John Hodge’s 2024 CFL Mock Draft 1.0

Photo courtesy: Cincinnati Athletics

The 2024 CFL Draft is only seven weeks away, which means it’s time to start projecting how teams could make their selections in what’s considered a stacked class.

As with all of my mock drafts, this is a combination of informed speculation and personal opinion. This edition has been made with the projection that top-ranked prospects Isaiah Adams, Theo Johnson, and Tanner McLachlan will be selected in the 2024 NFL Draft, while Theo Benedet, Kyle Hergel, Geoffrey Cantin-Arku, Anim Dankwah, and Giovanni Manu will sign in the NFL as priority undrafted free agents.

Nick Wiebe and Kail Dava’s draft stock has also been limited due to injuries they suffered late this past season. Wiebe tore his ACL during the Hardy Cup playoffs in Canada West, while Dava underwent surgery for a torn rotator cuff in November.

It should be noted that the extra selections given to the B.C. Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the end of the second round can be used on any player, unlike the territorial selections of the past.

Things can change quickly leading up to the draft, so make sure you stay tuned to 3DownNation for all the latest news, insight, and analysis ahead of draft day. Expect an updated mock draft sometime after the CFL Combine, which will take place later this month in Winnipeg.

This mock draft was made with notes from 3DownNation reporter JC Abbott.

Round One

1. Edmonton Elks — REC Nick Mardner, Auburn

The native of Oakville, Ont. played sparingly this past season with the Tigers, which means it’s unlikely that he’ll get an NFL shot. Mardner has excellent size at six-foot-six and 205 pounds and showed explosiveness and smooth route-running ability during his tenure at the University of Hawaii and the University of Cincinnati, catching 46 passes for 913 yards and five touchdowns during his junior season with the Rainbow Warriors in 2021. He fits a positional need for the Elks while also providing the length and athleticism coveted by head coach and general manager Chris Jones.

2. Ottawa Redblacks — LB Joel Dublanko, Cincinnati

The 26-year-old was named first-team All-AAC and served as a team captain during his senior season with the Bearcats in 2021 and has since been a member of the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, and the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars. The six-foot-three, 240-pound defender recently qualified for Canadian status through his father, who was born in Edmonton, after drawing interest from CFL teams as an American. Multiple sources have indicated that Dublanko could be a first-year starter north of the border.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Emilee Chinn

3. Saskatchewan Roughriders — LB/DB Melique Straker, Arkansas State

The native of Brampton, Ont. was highly productive over three seasons with the Red Wolves, making 216 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss, four pass knockdowns, two interceptions, two sacks, and two forced fumbles over 33 career games. He projects as a starter at strong-side linebacker or safety who should also contribute heavily on special teams. Saskatchewan needs help along the offensive line, though they can afford to wait to grab one in the second round.

4. Calgary Stampeders — OL Gabe Wallace, Buffalo

The six-foot-six, 335-pound blocker played left tackle this past season but projects as a CFL guard, which is where he spent most of his collegiate career with the Bulls. The native of Salmon Arm, B.C. lacks elite footspeed but packs a punch in the running game, which fits a Calgary team that likes to run the ball and, after years of fielding dominant offensive lines, has suddenly grown thin at the position. Wallace should also be able to drop some weight at the professional level to help him reach the second level on blocks.

5. Toronto Argonauts (via Hamilton) — LB Geoffrey Cantin-Arku, Memphis

The Syracuse transfer will likely get an NFL shot if he tests well at his pro day on March 28 but Toronto can afford to wait for him for a year or two if needed based on their current depth. The native of Lévis, Que. was named All-ACC honourable mention in his senior year with the Tigers and capped his ultra-productive collegiate career with 260 total tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, five pass knockdowns, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and one interception. He projects as a starting CFL middle linebacker.

6. B.C. Lions — OL Giovanni Manu, UBC

The native of Pitt Meadows, B.C. has a rare combination of size and athleticism, making him a prime candidate to sign in the NFL as an undrafted free agent. Even if they have to wait on him for a year or two, it’s tough to imagine the Lions passing on a local product that fills arguably the team’s largest area of need. Manu has lots of experience at guard and tackle and uses his long arms and thick lower body to win leverage battles against shorter defenders. If he ever plays in the CFL, he’s a perfect fit for his hometown team.

7. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (via Toronto) — OL Kyle Hergel, Boston College

Hergel will likely get an NFL shot, though he could end up in the CFL before long as he’s only six-foot-two, which is considered short south of the border. New general manager Ed Hervey prioritizes the line of scrimmage and Hergel projects as a perennial all-star at guard, making this selection well worth the risk. The Toronto native is expected to test well at his pro day as he made Bruce Feldman’s Freak’s List this past summer after he reportedly leaped a 34-inch vertical and a 112-inch broad jump. Pro Football Focus gave Hergel one of the highest career grades of any guard entering the NFL or CFL draft.

