The seven best selections from the 2021 CFL Draft

Photo courtesy: Kenneth Armstrong/Guelph Today

The 2021 CFL Draft has officially come and gone with 54 prospects having been selected by teams across the country.

I graded every selection as the draft unfolded on Tuesday evening but wanted to highlight some of my favourite picks from the night in a standalone article. Some of these made the list because they represented great value, while others perfectly filled a team’s area of need.

Here are the seven selections from the 2021 CFL Draft that I thought were the best of the bunch.

LB Deshawn Stevens — Ottawa Redblacks (Round 1, Pick 6)

The Toronto native played a mix of weak-side and middle linebacker at the University of Maine. He’s coming off a torn Achilles that he suffered in September 2019 but looked good in the CAA’s four-game spring season, recording 28 tackles.

I love this pick because Stevens is considering turning pro in 2021 after entering the NCAA transfer portal last week. If the Redblacks can get him under contract for the upcoming season, he could be an ace on special teams while potentially developing into a starter at linebacker or defensive end.

LB Grant McDonald — Edmonton Football Team (Round 2, Pick 14)

Edmonton entered this year’s draft with the CFL’s worst depth at Canadian linebacker and McDonald addresses that need perfectly. The six-foot-three, 235-pound defender will be a difference-maker on special teams while developing into a potential starter at middle linebacker.

The Vancouver native is a high-character player with strong leadership qualities. He played a huge role in the Dinos capturing the Vanier Cup in 2019 and I see him developing into a top-tier Canadian linebacker.

REC Terrell Jana — Saskatchewan Roughriders (Round 2, Pick 17)

The Riders didn’t need to add a Canadian receiver in this year’s draft, but Jana was impossible to pass up late in the second round. The six-foot-one, 190-pound target was easily the best receiver available outside of Josh Palmer, who was a third-round pick of the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Virginia product reminds some scouts of former first-round pick Hergy Mayala, who had a great rookie season with the Calgary Stampeders. I see Jana as a potential future 1,000-yard receiver at slotback, so this pick is great value.

LB Ben Hladik — B.C. Lions (Round 3, Pick 22)

I thought the Lions should have seriously considered taking Hladik with their first or second-round picks, so getting him at No. 22 overall was a steal.

The native of Vernon, B.C. has tremendous size at six-foot-four and 240 pounds and is capable of taking reps at linebacker or defensive end. He’ll be a dominant special teams player as a rookie and brings versatility, athleticism, and the added bonus of being a local product.

DL Alain Cimankinda — Saskatchewan Roughriders (Round 4, Pick 35)

The Carleton product spent three years at Guelph during which he recorded 16.5 sacks — 2.5 shy of Mike O’Shea’s all-time record. He should be able to play some special teams at six-foot-one and 245 pounds, but also has the versatility to play defensive tackle or defensive end.

Cimankinda stands out in a relatively shallow defensive line class due to his pass-rushing moves and versatility in the trenches. He was one of my favourite players heading into the draft and he’s a perfect fit in Riderville.

OL Logan Bandy — Saskatchewan Roughriders (Round 5, Pick 38)

Once considered a consensus first-round pick, Bandy experienced a draft day slide all the way to No. 38 overall. It’s obvious that the Calgary native was somewhat overhyped coming into the draft, but I still think he could develop into a starting-calibre CFL offensive lineman.

Getting a blocker like Bandy this late in the draft was a coup for the Riders considering they won’t need to force him into a starting role anytime soon.

RB Chuba Hubbard — Calgary Stampeders (Round 5, Pick 43)

This pick comes with high risk because Hubbard was selected in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. With that said, it’s tough to understate the Oklahoma State product’s potential if he ever plays north of the border.

The native of Sherwood Park, Alta. would become a CFL star overnight, likely drawing comparisons to Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee Jon Cornish. This late in the draft, Hubbard’s sky-high potential outweighs the risk of him playing the next five to eight years in the NFL.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.