The 2023 CFL Draft commences on Tuesday night, May 2nd. The defending Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts will have six selections in the eight-round process. The Argos also have two picks in the CFL’s annual Global Draft which will take place on Tuesday morning.
The Boatmen will not have a first-round draft pick this year; they traded that to the B.C. Lions this offseason for the first-overall pick in the 2020 CFL Draft, star national linebacker Jordan Williams.
Barring a trade, Toronto’s first selection in the 2023 CFL draft will be #16 overall in the second round.
However, just because the CFL champs won’t factor into the top of the Draft doesn’t mean they won’t walk away with difference-making players.
Thanks to the often unheralded work of Director of Scouting and Assistant GM Vince Magri, Toronto has had great success in recent years of stockpiling the Argos with quality players throughout the draft.
Toronto Argonauts Recent CFL Draft Success
So much is made about all the high-profile players the Argos have acquired in their recent success. Players like Andrew Harris, Henoc Muamba, and others were enormous gets for Toronto. But the Argos wouldn’t have climbed back to the CFL mountain top without the team’s stellar work in the draft.
It’s an overlooked aspect of the Argos’ latest championship run.
Look no further than the 2022 season and all the key Argo contributors who have become star players in the CFL. Whether it’s superstar wideout Kurleigh Gittens (2019 3rd-round pick) or Grey Cup hero and 2019 second-round selection DL Robbie Smith.
Toronto’s last few draft classes have delivered excellent returns and, in some cases, significant year-one contributions (Peter Nicastro, Gregor MacKellar, Daniel Adeboboye, etc.), which is a rarity in the CFL national player selection process.
Uniqueness Of The CFL Draft
The CFL Draft is very different from the NFL Draft in so many ways. The drafting strategy for teams in both leagues is worlds apart.
The best national players available in the CFL selection process don’t always get drafted in the first round. Chances are, if a Canadian player is a standout in the NCAA, he will not be available to play in the CFL. Maybe ever. See the London, Ontario-born Brown brothers from the University of Illinois. RB Chase Brown and DB Sydney Brown both figure to be fixtures on NFL rosters for the foreseeable future.
Therefore, it’s much more challenging for CFL teams to draft players. It’s a fine line between targeting players who you feel are good enough to be standouts in the CFL, but that won’t land NFL spots even if they are talents worthy of entry into any league.
The ultimate hope in the CFL is that if you draft someone, you can have them play for your team at some point.
CFL Draft strategy is all about projecting short and long-term player availability. That even goes for talented U-Sports players stashed as defacto red-shirt players for a year or two.
Often, teams in the Canadian Football League will make later-round selections that are a leap and a prayer. Lottery tickets in the hope that certain national players with NFL aspirations cycle back to Canada in the future.
The Argos saw that happen this past season with North Bay, Ontario, native Ryan Hunter.
Toronto drafted the versatile offensive linemen in the first round of the 2018 CFL Draft. Four years later, Hunter, after winning an NFL championship, finally arrived in the Six and greatly helped the Boatmen hoist the Grey Cup trophy in 2022.
Even the Global Draft has a certain level of strategy, usually leaning toward special teams.
The Global Draft, which some skeptics in CFL circles have dismissed as an international goodwill gesture and marketing ploy more than anything. Nevertheless, It’s a process that has borne fruit for the Boatmen. Last year, the Argos landed East Division All-Star Punter John Haggerty.
Toronto has gotten immediate and long-term returns from its player selection process. Can they continue that success in 2023?
Toronto Argonauts 2023 CFL Draft Preview
Toronto Argonauts CFL Draft Selections: #16 (Round Two), #27 (Round Three), #36 (Round Four), #45 (Round Five), #47 (Round Six), #54 (Round Six), #63 (Round 7), #72 (Round 8)
Because of the flexibility afforded by a very deep roster, the Toronto Argonauts don’t have any glaring needs heading into the 2023 CFL Draft. They can draft for a year or two in advance.
Three areas that could be on the radar with that mind are wide receiver, offensive line, and defensive back. These positions on the Argos roster could be in flux a year from now.
The loss of boundary cornerback and All-Star Jamal Peters to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons has many followers of Toronto hoping that maybe the team goes national in their quest to add help at the position.
In this offseason, Toronto has added several American free agents who could potentially fill the Peters void. The team recently signed Oklahoma CB Parnell Motley.
The Boatmen are in a unique spot where they will be playing the waiting game to see which top-ranked national prospects slide their way into round two.
Toronto can also afford to make luxury picks. By drafting a player who undoubtedly will be on an NFL roster this spring/summer, but that could pay off dividends later on when they enter the CFL—the Ryan Hunter effect.
Let’s look at some players who would be great fits for the CFL champions. For now or down the line.
