The 2023 CFL Draft is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, May 2 at 8:00 p.m. ET and, as always, 3DownNation has you covered with all the in-depth analysis.
Over the next week, we’ll be unveiling our top prospects at every position group, culminating in our pre-draft top 25 ranking. We already revealed our list of the top running backs and fullbacks, receivers, offensive linemen, and defensive linemen. Make sure to come back tomorrow when we rank the defensive backs.
Here we continue with the linebackers, the core of every CFL team’s special teams unit. This year’s group is shallow for talent but has a couple of potential big-time contributors available in the first few rounds.
1. Michael Brodrique, Université de Montréal (Sainte-Mathe-Sur-Le-Lac, Que.)
Big, fast, and physical, Brodrique is a CFL prototype at a chiselled six-foot-two and 222 pounds. He has the sideline-to-sideline range, elite lateral quickness and the natural instincts to potentially start down the line, but will instantly contribute on special teams with the traits to become an elite player in that phase of the game.
2. Josh White, University of Regina (Regina, Ssk.)
Often overshadowed by President’s Trophy winner Ryder Varga on the Rams’ defence, White is an exceptional linebacker in his own right with the explosive burst that teams love. At six-foot-one and 222 pounds, he’s good in zone coverage and has the intelligence to key and diagnose quickly, with plus ability as a blitzer.
3. James Peter, University of Ottawa (Ottawa, Ont.)
Undersized at five-foot-10 and 214, Peter is still a violent thumper who comes downhill with authority, wraps low and drives to finish. The former high school running back has tremendous short-area quickness and the innate competitiveness to exceed on special teams despite his smaller frame.
4. Matt Dean, York University (Ajax, Ont.)
A four-year starter for the Lions, Dean has racked up tackles thanks to his excellent recognition and ability to sort through traffic. He isn’t quite as twitchy as the players listed above him, but he has a special teams build at six-foot-one and 227 pounds and will be able to contribute right away.
5. Alec Poirier, Université Laval (Quebec City, Que.)
Poirier was unable to test at the Invitational Combine due to injury, leaving serious questions about his movement skills open for debate, but the former RSEQ Defensive Player of the Year has size unlike any other prospect at six-foot-three and 253 pounds. He’s not a guy you want to have isolated in space, but the leader of the Rouge et Or defence has still been an effective spot dropper and is a load when coming downhill.
6. Jack Hinsperger, University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ont.)
An instant impact performer for the Warrior, Hinsperger was the 2018 OUA Rookie of the Year before battling injuries in the middle of his collegiate career. He remains highly productive thanks to his natural feel for the position but is a limited athlete at six-foot and 221 pounds.
7. Markcus Jean-Loescher, Saint Mary’s University (Toronto, Ont.)
The son of former CFL defensive lineman Nautyn McKay-Loescher doesn’t have great range but flashes with elite short-area quickness and bend. At six-foot and 219 pounds, he’s an awkward defensive fit but projects as a career special teamer.
8. Brendan Murphy, Western University (Chateauguay, Que.)
A transfer from Guelph who has played safety at times, Murphy is a punishing hitter at five-foot-11 and 223 pounds whose production rivals any player in this class. He has special teams upside but still faces unanswered questions regarding his movement skills and won’t be ready to play until September due to a torn ACL.
9. Ife Onyemenam, Wilfrid Laurier University (Etobicoke, Ont.)
One of the leanest linebackers available at six-foot and 214 pounds, Onyemenam moves well laterally but lacks elite burst or play strength. He has some special teams value but will need to add bulk to his frame to be successful.
10. Nick Thomas, University of Manitoba (Surrey, B.C.)
A first-team All-Canadian in 2021, Thomas missed much of last season with a foot injury and appears to have added some bad weight in the process. He’s undersized and pudgy at five-foot-nine and 218 pounds but showed flashes of quickness and burst when healthy.
11. Max Charbonneau, University of Ottawa (Ottawa, Ont.)
The least productive of Ottawa’s draft-eligible linebacking corps, Charbonneau has the most pro-ready frame at six-foot-two and 224 pounds. He’s not a special athlete in any one area but has the skill set to contribute on special teams.
12. Dawson Davis, York University (Abbotsford, B.C.)
The other York linebacker, Davis lacks many of the physical traits that put his teammate so high on this list. He’s a thumper in the middle at five-foot-11 and 226 pounds and shows the ability to dip under blockers, but doesn’t have the speed or burst to function in space.
13. Wells Karabin, Queen’s University (King City, Ont.)
Karabin has limited movement traits but his six-foot-three, 238-pound frame is difficult to ignore. With some success as a blitzer, there may be value in converting him to defensive line full-time if he can improve his play strength.
14. Dyton Blackett, St. Francis Xavier University (Canning, N.S.)
An AUS all-star after converting from defensive end, Blackett has great length at six-foot-two and 226 pounds but lacks elite athletic traits. He’s stiff and struggles to move laterally, but has proven to be a very effective player on special teams.
15. Emmanuel Aboagye-Gyan, University of Ottawa (Ottawa, Ont.)
A poor athlete with a thin build at five-foot-11 and 207 pounds, Aboagye-Gyan really struggled at the CFL Combine. His on-field production last season was impressive, however, earning him second-team All-Canadian status.