2024 CFL Draft rankings: defensive backs

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

There are just two days 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. We’ve already broken down the quarterbacks, running backs, fullbacks, tight ends, receivers, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, and linebackers. Make sure to check back tomorrow when we rank the specialists.

Defensive backs

Photo courtesy: Joe Pimentel/McGill Athletics

1. Ben Labrosse, McGill University (Greenfield Park, Que.)

There is only one coverage player in this draft with certified NFL calibre measurables and that is Labrosse, who jumps out of the gym and clocks a blazing 4.51-second forty-yard dash. The knock is his commitment level, as he quit Syracuse in 2021 despite seeing substantial playing time as a true freshman at nickel and was unable to compete at McGill last year due to academics. A 2022 All-Canadian at cornerback, he can realistically play all five spots in the secondary and has an unparalleled ability to sink and redirect. There were times Labrosse looked bored in the RSEQ but when he turned it on, it was clear that he was at another level from the competition.

2. Cristophe Beaulieu, Université Laval (Blainville, Que.)

The brother of former third-round pick Jordan Beaulieu, Cristophe is in another tier as a prospect, with a decorated university career that includes a Vanier Cup ring and two All-Canadian selections at halfback. Frankly, he may be good enough to contribute in that spot at the next level, with fluid hips in transition that allow him to never break stride, but he’ll roll over to safety with as much ease. Beaulieu is still a bit high in his backpedal and is developing his spatial awareness in zone, but few can turn and sprint quite like him.

3. Jerrell Cummings, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, B.C.)

A true cornerback at five-foot-nine who lacks elite testing speed or quickness, there are plenty of obstacles stacked against Cummings as a prospect. However, it is hard to ignore his natural feet in man coverage or the elite instincts he shows breaking on balls that he has no business getting his hands on. Just 21 years old, the Canada West all-star has been racking up accolades since his true freshman season at Simon Fraser in 2019 and has already matured into his body more than most older prospects.

4. Kaylyn St-Cyr, Université de Montreal (La Prairie, Que.)

The son of three-time CFL all-star Irvin Smith, St-Cyr has found success at his dad’s position of cornerback in the RSEQ but ultimately projects as a safety. He has the size at five-foot-11 and 206 pounds and has thrived in zone coverage, showing great eyes and a tremendous first step when driving out of his breaks. He’ll need to have a little more consistency coming downhill to develop into a starter but can be a versatile backup on day one.

Photo courtesy: Brian Foley/Colgate Athletics

5. Arthur Hamlin, Colgate University (Ottawa, Ont.)

The feel-good story of the draft, Hamlin overcame cancer in 2021 and has captured the hearts of both fans and evaluators with his humble resiliency. He’s been a very effective player since entering remission, playing primarily in the slot for the Raiders and showing the ability to recover smoothly when beat. He’ll need to play as a safety at the next level, where his eagerness as a tackler and solid range will shine, but he’ll have to add some strength if he is to become the third generation of his family to get their name etched on the Grey Cup.

6. Jackson Sombach, University of Regina (Regina, Sask.)

A five-foot-eight sparkplug who gives his absolute most on every snap, Sombach must overcome the significant stigma associated with his five-foot-eight height and short arms to even get drafted. While there may be challenges getting off blocks on special teams, the 2022 Canada West all-star halfback is in the same weight class as those already listed at 196 pounds and is arguably more physical. His excellent athletic testing shows up on film but more importantly, he plays with superb awareness and anticipation to make him appear even faster.

7. Dawson Marchant, Northwestern Oklahoma State University (Surrey, B.C.)

Marchant was once Cumming’s running mate as freshman corners for SFU, but his more convoluted path to the pros will raise some questions about his character and quality of competition. He didn’t diminish those concerns by bowing out of most of the College Gridiron Showcase and CFL Combine with injuries but proved to be an elite athlete at six-foot-one and 202 pounds nonetheless. With meaningful experience and quality tape at both corner and safety, he’ll be coveted for his versatility, size, and physicality.

