April 30, 2024

Dublanko heads up talented 1st round of CFL Draft

Cameron Bartlett/CFL.ca

TORONTO — Joel Dublanko was a late entrant to the CFL Draft process, but he was the first name off the board when draft day arrived.

The Edmonton Elks took the linebacker out of Cincinnati first overall on Tuesday night, getting the 2024 edition of the draft underway.

Dublanko became draft eligible after the release of the winter edition of the CFL’s Scouting Bureau rankings. After a solid performance at the CFL Combine presented by New Era in Winnipeg last month, Dublanko debuted in the sixth spot of the spring edition of the Scouting Bureau.

» First-And-Joel: Elks take Joel Dublanko first overall in CFL Draft
Elks take Eteva Mauga-Clements first overall in Global Draft
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The former Cincinnati Bearcat had 113 tackles, 5.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble in his final season with the Bearcats in 2021 and was named to the All-AAC First Team. 

Since going unselected in the 2022 NFL Draft, Dublanko has spent time with the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks in the NFL and played with the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL in 2023.

The six-foot-one linebacker registered an impressive 4.59-second 40-yard dash, with a 3.84-second 3-cone split and a 4.27-second short shuttle at the CFL Combine. 

The Elks got the draft ball rolling on Tuesday night, setting in motion a first round that saw four offensive linemen selected, the most since the 2020 draft. A late-round trade between Winnipeg and Calgary threw some unpredictability into the mix and the U SPORTS-NCAA split was as even as it could be, with four U SPORTS players chosen to five from the NCAA.


The Ottawa REDBLACKS looked to receiver Nick Mardner with the second overall pick, bringing in the Auburn product and making him the first-ever Auburn player taken in the CFL Draft. Mardner’s selection marked the 11th CFL Draft in a row with at least one receiver taken in the first round.

With the third pick in the draft, Saskatchewan Roughriders’ GM Jeremy O’Day — a former offensive lineman — went with what he knows and selected Boston College offensive lineman Kyle Hergel. His selection marked the fourth year in a row that an o-lineman was taken in the top-three of the draft.

Hergel recently signed as an undrafted NFL free agent with the New Orleans Saints.

The Calgary Stampeders used the fourth overall pick to take defensive back Benjamin Labrosse. He is the first McGill player taken in the first round since 2002, when John McDonald went seventh overall and the highest McGill pick since Val St. Germain went as a bonus pick in the 1994 Draft. Labrosse tested extremely well at the CFL Combine in Winnipeg, tying for the fastest 40-yard dash, at 4.51 seconds.

Labrosse’s selection marks four consecutive years with at least one U SPORTS player taken in the top-four. He has received an invite to the New York Giants’ mini-camp.

The Toronto Argonauts stuck with a U SPORTS player and another CFL Combine standout, taking Laval receiver Kevin Mital at fifth overall. Mital wowed those in attendance at the combine, showing a combination of speed (4.58-second 40-yard dash) and size (six-feet, 229 pounds) that allowed him to win the 2022 Hec Crighton trophy as the nation’s top player while at Laval.

On the heels of his combine performance Mital jumped from the No. 20 spot in the winter edition of the Scouting Bureau’s rankings up to No. 10 in the spring edition. Mital and Mardner’s selections marked the first time since 2017 that two wide receivers went top-five.

Windsor’s George Una became the second offensive lineman taken in the first round when the BC Lions took him at sixth overall. The six-foot-two, 313-pounder’s selection marks the second year in a row that two of the top-six picks have been offensive linemen.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats stuck with the o-line, using the seventh overall pick to take Laval’s Nathaniel Dumoulin Duguay.

The night got its first twist when the Blue Bombers and the Stampeders completed a trade just in time for the Stamps to pick up the Bombers’ eighth overall pick. They used it to take Washington State offensive lineman Christy Nkanu. Calgary picked up Winnipeg’s 28th overall selection as well, while they gave the Bombers the 13th and 14th overall picks.

The Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes closed out an eventful first round by choosing Memphis linebacker Geoffrey Cantin-Arku.

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