TORONTO — On a record-setting night for the offensive linemen, it was a receiver stealing the spotlight at the 2018 CFL Draft.
Central Michigan’s Mark Chapman was the first receiver taken first overall since Chris Bauman in 2007, landing with June Jones and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on an eventful Thursday night in Toronto.
The Ticats also took offensive lineman Darius Ciraco sixth overall, roughly 24 hours after making two trades to move up in the draft’s opening round.
“To be able to go number one overall, it’s surreal,” said Chapman. “I never really envisioned myself being in this kind of position. And to be going to a place like Hamilton — it’s a great program, great players, great offence.”
After much speculation, it turned out the dynamic playmaker in Chapman was the player the Ticats coveted when they acquired the first overall selection. Head Coach June Jones says Chapman will have a chance to make an immediate impact in the offence.
“He reminds me of a lot of players I’ve had in the past,” Jones said of Chapman. “He’s really a smart kid, plays in the 4.5 range, he’s got great catching ability. He reminded me of some players we’ve had in the NFL that have been very productive in our offence so it’ll be fun to get him on board.”
After Chapman, the run of offensive linemen began as general managers didn’t want to miss out on a selection of highly-touted blockers. Five straight offensive linemen went off the board, starting with Trey Rutherford going to Montreal second and Peter Godber going to BC third.
In all, a record-breaking seven offensive linemen were picked in the first round.
Among them was CFL Combine star and UBC product Dakoda Shepley, going fifth overall to Saskatchewan. Shepley may have been the first overall pick had he not signed with the NFL’s New York Jets following last week’s draft south of the border.
“It was a huge honour. Honestly I didn’t expect to be drafted as high as I did given the current situation in the NFL. Hearing my name called by Saskatchewan was certainly a surprise but a good one – I’m happy to be a part of Rider Nation.”
The Riders will wait and see whether Shepley can join them in training camp next month.
There were two unexpected omissions from the first round, with Laurier defensive back Godfrey Onyeka going to the Eskimos 10th overall and Ottawa defender Jackson Bennett going to Hamilton.
The Ticats felt they got a steal in Bennett, soon adding University of Calgary defensive lineman Brett Wade to round out their league-high four picks in the first two rounds of the draft.
“That was like a gift,” Jones said of Bennett. “He’s going to have a lot to do with our return stuff, he can run, he plays fast. We’re excited about those guys . . . All four of those players we took were in our top 10-graded guys so it’s pretty good to be able to pull that off.”
The Bombers addressed a potential need at receiver when they drafted Rashaun Simonise near the top of the second round. GM Kyle Walters also got speedy McMaster receiver Daniel Petermann with the 26th pick in the draft, supporting his plan to start two Canadians at receiver this season.
After a second round completely devoid of offensive linemen, former top-ranked prospect David Knevel went off the board on the third round when he was selected by the BC Lions. Ed Hervey came out with plenty of depth in the trenches in his first draft in BC, getting Godber and Knevel on the O-line along with top-ranked defensive line prospect Julien Laurent.
Bowling Green’s Ryan Hunter, the top-ranked prospect in the CFL Scouting Bureau, landed with the Toronto Argonauts with the ninth overall pick. Hunter is considered a ‘futures’ pick given his NFL ambitions.
The REDBLACKS got 21-year-old versatile prospect Mark Korte, an offensive lineman out of the University of Alberta, with the fourth pick.
The 17 offensive linemen selected tied the second-highest total in a draft in the last 15 years.
Quarterback prospect and former Hec Crighton winner Noah Picton was not selected.
Five of the first 18 picks in the draft are from the University of Calgary. The school surpassed Laval for the most CFL draft picks over the last 15 years, adding eight on Thursday night alone. Calgary has produced an unprecedented 16 CFL draft picks in 2017 and 2018.