8. Winnipeg Blue Bombers — OL George Una, Windsor

The six-foot-two, 302-pound blocker was one of the top testers at last year’s East-West Bowl and plays with a physical, aggressive blocking style. Una was named a first-team OUA all-star as the Lancers had one of the top rushing attacks in all of U Sports, making him a nice schematic fit for the Blue Bombers. With Liam Dobson entering a contract year and perennial all-star Patrick Neufeld recently turning 35, Winnipeg would be wise to address the offensive line with this selection.

9. Montreal Alouettes — DL Daniel Okpoko, San Diego State

The native of Saskatoon, Sask. didn’t play much over his first three seasons with the Aztecs but made 32 total tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks, and three pass knockdowns over the past two years, catching the attention of CFL scouts. At six-foot-five and 275 pounds, Okpoko has the length to play defensive tackle and defensive end, making him a nice fit for a team that appears set on starting a Canadian defensive lineman despite losing Lwal Uguak to the NFL.

Round Two

10. Edmonton Elks — DL Luke Brubacher, Wilfrid Laurier

The converted boxer is arguably the best athlete available in the entire draft and is expected to light up the testing at this year’s CFL Combine. The six-foot-six, 255-pound edge rusher is still relatively raw but was named a second-team OUA all-star this past season after making a career-high six sacks with the Golden Hawks. Brubacher makes perfect sense for an Edmonton team that covets length and athleticism and is currently thin at defensive end after not re-signing A.C. Leonard.

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

11. Ottawa Redblacks — REC Kevin Mital, Laval

The native of Saint-Hubert, Que. had one of the best seasons in U Sports history in 2022 when he made 58 receptions for 751 yards and 12 touchdowns to win the Hec Crighton Trophy and Vanier Cup MVP. His performance wasn’t nearly as impressive this past season when he played only four games due to an ankle injury and a one-game suspension, though he remains a special prospect at receiver. Mital could help provide a spark that Ottawa’s receiving corps sorely needs.

12. Saskatchewan Roughriders — OL Christy Nkanu, Washington State

The converted defensive lineman didn’t play much after transferring to the Cougars for his final year of NCAA eligibility but started eight games at tackle and guard during his redshirt junior season at Southern Utah in 2022. The six-foot-four, 319-pound blocker is raw but has the leverage and quick first step needed to develop into a starter at the CFL level, making him a nice fit for a Saskatchewan team that has struggled along the offensive line in recent years.

13. Calgary Stampeders — DL Tyson Hergott, Waterloo

The native of Waterloo, Ont. would likely have won the J. P. Metras Trophy as the top down lineman in all of U Sports football had Theo Benedet not had another sensational season at the University of British Columbia. Hergott made 53 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, and three forced fumbles with the Warriors this past year, proving that he’s a legitimate prospect at defensive end regardless of nationality. He also has a pro-ready frame at six-foot-three and 260 pounds.

14. Calgary Stampeders (via Hamilton) — DB Benjamin Labrosse, McGill

The six-foot-two, 205-pound defender didn’t play this past season but was a first-team U Sports All-Canadian at cornerback with the Redbirds in 2022, demonstrating a rare combination of size and athleticism. Labrosse excelled on special teams at the start of his collegiate career at Syracuse University and could develop into a CFL starter at cornerback or safety, which would address an area of need in Calgary.

15. B.C. Lions — REC Dhel Duncan-Busby, Bemidji State

The Lions appear set to start two Canadian receivers in 2024, which means they’ll need to upgrade the depth behind Jevon Cottoy and Justin McInnis. The two-time first-team All-NSIC selection has the size B.C. covets at six-foot-three and 210 pounds and was highly productive over four seasons with the Beavers, making 171 receptions for 2,839 yards and 27 touchdowns. Duncan-Busby was born in Vancouver but raised primarily in Toronto.

16. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (via Toronto) — DL Justin Sambu, Baylor

The six-foot-four, 285-pound defender should help solidify Hamilton’s depth along the defensive line following the departures of Ted Laurent and Jonathan Kongbo. The Calgary native played sparingly with the Bears this past season but was productive at the University of Maine prior to transferring, recording 59 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery over 28 games.

17. Winnipeg Blue Bombers — RB/FB Michael Chris-Ike, Delaware State

At six-foot-two and 225 pounds, the Hamilton native has the size and special teams experience to fill Winnipeg’s glaring need at fullback while also potentially developing into a competent running back behind local star Brady Oliveira. Chris-Ike carried the ball 114 times for 486 yards and three touchdowns with the Hornets, averaging 4.3 yards per carry in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

18. Edmonton Elks (via Montreal) — OL Daniel Johnson, Purdue

The six-foot-six, 330-pound blocker fought injuries for much of his collegiate career but has quick feet and an impressive ability to get to the second level of opposing defences. Though he could move to guard at the professional level, the native of London, Ont. is a good candidate to develop into a ratio-breaking offensive tackle, making him a nice fit for an Edmonton team that plans to start four Canadian offensive linemen this season.

