This year’s CFL Draft is highly unusual. Where coaches previously had the chance to scout out players at combines, this year they’ve been forced to rely on tape to make their picks. For many prospects, this eliminated the chance to prove themselves and make an impact before the Draft. For others, this made the NFL a more viable option, as the later season start makes play more likely.
But rookie talent is what drives this league — players drafted out of college soon develop into stars and starters alike. Even with some players headed to the NFL, the CFL Draft is still full of talent that could make all the difference in these strange times. So without further ado, in no particular order, here are the biggest names in the 2020 CFL Draft.
Nathan Rourke – QB / Ohio
You can’t really talk about the CFL Draft without mentioning the name of Nathan Rourke. The Oakville, Ontario native had an incredible career at Ohio, throwing for 7,454 yards and 60 touchdowns over three years. Some were surprised he wasn’t selected in the NFL Draft. However, Rourke looks to become an early pick in the 2020 CFL Draft. The big question surrounding Rourke is “How much development time does he need until he can play quarterback in the CFL?”, according to TSN’s Dave Naylor.
However, the Ohio pivot faces some competition from Adam Sinagra of the Calgary Dinos, who is coming off a Vanier Cup-winning season. While experience playing in Canada is a bonus for Sinagra, it’s no match for Rourke’s athleticism and leadership.
Additionally, because of his NCAA experience, Rourke has the edge over Sinagra in the CFL Draft. Rourke may be a target for teams such as the Argonauts, who lack rookie quarterbacks, but he’ll provide immediate talent wherever he’s signed.
Marc Liegghio – K / Western
While it may seem strange that a kicker would be a top prospect in the 2020 CFL Draft, hear me out. The Woodbridge, Ontario kicker really made a splash over his four years with the Western Mustangs, kicking 92 field goals and a total of 424 points. Not only that, but he only missed a single point-after attempt in 32 games. With high conversion rates, Liegghio offers what most CFL teams look for in a kicker: stability. Last year’s bottom teams, like the Redblacks and Argos, need a kicker who can get them points off failed drives. Liegghio can definitely do that.
The most likely destination for the rookie kicker? It has to be to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who just recently lost kicker/punter Lirim Hajrullahu to the NFL. Liegghio’s dual-threat capacity will serve the Tabbies well in 2020 and provide them with long-term talent.
But if he doesn’t make it to Steeltown, the East Division might look very different this year. Hamilton needs Liegghio in order to stay on top, whereas other teams might want him as a future option. Whatever his destination, expect the Western product to go earlier.
Carter O’Donnell – OL / Alberta
Offensive linemen are key in the CFL Draft. As TSN’s Marshall Ferguson notes, an offensive lineman has been the first pick in six of the last nine drafts. While they sometimes go unnoticed, the importance of a solid offensive line in the CFL cannot be understated. This is more true than ever following a season where quarterback protection was a major issue for many teams.
Carter O’Donnell boasts a strong career that screams talent and experience. While it’s hard to measure the success of offensive linemen in numbers, the Red Deer native is a two-year Western All-Star and a First Team All-Canadian in 2019. Expect him to be a prime target in the CFL Draft, although it’s unsure where he’ll go.
Teams such as Calgary may want to boost their already strong line, but struggling teams such as the B.C. Lions will likely see prospects like O’Donnell as a key part of their “actually-protect-Mike-Reilly-this-year” plan.
Dejon Brissett – REC / Virginia
Even though he’s coming off a quiet year at the University of Virginia, wide receiver Dejon Brissett looks to be a top option in this year’s CFL Draft. A transfer from the University of Richmond, Brissett had a breakout year with the Richmond Spiders in 2017 where he chalked up 896 yards and seven touchdowns. Although injury ended the season in game three of 2019, Brisset is definitely the strongest receiver in the draft.
A big part of the strength of the Mississauga, Ontario native is that he plays on both offence and as a punt/kick returner. Guys like this are fast, athletic, and extremely versatile — think Brandon Banks or Lucky Whitehead.
Expect Brissett to go to a struggling team that’s looking for a boost on offence with a talented rookie receiver. Ottawa and Toronto seem likely options for the Virginia product.
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