2022 CFL Draft position rankings: defensive backs

Photo courtesy: Courtney Caird/Waterloo Athletics

The 2022 CFL Draft is almost upon us and as always, 3DownNation will have you covered with the most in-depth coverage anywhere in Canada.

With all the debates raging in the CFL, collective bargaining ongoing, and two separate drafts set to take place on May 3, it can be difficult for fans to keep track of all the prospects who might make an impact for your team next season. We’re here to help by giving you the inside scoop on the top players at every position in the lead up to the league’s annual pick-fest.

We’ve broken down the quarterbacks, running backsreceiversoffensive linemen, defensive linemen, and linebackers so far, but this draft’s best position group is undeniably the defensive backs. In a weak class overall, this group may be where you find your late round steals. That could be a blessing in disguise if changes to the CFL ratio force more Canadians into the secondary.

Defensive backs

Courtesy: AP Photo/Adrian Kraus

1. Enock Makonzo, Coastal Carolina University (Lachine, Que.)

A versatile chess piece for one of the most surprising teams in college football the last few years, Makonzo may be the rare Canadian who can compete for a spot at strong-side linebacker due to his wealth of experience playing in the box and covering the slot. The five-foot-eleven, 195-pound defender is efficient in his zone drops with fluid hips in transition and some ability to make plays with his eyes on the receiver, but earned his reputation as a disruptive force player against the run. Makonzo’s strafing, hair-on-fire play style consistently got him in the backfield despite adequate play strength, though his out of control approach resulted in some missed tackle issues in space that might be accentuated if he’s slotted at safety in the CFL.

2. Tyrell Ford, University of Waterloo (Niagara Falls, Ont.)

From a technique standpoint, Ford is raw and sloppy, hardly looking the part of the lockdown corner he was at Waterloo. However, perfect technique doesn’t matter much when you are the most athletically gifted player in the country and can keep pace with any receiver while going half-speed, if you haven’t simply run the route for them already. With 4.42 speed, I don’t believe Ford has yet reached his true potential as a cornerback, but his generational range will not be wasted if he transitions to safety. Either way, he’ll bring added value as a potent return specialist.

3. Adrian Greene, Saint Mary’s University (Scarborough, Ont.)

It is rare to see an Atlantic University Sport Conference prospect, let alone one at a skill position, rise in the draft process like Greene has, but it is difficult not to fall in love with the silky smooth five-foot-eleven, 194-pound corner. Greene checks all the measurable boxes in terms of size and length, with greased up hips, explosive change of direction and a physical edge. Some question why he wasn’t more dominant in a weak conference, with almost no ball production, but he locked down everyone he faced on the Combine circuit.

4. Demetri Royer, University of Western Illinois (Clearwater, Florida)

A late addition to the draft due to his Quebecois father, Royer is an older prospect at 27 and hasn’t played since 2019. Very productive playing strong safety in college, he lacks the range to thrive up high in the CFL but might have some upside at linebacker if he can add weight to his listed 200 pounds. Royer’s a sound form tackler who keys the ball quickly and can pack a punch in the hole, a skillset that will have tremendous special teams value if nothing else.

5. Jayden Dalke, University of Alberta (Leduc, Alta.)

A Canadian Junior Football League All-Canadian safety turned U Sports All-Canadian safety, Dalke likely isn’t fast enough when covering space to achieve that same elite status in the CFL. That doesn’t mean the six-foot-one, 200-pounder is without value, as the old school thumper brings the intimidation factor when coming downhill and should become a valuable special teams contributor from Day One.

6. Zach Herzog, Hillsdale College (Windsor, Ont.)

Though he’s proven to be physically willing, a lack of size and questions about how that will translate on special teams are sure to drop the six-foot-eight, 192-pound Herzog down draft boards. He is the prototype to defy those expectations however, with outstanding change of direction and a mental head start to his game that could allow him to start at safety.

7. Shaquille St-Lot, University of Maine (Montreal, Que.)

Something of a wild card in this draft as he continues to work his way back from a torn ACL in his knee, St-Lot was a productive man corner at Maine with enough fluidity and speed to translate to the next level. He certainly has a frame worth betting on, checking in with 33-inch arms. That’s incredible reach for a corner which shows up on tape in his ability to break up passes.

Photo courtesy: Scott Abbott

8. Jeremie Dominique, University of Charleston (Montreal, Que.)

Confident and controversial, Dominique’s journeyman path through college won’t be every team’s cup of tea. Neither will his athletic measurables — either those recorded in person with a reported hamstring injury or submitted virtually afterwards — but the tape on a strong Charleston defence was solid. He plays with anticipation, comes downhill with energy and shows flashes of the deep coverage ability that made him an NCAA Division 1 recruit to Hawaii, but the low level of competition makes it hard to overlook his questionable speed and change of direction.

