Redrafting every first overall CFL draft pick since 2010

Photo: Reuben Polansky/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

In the wise words of Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood, “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.”

Drafting players at the professional level is a tough endeavour in any league, one made considerably easier with the power of hindsight. Today, we’ll be using retrospection to reselect the first overall pick in every CFL draft since 2010.

Injuries? We know about those. Development? We know who improves and who doesn’t. Off-field issues? We’ve got those covered, too. There are no surprises when the future has already been written.

Honourable mentions have been listed in alphabetical order by last name. Players who changed positions at the professional level are listed according to where they played in the CFL.

2010 — OL Kristian Matte, Concordia
Original pick — DL Shomari Williams, Queen’s (Saskatchewan Roughriders)

The six-foot-four, 296-pound blocker was taken with the seventh overall pick and has been a mainstay along Montreal’s offensive line for the past 13 seasons, taking turns at centre and guard. Matte has played 185 career games and made 154 starts, leading the entire draft class in both categories, and remains active as he’ll turn 39 partway through the 2024 season. The native of Longueuil, Que. has helped the Alouettes win two Grey Cups and was named an East Division all-star in 2019 and 2021.

Honourable mentions — OL Ryan Bomben, Guelph (No. 31 overall); REC Shawn Gore, Bishop’s (No. 10 overall); OL Patrick Neufeld, Saskatchewan (No. 33 overall)

2011 — LB Henoc Muamba, St. FX
Original pick — LB Henoc Muamba, St. FX (Winnipeg Blue Bombers)

Sometimes teams get it right the first time, which was the case here with Muamba. The six-foot, 230-pound defender made 610 defensive tackles, 35 tackles for loss, 78 special teams tackles, 18 pass knockdowns, 14 forced fumbles, 17 sacks, seven interceptions, and three fumble recoveries over a nomadic career that included stints with Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, Montreal, and Toronto. Muamba was a three-time East Division all-star, two-time CFL all-star, one-time Most Outstanding Canadian, and one-time Grey Cup Most Valuable Player. He retired following the 2023 season.

Honourable mentions — DB Craig Butler, Western (No. 12 overall); K Rene Paredes, Concordia (undrafted); REC Brad Sinopoli, Calgary Stampeders (No. 29 overall)

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

2012 — DL Cleyon Laing, Iowa State
Original pick — OL Ben Heenan, Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Roughriders)

Heenan would have been a great pick here had the Regina native not retired at the age of 25. Laing, who was taken with the ninth overall pick, is still a starter for the Redblacks and has recorded 221 defensive tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 47 sacks, 10 pass knockdowns, seven fumble recoveries, and four forced fumbles over 130 career starts for Toronto and Ottawa. The six-foot-four, 290-pound defender is a four-time East Division all-star and tied his previous career-high in sacks this past season with seven, showing that he remains among the league’s best Canadian defensive linemen.

Honourable mentions — DL Justin Capicciotti, Simon Fraser (No. 14 overall); DB Courtney Stephen, Northern Illinois (No. 8 overall); DL Jake Thomas, Acadia (No. 29 overall)

2013 — LB Boseko Lokombo, Oregon
Original pick — DL Linden Gaydosh, Calgary (Hamilton Tiger-Cats)

The ratio-breaking linebacker slid to No. 21 overall as he was thought to be a future NFL player, since this was back when the CFL allowed redshirt juniors to enter the draft. B.C.’s risk paid off the following year when Lokombo came out of college without any NFL offers and they were able to sign him right away. The six-foot-two, 225-pound defender has since made 340 defensive tackles, 91 special teams tackles, 14 sacks, eight interceptions, and three forced fumbles over 119 career CFL games, though he did eventually get a shot with three different NFL teams in 2017.

Honourable mentions — OL Shane Bergman, Western (No. 48 overall); DB Mike Edem, Calgary (No. 3 overall); OL Nolan MacMillan, Iowa (No. 9 overall)

2014 — DB Antoine Pruneau, Montreal
Original pick — OL Pierre Lavertu, Laval (Calgary Stampeders)

The Montreal native, who was taken by Ottawa at fourth overall, helped set the tone for the expansion Redblacks, starting at strong-side linebacker and safety over 122 career games. He made 378 defensive tackles, 74 special teams tackles, 10 interceptions, four sacks, and four forced fumbles over his career, winning the Grey Cup in 2016 and earning an East Division all-star nod in 2017. Pruneau won the Vanier Cup this past season as an assistant coach at his alma mater of Université de Montreal.

Honourable mentions — OL Matthias Goossen, Simon Fraser (No. 2 overall); DL David Menard, Montreal (No. 32 overall); Derek Wiggan, Calgary Stampeders (No. 34 overall)

2015 — REC Nic Demski, Manitoba
Original pick — OL Alex Mateas, Connecticut (Ottawa Redblacks)

The Winnipeg native was solid for the Riders after they took him with the sixth overall pick, though he’s continued to improve with his hometown team since joining them as a free agent in 2018. Demski set all-new career highs with the Blue Bombers this past season, reaching the 1,000-yard mark for the first time. The three-time West Division all-star has caught 338 passes for 4,089 yards and 29 touchdowns, carried the ball 115 times for 783 yards and four touchdowns, and returned 17 kickoffs for 327 yards over 104 career games.

Honourable mentions — OL David Beard, Alberta (No. 16 overall); OL Sukh Chungh, Calgary (No. 2 overall); OL Sean McEwen, Calgary (No. 3 overall)

2016 — OL Brandon Revenberg, Grand Valley State
Original pick — OL Josiah St. John, Oklahoma (Saskatchewan Roughriders)

The native of Essex, Ont. fell to third overall and has been a mainstay on Hamilton’s offensive line ever since, earning four CFL all-star selections, five East Division all-star selections, and being named the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman in the East Division three times. Were it not for Stanley Bryant, against whom Revenberg has been nominated three times at the league level for Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman, he would likely have captured that award multiple times as well.

