2024 CFL Draft position rankings: quarterbacks, running backs, and tight ends

Courtesy: AP Photo/Stew Milne

There is just a week remaining until the 2024 CFL Draft, with hundreds of players waiting to see their pro football dreams realized on Tuesday, April 30 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

As always, 3DownNation will be your go-to source for extensive coverage of all eight rounds. Analysts J.C. Abbott and Ben Grant will be live on YouTube for the entirety of the selection process, while mock draft guru John Hodge is set to provide up-to-the-minute written analysis with his annual live blog.

In the lead-up to the festivities, our team has collaborated on prospect rankings at every position, culminating in the unveiling of our annual Top 25. Today, we begin in the backfield with the quarterbacks and running backs, as well as a talented class of fullbacks and tight ends. Make sure to check back tomorrow when we break down the receivers.

Quarterbacks

1. Casey Bauman, Augustana University (Sumas, Wash.)

Eligible thanks to his B.C.-born mother, Bauman struggled to adjust to the Canadian game at the CFL Combine. A two-year starter at the Division II level, his inconsistent pocket presence and long, winding delivery don’t project well as a pro passer. However, he’s an excellent athlete for his six-foot-six, 229-pound frame, which means he brings short yardage value at a minimum and additional intrigue if he embraced a position switch.

2. Jack Zergiotis, Merrimack College (Montreal, Que.)

A former true freshman starter at UConn who has since bounced around, there is no question that Zergiotis is the superior thrower of the football in this class. He’s a brash playmaker who shows the ability to step up under pressure and deliver the ball off platform, but routinely plays with too much confidence for his own good. With his lack of height and poor athletic measurables compounding bad decision-making, it’s hard to see him being more than a camp arm.

3. Marcus Reeb, University of Minnesota-Morris (Toronto, Ont.)

A three-time All-Conference honouree at the Division III level, Reeb was a dual-threat weapon with more production than any other quarterback in this class. Unfortunately, he lacks both the arm talent and foot speed to fulfill that role at the next level. The five-foot-10, 216-pound underdog will need to look overseas if he wants to extend his career.

On the fringes: Ben Maracle, Ottawa (Tyendinaga, Ont.) | Anthony Robichaud, Sherbrooke (Sainte Julie, Que.)

Running backs

Photo courtesy: Rodney Adams/DSU Athletics

1. Michael Chris-Ike, Delaware State University (Hamilton, Ont.)

At six-foot-one and 225 pounds, Chris-Ike is a chiselled Adonis with freakish change of direction and blazing straight-line speed. The problem is that his incredible Combine testing never translated to the Hornets’ backfield, where he was a minimal role player due to his upright, choppy running style and general lack of vision. That won’t dissuade CFL teams from drafting him highly though, because the Hamilton native was a dominant force on special teams and posted eight tackles last year. He’ll be a Day 1 contributor in that phase of the game, with the size to help out at fullback and enough rushing ability to get you out of a game at tailback.

2. Michael Herzog, Hillsdale College (Windsor, Ont.)

A Division II All-American and a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy as the top player at that level, Herzog is unquestionably the best pure ball carrier in this class. His impressive career totals are a testament to his elite patience and burst, with a 4.55 forty-yard dash proving he has the ability to break long runs at any level. Despite all the positives with the ball in his hands, a five-foot-eight, 201-pound frame has caused him extreme challenges as a pass protector and not every team will have him on their board as a result.

3. Matthew Peterson, University of Alberta (Brooks, Alta.)

The reigning Canada West Player of the Year is a squat one-cut slasher who shows good vision and hits the hole with intent. Peterson won’t make you miss in space or pull away downfield, but he runs hard behind his shoulder pads like nobody else in this class. At five-foot-nine and 203 pounds, the Golden Bears’ top back has many of the same size limitations as Herzog, though his physical style makes for a better projection as a blocker.

Photo courtesy: Robin Kasem/Queen’s Athletics

4. Jared Chisari, Queen’s University (Fryeburg, Me.)

A transfer from UMass with a Canadian mother, Chisari made first-team All-Canadian in just his second U Sports season and boasts an incredible 7.7 career yards per carry. Those numbers were buoyed by beating up on some poor defensive opponents, though the Maine-raised ball-carrier has more wiggle to his game than most. At five-foot-10 and 208 pounds, he’s the largest of the three award-winning RBs available and knows how to set opponents up in space, which allows him to break off big chunks despite his limited long speed.

5. Tanner Nelmes, Wilfrid Laurier University (Guelph, Ont.)

A former OUA All-Rookie team selection, Nelmes has seen his backfield role reduce over the years, becoming a jack of all trades and a master of none. This year’s strongest RB, he posted 22 reps on the bench at the Invitational and it translates to his ability as a blocker on special teams. With great change of direction ability allowing him to mirror opponents throughout a rep, some special teams coordinators will pound the table for him late on draft day.