Potential Toronto Argonauts CFL Draft Targets
Someone will fall out of the first round into round two. It happens every year. The Double Blue benefitted from it a year ago when Western defensive linemen Deionte Knight and Butler RB Daniel Adeboboye slid to Toronto.
Picking 16th, however, can be trickier regarding landing a sliding prospect. Many of the names in the list below won’t be drafted in round one because of their likely NFL futures. The question becomes when the Argos decide to take the gamble on players that other CFL teams passed on due to that fear.
CENTRAL SCOUTING BUREAU: TOP 20 DRAFT PROSPECT RANKINGS
|1 (5)||Matthew Bergeron||OL||Syracuse||Victoriaville, Que.|
|2 (1)||Chase Brown||RB||Illinois||London, Ont.|
|3 (2)||Sydney Brown||DB||Illinois||London, Ont.|
|4 (3)||Tavius Robinson||DL||Mississippi||Guelph, Ont.|
|5 (4)||Sidy Sow||OL||Eastern Michigan||Bromont, Que.|
|6 (6)||Jared Wayne||WR||Pittsburgh||Peterborough, Ont.|
|7 (7)||Dontae Bull||OL||Fresno State||Victoria, BC|
|8 (9)||Jonathan Sutherland||DB||Penn State||Ottawa, Ont.|
|9 (8)||Lwal Uguak||DL||TCU||Edmonton, Alta.|
|10 (12)||Francis Bemiy||DL||Southern Utah||Montreal, Que.|
|11 (15)||Michael Brodrique||LB||Montreal||Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Que.|
|12 (-)||Cole Tucker||WR||Northern Illinois||DeKalb, Ill.|
|13 (10)||Lake Korte-Moore||DL||UBC||Ottawa, Ont.|
|14 (14)||Clark Barnes||WR||Guelph||Brampton, Ont.|
|15 (11)||Siriman Bagayogo||DB||Guelph||Bois-des-Filion, Que.|
|16 (13)||Anthony Bennett||DL||Regina||Weston, Fla.|
|17 (20)||Philip Grohovac||OL||Western||Victoria, BC|
|18 (18)||Jacob Taylor||DB||Alberta||Beaumont, Alta.|
|19 (16)||James Peter||LB||Ottawa||Ottawa, Ont.|
|20 (-)||Dayton Black||OL||Saskatchewan||Brandon, Man.|
Potential Round Two/Three Fits for the Argonauts: WR Clark Barnes (Guelph), WR Cole Tucker (Northern Illinois), DL/LS Lake Korte Moore (UBC), OL Phillip Grohovac (Western), OL Dontae Bull (Fresno State), DB Lucas Cormier (Mount Allison), WR Jeremy Murphy (Concordia), * CB Siirimian Harrison Bagayogo (Guelph), OL Sidy Sow (Eastern Michigan), WR Jared Wayne (Pittsburgh), DB Jake Taylor (Alberta), OL Dayton Black (Saskatchewan) DL Tavius Robinson (Mississippi)
Certain players have no business falling to the Argos when they pick 16th in the Draft. Southern Utah’s Francis Bemy and Penn State’s Jonathan Sutherland instantly come to mind.
In recent years, the Argos have shown a propensity for falling in love with players like Western’s Phillip Grohovac. A lunchpail player with a nasty disposition. No surprise considering Vince Magri’s experience as a former Canadian offensive lineman.
There are two specific defensive back prospects that Toronto would benefit significantly from drafting: Guelph DB Siirimian Harrison Bagayogo and Mount Allison’s Lucas Cormier. The two players profile as long-term starters in Canada.
Guelph CB Siirimian Harrison Bagayogo
SHB, who didn’t start playing organized football until he was 18, could slide down draft boards because he is 25. He shouldn’t, though. At nearly 6’2, Bagayogo has the pressman skills and elite physical tools to be a premier boundary cornerback in Canada for years to come.
At the National combine, SHB had the best 3-Cone Drill of all prospects (6.87). He also had the fourth-best time in the 40-yard dash (4.57). The former WR turned DB allowed just 16 catches and a single touchdown in three years of play at Guelph, where he won team MVP honors. Really good cover cornerbacks sometimes have less-than-impressive stat sheets. In 23 games, Bagayogo had only one interception. Perhaps age and a lack of flashy stats push the talented late-bloomer right into a spot with Double Blue.
OL Sidy Sow, Eastern Michigan
- 2022 season: 13 games started, allowed two sacks in 949 snaps; Eagles finished first in MAC in red zone offense (93.9 percent) and third down percentage (44.9), and second in team passing efficiency (137.9)
- 2022 and 2021 All-MAC first team and 2020 All-MAC third team
- Played in the 2023 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
- Eastern Michigan all-time leader in games played (56) and games started (54)
An intriguing player to take a flyer on for the future is Sidy Sow. Some believe that Sow could fall as far as Round Four or Five. The problem is that there is an increasing likelihood that Sow will be drafted in that same range in the NFL.
