Photo courtesy of Ohio University
Each year when the CFL Scouting Bureau list is first released there are a few main trends.
First is the quick Googling of many fans in a mad dash to see some new names cross their timeline, many of whom they might not realize are draft eligible the following May or even have Canadian ties.
Next is the inevitable gamesmanship of Bureau voters who attempt to submit an honest vote while also not playing their full hand of cards on how much they might love a player or two.
Third is the dominance of big bodies, specifically the offensive and defensive linemen that fill the trenches as one of the CFL Draft’s primary exports despite an ever-increasing quality of receiver and defensive back positional groups on both sides of the border.
» Kurtis Rourke claims top spot in the fall edition of the CFL’s Scouting Bureau
» Strong fan support powers CFL at mid-season
» Game Zone: Play CFL Blitz Picks
» Tickets: See Week 12 action live
There is something special about the first edition of this year’s Scouting Bureau release though. Amongst the hulking lineman, talented transfers and big school playmakers is a kid playing quarterback from a familiar small school program, with an even more familiar last name.
Kurtis Rourke is returning from a major injury at the end of last season with the Ohio Bobcats, but that hasn’t stopped him from topping this list of the CFL’s top-20 talents for the 2024 CFL Draft.
Of course, the comparisons to older brother Nathan are never ending for this not so little understudy. Going to the same school, having a similar throwing style and mannerisms right down to cadence and pocket presence have set Kurtis on a path to constantly be reminded of not just who his brother is, but what his family name has already accomplished in the Canadian Football League.
Rourke will be the headliner and rightfully so. This honour is not one simply bestowed on relation but on merit. Kurtis has earned every vote. As he moves through this season at Ohio, little brother will continue to shake free from the shadow willingly cast upon him.
He’s already a team captain and named to the 2024 Reese’s Senior Bowl watch list. Another accolade earned from throwing 25 touchdowns in 11 games last year including 3,256 passing yards including a game against Fordham passing for 527 yards, breaking a school record set back in 1983.
Rourke will be THE story of the CFL evaluation and draft season, but he is followed closely by many names who have the potential to be major difference makers for CFL teams in the coming years.
Gabe Wallace of Salmon Arm, BC is the top lineman listed. At second overall on the Scouting Bureau’s fall rankings the six-foot-six, 337-pound All-MAC offensive lineman was previously the top rated lineman in Canada according to Canada Football Chat. His frame is matched by his movement skills as an accomplished rugby player with tremendous upside in the wide open screen game of the CFL.
At third on the list is the first U SPORTS product, offensive lineman Theo Benedet from the UBC Thunderbirds. A player with a long list of accomplishments and even bigger aspirations, Benedet was slated to be in the 2023 CFL Draft but deferred his draft year in hopes of gaining more experience and pushing his potential to a new level.
Boston College offensive lineman Kyle Hergel and Illinois OL Isaiah Adams round out the top five, a quartette of pass blockers who — in a fantasy football world — were they paired with Rourke as their signal caller could form a formidable National ratio setup in a few seasons all by themselves.
Nick Mardner of Oakville is the first receiver featured. The former Cincinnati Bearcat and Hawaii Warrior had 19 receptions for 218 yards and three scores in 2022 with Cincinnati as he jumps to the SEC in hopes of pushing his draft stock to a new level.
As always, this list will evolve as the months go on and you should look at it as I do: A watch list for incredible Canadian talent to guide your fall NCAA and U SPORTS viewing. If you don’t have an allegiance to a school, mascot or colours, cheering for the best our country has is an easy and enjoyable way to absorb the college football season with numerous players worthy of your fandom.