BY: RODPEDERSEN.COM STAFF
With the CFL Combine in the rearview mirror the next big event on the CFL schedule is the draft on May 2nd.
This draft is a reflection on how much Canadian football talent has improved over the past five seasons. It could be one of the deepest in years with high-end talent and players that can fill out a roster in the later rounds.
So here is a very uneducated first round mock draft. We have seen some of these players on TV and in person, but the rest is going off team need, CFL Combine results, pro day news and plain old hearsay.
With Canadian players from all levels of American college football and USports it’s super difficult to suss out how a player will perform at a pro level. So, this like any other mock draft is less of a science than even the NFL draft.
Quick note before we start, Montreal forfeited their second overall pick by selecting Tyler Johnstone in last year’s CFL Supplemental Draft.
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Toronto has a young starting centre in Sean McEwen (26-years-old in June) while starting guards Ryan Bomben (32 when the season starts) and Tyler Holmes (31 in July) are also in their early 30’s. They also have a little bit of depth there.
They liked to play two Canadian receivers/running backs a lot last season, so it makes sense that they will pick a receiver at the top of the draft.
At 6’4”, McInnis is a huge target with solid speed and had a great career with the Red Wolves. In 2018 he had 61 catches for 778 yards and five touchdowns, topped with being named to the Sun Belt’s second team all-conference team.
He has performed well enough on the field and in testing to get a possible free agent look in the NFL.
(2) Hamilton Tiger-Cats – Connor Griffiths DT (UBC)
Hamilton’s offensive line is deep and all under 30-years-old and they have a cupboard full of receivers. Connor Griffiths would fit in nicely behind veteran Ted Laurent and give them a potential future starter at tackle for years to come.
Griffiths is a big space-eater who can chew up offensive linemen while defending the run and is agile enough to get to the quarterback.
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The Eskimos like playing with three Canadians on defence and found a star in defensive end Kwaku Boateng so look for them to add to the defensive line.
Laval’s Mathieu Betts is an outstanding defensive end who’s calling card is getting to the quarterback. He finished 2018 with nine sacks in the regular season adding another 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss on the road to another Vanier Cup.
At 6’3” and 205 lbs. he also has the size to stand up against the running game as well.
(4) Winnipeg Blue Bombers - Shane Richards OL (Oklahoma State)
With the retirement of Matthias Goossen and Sukh Chungh heading to B.C. there is a huge hole on the Blue Bombers offensive line. Shane Richards would look very good at multiple positions along their line.
Richards battled injury in his final season with the Cowboys but had starts at right tackle and right guard including starting in the Liberty Bowl to end his NCAA career.
Don’t let that he was told to leave the CFL Combine because he wouldn’t participate in the testing influence you in this pick. He didn't participate because he had his Oklahoma State pro day just 10-days prior.
One downfall that may hurt his status is that his agent is Jonathan Hardaway who has been very difficult for CFL front offices to deal with in the past (see: Josiah St. John in 2016).
(5) Winnipeg Blue Bombers – Alex Fontana OL (Kansas)
Back-to-back offensive linemen for the Bombers who are drafting for need here.
The much-travelled Alex Fontana started nine games at center for the Kansas Jayhawks and would be a solid replacement for the retired Goossen.
Fontana started his career playing junior college football at New Mexico Military Institute before transferring to the University of Houston.
(6) Saskatchewan Roughriders – Brayden Lenius-Dickey (New Mexico State)
With the signing of Dakoda Shepley this gives the Riders a little wiggle room to add to other positions of need. The biggest need is a Canadian receiver.
Lenius-Dickey is a huge receiver (6’5”, 245 lbs.) who would instantly be in the rotation with Patrick Lavoie as the fullback/tight end/inside receiver spot with the Riders.
It has been a road less travelled for Lenius-Dickey. He was a solid contributor with the Washington Huskies as a sophomore in 2015. As a reserve receiver Lenius-Dickey caught 26 passes for 307 yards.
He then redshirted in 2016 before seeing limited action in 2017 with the Huskies. Lenius-Dickey was a grad transfer to New Mexico State where he put on some weight and played tight end for the Aggies.
It would be a great chapter in his story as he is the son of former Roughrider Troy Dickie (who passed away in 2017) and was raised in Regina.
The Redblacks have always held Canadian pass-catchers in high regard and Mayala would be a great addition alongside a couple of 30-year-old receivers in Brad Sinopoli and Julian Feoli-Gudino.
Mayala is one of our favourite Canadians in the NCAA over the past few seasons and finished his career with 113 catches and 12 touchdowns.
(8) Calgary Stampeders – Brady Oliveira RB (North Dakota)
This is a complete shot in the dark. They will more than likely grab an offensive lineman at this spot (either Northern Colorado’s Zach Wilkenson or Waterloo’s Jesse Gibbon) but the Stampeders have never shied away from having a stud Canadian running back.
Oliviera had a standout career with North Dakota finishing with 500 carries for 2,822-yards and 22 touchdowns.