TORONTO — If you’re wondering how long it can take to upend a team’s entire draft process, the short answer would be about three weeks, give or take.
Jake Burt was a part of the final, locked in list that the CFL shared with GMs and football operations staffs on April 13. Between then and Tuesday, May 4, Burt had impressed the Hamilton Ticat GM duo of Shawn Burke and Drew Allemang enough to take the tight end out of Boston College first overall in the 2021 CFL Draft.
“From the moment I was eligible, I’ve kind of just been on a downhill rollercoaster going full speed,” Burt said shortly after becoming the first tight end chosen first overall since the Ottawa Rough Riders took Gerald Wilcox out of Weber State in 1989.
“I’m so excited that I would get on a plane and go to Hamilton right now. I’m just so thankful to the whole organization and (want) to prove them right and do some big things over there in Hamilton,” he said.
Burt highlighted an interesting draft in a challenging year, where the majority of players eligible didn’t have film in light of U SPORTS cancelling its 2020 season due to the pandemic. With no current game film, scouts and GMs across the league were challenged in a way they never were before to evaluate talent and draft players.
The BC Lions were trench-focused this year, with offensive and defensive linemen making up four of their five picks. They went with NC State d-lineman Daniel Joseph fourth overall and with Iowa o-lineman Alaric Jackson 15th overall. Both players were drafted with the Lions thinking about the big picture.
“Daniel Joseph and Alaric Jackson, we had very high on our board; very good football players,” Lions head coach and co-GM Rick Campbell said of the picks he and co-GM Neil McEvoy made in the first two rounds.
“Daniel is going to play one more year at NC State. We thought it was worth that. We think he shows up, he’s going to be an impact player. Alaric played a lot of really good football for Iowa and signed as an NFL free agent (with the L.A. Rams) We might have thought a little differently had he been drafted (in the NFL). We’re going to play the odds that we will see him at some point. So we’ll wish those guys the best with this season and look forward to seeing them in the future.”
The Calgary Stampeders went a similar route with their first-round pick and chose linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga eighth overall. Before he played at Oklahoma State, Ogbongbemiga played under the Stamps’ noses at Notre Dame high school in Calgary. He’s signed as an undrafted free agent with the L.A. Chargers. In the second round, they went with Wilfrid Laurier offensive lineman Bryce Bell and took Calgary Dinos LB Charlie Moore in the third round (26th overall). The Stamps took their swing at the fences in the fifth round when they took Sherwood Park, Alta.’s Chuba Hubbard. The Oklahoma State running back was a Heisman finalist in 2019 and went in the fourth-round of this year’s NFL Draft to the Carolina Panthers.
On the other side of the Battle of Alberta, the Edmonton Football Team rolled the dice with its fifth overall pick, defensive lineman Cole Nelson. The University of Alberta Golden Bears d-lineman stands at six-foot-six and 312 pounds and had a strong showing in the virtual combine ahead of the Draft, but The Ponoka, Alta. native was thrilled to take the next step in his football journey and to be able to keep doing it in his home province.
“It was pretty crazy because we haven’t had much excitement around here for a while in small-town Alberta,” he said. “Just having my brothers, my mom and dad, my aunts and my girlfriend here, it’s just huge. It was the highlight of my year so far and going to Edmonton, close to home, my parents can watch easily. It’s the team we watched growing up so it was wild and pretty exciting.”
The Saskatchewan Roughriders added some interesting pieces on Tuesday night. They got their night going by taking a familiar face, in Saskatchewan Huskies DB Nelson Lokombo second overall. They paired the 2019 U SPORTS defensive player of the year with a talented receiver in the second round when they took Terrell Jana out of Virginia at 17th overall. Tight end Bruno Labelle was taken at 20th overall and Logan Bandy — the Calgary 0-lineman that was the No. 18 prospect in the Spring Scouting Bureau rankings — landed in Green and White 38th overall. GM Jeremy O’Day closed out the team’s night by taking Mount Allison DB Matt Watson 53rd overall.
Kyle Walters got himself a very confident offensive lineman with the third overall pick, in Liam Dobson. The six-foot-three, 340-pounder from Ottawa is transferring from Maine to Texas State and sounded eager to join the defending Grey Cup champs in a year’s time.
“When I get up there, I’m going to come in with the mentality that we’re going to win games and win championships,” Dobson said.
“I’m going to come in with an attitude — I’m going to be the new guy and the young guy — but I’m going to assert myself in that locker room and kind of show that the new model is business. I’m going to go out and play physical football and put us in an opportunity to win games.”
They’ll also wait on Rutgers-bound DB Patrice Rene, who left North Carolina this year and will finish out his NCAA eligibility in New Jersey.
While they wait on those players, the Bombers added a number of intriguing prospects. They used their second-round pick to take Montreal DB Redha Kramdi, a player who might win coach Mike O’Shea over with his special teams work. They took a pair of Regina Rams in linebacker Robbie Lowes and running back Kyle Borsa, who tested extremely well at the virtual combine. They rounded out their night by looking to Manitoba Bisons DB Shae Weekes with their sixth-round pick.
The Montreal Alouettes had to wait until the second round to get involved in the draft, but when they did they went aggressively after offensive linemen. They took Pier-Olivier Lestage 10th overall, Lehigh OL Chris Fournier 27th and Syracuse OL Patrick Davis 28th.
They’ll wait for Lestage, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Seattle Seahawks.
“We are extremely pleased to have been able to claim Pier-Olivier and that he was still available in the second round,” Alouettes GM Danny Maciocia said. “He is a versatile player, always ready to help his teammates and he will fit perfectly with the Alouettes.”
The Als took Laval kicker David Cote 45th overall and took another Montreal Carabin, in linebacker Ethan Makonzo, with their last pick at 46th.
In Ottawa, GM Marcel Desjardins used his first-round pick to take Maine linebacker Deshawn Stevens. He was named Maine’s top defensive player in 2018 and helped lead his team to a CAA title while racking up 120 tackles, nine sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries. A torn Achilles in the 2019 opener brought an end to his season and he’s considering transferring to a different NCAA program for 2021. Still, the REDBLACKS like everything they see from the six-foot-two, 255 pound Toronto native and are willing to wait for him.
“We really felt he was one of the top defensive players in the draft and somebody who could play a number of spots for us,” REDBLACKS head head coach Paul LaPolice told Postmedia’s Tim Baines. “We’re ecstatic to get him.”
The REDBLACKS took West Virginia DB Alonzo Addae in the second round. It was a move that TSN’s Farhan Lalji lauded in the broadcast of the draft.
“He’s a very versatile DB. He offers so much versatility and flexibility and he’s such an intelligent football player,” Desjardins told Baines.
The Toronto Argonauts had QB protection on their minds to get the night going. They took Calgary Dinos guard Peter Nicastro seventh overall and New Mexico State left tackle Sage Doxtater 12th overall. The team that had the highest-profile off-season in the league ended their draft on a similar note, taking Minnesota DB Benjamin St-Juste with the 52nd pick of the night. St-Juste went to the Washington Football Team in the third round of the NFL Draft.
The Ticats stayed focussed on the defensive side of the ball for the majority of their night. They took UBC linebacker Nick Cross ninth overall and took Ole Miss DB Deane Leonard at 18th, before snagging Central Michigan’s Mo Diallo at 19th. Saint Mary’s linebacker Jarek Richards went 36th overall and Western LB Myles Manalo was the final pick of the draft, welcome to the team by caretaker Bob Young. The Ticats took fullback Felix Garand-Gautier out of Laval with the 37th overall pick.
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