Top 20 position players in the 2023 CFL Global Draft

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The Canadian Football League’s Global program will enter its fourth season in 2023, giving players from outside Canada and the United States a chance to carve out a professional career.

This year’s Global Draft will take place on Tuesday, May 2 at 11 a.m. ET, featuring two rounds of selections. In total, over 70 foreign-born players are eligible to be picked.

Since launching in 2021, All22 – The Global Scouting Network has become a leader in verified data collection and talent evaluation in the international football marketplace. For the past several months, a select group of scouts including myself, European Director of Scouting Patrik Asen, and Director of US & Global Player Personnel Devin Pettenger have been hard at work leveraging all that information to assess the prospects in the 2023 CFL Global Draft class.

With the draft just days away, we are proud to share the fruits of our labour with CFL fans. Here is our list of the top 20 position players available in this year’s draft. Please come back tomorrow for our ranking of the top specialists.

Note: All measurements are listed in scouting format. 6042 can be read as six feet, four inches, and two eighths.

1. Habakkuk Baldonado, DE, University of Pittsburgh (Italy)

HT: 6042 | WT: 251 | HND: 104 | ARM: 330 | WNG: 793
BCH: 21 | 40Y: 4.78 | VJ: 35 | BJ: 1000 | 3C: 7.11 | SS: 4.44

A native of Rome, Italy, Baldonado racked up nine sacks as a junior but is coming off a disappointing senior season plagued by injuries. An explosive athlete who fires off the snap quickly and plays with good lateral movement, he leverages his powerful 33-inch arms against both run and pass, finishing as a powerful wrap-up tackler. Baldonado’s athleticism, size and flashes of high-end play are intriguing but he went unselected in the 2023 NFL Draft and signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent, raising the likelihood he is selected as a futures pick in the CFL Draft.

2. Kilian Zierer, OL, Auburn University (Germany)

HT: 6072 | WT: 307 | HND: 102 | ARM: 342 | WNG: 831
BCH: DNP | 40Y: 5.21 | VJ: 27 | BJ: 8070 | 3C: 7.78 | SS: 4.67

A mountainous blocker from Munich, Zierer started every game at left tackle for the Tigers in 2022. He possesses impressive athleticism for a big man and effectively uses his 83-inch wingspan to run rushers wide around the arc. However, the former three-star recruit struggles to bend and lacks the play strength to displace opponents in the run game. Zierer was projected as a Day 3 selection in the NFL due to his size and quick feet but went undrafted and signed with the Houston Texans, making him a potential futures pick for a CFL club.

3. Isaac Moore, OL, Temple University (Sweden)

HT: 6061 | WT: 291 | HND: 100 | ARM: 326 | WNG: 793
BCH: 17 | 40Y: 5.70 | VJ: 24 | BJ: 7100 | 3C: 7.94 | SS: 4.96

A four-year starter at left tackle in the AAC, Moore is a tough-as-nails veteran who projects as a pro guard. The Swedish big man lacks the athletic ability to handle speed rushers but is at his best when able to get his hands on opponents quickly, flashing a strong anchor. Though he is not an elite people mover, Moore effectively uses angles in the run game and shows a nasty finish. The Owls’ all-time record holder for games played may have NFL UDFA opportunities and has already been drafted by the USFL, placing his CFL availability in question.

4. Junior Aho, DE, Southern Methodist University (France)

HT: 6022 | WT: 260 | HND: 90 | ARM: 337 | WNG: 797
BCH: DNP | 40Y: 4.59 | VJ: 33.5 | BJ: 1030 | 3C: 7.38 | SS: 4.90

A three-year rotational edge defender for the Mustangs, Aho has good length and athletic ability with the burst off the line of scrimmage and lateral quickness to be effective on stunts. He has good strength to hold the point of attack and flashes the ability to win with speed-to-power, though he remains a raw pass rusher with inconsistent use of hands. A worthwhile developmental project, Aho is a likely selection for the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, which could keep him out of the CFL for the next three years.

