Ranking every team’s 2022 CFL Draft class

Photo courtesy: CFL

The 2022 CFL Draft is in the books and after an exhausting amount of live coverage, I’ve finally had some time to reflect.

In what was a weaker draft than normal, all nine CFL teams came away with talent that can help them now and in the future. In fact, I don’t think that any team erred significantly in their strategy.

If I were to assign a grade to each class, I’d have a hard time finding one below a B. However, that doesn’t mean that some teams didn’t perform better than others.

It will be years before we truly know who won this year’s pick-fest, but as always, I’ve ranked all nine CFL teams’ draft day performance from worst to first. Remember, if you don’t like what you read, blame your GM, not me.

Photo courtesy: Courtney Caird/Waterloo Athletics

9. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

2 (13) Tyrell Ford, DB, Waterloo
4 (38) Cole Adamson, DT, Manitoba
5 (47) Chris Ciguineau, DB, Ottawa
6 (56) Jeremy Kapelanski, DT, Guelph
7 (65) Cedrick Lavigne, DB, Carleton
8 (74) Konner Burtenshaw, FB, Queen’s

The Bombers traded out of the first round to acquire Canadian defensive tackle Cameron Lawson, filling a desperate need for depth behind Jake Thomas. That also seemed to define their draft strategy, where they used limited capital to aggressively attack positions of need.

To that end, I thought the second round selection of Tyrell Ford was one of the best in the draft. The uber-athletic All-Canadian cornerback is more than capable of moving to safety, a spot where the team may soon need to start a Canadian, and can help spell Janarion Grant in the return game to get him more offensive reps.

After that, the team was guilty of a few reaches to flesh out their defensive tackle rotation. Cole Adamson and Jeremy Kapelanski are both high-effort players willing to do the dirty work, but their potential impact is limited overall.

I like the special teams upside of Chris Ciguineau and his developmental potential, while Cedrick Lavigne provides more athletic depth in the secondary. I love Konner Burtenshaw as a late-round, lunch pail fullback, but the Bombers’ class may have the lowest overall ceiling.

Photo courtesy: Coastal Carolina

8. Edmonton Elks

1 (4) Enock Makonzo, DB, Coastal Carolina
1 (8) Tre Ford, QB, Waterloo
2* (19) Jacob Plamondon, DE, Calgary
3 (21) Marc-David Bien-Aime, OL, Fresno State
3 (28) Peter Adjey, LS, Queen’s
4 (30) Gavin Cobb, REC, Manitoba
5 (39) Wesly Appolon, LB, Tuskegee
6 (48) Jeremie Dominique, DB, Charleston
7 (57) J.P. Cimankinda, RB, Ottawa
8 (66) Nate Edwards, LB, McMaster

Edmonton made some nice moves with a high volume of picks, but they traded away two impactful Canadians in tackle Kyle Saxelid and linebacker Grant McDonald to make it happen. Those two players alone could be as good as this entire class, which has to be considered in their ranking.

Both of the Elks’ acquired first rounders were excellent selections, as Chris Jones will be able to play mad scientist on defence with the versatility of Enock Makonzo and should be equally unafraid to push for creative usages of quarterback Tre Ford offensively. You also love the athleticism that Gavin Cobb brings to the table in round four, while Wesly Appolon and Jeremie Dominique feel like they will fit perfectly on a Jones defence. Even eighth round pick Nate Edwards was tremendous value for where he was selected.

Some of the other picks should be less well-received. Jacob Plamondon felt like a reach inside the top 20, even with the territorial limitations for that selection, and no amount of size justifies taking a player like Marc-David Bien-Aime at the top of the third when he hasn’t played in two years and hasn’t started since high school.

Their second third-round pick, long snapper Peter Adjey, at least fills a desperate need, but that is awfully high in the draft for a specialist. While it is nit-picky that late in the draft, I wasn’t a fan of the J.P. Cimankinda selection either, making Edmonton’s draft a mixed bag to say the least.

