Ottawa Redblacks’ top draft pick Nick Mardner to make first CFL start vs. Winnipeg

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

Canadian receiver Nick Mardner didn’t have to wait long to make his first career CFL start.

The six-foot-six, 208-pound target was the second overall pick in the 2024 CFL Draft and will start for the Redblacks at field-side wide receiver when they host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday night. He played five seasons of collegiate football at the University of Hawai’i, the University of Cincinnati, and Auburn University, catching 81 passes for 1,488 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The native of Oakville, Ont. had his best collegiate season in 2021 with the Rainbow Warriors when he made 46 catches for 913 yards and five touchdowns to be named All-Mountain West honourable mention. The rest of Ottawa’s receiving corps will feature veterans Jaelon Acklin, Justin Hardy, Bralon Addison, and Dominique Rhymes.

Dru Brown will make his first start since becoming Ottawa’s starting quarterback this off-season when he was acquired via trade from the Blue Bombers. The 27-year-old native of Palo Alto, Calif. threw for 983 yards, nine touchdowns, and zero interceptions with Winnipeg last season, posting a 2-0 record as a starter.


Ryquell Armstead, a rookie out of Temple University, is listed as the starter at running back, though he’s a game-time decision due to a quad injury. Devonte Williams, who ran for 1,000 yards with the team last season, is out for the year after suffering a torn Achilles while training during the off-season.

Ottawa’s offensive and defensive lines remain mostly unchanged from a year ago as Dontae Bull, the first overall pick in the 2023 CFL Draft, will start at right tackle. Dariusz Bladek, who was with the Toronto Argonauts last season, will start at right guard.

Adarius Pickett, the reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player in the East Division, will start at strong-side linebacker, while incumbents Frankie Griffin and Jovan Santos-Knox fill out the rest of the linebacker corps.

The Redblacks placed reigning East Division all-star Brandin Dandridge on the six-game injured list, leaving Money Hunter as the starter at boundary cornerback. Damon Webb, Alonzo Addae, Tobias Harris, and Deandre Lamont fill out the rest of the secondary.

The Ottawa Redblacks (0-0) will host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (0-1) at TD Place Stadium on Thursday, June 13 with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. EDT.