Lions strike early, set tone in 2020 CFL Draft
TORONTO — In a year that’s been full of unique circumstances, the 2020 CFL Draft found a way to stand out, too.
With teams, league officials and players all working and watching from home, the BC Lions played a big part in making it a memorable night. They traded up from the third spot to get Calgary’s first overall pick and used it on linebacker Jordan Williams. The first-ever regional combine participant to go first overall, Williams became the first linebacker to kick off a draft since Winnipeg took Henoc Muamba“>Henoc Muamba in 2011. He’s also just the fifth linebacker to ever go first overall.
“I’m absolutely surprised. I didn’t know there were trades that happen. I thought the CFL was one through nine and that’s what you get,” Williams said about an hour after becoming a Lion.
“This is surreal. I can’t even quantify how I feel right now.”
“Watching him on film, he flies around. When he gets to the ball carrier he makes tackles,” Lions GM Ed Hervey said.
“When you see him he runs through tackles, he makes plays, his presence is felt. Running a 4.5 (second) 40, being as athletic as he is…watching his tape we felt he was the No. 1 overall pick. He brings a level of intensity and athleticism and we felt he was too good to pass up.
“We weren’t sure he’d be there at three, so we decided to take a shot. If we would have stayed at three we would have been fine but we felt like there was an opportunity to take a chance at it.”
MORE DRAFT COVERAGE
The Lions used their second-round pick (15th overall) to take quarterback Nathan Rourke. The six-foot-two, 209-pound Oakville, Ont. native and Ohio University product became the highest drafted quarterback since Jesse Palmer, who also went 15th overall, in 2001. You’d have to go back 49 years to Bob Kraemer being taken seventh overall by Winnipeg in 1971.
“I’m really excited we were able to get him,” Lions head coach Rick Campbell said of Rourke.
“Regardless of nationality, he was a really good player at Ohio University. He’s so productive and a winner and he’s got really good feet, too.”
In three years with the Bobcats, Rourke led the team to bowl game wins each season. He finished his career there after a win at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in December with 7,457 passing yards and 2,639 rushing yards. That versatility impressed the Lions.
“I think that brings a different dynamic to the CFL,” Campbell said.
“I won’t make any proclamations, other than to say it’s a great opportunity for him to come up here and have a guy like Mike Reilly to learn under. Most guys that come up here need time to not be thrown into the fire.”
Sticking with a theme of their off-season, the Toronto Argonauts went with a local player with the second overall pick, taking Mississauga, Ont.’s Dejon Brisset from the University of Virginia. The six-foot, 195-pound receiver had a quiet fifth year at Virginia, after a standout season with the Richmond Spiders in 2017. He pulled in 63 receptions for a team-leading 896 yards and seven touchdowns before he was injured three games into his senior season in 2018.
Dropping back to the third overall pick, Calgary got the guy they wanted, in Southeastern Louisiana defensive end Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund. The six-foot-two, 250-pound Dartmouth, N.S. native felt he had some good conversations with the Stamps over the last month abut was still surprised to find out he’d be making a move out West to Calgary.
“They didn’t really give me any indication,” Adeyemi-Berglund said of the Stamps’ interest. “Besides the fact that I had a good relationship with the coaches and the scouts, I thought I would be there. I’m happy with the way that things worked out.”
A second-team all-Southland Conference selection in 2019, Adeyemi-Berglund had 61 tackles including 16 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and four pass breakups in 13 games at Southeastern Louisiana. The Stamps are getting a productive player and a consistently great student. The pre-med major was an all-academic team selection in 2018 and 2019 and made the conference commissioner’s fall academic honour roll in 2016 and 2017.
One of the surprising trends from this year’s draft was the lack of offensive linemen taken early. There were four taken in the first round, but none in the second, making for the lowest total o-lineman taken through two rounds since 2010.
Buffalo’s Tomas Jack-Kurdyla was the first o-lineman chosen on Thursday night, going fourth overall to the Edmonton Eskimos. He was followed up by Guelph’s Coulter Woodmansey at fifth overall. After the Ottawa REDBLACKS nabbed Laval defensive back Adam Auclair at sixth, the Saskatchewan Roughriders took Saskatchewan Huskies OL Mattland Riley seventh.
Having gotten one o-lineman in the first round, Hamilton used its second North Dakota defensive end Mason Bennett with the eighth pick. The Argos closed out the first round by taking Regina Rams offensive-lineman Theren Churchill at ninth.
NFL-BOUND CANADIANS GET SOME OPTIONS
At last week’s NFL draft, six Canadian players were either selected or signed post-draft deals. That drove their names further down the CFL draft, but five out of the six still heard their names called. After signing with the L.A. Rams, Brown DL Michael Hoecht went to Ottawa with the first pick in the second round. After Montreal Carabins DB Marc-Antoine Dequoy signed with the Green Bay Packers, his former head coach, Danny Maciocia, used his first pick as the Montreal Alouettes’ GM to take him 14th overall.
Calgary used its third-round pick (21st overall) on receiver Rysen John, who signed with the New York Giants and Montreal went one pick later and chose offensive lineman Carter O’Donnell with the 22nd pick, after the Red Deer product signed with the Indianapolis Colts.
Saskatchewan took DL Neville Gallimore went 71st overall, just in case things don’t work out for the Ottawa native with the Dallas Cowboys, who took him 82nd overall.
The highest chosen NFL player out of the Canadian lot, Pittsburgh Steelers second-round pick Chase Claypool, went unselected by a CFL team.
ALS KEEP IT LOCAL
When he was hired as the Als’ GM in January, Maciocia said that drafting and/or recruiting and keeping Quebec-based players would be a focus of his. In his first draft, he chose three Carabins and two Concordia Stingers out of his 10 picks. Here’s a breakdown:
2nd Round:DB Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Montreal (14th)
2nd Round: DL Cameron Lawson, Queen’s (16th)
3rd Round: OL Carter O’Donnell, Alberta (22nd)
3rd Round: DL Marion Beniot, Montreal (25th)
4th Round: LB Brian Harleimana, Montreal (33rd)
6th Round: OL Andrew Becker, Regina (49th)
6th Round: LB Jersey Henry, Concordia (51st)
7th Round: SB Vincent Alessandrini, Concordia (60th)
8th Round: DL Brock Gowanlock, Manitoba (66th)
8th Round: RB Colton Klassen, Saskatchewan (69th)