The ALSternative — 2021 CFL Draft Preview

It’s been a rough go of it since March 2020, but we get a little semblance of normalcy this Tuesday evening when the CFL Draft takes place on TSN and on CFL.ca

Once again, the stars of tomorrow will find out where they will hopefully start their professional careers as all nine teams will select the players that will best improve their roster. This year’s draft will have a very different feel to it as it will be done in a snake format. That means that after teams pick in the first round, they will then pick in reverse order in the second round and so on.

Also, due to the lost season flooding 2021 camps with extra rookies, there will only be six draft rounds this year. The CFL will also allow 2021 draft-eligible players the choice to defer their draft year to 2022. Suffice to say, COVID-19 has really thrown this league for a loop far beyond having the 2020 season cancelled.

As a result of the 2018 trade that saw Tony Washington, Landon Rice and some other guy come to Montreal, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats own the Alouettes’ first round pick in 2021, which is the ninth overall pick as previously determined through a random draw by the CFL. So as part of the snake draft format, Montreal will pick first in the second, fourth and sixth rounds and last in the third and fifth rounds.

Once again, a lot of the more talented Canadian born players that many expected to be selected were already taken in the NFL draft held this past weekend. A record-tying four Canadian players were drafted, along with another four signing NFL contracts as UDFAs (UnDrafted Free Agents). Thus, a lot of the remaining players that will be drafted are relying on film that is at least two years old to still hold up as all levels of Canadian football was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

This year also featured a virtual combine as pro day results and Zoom interviews were the only opportunity CFL teams had to learn about this year’s draft class. As tough as it was for these kids to not have a true opportunity to showcase their talents, it was equally challenging for all nine CFL general managers and their scouting staffs to not have a proper way to evaluate their next generation of superstars.

Tuesday evening will be a test to see just how much work and preparation was put in by both the prospects and the teams that will be drafting them.

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Now time for the fun part of this column: Speculating on who Montreal actually selects!

Just like in years previous, I can only offer up who I personally feel would be a great addition to the Montreal Alouettes. There’s no guarantee these young men will be chosen wear the Alouettes’ jersey but if they are, you folks should be very excited.

Last year, I offered up film on the prospects that I have in mind for you to see what I see in them. Obviously with the lack of combines and playing time in Canada, some prospects simply don’t have much in the way of recent highlights. 

In no particular order, here are the names that Alouettes fans should hope get added to the roster this Tuesday evening:

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Kyle Borsa, Regina (RB)

The one area that I think Montreal could use the most help is in the backfield. Yes, William Stanback is back in the fold and will resume being a superstar. And the Alouettes do have Jeshrun Antwi and Colton Klassen as National RBs waiting for their opportunity to shine. But when a pure athlete like Borsa comes along, you have to take him without a second thought. Kyle put up some massive numbers at his pro day and he’s got that burst when he finds an open lane. It’s easy to assume that the Saskatchewan Roughriders will try to snag this local talent but if Montreal can steal him away, their backfield will retain that powerhouse level they had developed in 2019.

Alain Cimankinda, Guelph (DE)

This Ottawa native is a dangerous, nasty player. He can play anywhere on the defensive line but I think Montreal will relish the opportunity to bookend him with an Antonio Simmons or Bo Banner. Alain is a buzzsaw, tearing through O-lines in order to plant the QB into the ground. He was a second-team all star for the Gryphons and his high motor makes him an immediate threat. I can also see Cimankinda be a bully on special teams as well with his break-neck ability. Impact players like this don’t come around too often and I see this guy making an immediate splash in camp.

Sage Doxtator, New Mexico State (OL)

Perhaps the only thing more impressive than the size of this young monster (6’7, 350 pounds) is that he is plant-powered! Sage is a vegetarian and has been since he was a child. But he’s doing something right as he brings a major presence on the field on gameday. Doxtator is planning to return to New Mexico State to play his final year, so this is a draft pick that will require some patience. But Montreal is stacked at National OL, so taking this beast and letting him marinate in the slow cooker could be a move that pays off in the next couple of years.