Photo courtesy: St. FX Athletics

7. Toronto Argonauts

1 (6) Gregor MacKellar, OL, St. FX
2 (10) Deionte Knight, DT, Western
2 (15) Daniel Adeboboye, RB, Bryant
3 (26) Enoch Penney-Laryea, LB, McMaster
4 (35) Braydon Noll, OL, Wilfrid Laurier
5 (44) Daniel Kwamou, LB, UBC
6 (53) Eric Sutton, DB, Texas State
7 (62) Chase Arseneau, TE, McMaster
8 (71) Michael Pezzuto, DE, Ottawa

There are plenty of people who are much higher on the Argos’ draft than I am, but I felt like it was simply par for the course. You can come away content with this class, but it won’t redefine your franchise.

Though not egregious, Gregor MacKellar was the biggest first round reach in this draft at number six and seems particularly questionable given the team’s existing o-line depth. They made up for it somewhat with the selection of Deionte Knight in the second round, upgrading their interior rotation of Sam Acheampong and Fabion Foote, and adding top running back Daniel Adeboboye was an easy lay-up, but I don’t think they hit any real home runs.

The athletic freak Enoch Penney-Laryea and Daniel Kwamou should be solid special teams players, but I don’t see either as a future starter. Braydon Noll will be nice offensive line depth, Chase Arseneau gives you a unique receiving H-Back body, and Michael Pezzuto is a fine depth addition, but none have particularly high ceilings. The player with the most potential upside is tiny Eric Sutton, but he has the most red flags as well.

Photo courtesy: Calgary Dinos

6. Calgary Stampeders

1 (5) Jalen Philpot, REC, Calgary
2 (14) Josiah Schakel, LB, Alberta
3 (25) Demetri Royer, DB, Western Illinois
4 (34) Jacob Butler, OL, Queen’s
5 (43) Joel Braden, OL, Regina
6 (52) Rasheed Tucker, RB, Queen’s
7 (61) Shaquille St-Lot, DB, Maine
8 (70) Daniel Amoako, DB, York

I didn’t love every one of the Stampeders’ selections, but I thought they hit big on their first three picks. Not every team would be a fit for Jalen Philpot, but nobody understands his game better than Calgary and there is a clear path to the field for him there early. Josiah Schakel allows the rich to get richer at linebacker, providing more depth behind new starter Cameron Judge, and should contribute early on teams. The same can be said for Demetri Royer, who has a body type and physicality not dissimilar from Nate Holley, albeit while more limited athletically.

I was considerably lower than the Stamps were on offensive linemen Jacob Butler and Joel Braden, but good offensive line depth was hard to come by in this draft. I also have concerns about how Rasheed Tucker’s game will translate, but he was selected around where I was comfortable with him and should provide the running back depth the Stamps lost with the departure of Ante Milanovic-Litre.

While I had mid-round concerns, I also liked the Stampeders’ late selections. With his length and NCAA experience, Shaquille St-Lot could be a real steal in the seventh round, depending on how he returns from his ACL injury. Daniel Amoako from York is a smaller player, but a tremendous athlete, something the Stamps have shown themselves capable of developing before.

Photo courtesy: Charles Wainwright/Syracuse

5. Montreal Alouettes

1 (1) Tyrell Richards, LB, Syracuse
1 (9) Tyson Philpot, REC, Calgary
2 (18) Rodeem Brown, OL, Alberta
3 (24) Vincent Forbes-Mombleau, REC, Laval
4 (33) Tysen-Otis Copeland, DB, Montreal
5 (42) Ryth-Jean Giraud, RB, Montreal
6 (51) Peter Kozushka, OL, Alberta
7 (60) Yanis Chihat, LB/DE, Laval
8 (69) Zach Lindley, LB/DB, Western

The Alouettes were bold in their decision to move up to number one — and briefly abandon their local strategy — giving up surprisingly little for the right to select Tyrell Richards, the unquestioned top athlete in this draft. He’ll go a long way to addressing the team’s defensive depth and Jeff Reinebold is about to have a field day with his special teams ability.