6. Lucas Mastrodomenico, University of British Columbia (Kirkland, Que.)

A late add to the 2024 class due to graduation, Mastrodomenico has spent his UBC career buried behind all-star Isaiah Knight and has gotten very limited touches. Instead, he’s become an elite special teamer for the Vanier Cup runner-ups, amassing a stunning 30 tackles in three seasons. An Academic All-Canadian at the prestigious Sauder School of Business, he’ll need to add mass to his skinny frame to succeed at the next level but has intangibles you can’t teach.

7. Kaine Stevenson, University of Guelph (Windsor, Ont.)

There are two productive U Sports receivers who I project as running backs for the purposes of this list: Stevenson and the pint-sized Carl Chabot. A former triple-threat CJFL All-Canadian with the Westshore Rebels, the five-foot-11, 207-pound prospect had one hundred-yard game in the backfield with Guelph before moving to slot. He never became a refined route runner and is limited by his top speed at that position, but is physical enough to offer some value as a project runner.

On the fringes: Carl Chabot, Montreal (Blainville, Que.) | David Chaloux, Bishop’s (Joliette, Que.)

Fullbacks and tight ends

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Barry Reeger

1. Theo Johnson, Penn State University (Windsor, Ont.)

The former top-ranked college recruit in all of Canada, Johnson is unlikely to be taken in this year’s CFL draft. Instead, he’s expected to hear his name called on Day 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft and could be the second tight end selected behind generational prospect Brock Bowers. His production has been underwhelming at times for the Nittany Lions but the Windsor native is viewed as a high-upside project after testing like an all-time freak at the NFL Combine.

2. Tanner McLachlan, University of Arizona (Lethbridge, Alta.)

Though scouting consensus is split due to his lighter build and elevated age by rookie standards, McLachlan is also a lock to be selected in the NFL Draft. A walk-on transfer from Southern Utah, he surpassed Rob Gronkowski as Arizona’s most-productive-ever tight end and has an innate understanding of space as a receiver. A battler on and off the field, some scouts have fallen in love with the Lethbridge native.

3. Brad Hladik, University of British Columbia (Vernon, B.C.)

The brother of star B.C. Lions linebacker Ben Hladik has never generated the same attention as his sibling but is highly talented in other ways. Though some teams believe his best long-term fit is as a long-snapper, Hladik’s six-foot-three, 245-pound frame and impressive strength make him highly valuable as an H-back as well. Don’t be surprised if he starts out by filling an immediate need at that position, before becoming a full-time snapper in a year or two.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Tyler Tate

4. Russell Dixon, University of Connecticut (Edmonton, Alta.)

Dixon missed the Combine circuit due to a shoulder injury suffered during a brief foray with the CJFL’s Edmonton Huskies, but several teams already had draftable grades on him. He didn’t get on the field much in four years at UConn but has high-level blocking tape that shows a willingness to roll his hips through contact and keep his feet driving. At an unofficial six-foot-three and 225 pounds, he’s perfectly suited to be a CFL H-back.

5. Jonathan Fournier, University of Ottawa (Saint-Cyprien-des-Etchemins, Que.)

There is no avoiding the fact that Fournier’s five-foot-nine height and lack of length don’t project well to the next level, but I defy you not to fall in love with the way he plays. A 229-pound bag of bricks with excellent athletic testing and a penchant for violence, the Gee-Gees motioned him all over the field and he never failed to finish a block. The two-time Academic All-Canadian is the type of late-round character addition that often overcomes their physical limitations.

6. Hunter Brown, Carleton University (Brampton, Ont.)

A starting slotback for the Ravens last year, Brown’s average testing numbers as a receiver look very different when you reframe him as a potential H-back. At six feet and 224 pounds, he shows a real zest for contact and a willingness to get his nose dirty as a blocker. The technique requires some refinement, but there is value to be unlocked.

7. Paul-Antoine Ouellette, Université de Montréal (Montreal, Que.)

A long-bodied tight end who looks more like a heavy receiver, Ouellette has never found a perfect fit for his skill set. He long-snapped early in his career before focusing on offence but never became more than a situational blocker. His size and solid athleticism will be enough for a CFL shot, but there are concerns that his best work always came against weak competition.

8. Anthony Soles, Queen’s University (Pointe Claire, Que.)

The son of the late, great Michael Soles was productive as Queen’s starting running back before Chisari came along, but will have to take his CFL shot at his dad’s old position. Soles has been a powerful short-yardage option and shows the willingness to contribute as a blocker. The challenge is his athletic measurables, which were so bad in some areas at the Combine that he could be removed from some team’s boards entirely.

On the fringes: William Langlais, McGill (Chicoutimi, Que.) | Ife Adebogun, Edmonton Huskies (Regina, Sask.) | Craig Coleman, Western (St. Thomas, Ont.)

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.