University of Pittsburgh
As with every year, the Fall Edition of the CFL Scouting Bureau rankings are subject to change in substantive ways. Draft deferrals, opt outs, transfers, the impact of NIL (name, image and likeness rights for NCAA athletes) on when, where and how a player will decide the pros make more sense than staying in school. The list evolves as the conditions around amateurism continue to bend and flex.
These Scouting Bureau rankings are no different, but what finishes on draft night with picks being submitted starts here, with the recognition of excellence and potential. One of the best parts about the Fall list in particular is the guide it gives CFL fans on who to put on their fall football radar, as future CFL stars take the field each Saturday across U SPORTS and the NCAA.
What a delicious buffet of viewing options you’ve been alerted to with this Top-20.
A year after the Ford and Philpot brothers graced us with a charmed draft full of family, friendship and elite level football, Chase and Sydney Brown comprise two of the top-three names listed as the dynamic Illinois twin duo is set to dominate CFL Draft headlines next spring.
Chase was the Big Ten’s third-leading rusher (1,005 yards on 170 carries last year), while showing a natural ability to catch the ball out of the backfield that included 14 catches. Much like Tre and Tyrell Ford last year, brother Sydney plays defence as a four-year starter for the Illini, with 262 tackles and four interceptions in 38 career starts.
To have a running back listed at the top of the rankings — especially at a time when the position is usually worth a second-round pick at best — speaks to the respect Chase has garnered in his time at Illinois. Were it not for the otherworldly performances of a healthy John Metchie III at Alabama, Chase could be a Jon Cornish Award winner for top Canadian in the NCAA.
Two receivers round out the top-five in Pittsburgh’s Jared Wayne (Peterborough, Ont.) and Cincinnati’s Nick Mardner (Mississauga, Ont). Always a sought after position early in the draft with three of them (Jalen Philpot, Samuel Emilus, Tyson Philpot) going in the first round this past year.
Wayne offers a six-foot-three, 210-pound frame as the son of former six-year CFL linebacker Patrick Wayne. He finished second on the Pitt Panthers in receptions (47), receiving yards (658) and receiving touchdowns in 2021 and has a great understanding of the game as a former high school quarterback.
Mardner is a Hawaii transfer that led the Warriors in receiving yards (913) and receiving touchdowns in his final season there with five, while averaging 19.9 yards per catch. At a stout six-foot-six, the likelihood is Mardner gets a long look down south if he puts on some weight and strength to play a more traditional tight end position, but the body type is intriguing for CFL teams, given the chance.
Speaking of unique body types, a pair of players with Guelph connections will be much discussed after ranking in the Top-20.
Tavius Robinson’s journey to Ole Miss has been well chronicled, but I’ll never forget walking in behind the former Gryphons’ defensive end for a Yates Cup in London, looking up and realizing I was staring into the mid-back of the shaggy haired human in front of me.
He was just a freshman at the time and I believe is a lock to be a Top-10 pick while current Gryphon Clark Barnes is the highest rated U SPORTS receiver. Barnes brings a unique knack for return game excellence with him to the Fall rankings and should have a more involved season receiving if the Gryphons can find some consistent quarterback play.
From a pair of talented UBC pass protectors, to length at every level of the defence and players competing for their Winter ranking slot, there is something for everyone in this list.
Being recognized in the initial rankings is nice, but the question now becomes what will these players do to make their name rise above the rest as they get increased attention and scrutiny in the initial stages of the 2023 CFL Draft.