Photo courtesy: Hawaii Athletics

5. Blessman Ta’ala, DT, University of Hawaii (American Samoa)

HT: 6010 | WT: 290 | HND: 97 | ARM: 311 | WNG: 751
BCH: 28 | 40Y: 5.13 | VJ: 29.5 | BJ: 8010 | 3C: 7.86 | SS: 5.05

A five-year starter at defensive tackle who earned multiple all-conference selections while with the Rainbow Warriors, Ta’ala uses his stocky build and violent hand to hold the line of scrimmage in the run game. He’s at his best when able to penetrate early with his quick use of hands, and has an effective pass-rush plan in critical situations. Because of his lack of length, he struggles to create pressure late in reps and has a limited pass-rush ceiling. However, Ta’ala’s impressive strength and college production projects him to make an immediate impact on a CFL defensive line, with starting potential inside.

6. Adam Raine, DT, Yale University (United Kingdom)

HT: 6035 | WT: 297 | HND: 97 | ARM: 323 | WNG: 790
BCH: 25 | 40Y: 5.32 | VJ: 27 | BJ: 8030 | 3C: 7.28 | SS: 4.64

An honourable mention All-Ivy selection in 2022, Raine is a smart, technically sound interior defender who flashes intriguing short area quickness. He is rarely knocked off the point of attack, with violent hands that allow him to control gaps in the run game. Though he lacks elite pass rush ability, the high-character Brit has the strength to knock back opponents and collapse the pocket, with surprising bend that could be maximized at the next level. Raine can contribute from day one in the CFL as a rotational defensive tackle, with shades of Tibo Debaillie in his game.

7. Lorenz Metz, OL, University of Cincinnati (Germany)

HT: 6090 | WT: 316 | HND: 105 | ARM: 342 | WNG: 840
BCH: 26 | 40Y: 5.30 | VJ: 26.5 | BJ: 8070 | 3C: 7.63 | SS: 4.82

A member of Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks List” for his unique size and athletic ability, Metz never became a full-time starter for the Bearcats. Despite his tall, offensive tackle body type and exceptional length, the German behemoth struggles to redirect in space and is far more comfortable at guard. He possesses a powerful punch to jar opponents but struggles to bend at his height, frequently getting knocked back and out-leveraged by smaller defenders. Metz’s once-in-a-generation frame makes him an intriguing project and earned him an undrafted free agent contract with the Chicago Bears.

8. Lino Schroeter, LB, Cologne Crocodiles (Germany)

HT: 6005 | WT: 236 | HND: 90 | ARM: 294 | WNG: 741
BCH: 23 | 40Y: 4.71 | VJ: 34.5 | BJ: 9045 | 3C: 7.02 | SS: 4.34

A compact inside linebacker who burst onto the European football scene in his second GFL season, Schroeter earned a spot on the 2022 league all-star team. He is a quick and explosive athlete who plays with a level of tenacity and aggression rarely seen in Europe, but struggles to disengage from bigger offensive linemen and has just two years of high-level football under his belt. Schroeter has the chance to make an immediate impact on special teams due to his physicality and ability to move in space but will have to mature before becoming a contributor on defence.

Photo courtesy: Breanna Stalsitz/Clarion Athletics

9. Robert Lachmann, DE, Clarion University (Germany)

HT: 6035 | WT: 243 | HND: 100 | ARM: 327 | WNG: 793
BCH: 15 | 40Y: 5.06 | VJ: 31 | BJ: 9052 | 3C: 7.38 | SS: 4.30

A lanky edge defender, Lachmann began his collegiate career at Albany before transferring to Clarion for his final two seasons. He is quick off the snap and shows good lateral movement when slanting, with quick hands to clear an offensive lineman’s punch, but is not a refined pass-rusher. He lacks high-end athleticism but will chase down plays with effort, showing the ability to navigate through traffic and use his reach to wrap up the ball carrier. Lachmann will have to earn a CFL roster spot based on his special teams upside, with coaching required to improve his pass rush arsenal.

