Surprising twists in opening round of the CFL Draft
TORONTO — The Ottawa REDBLACKS went with Fresno State offensive tackle Dontae Bull with the first overall pick in the 2023 CFL Draft, kicking off a fast and furious first round of activity on Tuesday night.
“It’s a great opportunity to shine some light on the athleticism that comes out of Victoria,” Bull told TSN’s Claire Hannah. The REDBLACKS flew the Victoria, BC native in to Ottawa and introduced him to fans at their draft party.
While Bull’s selection didn’t come as a shock, the rest of the first round carried its share of surprises with it. The Edmonton Elks took Montreal Carabins’ linebacker Michael Brodrique second overall and the Saskatchewan Roughriders followed that up by taking UBC defensive lineman Lake Korte-Moore third.
With many questions around where NCAA-based players would land in the draft due to a record number of five Canadian players chosen in the NFL Draft, CFL general managers generally responded by looking to players more immediately available to them when the draft got underway.
» Team-by-team look at the 2023 CFL Draft
» View the entire 2023 CFL Draft Order
» Top Dog: REDBLACKS take Dontae Bull first overall
» Taking bull by the horns: REDBLACKS sign first overall pick
» Elks take Carabins’s LB Michael Brodrique with second pick
» Riders dive into draft with Lake Korte-Moore at third overall
» Everything you need to know ahead of the 2023 CFL Draft
» Where To Watch: 2023 CFL Draft broadcast info
» Mock Draft 2.0: Who is going first overall?
» Stock Assessment: Receivers and defensive backs
» Stock Assessment: Running backs and linebackers
» Stock Assessment: Breaking down the trenches
» More CFL Draft news and notes
The Calgary Stampeders snagged Cole Tucker with the fourth overall pick. The six-foot-one, 193-pound receiver out of Northern Illinois was a late addition to the CFL Draft, but his resume spoke to Stamps’ general manager and head coach Dave Dickinson.
Tucker had 155 catches for 2,030 yards and 10 touchdowns in his five years with the Huskies. His 45 receptions for 632 yards and four touchdowns in 2022 were career-bests and marked the third time in his career he broke the 500-receiving yards mark. Tucker is tied for seventh all-time in the school’s history for reception and is eighth all-time in receiving yards. A 2022 All-MAC honourable mention by Pro Football Focus and a two-time All-MAC third team selection by PFF in 2021 and 2022, Tucker debuted on the CFL Scouting Bureau’s spring ranking at No. 12, as he gained Canadian citizenship over the winter.
The Montreal Alouettes looked to Penn State linebacker Jonathan Sutherland with the fifth overall pick. Sutherland has signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent.
Sutherland, five-foot-11 and 214 pounds, started eight of 12 games in his redshirt senior season at Penn State, where he served as a team captain for the fourth year of his career. He had 35 tackles (22 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a fumble recovery and one pass breakup. Through 58 career games as a Nittany Lion, the Ottawa native has 137 total tackles (78 solo), an interception, six pass knockdowns, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery along with two blocked punts, both which came in the same game, on Aug. 31, 2019.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats looked to a U SPORTS player that could contribute for them immediately and chose Saskatchewan Huskies’ offensive lineman Dayton Black at sixth overall.
Black was a two-time Hardy Cup and Uteck Bowl champion (2021, 2022) at the University of Saskatchewan and was named a Canada West All-Star, along with the U of S lineman of the year in 2022.
The six-foot-six, 295-pound Brandon Man. product joined the Huskies as a defensive lineman but made the switch to the offensive line in 2019. Last year, he started all eight of the Huskies’ games at left tackle, as part of an offensive line that cleared the way for 1,050 rushing yards and 2,785 passing yards. Black came out of the CFL Combine in Edmonton and made his way onto the Scouting Bureau’s final rankings at No. 20.
With their second pick in the first round, the Alouettes chose TCU defensive lineman Lwal Uguak seventh overall.
The Edmonton, Alta. native has four years of NCAA experience, first suiting up for the University of Connecticut Huskies from 2018-2021, then joining the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs for the 2022 season.
At UConn, the six-foot-five, 271-pound defensive lineman played in 34 games and had 69 total tackles (31 solo), with four sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two pass breakups. At TCU last year, Uguak played in 14 games and had nine total tackles (four solo), with a fumble recovery.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers made their 2023 draft debut with the eighth overall pick and chose Regina Rams defensive lineman Anthony Bennett.
Bennett (six-foot-three, 230 pounds) comes from a football-immersed family. His father, Charles Bennett played for the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins and had a brief stay with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1985. His uncle Tony Bennett played for the Indianapolis Colts and the Green Bay Packers, while his older brother Andrew suited up for the Regina Rams. His cousin, Michael Bennett, played for the Minnesota Vikings.
After two years with the Florida Atlantic University Owls, Bennett transferred to the Regina Rams for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. He was a force on the Rams’ defensive line, compiling 46.5 total tackles (36 solo), 10 sacks and an interception through 13 total games. His eight-sack season in 2022 pushed him to a Canada West All-Star nod and a first-team U SPORTS All-Canadian team selection.
The BC Lions closed out the round with a name that many observers thought might have come up earlier in the round, taking Southern Utah defensive lineman Francis Bemiy.
Bemiy impressed scouts from across the league with his showing at the CFL Combine in Edmonton last month. The six-foot-three, 257-pound Montreal product suited up in all 11 of the Thunderbirds games in 2022 and had 26 total tackles (16 solo, 10 assisted) and added three sacks, en route to being named a Bluebloods first-team All-Conference selection.
He leaves Southern Utah with 163 total tackles, 38.5 tackles for loss (154 yards), 13 sacks (97 yards) and three forced fumbles through 49 career games between 2018 and 2022.