- Ben Grant
2023 Xs and Argos Draft Board
It’s Xs and Argos Draft Board Day!
This is one of my favourite days on the calendar. It means football season is right around the corner, but more importantly (for me), it means I don’t have to spend every night working on the Xs and Argos Draft Board anymore.
In truth, I enjoy it, I really do. I love watching film and evaluating players, but it takes months of work to put this together.
This is my fifth year creating an Argos-specific Draft Board for the CFL Draft. I thought my board did very well last year, and while they’re certainly not perfect, I’m definitely getting better at player evaluation. This year is tougher than the previous four because Toronto doesn’t have a desperate need anywhere, which is just as well since they don’t have a first-round pick either (it was traded to the BC Lions for 2020 first overall pick Jordan Williams). They do, however, have a lot of former draft picks going into the last year of their contract, so in a way, this will be a draft class for Toronto’s 2024 season.
To give you some background on my process (which continues to evolve), before I get too deep into film study, I first try to narrow down the number of players I’m looking at to about 200 (this year it was 179). Over the next few months, I go about assigning each player a Film Grade (this part takes about 95% of the total amount of time I spend working on my board). Once testing data starts to come in from Combines and Pro Days, I plug the information into my spreadsheet. I adjust the Film Grade for players I see in person at Combines and then assign a weight to each column in order to establish a working list. This proprietary weighting formula has and will continue to change each year until I feel I’ve got it right. Finally, I make small tweaks in the weeks leading up to the draft based on things like interviews they do, comments their coaches make, and a player’s NFL potential (you’ll notice I’ve taken a number of players like RB Chase Brown right off the board and downgraded others like OL Sidy Sow due to the likelihood of them being drafted in the NFL).
Let’s get into the board.
Without a pick in the first round, Toronto will be hoping one of their “first round guys” falls to them in the second. Since that’s happened to them in each of the past few drafts, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few of these names available when they’re on the clock with the 16th pick. I don’t expect Dontae Bull, Jonathan Sutherland, Lwal Uguak, or Francis Bemiy to get selected in the NFL draft, but they could get picked up as a UDFA. That shouldn’t matter to the Argos since they’re drafting more for the future.
I’m higher on Lucas Cormier than anyone else I’ve talked to, so I’m interested to see where he ends up going. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him slip all the way into the third round, but I see him as a starting-caliber safety in 2024, so that’s a first-round pick in my book.
Kurleigh Gittens Jr. is locked up for the next three years, so the Argos don’t need to look for a Canadian receiver, but with Dejon Brissett and Tommy Nield’s contracts expiring after this season, it would be nice to have some depth going forward in case they don’t re-sign. Jared Wayne is a future CFL starter if he doesn’t end up catching on in the NFL, but honestly, I could see all of these receivers commanding playing time next season.
Toronto’s in a similar position with offensive line depth. Theren Churchill, Dylan Giffen, and Peter Nicastro could all move on after this year, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them target a lineman early in the draft.
The Argos don’t need to draft a long snapper, but I think they should. Max Latour filled in admirably when Jake Reinhart went down midseason, and subsequently retired, but there’s a real opportunity to upgrade at this position, or at the very least have a great competition in camp. Long snappers don’t usually get drafted early, but the Argos are one of three teams potentially looking for one, and both Adam Guillemette and Luke Burton-Krahn are leagues ahead of anyone else. As the Argos, I would trade up as soon as one of these two players gets drafted.
Sidy Sow is a stud who will end up in the NFL, but I think a third-round pick is a fair gamble on him one day finding his way home.
The other guy I love in this group is Thomas Bertrand-Hudon. He’s already a special teams monster and he has all the tools to become a solid CFL fullback. Learning the position under newly-added Mario Villamizar while playing specials would be an ideal situation for this machine out of Delaware State.
I think the Argos would like to draft Tavius Robinson here, but there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be gone by the time they pick in the fourth. Robinson may get taken late in the NFL draft, but I think it’s more likely he’ll sign as a UDFA. He may not make it up to the CFL for a few years, but he’s worth the wait.
The Argos already have some great Canadian talent on the defensive line, but Kwadwo Boahen might be too tempting to pass on in the fourth. The Argos got a good look at him as an interior run-stopper in his four years at York, and then this year in Alberta with far more pass rush opportunities, even lining up outside early in the season. On top of being an absolute tank, he’s bright, mature, and very personable.
This might be my favourite group in the draft, but they all come with an asterisk – pretty typical when you get to the fifth. Alexandre Marcoux can play every position on the line, but I really like him as a center. The problem is he needs time, he’s just not ready for CFL play yet. That lines up well with the situation Toronto’s in at center right now.