10. Penei Pavihi, LB, University of Hawaii (American Samoa)

HT: 6022 | WT: 249 | HND: 97 | ARM: 312 | WNG: 751
BCH: 19 | 40Y: 4.90 | VJ: 27.5 | BJ: 8090 | 3C: 7.43 | SS: 4.60

A big-bodied linebacker, Pavihi was a five-year contributor for the Rainbow Warriors and produced at the FBS level. He plays with good awareness in Zone to pick up route concepts and is a consistent wrap-up tackler, with the frame and positional flexibility to also provide depth on the edge. Pavihi is not an ideal CFL linebacker fit due to athletic limitations in space, but projects to make an immediate impact on special teams.

11. Alejandro Fernandez, DE, Barcelona Dragons (Spain)

HT: 6007 | WT: 233 | HND: 95 | ARM: 323 | WNG: 771
BCH: 6 | 40Y: 5.04 | VJ: 31 | BJ: 8116 | 3C: 7.32 | SS: 4.28

The runner-up for ELF Defensive Player of the Year last season, Fernandez is an undersized defensive end with the best tape of any non-collegiate prospect in this draft. The Spaniard struggles to hold up physically against larger opponents but wins consistently with impressive get-off and short area quickness. A high-effort, chase-down player, he flashes good use of hands and frequently dislodges the ball with a natural tomahawk finish on the quarterback. Still just 21 years old, Fernandez will likely require a year of seasoning to mature physically but could develop into an impactful rotational pass rusher and body-type special teamer.

12. Julian Baldi, LB, Valdosta State University (Italy)

HT: 5113 | WT: 227 | HND: 86 | ARM: 324 | WNG: 771
BCH: DNP | 40Y: 5.13 | VJ: 32 | BJ: 9033 | 3C: 7.47 | SS: 4.48

A thick linebacker with a shredded physique, Baldi had solid production in limited starts during his college career. He shows a good ability to key and diagnose against either run or pass and takes proper angles to the ball as a strong wrap-up tackler. He has solid lateral quickness but some athletic limitations that prevent him from consistently being effective in coverage. The Italian will make an immediate impact on special teams with enough traits to become a solid depth piece at middle linebacker.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Amanda Loman

13. Simon Sandberg, DT, Oregon State University (Sweden)

HT: 6030 | WT: 287 | HND: 100 | ARM: 307 | WNG: 765
BCH: DNP | 40Y: 5.16 | VJ: 26.5 | BJ: 8073 | 3C: 7.39 | SS: 4.50

A four-year contributor on defence for the Beavers, Sandberg capped his collegiate career by starting all 13 games at defensive tackle in 2022. He has solid size, except for his short arms, and has been a consistent presence as a run defender, flashing the ability to capture an offensive lineman’s chest and clog run lanes. However, he lacks high-level explosion and quickness, plays with high pad level, and struggles to generate pass-rush. An interesting prospect with over 40 games of NCAA experience, Sandberg will face an uphill climb to crack a CFL active roster due to his limited skillset.

14. Ludvig Myren, LB, Berlin Thunder (Sweden)

HT: 6000 | WT: 208 | HND: 92 | ARM: 296 | WNG: 720
BCH: 16 | 40Y: 4.79 | VJ: 30.5 | BJ: 9057 | 3C: 7.07 | SS: 4.26

An undersized linebacker from Stockholm, Myren led the Thunder in tackles in 2022 while finishing seventh in the league. He moves well in space, has quick feet and shows very good effort to chase down plays around the field, finishing with violence at the ball carrier. With only one year of high-level European football under his belt, he still has difficulty diagnosing plays and was used in a very simple system in Berlin. Myren has a chance to be a contributor on special teams but will need a lot of development to be trusted as a CFL weakside linebacker.

