The Hamilton Tiger-Cats hold the first overall selection in the 2021 CFL Draft and Canadian receiver Terrell Jana is the odds-on favourite to go No. 1.
Ticats’ co-manager of football operations Shawn Burke is a fan of Jana and his abilities as a football player.
“When you look at Terrell he’s had a productive career at Virginia and he’s going to be a great CFL player. What we plan to do at that spot, we’ll see tomorrow night,” Burke said.
Jana had a productive NCAA career making 122 receptions for 1,473 yards — 12.1 yards per catch — and five touchdowns in 33 games with the University of Virginia. His best season came in 2019 when he finished second on the Cavaliers with 878 receiving yards in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
In 2018, Hamilton didn’t shy away from choosing a pass catcher with the first overall selection. Mark Chapman was the pick that year, although he signed with the Denver Broncos following a contract dispute and eventually retired.
Jana has a similar build to Chapman — both are five-foot-eleven, though Jana is thicker at 195 pounds compared to Chapman’s 180. Aside from the height and weight measurements, Jana has thoroughly impressed during the interview process and could prove to be the most pro-ready ‘now’ player in the draft.
“It’s a really good draft top end-wise. We got some clarity this weekend with what happened in the NFL in regards to four Canadians getting drafted and multiple guys getting signed post-draft,” Burke said.
“We’re getting close to narrowing it down to the last couple people that we would consider. That’s exciting to have more of a focus and come to a decision together as a staff.”
The 2021 CFL draft will be conducted in a ‘snake’ style with the order of selections reversing in alternating rounds. That means that the Ticats will pick first in rounds one, three, and five, but last in rounds two, four, and six. Hamilton won the first overall pick in a random draw because there were no standings on which to base the order after the 2020 season was cancelled.
“The more picks you have at the top end of a draft, usually in most years means you haven’t done well, but with the uniqueness of the draw from not having a season last year, gave us an opportunity to address a person coming in and helping our roster right away that we normally wouldn’t have access to,” Burke said.
“As the draft goes on, you do a mix of fitting your needs and what your board is. We’re going to get some prospects that are either with our team this season or in the future that can really help shape our roster down the road.”
The veteran scout views the 2021 class as a quality group with a lot of top-end talent. There are players who will go back to NCAA schools for another season while others will be able to come to a potential training camp right away and compete.
“You do have a pick of some guys that could come in and at minimum help on your game-day roster in terms of special teams or backing up positions. There’s lots of guys in this draft that can give competition from day one,” Burke said.
The CFL Draft is much different compared to the NFL Draft in which players come in and start immediately. Altering the face of a franchise can happen quickly by selecting a quarterback high in the first round. Players are made millionaires in an instant and expected to resurrect poor teams.
“The jump in our league is a little different because of the ratio and level of play. You don’t necessarily look at where they would be from day one of training camp,” Burke said.
“You look at where they could be down the road and developing them. It does take some time, so I don’t think it’d be fair to put any pressure on any player in this draft.”
Not even Jana or whoever the Ticats select on Tuesday night.