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Ottawa Redblocks Re-stock the Roster with Rookie Drafts

The Ottawa Redblacks have completed the 2024 Draft process selecting 9 players. Who are they and how do they fit?

Redblacks Select Two in Global Draft

The Ottawa Redblacks, have been one of the teams who have looked to the global draft over the past few seasons, to build out depth on the roster. Some of these players have not planned out as of yet, but Ottawa threw two more darts at the board and this year’s global draft, and seven more during the National draft. Who are these players, and how will they fit in with the Redblacks in 2024?

Matt Hayball, Punter

Ottawa has decided to make an interesting choice with their first pick in the global draft. They selected punter, Matt Hayball hailing from Vanderbilt University. The interesting part about this move is it’s just days before the CFL, global draft, Hayball signed a contract with the New Orleans Saints to compete for their punter position. 

This was a calculated move by Ottawa, given that Hayball would go to camp with the Saints, and compete with them. Ottawa is hedging their bets and in the process ensuring Hayball two chances at making a professional roster in 2024. 

The 6’1 187-pound punter had an impressive run in the U.S. during his college career. The Australian native began his United States collegiate football career at Florida Atlantic University. During his time there he punted it 174 times for an average of just over 44 yards per punt. His most impressive trait is the hang time in his punts.

Moving on to Vanderbilt for two years he averaged 46.5 yards per punt. During his senior season, he averaged over 47 yards per punt the second-highest mark in school history.  He was also named Second Team All-American. He ultimately would graduate as the leader in career punting average with Vanderbilt. If he doesn’t win the battle with the Saints he will not have an easy path to earning a roster spot in the CFL either with Richie Leone there. Leone maybe 32, but he has shown no signs of slowing down. 

Heston Lameta, Linebacker

A native of Pago Pago, American Samoa, Lameta had a long collegiate career with four years at NAU, after spending time at Garden City Community College. During his career, he was an extremely active linebacker for both schools. Collecting tackles like it was his favorite way to pass the time. 

After dominating at Garden City in the Jayhawk Conference which is known for producing D1 and professional players no matter the team, Lameta found his way to NAU. Arriving at NAU he was involved in the game plan right away. Playing 9 games he collected 21 tackles, 3 for a loss, 1 sack, 1 pbu. 

Over the next three years, he took on a larger role, playing in 22 games he collected 118 tackles, 6 for a loss, 2 sacks, and 1 fumble recovery. He had fairly pedestrian numbers at his pro-day for NAU, but the Redblacks needed depth at linebacker?

Nick Mardner, Wide Receiver

Selecting second overall, the Redblacks could have gone in several directions to fill out the talent on their roster. They had done a great job of collecting young American talent at several positions that allowed them the flexibility to simply select the best players available in the CFL Draft. This was true even with their first-round pick where they selected a wide receiver. With players like Justin Hardy, Bralon Addison, Jaelin Acklin, Dominique Rhymes, as well as former XFL/USFL players Joe Walker, Garrett Maag, Dontay Demus Jr., and a host of other young prospects competing for snaps on the roster.

Nick Marder will be stealing a job from someone, and I imagine it will not take long. This man brings something to the table that none of the other players in his position group currently can offer, at 6’6 he is a full two inches taller than Dominique Rhymes and Garrett Maag. With that size, the Redblacks still managed to find a player who brings the top-end speed to be a deep threat running a 4.52 at his Auburn pro day. He managed a 35-inch vertical leap and a 10-foot 9-inch broad jump. 

His 79 and 3/8-inch wingspan and 9-inch and 3/8-inch hands have helped him be a sure-handed wideout who makes circus catches at times. Mardner played with defensive tackle Blessman Ta’ala who Ottawa selected with the first overall pick last year at the University of Hawaii 

Daniel Okpoko, Defensive Line

Daniel Okpoko is a native of Lagos, Nigeria. Okpoko has a very interesting career, and it was highlighted here in a great article by Anthony Miller. Okpoko is 6’5 275 pounds, but when he first arrived at college he was only 235 pounds and wasn’t the type of player who could be counted on to play on the interior. He grew into the versatile player he is now over time. 

Watching Okpoko play, I was impressed by his first step, and his strength. He seems to anticipate the snap well and catch offensive linemen off guard at times. He does a great of converting that speed into power as well, running right through blockers. He could be the type of player that the Redblacks can allow to focus on playing interior defensive line in the CFL. 

Allowing him to play against slower guards that will typically outweigh him by at least 15-25 pounds could be the way to create mismatches and allow him to do his damage on obvious passing downs. Then in obvious run situations, he can kick outside to the defensive end so players like Ta’ala and Thomas Schaffer can step in and eat up blocks.

Dawson Pierre, Defensive Back/Linebacker

Dawson Pierre is a larger defensive back at 6’2 219 pounds who will likely move to linebacker in the CFL. Hailing from Longueuil, Quebec Pierre played for Vanier College, before finishing up with Concordia. Ironically linebacker is not a position he is unfamiliar with, having played it before at Vanier before playing safety for Concordia. 