15. Jamie Tago, DT, Missouri Southern State University (American Samoa)

HT: 6052 | WT: 275 | HND: 111 | ARM: 333 | WNG: 795
BCH: DNP | 40Y: DNP | VJ: DNP | BJ: DNP | 3C: DNP | SS: DNP

A 28-year-old enigma that CFL teams will be forced to decipher, Tago posted five sacks last year at the NCAA Division II level after not playing in 2021. His journeyman collegiate career stretches back to 2014 with stops at Hawaii and Garden City Community College, including getting kicked off the team during a second stint with the Rainbow Warriors in 2017 for “violating team rules.” With a drool-worthy frame and explosive flashes of athleticism on tape, he could be selected much higher if a team gets a solid read on him.

16. Tobias Rodlauer, OL, Berlin Thunder (Austria)

HT: 6033 | WT: 305 | HND: 92 | ARM: 335 | WNG: 787
BCH: 22 | 40Y: 5.54 | VJ: 29 | BJ: 8050 | 3C: 7.94 | SS: 4.89

Rodlauer played two years of JUCO football at New Mexico Military Institute before returning to Europe with the Thunder in 2022, earning second-team all-star status. The big-bodied offensive tackle plays with solid feet and patient hands but has not shown the ability to win versus top-level competition in Europe consistently. He is a developmental player who needs time on the practice roster to become a viable backup in the CFL, with the possibility to move to guard.

17. Max Parkinson, DE, University of West England Bullets (United Kingdom)

HT: 6024 | WT: 276 | HND: 95 | ARM: 322 | WNG: 787
BCH: 29 | 40Y: 4.74 | VJ: 31 | BJ: 9086 | 3C: 7.45 | SS: 4.62

Intriguingly fast and explosive for his size, Parkinson has the frame and athletic ability to play all along the defensive line or contribute on special teams. However, the British defender’s tape is extremely inconsistent at a low level of competition and he will need to be taught technique from scratch at the CFL level, making him a long-term project.

18. Emmanuel Falola, LB, Bristol Aztecs (United Kingdom)

HT: 6004 | WT: 223 | HND: 93 | ARM: 321 | WNG: 765
BCH: 20 | 40Y: 4.80 | VJ: 39.5 | BJ: 9086 | 3C: 7.40 | SS: 4.53

A solidly-built linebacker with good length, Falola put up eye-popping athletic numbers at the CFL Combine. The tape tells a different story, showing a raw project who lacks the natural instincts to consistently produce at one of the lowest levels of European competition. His high ceiling may cause a team to take a flyer on him late, hoping he can produce on special teams.

Photo courtesy: Jon Lambert/Chattanooga Athletics

19. Lucas Lavin, OL, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga (Sweden)

HT: 6040 | WT: 323 | HND: 90 | ARM: 317 | WNG: 777
BCH: 19 | 40Y: 5.91 | VJ: 25.5 | BJ: 7036 | 3C: 8.53 | SS: 5.22

Lavin spent two seasons at Northern Colorado before finishing his collegiate career at Chattanooga, taking over as the starting right tackle mid-way through the season. The hulking blocker is smart, tough and experienced, but will have to improve his footwork and quickness in order to have a chance to make a CFL roster.

20. Leander Wiegand, OL, Cologne Centurions (Germany)

HT: 6054 | WT: 309 | HND: 107 | ARM: 323 | WNG: 802
BCH: N/A | 40Y: N/A | VJ: N/A | BJ: N/A | 3C: 7.82 | SS: N/A

After playing a year at the University of Central Florida, Wiegand returned to his native Germany for the 2022 season and started at right tackle for the Cologne Centurions. He has good size and flashes good pass protection ability on quick pass sets, but has to improve his footwork, use of hands and pad level in order to make a CFL roster.

A note on Nigerians

There are seven Nigerian athletes eligible for this year’s CFL Global Draft by virtue of their inclusion in the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program – offensive linemen Basil Chijoke Okoye, Jason Chukwuebuka Godrick, Roy Chigbo Mbaeteka, and Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi; defensive linemen David Ebuka-Agoha and Kenneth Odumegwu; and receiver Kehinde Oginni Hassan. Each possesses unique size but currently have little to no organized football experience, making them impossible to accurately evaluate. Any CFL team drafting one of these players would be taking on an extreme project, with the added risk of them receiving an NFL roster exemption.

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.