Charlie Ringland will be the steal of the draft, pretty much regardless of where he gets picked. Ringland suffered an emotionally-crushing non-contact injury at the CFL Combine in Edmonton. He’s getting his ACL fixed shortly, so he’ll presumably be out for the entire season, but 100% healthy by 2024 training camp. Ringland is a stud. He jumped right out of the gym at the combine and flashed 4.5 speed. I’d move him from halfback to safety and have him doing nothing but rehab and studying for the transition.
I don’t see a lot of positional value for the Argos in Ife Onyemenam, but he’s one of my favourite special teams players in the draft. He played in the middle a lot at Laurier, which he’s not going to do in the CFL. I thought he looked good at Will in the East-West Bowl last year, but I’m not sure he has enough speed to play there in the pros. I LOVE him as a blocker on punt return. They didn’t spend a long time on those drills in Edmonton, but he was a wizard at working his way around the cover man to initiate a block, and he had some tough matchups. After watching gifted Argos punt returners get lit up last season, the club could use a few guys like Onyemenam on their roster.
I have a love-hate relationship with both Tolu Ahmed and Robert Panabaker. I didn’t initially have a great film grade on Ahmed, so I wasn’t surprised when he didn’t get a National Combine invite. But he looked so good at the Invitational Combine, they brought him along to Edmonton anyway. And he was great. He was far more physical than I saw him at U of T, and he didn’t get burned by anyone one-on-one. Panabaker is the opposite story. I loved him on film. I went to Edmonton expecting him to shred everyone in testing and ball out on the field. But that didn’t happen. At 4.71, he didn’t show the speed I thought I saw on film, and he got tuned inside out a number of times in one-on-ones. So, which is the real Ahmed and which is the real Panabaker? They could both be a huge bargain this late in the draft, or they could both make you spend three years wishing you’d taken the other guy.
A draft room overseen by Michael Clemons isn’t going to unfairly discriminate against shorter players, but there has to be a number they’ve got in mind at the safety position. Eric Colonna and Maxym Lavallee are both undersized safeties, and while their games are actually quite different, they’re both tremendous fun to watch. Colonna is one of those guys you hate if he’s on the other team. He hits so hard it’s uncomfortable to watch at times, but no one in the OUA gave receivers alligator arms like he did. He was also a gifted running back and wildcat QB in high school, something he didn’t get to do at Queen’s, but that kind of field vision showed up when he returned punts. He actually played on every special teams unit, which further increases his value. Lavalee is faster than Colonna and more tactical. He doesn’t strike fear into receivers the way Colonna does, but I can’t say the same for quarterbacks. Laval blitzed him a lot and he always seemed to find his way through for the sack. He’d also cleverly bait quarterbacks into making poor decisions. He was a team captain and acted like it.
He didn’t have much in the way of production at Cornell, and his testing wasn’t off the charts, but is there any chance Michael “Pinball” Clemons passes up the opportunity to draft the son of former teammate Jimmy “The Jet” Cunningham in the last round of the draft? He was used far more as a kickoff returner than a receiver at Cornell, and Javonni flashed some of that magic at times, but never found the endzone.
If the Argos don’t manage to draft one of the two long snappers I’ve pegged as third-round targets, they’d do well to take Pierre-Gabriel Germain instead of leaving it to chance in the UDFA pool. Germain doesn’t have quite the same zip on his ball and is really undersized for the position, though in theory it shouldn’t really matter. He does do a nice job of getting downfield after punts, which is always a bonus when going up against the deadly returners in the East each week.
PRIORITY FREE AGENTS
Son of another former Argonaut, Michael O’Shea would be an interesting free agent target if he goes undrafted. He initially went to Guelph, but didn’t see much playing time. In 2021, he opted to try the CJFL instead, tearing it up for Okanagan as both a receiver and return specialist.
Markcus Jean-Loescher is another guy I’m cheering for. He’s Oji-Cree, which makes him unique in the football world, and you may remember his father, Nautyn McKay-Loescher, who had a six-year CFL career with the Lions and Tiger-Cats after playing at Alabama. As with all of these players, you hope he gets drafted, but there are inevitably going to be a number of highly talented football players who don’t.
The fun of creating and reading mock drafts and draft boards is that they're opinion-based. We don't get the "right answers" for years, if we do at all. I'm sure I've got many players on my board who won't be drafted, and there are others I don't have on my board who will, but the same goes for all nine teams.
After the NFL draft wraps up, I’m going to post a printable version of my updated Xs and Argos Draft Board so you can follow along throughout the 2023 CFL Draft. Be sure to check back as Draft Day approaches.