This off-season, the Ottawa Redblacks have done a fantastic job of staying busy, signing players and bringing in a new coaching staff are two major things to bounce back from a 3-15 season, but the team isn’t done working. The offices may be closed due to the corona-virus, but the teams front office personnel continues to work as they get closer to the CFL draft.
Coming off the 2019 season, the Redblacks owned the first overall pick in the 2020 CFL Draft, but after acquiring quarterback Nick Arbuckle and Calgary’s first round pick (6th overall) for both the teams first overall and third round pick the Redblacks dropped to 6th overall. Many would say the CFL Draft isn’t the most important part of the CFL off-season as the majority of players come from free agency, but taking a look at the Redblacks history, the draft is still very important. Entering the league in 2014 the Ottawa Redblacks drafted both Antoine Pruneau and Nigel Romick who remain with the team, the following year they drafted Alex Mateas first overall while bringing in both Jake Harty and Kienan Lafrance who played big roles with the Redblacks for a couple of seasons and then through the past few seasons the team has also brought in Jason Lauzon-Seguin, Evan Johnson, Mark Korte and Alex Fontana.
With those names being called and most recently the Ottawa Redblacks have gone for an offensive lineman in the first round for 5 consecutive years, there’s many questions to ask. Will they go for another lineman? Will they go out and get a weapon for Arbuckle? Will they go defense? Well, lets take a look at their options.
Taking in consideration that the Redblacks have lost receivers Dominique Rhymes, Caleb Holley, and Nate Behar this off-season, it wouldn’t be too bad to get a receiver in this years draft, but after bringing in Jalen Saunders I can’t see them drafting a receiver early. This year’s draft has a couple of Canadian play-makers but since the Redblacks have been able to bring in both James Tyrrell and Malcolm Williams this off-season the team, should they get a receiver the later rounds would be the best option. Looking at the receivers in this years draft, all eyes are on Rysen John and Dejon Brissett. The two Canadian-born receivers are looked at to be first or second round talent in this years draft as they have each put together solid careers in the NCAA. Taking a receiver in the first two rounds might sound like a good idea considering the situation we are in at receiver, but like the NFL this year’s CFL draft is deep in the receiver position. Like the two top receivers, Brendan O’Leary-Orange is also available for the Redblacks.
O’Leary-Orange is another Canadian, born in Toronto and then went on to play at the University of Nevada where he went on to catch 61 passes for 941 yards and 8 touchdowns in 18 starts. The numbers coming from him aren’t record breaking but given the experience at that level, at 6’4 he has a shot at replacing Dominique Rhymes out wide and him being a Canadian would be a huge ratio breaker.
Although the NCAA talent looks good and typically translates well into the CFL, there is still a few of great receivers coming out of the CIS/U Sports. At the top of the list coming from the U-Sport department is Tyler Ternowski. The 6-foot tall receiver from Waterloo is expected to go high in the CFL Draft after being named 16th best prospect on the CFL’s top 20. Reasoning behind being put into that conversation is the totals he put up at Waterloo. Making a name for himself to be one of the best receivers in OUA, he caught 164 passes going for nearly 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. His career highs went in 2018 when catching 63 passes for 1,159 yards and 14 touchdowns. If Ottawa looks to take a receiver in this year’s CFL Draft, Ternowski may be one of the best options.
Along with Ternowski, in this years draft the Ottawa Redblacks will be able to have eyes on Trivel Pinto, Kian Schaffer-Baker and Colton Klassen. Out of the three listed, Trivel Pinto sticks out the most. He was originally going to be drafted last year but due to a drug possession issue he was listed ineligible, although he is back on the draft boards for the 2020 CFL draft. Just last week he participated in his own virtual pro day to get his name back on CFL team’s boards, and running a 4.47 40 yard dash, he may have done it. He is fast off the field, but he is also able to make plays with that speed. At the University of British Columbia he was able to put together a solid 4 year career having over 3,000 receiving yards in the 4 years sticking out in his senior year where he caught 75 passes for 1,040 yards and 7 touchdowns. The Toronto native will be drafted by a CFL team on April 30th, will it be Ottawa? Ottawa might draft Pinto, but they also could get Kian Schaffer-Baker from Guelph. The 6’4 receiver is coming out of a 28 game career with Guelph where he caught 95 passes for 1,544 yards and 8 touchdowns. The numbers put up aren’t too fancy, but standing at 6’4, like O’Leary-Orange he has a shot at replacing Dominique Rhymes out wide. Schaffer-Baker is tall at 6’4, but when looking at Colton Klassen, its a different story. Making his ways out of Saskatchewan, Klassen is looking to get drafted. He’s not the flashiest player on the field but he does what the coaches as from him. The 5-foot-8 200 pound offensive weapon has done everything he can to help his team win games in the past. With nearly 1,000 career rushing yards and 1,950 receiving yards with a total 23 touchdowns he has proven to be a jack of all trades and hopes to do it at the next level and considering coach LaPolice was able to do something similar with Nic Demski over the past two seasons in Winnipeg he could like to have Klassen on the team with Anthony Coombs.