NFL.com has Sow projected to be selected in round five on Saturday’s third day of the NFL draft. CFL teams have this intel; as a result, Sow could slide further than anticipated in Tuesday’s Canadian draft. In the NFL, Sow is seen as a guard prospect more than a tackle. But in Canada, he would be the ideal blindside blocker.
Toronto has done a great job hitting on quality interior players from Canada. However, what would greatly benefit them is landing a national prospect at offensive tackle, a player who can be a long-term answer. It just might not be Sidy Sow.
Pittsburgh WR Jared Wayne
There’s no chance in hell that Jared Wayne doesn’t land on an NFL roster. Wayne’s collegiate production alone is worthy of an NFL shot. However, the Pitt standout boosted his stock with his recent pro day performance, where he exceeded expectations by running a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash when many projected him to be a 4.7/4.8 40 guy.
As a result, Jared Wayne could get drafted by an NFL team.
CFL teams will know whether that is a reality before Tuesday arrives. As strange as it sounds, Wayne getting drafted in the NFL could be good for the Argonauts.
The Argos are going to draft a receiver, maybe more than one. Tommy Nield and Dejon Brissett have crucial years ahead of them. They have been quality reserves, but they may not be on the roster in a year’s time.
It remains to be seen how far Jared Wayne falls because of the likelihood that he will be on the fringe or better of making a 53-player roster in the NFL. Wayne is an excellent prospect, and his national status will get him drafted by a CFL team. If it’s Toronto, it’s the kind of lottery ticket you must take, even if you may never cash it.
Potential Mid To Late-Round Fits for the Argonauts: TE Sebastian Howard (St. Mary’s), WR Gabriel Appiah-Kubi (York), DB Jake Kelly (Bishop’s), RB Thomas Bertrand-Hudon (Delaware State), DL Kwadwo Boahen (Alberta), DB Charlie Ringland (Saskatchewan), WR/KR Javonni Cunningham (Cornell), LS Pierre Bariel-Germain (Montreal), DB Eric Colonna (Queen’s), DB Maxym Lavallee (Laval), FB Jacob Mason (McMaster)
By the end of round five, going into round six. The Argonauts have three picks in very close proximity. #45, #47, and #54. It gives Toronto the flexibility to go in several different directions.
Speed and size at WR are two missing ingredients on the Argonauts. York’s Gabriel Appiah-Kubi ran the fastest 40-time at the National Combine (4.44) and could be an exciting player to take a late flyer on, just for that skill set alone.
St. Mary’s TE Sebastian Howard, 6’4 220, could be a valuable Swiss army-type player in a CFL offense. The jumbo-sized hybrid receiver has some developmental upside.
With longtime Boatmen Declan Cross and Jake Reinhart retiring. I’d be surprised if the Argos don’t address lesser heralded positions like a fullback and long snapper later in their draft.
A kick-returner could also be on the agenda. If the last name Cunningham looks familiar to you, it’s because the player attached to it is former CFL All-Star Jimmy ‘The Jet’ Cunningham’s son Javonni. The Cornell graduate has a lot of his father’s same physical traits. Javonni Cunningham is a track star who played sparingly as a receiver and was primarily utilized as what else, a kick returner, just like his old man. It’s hard to imagine Jimmy The Jet’s former teammate, Michael Pinball Clemons, not wanting to take a flyer on his son.
Potential Global Draft Targets For The Toronto Argonauts
The Argos have two selections in Tuesday morning’s Global Draft at the end of rounds one and two.
It will be the third straight CFL Global draft that pools all the international players together after having separate drafts for Mexican and European players.
The standard expectation yearly is that CFL teams will target specialists. However, some intriguing global positional players are available this year for CFL teams to potentially draft.
Hawaii Defensive Lineman Blessman Ta’ala (American Samoa) is one of them. The 6’1 291, pound defensive tackle for the Rainbow Warriors had an impressive collegiate career. Notching 142 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, four sacks, and two blocked kicks. At the combine, he had 29 reps of 225, for the best numbers at the showcase. Ta’ala also ran a shuttle time of 4.68 and had a 30-inch vertical leap—impressive numbers for a player his size.
Another intriguing international prospect is Japanese DT Hidetora Hanada. The 6’1, 280lb Hanada is a 3x amateur sumo wrestling champion who put up 26 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine. But it was his football drills that impressed CFL scouts on hand, and Hanada’s raw traits are hard to ignore.
- Update: As informed by Ben Grant from XsandArgos.com. Hidetora Hanada will not be eligible for this year’s Global Draft. Even though he participated in the National Combine. Nevertheless, Hanada is the type of diamond in the rough that is available on the Global side.
It’s been a while since the Toronto Argonauts football club has been in this favorable a position heading into a new season. The proper steps taken in each player procurement process are a significant reason for the team’s stability, and the next phase begins on Tuesday night.
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