Redblacks Stick to Familiar Formula in 2019 CFL Draft
Photo credit: Ed Zurga (Getty Images)
Marcel Desjardins has had a distinct drafting strategy during his time as general manager of the Ottawa Redblacks: draft offensive linemen early. He stuck to that formula once again this year with his first round selection in the 2019 CFL Draft.
With their first round pick and the seventh overall selection, the Redblacks selected Alex Fontana, an offensive lineman from the University of Kansas.
It is the fifth time in the Redblacks’ six-year history that they have used their first round pick to select an offensive lineman. That includes last year’s selection Mark Korte and CFL all-stars Jason Lauzon-Séguin and Alex Mateas. The only time Ottawa has not used its first round pick on an offensive lineman was their first draft pick in franchise history, which they used on safety Antoine Pruneau.
Fontana, the six foot two Toronto-native, was the starting centre for the Jayhawks last season but had two previous stops in college south of the border before then. He spent two seasons at the New Mexico Military Institute and one at the University of Houston before transferring to Kansas.
Along with the Redblacks’ selection of Fontana, the first round as a whole demonstrated a league-wide emphasis on Canadian line play. Six of the eight first round picks were used on either offensive or defensive linemen. Fontana was the fourth offensive linemen taken in the draft.
The CFL Draft is composed entirely of Canadian-born players. It is common for CFL teams to use their national spots (CFL teams must start at least seven Canadian-born players) on offensive and defensive linemen so the emphasis on linemen at the top of this year’s draft is not exactly a surprise.
The Redblacks did not have a pick in the second round because of the trade deadline deal that acquired linebacker Chris Ackie from the Alouettes, but had one pick each in rounds three to eight. Here is how the rest of the draft went for the Redblacks:
Third round: Gabriel Polan, Running Back (Sherbrooke)
Fourth round: Thomas Grant, Defensive Lineman (Acadia)
Fifth round: Wesley Lewis, Wide Receiver (Houston Baptist)
Sixth round: Chris Larsen, Defensive Lineman (Manitoba)
Seventh round: Samson Abbott, Defensive Lineman (Manitoba)
Eighth round: Clement Lebreaux, Defensive Lineman (Laval)
With those picks, the Redblacks took a swing at filling Canadian talent at a few different positions but focused on one in particular. Four of Ottawa’s eight picks were used on defensive linemen, showing a clear approach to finding productive Canadians for that position group.
Ottawa fans should keep an eye on the late selections in particular, where teams can sometimes find overlooked players as steals in the draft. Steals like safety Justin Howell. The Redblacks took the former Carleton Raven in the seventh round of the 2018 draft and he shocked the league with his early productivity and pro-readiness. Howell was one of last year’s top rookies in the CFL.
The 2019 CFL Draft also saw a few players from Ottawa universities selected. The Argonauts took defensive back and University of Ottawa Gee-Gee Jamie Harry in the fifth round and Carleton Raven wide receiver Phil Iloki in the seventh round. Montreal selected Gee-Gee defensive back Cody Cranston in the eighth round.
The Redblacks new crop of rookies will report to Ottawa in the next few weeks for rookie camp ahead of the start of the 2019 season.