Michael Ritchott, Manitoba (RB)

There have been no shortage of great players from the University of Manitoba. Ritchott is poised to become the latest from the school that produced Alouettes like D.J. Lalama and Landon Rice. With explosive speed right out of the gate, it will be tough to nail down this Winnipeg product. Toughness is not an issue with Michael as he had a difficult childhood and used football as a way to rise above it all. He’s been compared to Anthony Coombs and Nic Demski, which is some very good CFL company to be in. Ritchott will succeed no matter where he is because he simply has no other choice. I think he can be a superstar in Alouettes blue and red if given the chance.

Daniel Joseph, North Carolina State (DE)

There is an Alouettes connection of sorts here as Joseph’s older brother is former Alouette Faith Ekakitie, who himself was a first overall pick in the CFL Draft. As a member of the Wolf Pack, Daniel logged 10 tackles for loss and sacked opposing QBs 6.5 times. His ability to break through and attack is a sight to be seen. Like Sage Doxtator, he will be returning to his school to play one more year. But being able to secure his rights would be a pick well used in this year’s draft. The ceiling is very high on this Brampton, Ontario native.

Deonté Glover, Shepard (RB)

This young man qualifies as a National as his mother is Canadian-born and he himself spent a bit of time in Canada. But Glover developed his skills in West Virginia and became a star with Shepard, rushing for 1,359 yards and 19 touchdowns in the 2019 season. In addition to being lightning-fast, Deonte is extremely difficult to tackle as opponents can never seem to get a hand on him. While his blocking leaves something to be desired, Glover can make an immediate impact for a CFL team in the backfield and in returning kicks as well.

Chris Fournier, Lehigh (OL)

What I like about this big fella is his aggressive nature on the field, yet his hands are excellent in that he can tie up a defender without grabbing onto the jersey. I imagine Fournier doesn’t have too many holding penalties to his name. He was a teammate of Dominick Bragalone, who is currently on the Alouettes roster and can speak to Fournier’s ability to clear lanes for a tailback. Pursuing a Civil Engineering major, it’s clear that this Orleans, Ontario native has the brains to match his brawn. Taking Fournier would be an excellent choice for the Alouettes to make, ensuring that this O-Line keeps its very Canadian flavour.

Nicolas Theriault, Western (DE)

You were probably wondering at this point if I was going to mention any Quebec-born players since that’s all Montreal seems to know how to draft. </sarcasm> Well, adding this Quebec City-born powerhouse would be a great place to start. Having won a Vanier Cup in 2018 with the Western Mustangs with the recently retired Jean-Gabriel Poulin, Theriault has some physical gifts that can be molded into something special. There would be an immediate comfort in working alongside Quebecois veterans like David Menard and Junior Luke. I can see this youngster being a nice project for Montreal to develop quietly and effectively.

Pier-Olivier Lestage, Montreal (OL)

Here’s the requisite Danny Maciocia pick! But make no mistake, this behemoth is extremely talented. He must have been doing something right in Montreal because when the NFL Draft ended this past Saturday, several teams came calling for Lestage. After getting the call directly from head coach Pete Carroll, Pier-Olivier agreed to a UDFA contract with the Seattle Seahawks. Given that team’s woes at the offensive line position, it’s possible that Lestage won’t be playing football north of the border any time soon. I honestly can’t see the Alouettes using one of their five picks on the former Carabin unless it’s their final one of the evening.

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Again, I cannot guarantee that the Alouettes will draft all or any of these players. But if they do, then you as a fan of this team should be very excited.

This global pandemic has certainly changed a lot in how we view things, especially in football. There really doesn’t seem to be a set formula anymore on how to properly prepare for the future. But the CFL draft has always been the precursor to another football season getting underway. Being able to have the draft tells me that barring serious changes in health and safety protocol at the provincial level, we will get some sort of CFL football played this year.

Of course, it can all change tomorrow or the day after. But for now, let’s enjoy knowing that each CFL team is going to make moves in order to get better and you great fans will have new heroes to cheer for when this night comes to a close.

Be sure to follow along on Twitter on draft day to find out who will be joining the Montreal Alouettes as they hopefully prepare for the upcoming CFL season. And have a listen to the Alouettes FlightDeck podcast, where Tim Capper and myself discuss all things Alouettes, including this year’s CFL draft! You can find the podcast by clicking the link above or by searching the keywords “Alouettes FlightDeck” on all your favourite podcast platforms.

Enjoy your CFL Draft night and if you’re rooting for a certain player to be selected, may the odds be ever in your favour. As always, thanks for reading.

GO ALS GO!!!