Lost in the shuffle amidst the CBA negotiations (or lack thereof) is the fact that the CFL Draft arrives on May 2. Over the years the CFL has been doing more to promote the young Canadian talent that moves in through the U Sports program.
But before we dive into the 2019 draft, this seemed like a good time for reflection on the impact former number one overall players have made on their respective teams since the turn of the decade.
9. Mark Chapman (2018) – Receiver – Central Michigan: Hamilton Tiger-Cats
It goes without saying but Chapman’s placement on this list has little to do with his level of talent. In 2017, Chapman put up 59 receptions for 875 yards and five touchdowns at Central Michigan. Stalled contract negotiations with the Tiger-Cats have prevented Chapman from seeing action in the CFL. It would be great to see an agreement come to fruition but until that happens, Chapman lands at nine here.
— Fred Weinrauch (@Proplayersagent) August 12, 2018
8. Faith Ekakitie (2017) – Defensive Tackle – Iowa: Winnipeg Blue Bombers
After a disappointing rookie season, Ekakitie was released from the Bombers just 13 months after being selected first overall in the 2017 draft. He played just 14 games and registered five tackles. After signing with the Montreal Alouettes, Ekakitie suffered a devastating Achilles injury causing him to miss the entire 2018 season. Montreal released him in January and has yet to find a new home.
7. Shomari Williams (2010) – Linebacker – Queens: Saskatchewan Roughriders
Shomari Williams came into the league with much fanfare. Largely in part due to the lengths the Roughriders went to get him. A day prior to the draft, Saskatchewan traded punter Jaimie Boreham and the second and fourth overall picks for the first and eighth overall picks. After largely playing special teams his first two seasons, Williams registered 59 tackles his third season.
That subsequent offseason, Williams would sign with Hamiton for the 2013 season but played in just six games. After being traded back to Saskatchewan in 2014, he resumed his role on special teams before playing in Calgary for the final season of his career. Williams is now an assistant coach for the Queens Gaels.
6. Josiah St. John (2016) – Offensive Lineman – Oklahoma: Saskatchewan Roughriders
After a dismal 2015 season, the Roughriders were awarded the first overall selection in the 2016 CFL draft. Chris Jones and his new regime opted to select standout Sooners lineman, Josiah St. John. However, a contract impasse held St. John to the sidelines to begin 2016. He started six games his rookie season. Unfortunately, St. John started just one game in 2017 and began 2018 on the six-game injury list. The emergence of last year’s first-round pick Dakoda Shepley may be a reason why St. John is still on the market.
5. Linden Gaydosh (2013) – Defensive Tackle – University of Calgary: Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Gaydosh tried his hand with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers first before signing with the Tiger-Cats in 2014. An Achilles injury in 2015 sidelined him that season but since 2017, Gaydosh has found a home in Toronto that allowed him to capture the 2017 Grey Cup. Gaydosh’s longevity in the league despite his injury setbacks ranks him in the middle of the pack.
4. Pierre Lavertu (2014) – Offensive Lineman – Laval: Calgary Stampeders
Lavertu likely would have been top three, if not number one on this list, if not for unfortunate injuries. Lavertu was instrumental to the 2014 Grey Cup winning Stampeders and earned himself West Division All-Star honours in 2015. However, injuries cut Lavertu’s 2016 season to just eight games and he was sidelined the entire 2017 campaign before deciding to hang up his cleats.
3. Ben Heenan (2012) – Offensive Lineman – University of Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan Roughriders
Ben Heenan was an anchor on the right side of the line throughout his first three seasons with Saskatchewan that included a Grey Cup victory in 2013. His stellar play allowed him the opportunity to sign the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. However, it was there where he suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee during Colts training camp.
Despite speculation, his decision to retire wasn’t injury related but rather a curiosity for life outside of football. Despite just three seasons playing in the CFL, Heenan’s dominance at his position allowed him to finish top three on the list.
2. Alex Mateas (2015) – Offensive Lineman – Connecticut: Ottawa Redblacks
These last two selections were quite tough to come to a conclusion to. Mateas has been nothing but spectacular for the Ottawa Redblacks who selected him after coming off a 2-16 inaugural season. Since then, Mateas has not played in less than 17 games in his CFL career, anchoring the centre of the Redblacks line.
His play gave him the nod as a East Divison All-Star the last two seasons. Truly a home run CFL Draft pick for a young franchise that has fielded some potent offences since its inception.
1.Henoc Muamba (2011) – Linebacker – St. Francis Xavier: Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Though his CFL career has been twice interrupted by NFL stints, Muamba has been a contributing factor for every team he’s played on. Starting with the team that drafted him, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Muamba put up 61 tackles, three sacks and five forced fumbles in just his second season. In 2013 he would post 93 tackles while holding down the Winnipeg defence.
Muamba then tried out for the Indianapolis Colts, who waived him in September of 2015. Joining the Alouettes mid-season, Muamba registered just 14 tackles. In 2016, the Roughriders signed the star linebacker after the Dallas Cowboys released him in September. As 2017 rolled around Muamba would play his first full season in the CFL since 2013. Again, he displayed his full range of talent racking up 82 tackles, two interceptions and three forced fumbles.
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) October 28, 2018
Though the Alouettes weren’t able to put together many wins in 2018, the newly signed Muamba played in all 18 games, registering a career-high 108 tackles and five sacks. The star middle linebacker has contributed everywhere he’s gone in the CFL, earning him the number one spot on this list.
The Last Word
The CFL Draft is being held this Thursday, May 2 at 8:00 pm EST on TSN, TSN.ca & TSN Direct. The Toronto Argonauts hold the first pick in the 2019 CFL Draft as the Montreal Alouettes forfeited their pick to select offensive lineman Tyler Johnstone in the 2018 supplemental draft. As can be seen above, there’s the opportunity for the Argonauts to draft a franchise-altering player. With the NFL to compete with, contract negotiations and scheme fit, there’s always a risk involved — but that’s what makes it so much fun.
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