The ALSternative – 2021 CFL Draft Recap

The Montreal Alouettes drafted some new football players this past Tuesday. With any luck, they will get a chance to step onto the field and show that they belong in the professional ranks.

This 2021 CFL Draft was a challenging one for all involved, as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the traditional way of evaluating future talent. There was no Canadian university football played in 2020, so any game film that prospective players had was at least 2 years old. The CFL combine was a virtual affair, as their pro day results essentially became the resume each player used along with that old film in order to entice scouts and CFL GMs.

A lot of people fully expected Alouettes general manager Danny Maciocia to rely heavily on his decade-plus in the RESQ when it came to talent evaluation. After all, he saw a lot of these players up close and personal while he was the head coach of the Universite de Montreal Carabins. In his first CFL Draft last year, 5 of the 10 players he selected played their university football in the province of Quebec. 

Would Maciocia employ the same strategy with this year’s draft class? Or would he and his scouts think outside the box when it comes to the five picks they were allotted in this year’s draft? This year is the final one where Montreal won’t have a first round pick due to that infamous trade. Having one fewer pick will certainly alter one’s plans as well, pandemic or no pandemic. 

So how did Danny Mac fare this time around when it came to the CFL Draft? Without further ado, let’s meet the newest members of the Montreal Alouettes. You can shoot them a follow on Twitter (if they have one) by clicking on their names:

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Round 2: Pier-Olivier Lestage, OL, Montreal

I fully expected the Alouettes to select the former Carabins star in this year’s draft. But burning your first available pick on a player who has signed a UDFA (UnDrafted Free Agent) contract with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks is very much a calculated risk. Last year the Alouettes used their first available pick on Marc-Antoine Dequoy, who signed a UDFA contract with the Green Bay Packers. The pick worked out in the end as Dequoy didn’t catch on with the Packers or any other NFL team and was able to sign in Montreal.

Pier-Olivier is a beast of a player and can certainly help Seattle’s lacklustre offensive line if given the chance. Clearly Danny Maciocia is banking on lightning striking twice with this move. If Lestage doesn’t stay down south, then the Alouettes will have yet another Quebec-born stud lineman to add to the powerhouse corps that has already been assembled in Montreal.

Round 3: Chris Fournier, OL, Lehigh

As I stated in my draft preview a few days ago, Chris has some great physical gifts and plays this game with vast intelligence. The prospect of watching him open lanes for guys like William Stanback, Jeshrun Antwi and even his former Lehigh teammate Dominick Bragalone is going to be a sight to see. This Orleans, ON native still has a year of NCAA eligibility so we’ll see whether or not he decides to get his professional career underway this year.

But there is a lot to like with this selection and like Pier-Olivier Lestage, this is a potential futures pick that can blossom into a bonafide superstar in the years to come.

Round 4: Patrick Davis, OL, Syracuse

Because your football team can never have enough big guys on the line, the Alouettes selected Gatineau’s Patrick Davis, who shined playing CEGEP ball in Lennoxville and parlayed that into a collegiate career with the Syracuse Orange. At 6’5, 312 pounds, Davis is going to look like he belongs on this line right away. Playing tackle, he can provide some great protection for his quarterback as he fends off the rush. I’m hoping a veteran guy like Tony Washington takes Patrick under his wing and shows him how to excel at this difficult position.

Round 5: David Cote, K, Laval

Selecting a kicker certainly seems like a surprise, considering the Alouettes already have three kickers under contract. But the Alouettes have had success with Laval kickers before (Boris Bede, anyone?) and adding a two-time Vanier Cup winner that is physically gifted like Cote is will always be a wise move. Cote will make this three National kickers in camp, perhaps a change in position may be order as well for this specimen? He does have great speed and spatial awareness. This could be a fun special teams project for coach Mickey Donovan.

Round 6: Ethan Makonzo, LB, Montreal

Yet another former Carabins joins his old coach with the Alouettes. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But this is a move that is deceptively strong. His high motor and ability to disrupt the quarterback is going to be a lot of fun to watch. This natural ballhawk reads the field and drops back into coverage with great ease. Makonzo is also not afraid to put the wood to anyone trying to catch the ball, turning his body into a weapon at will. As he lines up with guys like DJ Lalama, Chris Ackie and former Carabins teammate Brian Harelimana, I see some major playmaking ability happening with Ethan. 

Bonus: Kean Harelimana, LB, Laval 

Following the draft, each CFL team is able to claim the rights of two players who do not count towards the roster during training camp. With that in mind, the Alouettes decided to add the younger brother of one Brian Harelimana to the roster. Kean plays this game with the same fire as his brother and has Vanier Cup-winning experience in his back pocket, carving out a very respectable career with the Laval Rouge et Or. Like Ty and Cody Cranston before them, I expect these two brothers to push each other when camp gets underway. A strong National linebacking corps is now even stronger with this stellar move.

Bonus: Mathieu Robitaille, REC, Laval

During his coaching career in the RESQ, Danny Maciocia got to watch a number of great players on the opposing sidelines. The opportunity to add a gifted receiver like Mathieu is one that has to be taken if offered. While the Alouettes have some very talented National receivers in the lineup already, adding one who has also THROWN touchdown passes in gadget plays is a nice bonus. This two-time Vanier Cup champion will be given the chance to learn alongside some great receivers and make others work that much harder in training camp.

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When he was hired as general manager in January 2020, a lot of people expected Danny Maciocia to make this football team almost exclusively Quebecois. His first draft class was 50% based in players from La Belle Province. This year? He managed to make it 80% Quebec-based!

The lone exception was Chris Fournier, who is Franco-Ontarian. Once again, the global pandemic has truly affected how these draft classes are evaluated and eventually selected. With no USports football played in 2020, Maciocia and his scouting staff is relying again on the intel they already have. And there is a comfort/familiarity in taking players that were born and raised in this football factory of a province.

Make no mistake, there are some extremely talented football players that call this province home. If the idea of the Montreal Alouettes drafting players that were either born here in Quebec or are Francophone in nature bothers you, then you may want to consider cheering for another team. Because it’s clear that the mandate here for the Alouettes is to remain Quebec’s undisputed football team. 

Also, if other CFL teams want to leave Quebec’s brightest football stars available for the Alouettes to mold into top-tier CFL players, I think that can only benefit this organization for many years to come. This year’s draft was an unusual one due to the snake draft format and only having six rounds to it. Montreal not having a first round pick also led to some serious discussion as to just how deep their roster is.

With the choices made this year, it’s clear that the Alouettes are able to play with house money a bit and select players that will either start their pro career elsewhere or return to school to gain more experience. But in the long run, these are moves that can pay dividends in the future and ensure Montreal stays successful in developing home-grown talent. Those that will report to training camp alongside of the 2020 draft class that never got a camp of their own will be ones who can compete right away and not look out of place.

It’s going to be really interesting when (if?) camp gets underway; the youngsters showing up will be looking to compete and show that they belong. The veterans will be challenged like never before. The big winner in all of this? The fans who will be treated to a higher calibre of football when the season does finally get going.

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Be sure to also check out the Alouettes Flightdeck podcast, as Tim Capper and myself will also bring you all kinds of Montreal Alouettes talk, opinions and so much more! You can find the FlightDeck online at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeartRadio and TuneIn.

As always, go ahead and follow me on Twitter for all the latest news, thoughts and more.

Here’s hoping that this 2021 draft will lead to some actual CFL football being played on the field and not on paper. As always, thanks for reading.

GO ALS GO!!!