Courtesy: Bob Frid/UBC Athletics

19. B.C. Lions — OL Theo Benedet, UBC

The Vancouver native will likely get a long look in the NFL given his rare combination of size and athleticism but this is a bonus pick for the Lions, so it makes sense for the team to roll the dice here. The two-time J. P. Metras Trophy winner projects as a starting offensive tackle in the CFL and has added weight the correct way over his tenure with the Thunderbirds after originally being recruited as a 230-pound tight end.

20. Winnipeg Blue Bombers — DL Micah Roane, South Dakota

The six-foot-four, 255-pound defender was recently added to this year’s draft class after qualifying for Canadian citizenship through his mother, who was born in Moose Jaw, Sask. As a player who started his collegiate career at the University of Minnesota before transferring to South Dakota — the same path as Chris Streveler — it only makes sense for Roane to end up in Winnipeg. Roane projects as a rotational pass rusher.

Round Three

21. Edmonton Elks — DB Tyshon Blackburn, Alberta

The Calgary native is expected to be among the leaders in the forty-yard dash at the CFL Combine, giving him a rare combination of size and speed at six-foot-two and 200 pounds. He was named a Canada West all-star at halfback this past season but projects as a CFL safety, a position where Edmonton started four different players this past season. Between Scott Hutter, Jake Taylor, and Blackburn, the Elks could potentially make safety a full-time Canadian position for 2024 and beyond.

22. Ottawa Redblacks — OL Nathaniel Dumoulin-Duguay, Laval

The two-time U Sports All-Canadian played left tackle with the Rouge et Or and could serve as depth behind Canadian right tackles Zack Pelehos and Dontae Bull, though he ultimately projects as a CFL guard. Laval offensive line prospects have drawn the ire of CFL scouts in the past for being too old or playing too heavy but Dumoulin-Duguay passes the test on both accounts as he’s 24 and weighs an even 300 pounds.

23. Saskatchewan Roughriders — REC Kevens Clercius, Connecticut

Saskatchewan’s had recent success drafting Montreal-born receivers out of the NCAA and the club needs more depth if they plan to start three Canadian receivers this season. Clercius was never a focal point in the Huskies’ offensive attack but shone as a blocker, meaning he should contribute immediately on special teams at the CFL level. At six-foot-two and 215 pounds, he could even potentially contribute in a fullback-like role at times.

24. Toronto Argonauts (via Hamilton via Calgary) — OL Anim Dankwah, Howard

The first-team All-MEAC selection earned an invitation to the NFL Combine and was the largest offensive lineman in attendance at six-foot-eight and 365 pounds. Though he’ll likely sign an NFL contract based on his size alone, Dankwah will need to shed weight if he hopes to start at offensive tackle in the CFL and the Argonauts are a team that can afford to wait on him if and when he signs north of the border.

25. Toronto Argonauts (via Hamilton) — DL Kail Dava, Tennessee Tech

The Mississauga, Ont. native won’t be available until he fully recovers from a torn rotator cuff he suffered last season but could develop into an impactful interior defender. The six-foot-three, 281-pounder was named an FCS Freshman All-American back in 2019 and finished his tenure with the Eagles with 87 total tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, one pass knockdown, two fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble.

Courtesy: Electric Umbrella/Huskies Athletics

26. B.C. Lions — LB Nick Wiebe, Saskatchewan

The first-team U Sports All-Canadian shone with the Huskies after originally committing to the University of Oregon, though he’s currently recovering from a torn ACL. It’s Grey Cup or bust for the Lions in 2024, which means adding a player like Wiebe might be wise as he’s expected to return to the lineup sometime around Labour Day, potentially helping B.C. make a late-season push ahead of a championship run.

27. Toronto Argonauts — REC Ajou Ajou, Garden City Community College

The Edmonton native had a disappointing collegiate career after being part of Clemson University’s recruiting class of 2020, which ranked third in the entire NCAA. Even so, the six-foot-three, 215-pound target has all the physical tools needed to become a starting-calibre receiver in the CFL provided a team is willing to invest the time and effort needed to develop his skill set.

28. Winnipeg Blue Bombers — FB Brad Hladik, UBC

The younger brother of B.C. Lions’ linebacker Ben Hladik finds himself with a West Division rival where he’ll compete on special teams while developing into the club’s long snapper of the future. Mike Benson has done an admirable job over the past three seasons with the Blue Bombers but will turn 37 by the start of the 2024 season, which means the Blue Bombers would be wise to start finding his replacement.

29. Montreal Alouettes — FB Paul-Antoine Ouellette, Montreal

The Alouettes use their fullbacks on offence more than any other team in the CFL and while David Dallaire appears ready to take over the primary role vacated by James Tuck in free agency, the team will need someone to fill Dallaire’s old role. Ouellette is the perfect candidate as he has great size, solid athleticism, and played locally for the Carabins.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.