Opinion: the Toronto Argonauts have the best Canadian depth in the CFL

Photo courtesy: Argonauts.ca

Every year before finalizing my first mock draft I make a depth chart for all nine CFL teams to get an updated read on their Canadian talent. Some of these depth charts get published — here is Ottawa’s — but most are used solely for my own analysis.

One thing that stood out during my latest round of depth charts was the quantity and quality of Toronto’s national talent.

The club started 22 different Canadian players in 2021 at slotback, wideout, centre, guard, tackle, defensive tackle, defensive end, safety, cornerback, and all three linebacker spots. That’s damn impressive, especially considering the team finished atop the East Division with a 9-5 record.

Toronto has since added future Hall of Fame running back Andrew Harris in free agency and acquired underrated safety Royce Metchie via trade from Calgary. What was already a strong group has only gotten better, plus the Argos hold three of the top fifteen selections in the 2022 CFL Draft.

Below I’ve listed all of Toronto’s national players by position. Does the club have the best Canadian talent in the CFL overall? That’s debatable. But when it comes to depth — the sheer volume of potential starters on the roster — the Argos take the cake.

Running back

Andrew Harris, Dion Pellerin

Harris should be Toronto’s starter given that Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons made him the highest-paid running back in the league. Pellerin didn’t get any carries as a rookie but was a special talent at Waterloo, putting up 2,674 yards from scrimmage and 21 touchdowns with the Warriors.

Fullback

Joe Carbone, Declan Cross

Cross was widely considered the best fullback in the CFL until Nikola Kalinic hit the scene with the Ticats in 2019. He still made four receptions last season, though he’s not been as much of a factor offensively as he once was. Carbone didn’t have a lot of production at Mercyhurst but has solid size as an undrafted signing.

Photo courtesy: Ticats.ca

Receiver

Sam Baker, Juwan Brescacin, Dejon Brissett, Kurleigh Gittens Jr., Tommy Nield

Gittens Jr. came out of nowhere to finish the 2021 season as the CFL’s second-leading Canadian receiver, making 50 receptions for 605 yards and four touchdowns. Brescacin still has the potential to be a difference-maker at slotback, though injuries have limited him to nine games over the past two years. Brissett still has a high ceiling, while Baker and Nield were potential late-round gems out of Saskatchewan and McMaster, respectively.

Offensive line

Dariusz Bladek, Philip Blake, Jamal Campbell, Theren Churchill, Dylan Giffen, Justin Lawrence, Peter Nicastro, Shane Richards, Jonathan Zamora

Campbell is a ratio-breaker at right tackle, while Bladek and Blake are consistent veterans at guard. Nicastro might be the most exciting player out of this group, even if he suffered a serious injury near the end of the 2021 season. Richards lost a ton of weight over the pandemic, which helped him start nine games last year. Lawrence and Zamora can play centre and guard, while Churchill and Giffen were very good tackles at the U Sports level.

Defensive line

Sam Acheampong, Fabion Foote, Benoit Marion, Robbie Smith

Acheampong and Foote are solid rotational players at defensive tackle with starting experience. Smith has recorded 39 tackles, five sacks, and two forced fumbles as a rotational player over two seasons, though he is capable of starting if called upon. Marion was a late addition last year who can rotate at multiple spots across the line.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Linebacker

Brandon Calver, Jack Cassar, Alexandre Chevrier, Trevor Hoyte, Henoc Muamba

Muamba is still playing at a high level even if he is entering his eleventh season in professional football. Cassar has a high ceiling as Muamba’s potential heir apparent, while Hoyte was solid in spot duty last year. Chevrier and Calver and career special teamers, the former of whom put up 28 special teams tackles over two seasons with Saskatchewan.

Defensive back

Matt Boateng, Arjen Colquhoun, Josh Hagerty, Royce Metchie

Metchie was brought in from Calgary via trade and gives Toronto the hard-hitting Canadian safety they lacked in 2021. Hagerty is a solid depth and special teams player, while Boateng and Colquhoun have plenty of experience at cornerback. Colquhoun has fought injuries throughout his career but he signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted NFL free agent in 2016 for a reason.

Bonus!

Sage Doxtater, Luiji Vilain

The Argos selected two players in the 2021 CFL Draft who were heading back to school in the NCAA. Both could join the team as early as 2022 and should make an impact along the line of scrimmage should they choose to return to Canada.

Doxtater needs to cut weight but has the potential to play offensive tackle in the CFL. Vilain barely played at Michigan (2017-20) but had an excellent season after transferring to Wake Forest in 2021, making 34 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, eight sacks, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.