Honourable mentions — OL Michael Couture, Simon Fraser (No. 10 overall); DB Taylor Loffler, UBC (No. 19 overall); LB Alex Singleton, Montana State (No. 6 overall)

Photo: Larry MacDougal/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

2017 — LB Cameron Judge, UCLA
Original pick — DL Faith Ekakitie, Iowa (Winnipeg Blue Bombers)

The second overall pick had a tough rookie season with the Riders and a down year with Toronto in 2021 but has otherwise been one of the CFL’s best weak-side linebackers since entering the league in 2017. Judge has made 283 defensive tackles, 22 special teams tackles, 14 sacks, nine interceptions, and six forced fumbles over 82 career games, earning a league all-star nod in 2022 as a member of the Calgary Stampeders.

Honourable mentions — DB Tunde Adeleke, Carleton (No. 25 overall); OL Dariusz Bladek, Bethune-Cookman (No. 11 overall); DL Kwaku Boateng, Wilfrid Laurier (No. 41 overall)

2018 — OL Mark Korte, Alberta
Original pick — REC Mark Chapman, Central Michigan (Hamilton Tiger-Cats)

The native of Spruce Grove, Alta. was taken by the Redblacks at fourth overall and showed impressive versatility in the nation’s capital, starting at the rare combination of left tackle and centre. Now with the Elks, Korte has started 71 career CFL games despite being only 27 years of age. The six-foot-two, 293-pound blocker has yet to be named a divisional or league all-star, though that seems like a reflection of the teams on which he’s played rather than his level of personal performance.

Honourable mentions — OL Darius Ciraco, Calgary (No. 6 overall); OL Ryan Hunter, Bowling Green (No. 9 overall); DB Royce Metchie, Guelph (No. 25 overall)

2019 — RB Brady Oliveira, North Dakota
Original pick — OL Shane Richards, Oklahoma State (Toronto Argonauts)

The five-foot-ten, 222-pound ball-carrier barely played as a rookie due to a broken ankle but has since developed into one of the CFL’s top players regardless of nationality. The Winnipeg native has rushed for 2,964 yards and 15 touchdowns and caught 70 passes for 808 yards and five touchdowns over 49 career games and was named the Most Outstanding Player in the West Division this past season after becoming the second Canadian player ever to record 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a single season.

Honourable mentions — DL Mathieu Betts, Laval (No. 3 overall); OL Drew Desjarlais, (No. 4 overall); REC Kurleigh Gittens Jr., Wilfrid Laurier (No. 23 overall)

2020 — QB Nathan Rourke, Ohio
Original pick — LB Jordan Williams, East Carolina (B.C. Lions)

His tenure in the CFL might have been fleeting, but there’s no understating the impact Nathan Rourke had on the CFL in 2022. The six-foot-one, 210-pound passer threw for 3,349 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions and ran for 304 yards and seven touchdowns en route to being named the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian. Had he not suffered a serious foot injury, it’s likely that Rourke would also have been named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player.

Honourable mentions — DB Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Montreal (No. 14 overall); REC Kian Schaffer-Baker, Guelph (No. 30 overall); DB Stavros Katsantonis, UBC (No. 36 overall); LB Jordan Williams, East Carolina (No. 1 overall)

2021 — LB Ben Hladik, UBC
Original pick — TE Jake Burt, Boston College (Hamilton Tiger-Cats)

The native of Vernon, B.C. fell to No. 22 overall but became a full-time starter in his second season with the Lions and never looked back, quarterbacking the defence from his spot at middle linebacker. He has recorded 161 defensive tackles, 14 special teams tackles, seven sacks, three interceptions, and one forced fumble over 50 career CFL games and recently signed an extension to remain with his hometown team through 2025.

Honourable mentions — SAM Redha Kramdi, Montreal (No. 16 overall); OL Pier-Olivier Lestage, Montreal (No. 10 overall); OL Peter Nicastro, Calgary (No. 7 overall)

Photo courtesy: Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards/Saskatchewan Roughriders

2022 — REC Samuel Emilus, Louisiana Tech
Original pick — LB Tyrell Richards, Syracuse (Montreal Alouettes)

The 26-year-old native of Montreal overcame a slow rookie season to have a breakout year in 2023, making 70 catches for 1,097 yards and six touchdowns as a full-time starter in Riderville. The former seventh overall pick is one of only four Canadian receivers to surpass the 1,000-yard threshold in a single season since 2016 alongside Nic Demski, Kurleigh Gittens Jr., and Brad Sinopoli, all of whom are featured elsewhere on this list.

Honourable mentions — QB Tre Ford, Waterloo (No. 8 overall); OL Cyrille Hogan-Saindon, Laval (No. 11 overall); REC Tyson Philpot, Calgary (No. 9 overall)

2023 — DL Lwal Uguak, Montreal Alouettes
Original pick — OL Dontae Bull, Fresno State (Ottawa Redblacks)

The six-foot-four, 261-pound defender fell to seventh overall but earned a starting role with the Alouettes partway through this past season, recording 17 tackles and four sacks. He had five tackles in the East Semi-Final, one tackle in the East Final, and five tackles in the Grey Cup to help his club snap a 12-year championship drought. Uguak had such an impressive rookie season that he caught the attention of the NFL, signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Honourable mention(s) — REC Clark Barnes, Guelph (No. 24 overall); RB Thomas Bertrand-Hudon, Delaware State (No. 30 overall); DL Noah Curtis, Keiser (No. 28 overall)

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.