With a plan to start two Canadian receivers next year, the selection of Tyson Philpot also makes sense, though they did sacrifice their top Canadian defensive tackle Cameron Lawson to make it happen. Rodeem Brown was a high selection for a player returning to school, but I think he’s a great fit for that offence and could be the future at centre.

When Danny Maciocia returned to his Quebecois roots in round three, I thought he made some nice picks. Laval receiver Vincent Forbes-Mombleau quickly became a favourite of mine throughout the draft process and I think he brings value as a possession slot. Big-bodied Carabins defensive back Tysen-Otis Copeland will contribute early on special teams, as will gritty running back Ryth-Jean Giraud.

The team got hulking lineman Peter Kozushka without reaching, which is always a plus, and while I’m not sold on the Yanis Chihat selection, Zach Lindley was a value add in round eight with the versatility to back-up multiple spots.

Courtesy: AP Photo/Matthew Hinton

4. Saskatchewan Roughriders

1 (7) Samuel Emilus, REC, Louisiana Tech
2 (16) Zack Fry, OL, Western
3 (27) Diego Alatorre, OL, UBC
4 (36) Tommy Bringi, LB, Wilfrid Laurier
5 (45) Tristan Fleury, DB, McGill
6 (54) Jayden Dalke, DB, Alberta
7 (63) Zach Herzog, DB, Hillsdale College
8 (72) Riley Boersma, REC, Regina

The Riders had a very solid night overall, but there are some questions to be asked about the top of their draft. Samuel Emilus should replenish the receiving corps nicely after the departures of Brayden Lenius and Terrell Jana, but given the functional depth they already possess at that position, I might have gone elsewhere with the selection. When they did address offensive line, Zack Fry of Western was the choice. Clearly they wanted a lineman athletic enough to play tackle so they don’t have to move Evan Johnson if Jamal Campbell gets hurt, but Fry’s strength concerns need to be addressed ASAP.

The team also added Diego Alatorre, a Mexican national I was incredibly high on throughout the process, to their offensive line depth, and I loved that selection. The same can be said about much of the rest of their draft. I might have picked Tommy Bringi, Tristan Fleury and Jayden Dalke in a different order, but all three have a chance to help you on special teams on day one thanks to their size and physicality.

Size is something their next two selections lack, but both could be steals. Safety Zach Herzog is my choice for the best pick in the draft and I think he gives you starting potential at the low price of a seventh round selection. Regina product Riley Boersma may not factor into the receiving corps right away, but he is a top five athlete in this draft and might benefit from another year of school down the road with the Rams.

Photo courtesy: Greg Kolz/GeeGees Athletics

3. Ottawa Redblacks

1 (2) Zack Pelehos, OL, Ottawa
2 (11) Cyrille Hogan-Saindon, OL, Laval
2* (20) Jesse Luketa, DE, Penn State
3 (22) Keaton Bruggeling, REC, Carleton
4 (31) Daniel Valente, DB, Western
5 (40) Woodly Appolon, LB, Tuskegee
6 (49) Subomi Oyesoro, LB, Calgary
7 (58) Connor Ross, TE/LS, St. FX
8 (67) Luca Perrier, RB, Laval

There are valid reasons to critique the Redblacks for drafting back-to-back offensive linemen and creating a log jam at the position, but when a team without major needs takes your top two highest-ranked hoggies in the draft, it is hard to complain. Zack Pelehos and Cyrille Hogan-Saindon might both need some development, but their ceiling as starters is incredibly high. This was an impressive play for the future by the Redblacks organization.

I continued to be impressed throughout and I can see multiple Redblacks’ draft picks being starters at some point. With his fall in the NFL Draft, Jesse Luketa is not the same long shot futures pick he once was and could be playing in his hometown in a year or two. Keaton Bruggeling has a high special teams floor and drool-worthy athletic traits that could turn him into an impact receiver. Daniel Valente’s football IQ means he shouldn’t be overlooked in the open safety competition this year and Woodly Appolon’s range and length should pay special teams dividends at the very least.