9. Brandon Gandire, University of Regina (Marietta, Georgia)

An American who finished up his amateur career in Chilliwack, B.C. before jumping to the university level, Gandire is a menace in off coverage with elite explosiveness breaking on the ball and a nasty edge as a tackler. A smooth mover who can provide depth at multiple defensive back positions and translate to special teams, he’s moved past a high profile on-campus assault in 2018 to find success.

10. Daniel Valente, Western University (London, Ont.)

Valente’s five-foot-ten, 175-pound frame will be a serious concern, but his football intelligence is universally admired. A twitched up ballhawk, he reads quarterbacks like a book and drives on throws with the intent to score, with enough speed to make it happen.

11. Chris Ciguineau, University of Ottawa (Montreal, Que.)

Six-foot-two and 194 pounds with long arms, Ciguineau has an ideal frame and blue chip trait measurables across the board. With the pads on, he looks stiffer than those numbers indicate, tends to false step and is not yet polished in his technique. Ciguineau is a high-end developmental project who should earn his keep running down on special teams early.

12. Eric Sutton, Texas State (Cedar Hill, Texas)

Few will like Sutton’s attitude or his five-foot-nine, 172-pound body, but his quick twitch in the short area made him a successful nickelback with two separate NCAA Division I programs. The real issue with Sutton is how to project him to the next level, where his frame and skillset don’t mesh neatly with any CFL position. A fairly successful special teamer in college despite his size, there is also valid questions about whether he can continue in that role against bigger and better competitors.

Photo courtesy: Pete Buehner/Maine Athletics

13. Katley Joseph, University of Maine (Ottawa, Ont.)

St-Lot’s counterpart in Orono actually started earlier in his career, but is considerably smaller and lacks any of his teammate’s length. Joseph is decently quick and plays with good technique to put himself in position to make a play on the ball, but the lack of elite long speed he demonstrated at his pro day does show up on the field. He gets some benefit of the doubt for poor measurables coming off injury, but has little in the way of compensating factors for his size.

14. Daniel Loggale, York University (Edmonton, Alta.)

Loggale lost much of the 2021 season to injury, but first flashed for York as a freshman. Standing six-foot-two and 183 pounds with nearly 33-inch arms, he has the length teams will covet and loose hips in space, traits that can be developed at the next level.

15. Jonathan Edouard, Carleton University (Orlando, Florida)

Now 26-years-old, Edouard has the unique distinction of being a multi-year starter at cornerback for both NCAA Division II Henderson State and Carleton. Explosive out of his pedal with legit speed to match, Edouard’s experience could make him a real steal for a team willing to overlook the fact he weighs just 161 pounds.

16. Khadeem Pierre, Concordia University (Ottawa, Ont.)

Always the hammer, never the nail, Pierre will bring great physicality to the CFL with solid instincts and good length. An impact player his entire Concordia career, he might have ranked higher on this list had he been healthy enough to prove his measurables at the Combine.

17. Daniel Amoako, York University (Ajax, Ont.)

Amoako isn’t long like his York teammate and looks slight for 180 pounds, but there is no questioning that he is an elite athlete across the board. He is quick to flip his hips in transition and explosive when he breaks, but it is Amoako’s sideline-to-sideline chase down speed that might see him sneak into the draft.

18. Marcel Arruda-Welch, University of Manitoba (Winnipeg, Man.)

Underweight at 172 pounds, Arruda-Welch is an All-Canadian cover man who bounced between Manitoba and the Canadian Junior Football League. From a family of athletes, he’s got unquestioned burst when he puts his foot in the ground, but has more stiffness in his hips than you’d expect.

19. Nelson Uzonwa, University of British Columbia (Lagos, Nigeria)

A native of Nigeria who began his college career at Manitoba, then started two years at NCAA Division II Minnesota-Crookston, before finishing at UBC, Uzonwa is not an elite cover man, but has the explosiveness downhill to be a special teams contributor. Late in the draft, he’s a highly intelligent leader who would bring value to a locker room.

20. Tysen-Otis Copeland, Université de Montréal (Montreal, Que.)

With size at a premium, Montreal’s six-foot, 199-pound corner provides some intrigue due to his solid speed and explosiveness. Copeland would be a depth safety at the next level with special teams upside.

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.