Sure the receiver position is important and the Redblacks could use some help there, but they need someone to throw to them. The team has Nick Arbuckle locked up as the starter, but after that the only other notable quarterback is Dominique Davis. Davis, taking a pay cut earlier this off-season looks to be coming back as a backup although Ottawa could always go younger by drafting a quarterback and this year would be the year to do so. The Canadian quarterbacks available in this years draft could be the best the team will see in a while.
Taking the lead of the pack is Nathan Rourke. He has the chance of getting drafted by an NFL team this week, but if he isn’t selected to the NFL the Oakville, Ontario native has a shot at being a future starting quarterback in the CFL. Being a starting quarterback is something Rourke can do, and being brought in to Ottawa he could do so. The team does have Arbuckle who they just brought in this off-season and sitting at 26 years old Arbuckle has a lot left in him but if Rourke is brought in, it can only affect the team in a positive way for the future. Rourke has made a name for himself for NFL and CFL teams as a dual-threat quarterback at the University of Ohio, throwing for over 7,000 yards and rushing for 2,000+ yards in 3 years as a starting quarterback.
To pair with Rourke, this year’s CFL draft will also see Adam Sinagra from the University of Calgary. Playing in a career total 31 games, Sinagra was able to throw for over 8,000 yards and 60 touchdowns while even running for 487 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Canadian star first made a name for himself in the 2018 U-Sports season when he threw for 3,233 yards in just 8 games. In those games he was able to throw 23 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions. Seen in the two athletes named, the Redblacks have a shot at getting a good young Canadian quarterback to add to the team.
One running back?
The Ottawa Redblacks offense is pretty set going into the 2020 CFL season, and their running back situation has no problems to it. Ottawa’s probable starter is John Crockett who in 6 starts was able to get over 500 yards on the offensive side of the ball and behind him the team also has both Brendan Gillanders and Timothy Flanders. Although the Canadian Gillanders is listed as a running back, he is mostly used on special teams so if the team can workout the ratio the Redblacks would be able to dress two American running backs for games this season. Yes, they can do that, but what if they had a super star Canadian running back? Well then they’d start him, wouldn’t they?
He may not be like him right off the bat, but right now Kayden Johnson a Canadian running back out of York is looked at to be the next Andrew Harris. His stats in college aren’t too crazy, but playing in 16 games he was able to gain 985 yards and 3 touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball. Johnson, a dual sport athlete was also named the 2018 York male athlete of the year after winning the U-Sports gold medal for the 60 meter hurdles in just 7.97 seconds. Johnson, the Saskatchewan native will be drafted in this years CFL draft, and if he is still on the board later on, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get picked up by the Ottawa Redblacks. The Redblacks have Crockett on the team right now, but with LaPolice’s experience in Winnipeg with Andrew Harris, the Redblacks could see Johnson go at the top of the team’s depth chart in future years and become a star runner for the CFL.
To go with Johnson, the CFL also will see Dion Pellerin available in the draft. Pellerin, like Johnson has a chance to be a starting running back in the future of the CFL but he might have a better chance at it thanks to his successful college career. Playing at Waterloo Pellerin was able to play 33 games in all 4 seasons, making the best of his senior season. In his senior year he rushed for 1,090 yards and 12 touchdowns which was only a small part of his 2,509 career rushing yards. He was a heavy runner with Waterloo but that didn’t stop him from getting involved in the pass game. He’s not quite a Le’Veon Bell in the pass game but he was still able to catch for over 400 yards in his career while scoring a touchdown catch as well.
No offensive linemen!!!
Sure, I understand the importance of the offensive line in the CFL but seriously, do we need another one? In 5 straight years, the Ottawa Redblacks have drafted an offensive lineman in the first round and given that we still have Alex Mateas, Nolan MacMillan, Jason Lauzon-Seugin and Evan Johnson on the team I have no worries that we need to draft another Canadian.
Going into the 2020 CFL season, the Ottawa Redblacks might have the strongest front seven they’ve ever had. Signing both Cleyon Laing and Don Unamba through free agency Ottawa’s front seven will have Michael Wakefield, Avery Ellis, Cleyon Laing, Avery Williams, Don Unamba, Jerod Fernandez and Kevin Brown who all have put together good careers and are in for big years in the future. With that said, Ottawa could only make their team better by drafting players to that front and this year’s draft like others before is filled with talent.