I was lower on Subomi Oyesoro, Connor Ross and Luca Perrier than Ottawa, but all will be capable teamers. After re-building their Canadian depth in free agency from next to nothing the last few years, I think the Redblacks got better again in this draft.

Photo courtesy: Queen’s Athletics

2. Hamilton Tiger-Cats

2 (17) Anthony Federico, DE, Queen’s
4 (37) Kiondre Smith, REC, Guelph
5 (46) Jared Beeksma, LB, Guelph
6 (55) Khadeem Pierre, DB, Concordia
7 (64) Nicolas Guay, OL, Laval
8 (73) Jaxon Ciraolo-Brown, DB, UBC

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats tied with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the fewest selections in 2022, but they proved it isn’t the size of the draft that matters, but how you use it. In my mind, Anthony Federico was the player they had to leave with on Tuesday and they got him in the second round, ensuring competent depth behind projected starting defensive end Mason Bennett.

The picks from there were solid across the board. Kiondre Smith will be a nice complementary depth piece at receiver and his Guelph teammate Jared Beeksma was an absolute steal in round five, with the potential to be a long-term special teams impact player. Khadeem Pierre brings some more physicality to a talented secondary and Jaxon Ciraolo-Brown continues the Ticats’ affection for athletic former Thunderbirds, while there isn’t a team in the league that I trust more to develop Nicolas Guay’s athleticism than Hamilton.

Ultimately though, this draft ranks this highly because of the players they didn’t select. Hamilton fleeced Edmonton in trading their first-round pick, acquiring a starter quality left tackle in Kyle Saxelid and a top ten special teams player with starting potential in Grant McDonald. There wasn’t a better player at their position than those two in this draft and Drew Allemang must have been laughing as he hung up the phone.

Photo courtesy: University of Saskatchewan Athletics

1. B.C. Lions

1 (3) Nathan Cherry, DT, Saskatchewan
2 (12) Noah Zerr, OL, Saskatchewan
3 (23) Josh Archibald, DE, McGill
3 (29) Ryder Varga, LB, Regina
4 (32) Adrian Greene, DB, Saint Mary’s
5 (41) Riley Pickett, DE, Saskatchewan
6 (50) Frednick Eveillard, DE, Ottawa
7 (59) John Metchie III, REC, Alabama
8 (68) Adam Wallace, DT, Ottawa

Yes, drafting John Metchie III in round seven was about as useful as lighting money on fire, but I thought the Lions hit a home run with this draft. They needed to get longer, more physical, and upgrade their special teams. They had to emerge with defensive line depth and a blue chip offensive lineman. Despite that long list of requirements, they succeeded.

Nathan Cherry may have been a surprise at third overall, but he finally gives the team the Canadian contributor in the defensive tackle rotation that they have coveted for so long. Some may have preferred Deionte Knight there, but Cherry is the more refined player right now in terms of his explosiveness and hand usage. Being able to add his Saskatchewan teammate Noah Zerr in the second round was a slam dunk, a pro ready mauler of an offensive lineman that can compete to start early and should fit exactly what Kelly Bates wants to do in the run game.

The Lions may have gone a little defensive line heavy, but in Josh Archibald, Riley Pickett and Frednick Eveillard they also got special teams mismatches of a type the team hasn’t had in years, all with the ability to develop into more. Cornerback Adrian Greene is the same way, with the length, explosiveness and physicality you covet. Ryder Varga could be the best pick of the bunch and the Lions’ patience while he returns to school should be rewarded in 2023.

I won’t begrudge the Lions for ruining my three-year streak of knowing every player in the draft when they selected Adam Wallace in the eighth round. He’s a long-term developmental play who recently ran a 4.97 forty at 275 pounds, but this draft was a major win long before he went off the board.

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.