Chris Jones has admitted in hindsight he could have made a better selection with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 CFL Draft.
While serving as general manager and head coach with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Jones decided to choose offensive lineman Josiah St. John instead of linebacker Alex Singleton.
“Are you saying that Singleton might have been a better pick at No. 1?” Jones said while laughing.
At the time, literally the day of the draft, there was uncertainty about Singleton coming directly to the CFL because the New England Patriots had offered him a contract. That caused Singleton to fall down to the Calgary Stampeders in the first round, sixth overall. The Riders, Montreal Alouettes, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Toronto Argonauts and B.C. Lions did not call Singleton’s name either.
“He’s an awful good player, Singleton is an outstanding football player. I don’t think anybody could’ve anticipated exactly how good of a player he actually turned out to be because if they were we outta bottle it and sell it and make a lot of money,” Jones said.
The six-foot-two, 232-pound Singleton played three seasons for the Stamps, recording 311 tackles, 17 special teams takedowns, six forced fumbles, four sacks and one interception in 54 regular season games. He produced 123 tackles in each of his final two years in Canada helping Calgary win the 2018 Grey Cup while earning the three-down league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award in 2017 and two CFL all-star selections.
“Yes, Singleton would have been an outstanding pick — you are correct,” Jones said.
St. John had the high end NCAA pedigree coveted by Jones with his experience at the University of Oklahoma. He has played in 36 career regular season CFL games through four years with Saskatchewan and re-signed with the green and white for the 2022 campaign.
“Josiah was what we felt like a good pick and we certainly needed offensive linemen at that point in Saskatchewan. He’s played for a long time, he hasn’t been the player that everybody anticipated him being,” Jones said.
Meanwhile, Singleton has gone on to NFL stardom. After spending three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and earning over $1.9 million USD, the Denver Broncos signed Singleton to a one-year contract worth over $1.1 million in free agency in March. He has recorded 249 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, five knockdowns, two sacks, two interceptions, and two touchdowns over 42 career NFL games.
Despite Singleton leaving the CFL for financial upside in the NFL, Jones knows the impact he made, even if the talented linebacker never returns north of the border, was worthy of him being the top choice.