Breaking all news right now is Neville Gallimore who is an Ottawa native from the University of Oklahoma in the NCAA but given his chances of going in the first round of the NFL draft this Thursday the Redblacks should stay away from drafting him as he will most likely never play a snap in the CFL. The Oklahoma star would make an instant impact on Ottawa’s defense alongside Cleyon Laing but in reality the Redblacks should have Mason Bennett’s name circled on draft day. The Canadian defensive end, like Gallimore would make an instant impact on the Redblacks defensive line if he is put into the starting line up. Standing at 6’4-258 pounds Bennett has been able to get past offensive linemen with ease racking up 20 sacks in his career with the NCAA’s University of North Dakota getting a career high 9 in the 2019 season. Him lining up could be scary, to only sack quarterbacks in the backfield but even make plays in the pass game too. Running fast with a best 4.77 40 yard dash Bennett was able to make over 125 tackles, knock down 3 passes and even recover 3 fumbles in his NCAA career. Like I said, if Bennett is brought into Ottawa’s defense Mike Benevides would make sure to give him a big role with the team.
Also on the defensive line and available in this years draft is both Michael Hoecht and Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund who just like Mason Bennett are Canadian born athletes coming out of the NCAA. Hoecht went through a 4 year career at Brown University, staring in his junior year where he added 69 tackles and 3.5 sacks to his grand total of 174 tackles, 16.5 sacks and he even helped the team win the turnover game with 6 fumbles and 1 pass break. Michael Hoecht put together a good career in the Ivy League, but what if there was another player with similar talent. Well there is; defensive lineman from Southeastern Louisiana University Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund was able to make more than half of the sacks Hoecht made but in just two seasons. The 3-time honor roll student made good on the field making 8.5 sacks in his 20 games which only was a little part of his 74 tackles and 9 takeaways. Both NCAA stars could be good Canadian linemen if given the chance, but theres also a couple of names to look out for in the U-Sport division.
Coming out of Canadian Universities are Sam Acheampong, Cam Lawson, and Andrew Seinet-Spaulding and from the list Seinet-Spaulding has to stick out the most. Coming from McGill he was able to run a one man show on the defensive line most recently getting a seven-sack season which only gave positives to his career total of 15 sacks and 90 tackles. The three linemen named can each put together good careers in the CFL but if given a chance the 4 year veteran from McGill is ready to make plays.
Along with the big defensive linemen in this year’s CFL draft Ottawa will also be able to get hands on a group of good defensive backs. Leading the pack is Montreal University super star Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Dequoy might be given a chance with an NFL team on a free agent contract following the draft this week but its likely he goes straight to the CFL.
With that said, to get NFL looks he must be a hell of a player and he sure is. Despite playing just one season while at the University, Dequoy put on a show making 37 tackles and forcing 3 interceptions but it wasn’t his stats that showed off. He did enough in that one season to score himself a spot in the East-West Shrine Bowl in Florida where he was able to play on the NFL Network. The game played in front of NFL scouts gave more film to study on him but what helps him the most is his “freaky speed” as NFL Network’s Daniel Jerimiah says with a 4.35- 40 yard dash the only NFL prospect at defensive back to run faster is Utah’s Javelin Guidry. With that stat behind him and the success that the 25 years old had at Montreal University I would respectively put him up against Antoine Pruneau for a pro-comparison. This comparison may help because both of them are french and from Montreal University but the two have speed. Coming out of college Pruneau ran a 4.49 at the combine and to beat that Dequoy ran a 4.35.
Behind Dequoy, there are a couple more stars coming out of Canadian schools. Starting with Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tight End Anthony Auclair’s brother Adam Auclair from Laval there are a lot of eyes on him as he goes through steps to the next level. Even-though some NFL teams could be partially interested in the linebacker/defensive back his future lies in the CFL as it looks like. Right now he is coming off of a career high season where he had over 40 tackles while even making an impact with 3 interceptions and one sack. Auclair could end up being a big player for a CFL team but so can Noah Hallett. For the Redblacks with Hallett, he does have ties with the new defensive backs coach Greg Knox from the time he spent with him at McMaster. At McMaster Hallett did more than talk to coaches and thats a reason why he should be looked at by the Ottawa Redblacks. In 3 seasons he was able to make over 100 tackles, getting to the quarterback for 3 sacks, knocking down 16 passes while helping win the turnover battle with 8 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. All three defensive backs are good going into their CFL futures but Hallett looks like the guy for Ottawa to make a difference on the defense as a Canadian.
As we reach the one week mark until the draft all eyes are on the number one overall pick and who the Stampeders will select but looking deeper into the draft the Ottawa Redblacks could be helped out in a big way on both sides of the ball. Stay tuned for more!!