

7. Redha Kramdi, Montreal Carabins (Algiers, Algeria)

A strong-side linebacker who should move to safety in the CFL, Kramdi is a twitchy athlete with great first-step quickness and ferocious closing speed. He takes pleasure in the physical side of the game and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around.

8. Shae Weekes, Bemidji State Beavers (St. Adolphe, MB)

If this list was based on ‘wow’ factor, Weekes would challenge for the top spot. As a member of the Manitoba Bisons prior to a transfer, Weekes was an opportunistic player with good instincts and special speed when he puts his foot in the ground. Some have questions about coachability, but the talent is obvious.

9. Arjay Shelley, Manitoba Bisons (Mission, BC)

Weekes’ former teammate has a body that might baffle a cryptozoologist. Standing over six-foot-four, his wingspan would make Michael Phelps blush and he has enough long speed and explosiveness to make up for hip stiffness when changing directions.

10. Ethan Makonzo, Montreal Carabins (Montreal, QC)

The brother of likely to 2022 top prospect Enock Makonzo, Ethan is one of those players you really would have liked to have seen in 2020. A 210-pound free safety who can be a thumper over the middle, Makonzo shows more range than you expect but doesn’t have the same production of some other DBs.

11. Matthew Watson, Mount Allison Mounties (Brampton, ON)

An AUS corner with intriguing athleticism and some physical pop to his game, Watson excelled in zone coverage and would be a great depth add at safety.

12. Joshua Hagerty, Saskatchewan Huskies (Regina, SK)

A bigger safety with solid measurables, there isn’t a lot to dislike about Hagerty’s game. He doesn’t flash the big play ability like other prospects, but solid special teams value thanks to his build will be a trump card.

13. Daniel McWhirter, Carleton Ravens (Mount Albert, ON)

One of the top Virtual Combine testers with a 4.56 forty and ten-foot-one broad jump, McWhirter shows fluidity but not the same flash on tape, despite hauling in five picks in 2019.

14. Zack Fitzgerald, Laval Rouge et Or (Montreal, QC)

A fantastic man corner who is smooth like butter, Fitzgerald has the loose hips, quick feet and mental processing of a top defensive back. Unfortunately for him, being five-foot-nine and 172 pounds will knock him off some boards entirely.

15. Kene Ezekeke, UBC Thunderbirds (Calgary, AB)

It seems like every year the Thunderbirds have a player like this drafted. Blake Nill collects athletes like Pokemon cards and former Alberta track star Ezekeke fits the bill. The converted receiver was just coming into his own as a defender in 2019 and could have been a real riser had a 2020 season been played.

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.