Recap: CFL Draft answers lingering questions
TORONTO — The question that hung over the CFL Draft for weeks was finally answered on Tuesday night.
With a record number of Canadian players finding their way into the NFL via the 2023 Draft and free agent signings, CFL teams largely opted to not play the waiting game. That led to a number of names that landed outside of the top-10 in the spring edition of the CFL’s Scouting Bureau making their way into the first and second rounds on Tuesday night.
Fresno State offensive lineman Dontae Bull going first overall to the Ottawa REDBLACKS wasn’t a surprise. Were it not for a season-ending broken leg that he’d suffered on Oct. 29, 2022, he likely would have been a part of that bigger question that hung over the draft. Along with defensive linemen Lwal Uguak and Francis Bemiy, they were the only top-10-ranked players that didn’t have an NFL opportunity in front of them.
“This is an exciting moment for Dontae and the Ottawa REDBLACKS,” GM Shawn Burke said after making the selection.
“He is coming off a strong collegiate career playing NCAA Division 1 football and will fit well with our group. We’re happy he chose to make the move to Ottawa and the organization is thrilled to have him.”
That led to a quick influx of names that followers grew familiar with at the CFL Combine presented by New Era in Edmonton. Montreal Carabins linebacker Michael Brodrique went second overall to the Edmonton Elks. The Saskatchewan Roughriders took UBC d-lineman Lake Korte-Moore third overall. Dayton Black, the 20th-ranked player in the Scouting Bureau, went sixth overall to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers took Regina defensive lineman Anthony Bennett eighth overall and Bemiy, who had been considered by draft evaluators as a possibility for that No. 1 pick, went ninth overall to the BC Lions to close out the first round.
MORE CFL DRAFT COVERAGE
» Results: View the 2023 CFL Draft Tracker
» A team-by-team look at the 2023 Draft
» Top Dog: REDBLACKS take Dontae Bull first overall
» Elks take Carabins’s LB Michael Brodrique with second pick
» Riders dive into draft with Lake Korte-Moore at third overall
» Surprising twists in opening round of the CFL Draft
» Mock Draft 2.0: Who did Marsh say was going first overall?
» More CFL Draft news and notes
» Results: 2023 Global Draft
» Global Draft: REDBLACKS take DL Blessman Ta’ala first overall
“Michael is an excellent linebacker with the tenacity and athletic markers we search for,” Elks assistant general manager Geroy Simon said of Brodrique at the conclusion of the first round. “He has a high football IQ and can be a versatile player for this organization.”
There still were names with NFL ties called early on. Penn State linebacker Jonathan Sutherland, who was signed by the Seattle Seahawks, went fifth overall to the Montreal Alouettes. Jared Wayne, who signed with the Houston Texans, went 16th overall to the Toronto Argonauts. But as the second round rolled into the third and onward, the trend largely stayed the same. Teams continued to take players that they can work with quickly.
One surprise with those combine attendees was Guelph receiver Clark Barnes. The owner of the second-fastest 40-yard time in Edmonton (4.53 seconds) and the highest-regarded receiver at the combine, he didn’t hear his name called until the third round (24th overall). That may have worked out in his favour, though. He was selected by the Calgary Stampeders, who also took Northern Illinois receiver Cole Tucker in the first round. With the Stamps’ reputation for shrewd drafting and player development, the wait stands to be a worthwhile one for him.
Perhaps as a nod to their chances in the NFL, those players that would have been first round locks didn’t feature much into the night at all. Eastern Michigan offensive lineman Sidy Sow went 48th overall to the Riders. Running back Chase Brown, who held the top spot in the Scouting Bureau most of the past year, went 59th overall to the Alouettes. The Riders also took defensive lineman Tavius Robinson with the 66th overall pick.
The night was laced with surprise, with prospects hearing their names earlier than expected and getting a moment to bask in the work that put them in that position.
“It was a great surprise,” Brodrique said of his early selection by the Elks. “I’m really excited to join the Elks family and excited to start camp. I think I’m a versatile player, well-rounded. I’m a physical guy, I can run down the field. I’m ready to play special teams and ready to roll as soon as I can.”
“I hadn’t talked to Saskatchewan in a little bit,” Korte-Moore said after being selected by the Riders. “It was a great surprise and I’m very excited about it. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid to get drafted and I can’t believe it’s happened. Now I can’t wait to get to work.”
With CFL rookie camps opening on May 10, the draft class of 2023 won’t have to wait much longer for it to all finally be here.