8. Yani Gouadfel, Bishop’s University (Mitry-Mory, France)

A full French citizen who was nationalized after graduating from Bishop’s, Gouadfel has the length that is lacking from much of this DB class at a chiselled six-foot-three and 201 pounds. The AUS all-star at safety logged six interceptions last year and also served as the team’s starting punter, but plays a little stiff and has some concerns regarding his effort level. He’ll have a role on special teams for certain, but will need to lock in a little more to reach his ceiling.

Photo courtesy: Don Voaklander/Golden Bear Athletics

9. Jonathan Giustini, University of Alberta (Calgary, Alta.)

Another safety who moonlights as a kicker, Giustini lacks ideal height at under five-foot-10 and isn’t quite as explosive athletically as some of the other players on this list. Despite his smaller frame, he relishes contact like few others and is eager to come down in the box as a run-stopper. He doesn’t have strong enough coverage instincts to threaten for a starting job right now, but will bring quality depth and value on special teams in more ways than one.

10. Tyshon Blackburn, University of Alberta (Calgary, Alta.)

At six-foot-two and 203 pounds with the longest arms of any DB available and excellent athleticism, it may be shocking to see a player like Blackburn so low down these rankings. However, the All-Canadian halfback’s two bench press reps at the Combine call into question his work ethic, while teams already had serious concerns regarding his processing and willingness to play physically against the run. Nevertheless, there is a reason his measurables have been good enough to coast on and someone will bet on the upside.

11. Ayo Ajayi, Wilfrid Laurier University (Brampton, Ont.)

A twitchy cover man with great feet and an OUA all-star pedigree, injuries have been Ajayi’s undoing over the past two seasons. He was not healthy enough to compete at the Invitational Combine, which will hurt his stock considerably at the position where athletic testing matters the most. He hasn’t been afraid to be physical throughout his career but looks slight at five-foot-11 and 187 pounds, which only adds to the durability concerns.

12. Stephane East, Queen’s University (Toronto, Ont.)

East wasn’t always a starter at corner for the Gaels and won’t be one at the next level due to average footspeed and hip fluidity. However, the way he drives on the ball and the physicality in his tackling makes for a solid special teams projection. Unfortunately, not testing at the Invitational Combine due to a late-season injury will hamper his chances, but he may still slip into the late rounds.

Photo courtesy: Western Athletics

13. Richard Aduboffour, Western University (Toronto, Ont.)

A two-time OUA all-star at corner, Aduboffour possesses a massive frame at six-foot-three and 213 pounds, with adequate speed and some explosive traits in testing. The problem is that his hips are cemented in place and he can’t change directions with any urgency, resulting in some tough film to watch. At a certain point in the draft, that won’t matter as much as adding a big body willing to run in a straight line and thump on special teams, though this year’s depth means that he’ll be waiting a long time.

14. Ethan Martin, Queen’s University (London, Ont.)

A once-highly touted quarterback recruit who turned into a playmaker around the ball on defence for the Gaels, Martin didn’t play last season while nursing a concussion and applying to medical school. If he doesn’t get in, a comeback could be in the works for the six-foot, 196-pound collegiate linebacker, who projects as a depth piece at safety and a potential core special teamer.

15. Donovin Small, University of Regina (Pickering, Ont.)

At five-foot-10 and 176 pounds, Small lives up to his name but has some intriguing twitch and speed. He played just one year with the Rams in 2022 before going on academic probation but was an impact starter at boundary corner and scored in the playoffs. During his previous stops at Holland College and the CJFL’s Okanagan Sun, he also played as a receiver and notched big plays as a returner.

On the fringes: Nick Conway, Manitoba (Winnipeg, Man.) | Kevin Victome, Ottawa (Ottawa, Ont.) | Louis Lavaud, Carleton (Montreal, Que.) | Stephen Adamopoulos, Manitoba (Winnipeg, Man.) | Kojo Odoom, Western (Surrey, B.C.)

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.