TORONTO — With the first overall pick in the 2021 CFL Draft, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats got creative and took the last player entered into the prospect pool.
Tight end Jake Burt, who was born in Regina, Sask. and raised in Boston, MA, will bring a big, talented frame to Tiger Town. At six-foot-five and 230 pounds, Burt has emphasized his versatility in pre-draft calls with media, saying that he’s capable of wearing a lot of different hats on the field.
But is the ninth-ever player take in the CFL Draft out of Boston College and the first-ever top pick and first-rounder from the school.
The 24-year-old spent the 2020 season with the New England Patriots on the team’s practice roster. When his NFL options dried up, he looked north to the nation he was born in and lived for the first four years of his life with his family.
Showing a great enthusiasm for a return to Canada and playing in the CFL, the Burt household was a joyous one on Tuesday night.
— Hamilton Tiger-Cats (@Ticats) May 4, 2021
The Saskatchewan Roughriders kept it local with the second overall pick, choosing Saskatchewan Huskies defensive back Nelson Lokombo.
The reigning U SPORTS defensive player of the year had 39 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks, five interceptions, four pass breakups, and one forced fumble in 2019. That made for a strained bookshelf for him at the U of S. He added Canada West’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award and Canada West All-Star honours, along with being named a U SPORTS First-Team All-Canadian.
The brother of BC Lions’ linebacker Bo Lokombo, Nelson will look to carry on the tradition of bringing an intense physical presence to his new CFL team.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers invested in their offensive line with the third overall pick, taking Liam Dobson.
The six-foot-three, 340-pound Ottawa native previously attended Maine but has since transferred to Texas State and will return to school in 2021. With a 2020 rookie class that hasn’t yet seen the field, the Bombers opted to let this year’s first-round pick develop another year in the NCAA and will hope to have a more experienced, game-ready player in 2022.
A year after adding linebacker Jordan Williams with the first overall pick, the BC Lions continued to add Canadian depth to the defensive side of the ball, taking defensive lineman Daniel Joseph out of North Carolina State with the fourth overall pick.
CFL.ca’s Marshall Ferguson was extremely high on Joseph, pegging him at the top of his most recent mock draft. The brother of former first overall pick Faith Ekakite and the cousin of Ottawa REDBLACKS’ pass rusher Ese Mrabure-Ajufo, Joseph (six-foot-three, 265 pounds) was at NC State for the 2020 season, after transferring from Penn State. The Toronto product gave the Wolfpack a team-best 6.5 sacks last year.
From Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton looked down its LRT line with the No. 5 pick and chose University of Alberta d-lineman Cole Nelson. The six-foot-six, 312-pounder benefitted from a strong virtual combine performance that saw him get 25 reps on the bench and run a sub five-second 40-yard dash. An Edmonton team that boasts some young excellent Canadian d-line talent with Kwaku Boateng, Mathieu Betts and last year’s pick Alain Pae, may have just gotten a little deeper.
In Ottawa, GM Marcel Desjardins made a move for the team’s future and went with Maine linebacker Deshawn Stevens. The six-foot-two, 255-pound Torontonian is in the NCAA transfer portal, looking for a school to play his senior year of football. He had 120 tackles in 2018 at Maine, nine sacks and two fumble recoveries, while being named the team’s top defensive player as the school won a CAA championship.
A torn Achilles tendon ended his 2019 season on opening day. He recovered in time to play some spring football for the Black Bears, getting a team-best 36 tackles in his team’s 2-2 run.
After the most attention-grabbing off-season in the league, the Toronto Argonauts made a move toward protecting quarterback Nick Arbuckle and chose University of Calgary o-lineman Peter Nicastro at seventh overall. A Canada West All-Star in 2019, Nicastro played guard but has some centre capabilities.
The Calgary Stampeders continued the trend of drafting local players in the first round, going with Notre Dame high school alum and Oklahoma State Sooner linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga. Of course the Stamps will have to wait to see what Ogbongbemiga’s NFL future is, as he signed as an undrafted free agent with the L.A. Chargers on May 1.
The Ticats closed out the round by choosing UBC linebacker Nick Cross at ninth overall. The pick is the final element of Hamilton’s 2018 trade of Johnny Manziel, with the Ticats using the Montreal Alouettes’ first-round pick.
Cross led U SPORTS in tackles in 2019, with 66.5 and was a first-team All-Canadian that year. TSN’s Farhan Lalji predicted during the broadcast that Cross may move to safety in the CFL.
More to come…