Pierre has lined up anywhere from cornerback, slot, linebacker, and even safety. His ability to play all these positions only makes him a better fit as a linebacker in the CFL, where he will be asked to cover a lot of ground. Their last starting strongside linebacker signed with the Chicago Bears, leaving a potential opening for a rookie starter. 

At the CFL combine he managed to put up impressive numbers, with 16 reps in the bench press, a 7.0-second 3-cone drill, and a 4.41 short shuttle. He ran a 4.77 40-yard dash and leaped 33 inches. He is an exceptional athlete at linebacker but could be a liability as a defensive back in the CFL. 

Jahquan Bloomfield, Wide Receiver

As mentioned before, the Redblacks have tremendous depth at wide receiver, so selecting another was not an immediate need, but it was a position the team wanted to ensure was improved after watching over three years of an anemic passing attack. The 6’1 190 190-pound wideout is coming to Canada from Katy, Texas originally. 

Playing at Lousiana Monroe, and later Prarie View A&M, Bloomfield proved his worth and displayed versatility along the way. During his time at Lousiana Monroe, it was a slow progression into the lineup. In his first three seasons combined, he played in just 6 games. During this stretch, he did more work on special teams than he did as a wide receiver collecting 7 tackles to 4 receptions for 77 yards. Overall after four seasons, and 16 games at Louisiana Monroe, producing just 9 tackles, and 5 receptions for 82 yards, Bloomfield knew he had to move on to a new school to showcase himself. 

Prairie View A&M gave Bloomfield a larger role than he had at his previous school. Playing in 17 games over the next two seasons he collected 13 receptions for 298 yards, 3 carries for 39 yards, 2 tackles, and 3 total touchdowns. 

Originally born in Canada, he spent most of his football career in the U.S., moving to the United States at 15 years old. This would help him get an invite to the CFL Combine in March. He performed decently but left some room for improvement in several testing drills. This included a 4.61 40-yard dash, a 35-inch vertical leap, and a 4.51 short shuttle. He will look to earn a role in 2024, and it could be his special teams play that does the trick on the Redblacks. He had a total of 11 tackles during college and I expect that to continue in the professional ranks. 

Yani Gouadfel, Defensive Back

During his collegiate career, Gouadfel was a big play waiting to happen. Watching his highlight tape is like watching him play chess while other players are playing checkers. Attending Bishop’s University for three seasons he was able to create 34 tackles, 1 sack, and 5 interceptions in just 16 total games. 

Ironically, Gouadfel didn’t just play defensive back, as we saw him punt the ball 99 times for 3,754 yards, with 20 kicks landing inside the 20-yard line, and only 2 touchbacks, His average wasn’t great, at 37.9 yards, but having a player who can fill in if an injury happens at punter, while also playing defensive back for the team as well. 

He also added 1 punt return for 7 yards and 1 carry for 7 yards. The soon-to-be rookie had a decent performance at the combine with a 4.64 40-yard dash, 32-inch vertical, 7.14 3-cone drill, and 4.25 short shuttle. He hasn’t dominated in any one event, but overall had a good day. 

At 6’2 208 pounds I could see him competing at safety at the next level. The Redblacks are getting older in the secondary over the past few seasons. Drafting a depth piece that can develop over time was a smart move.

Zack Philion, Linebacker

Born in Lorraine, Quebec Philion played wide receiver and defensive back at a young age before moving to linebacker in college. At 6’2 220 pounds the Human Relations major attended Concordia University. As a member of the Stingers, he teamed with fellow Redblacks draft pick, Dawson Pierre to help form a great defense. Before arriving at Concordia, he attended the New Mexico Military Institute. 

Playing in 8 games he collected 9 tackles, 1 interception, and 2 pass breakups while playing defensive back. While he made the move to linebacker once he ended up at Concordia, he is still fairly new to the position and growing into it. 

He will be asked to compete with several new faces in the linebacker corps for the Redblacks. Not only did they add some promising free agents, including Davion Taylor from the NFL, but they also used a Global draft pick on Heston Lameta a productive linebacker, and selected Dawson Pierre who could move to linebacker as well.

At the CFL Combine, he managed to put up impressive numbers for a man expected to play linebacker. While his 40-time wasn’t great (4.8) his 16 reps in the bench press, 7.03 3-cone drill, and 4.39 short shuttle certainly made me look. 

Russell Dixon, Tight End

Russell Dixon is an athlete, who happens to be listed as a tight end by his former school. Originally from Edmonton, the 6’3 224 pound pass catcher would attend UConn for his collegiate career. He didn’t see the field much until his final season. 

Appearing in a total of 15 games he caught just 3 passes for 28 yards, all of which came in 2022 during the first three games of the year. Dixon could get a better opportunity to showcase himself in the CFL in 2024. 

Dixon is a guy who could move to wide receiver, or fullback at the next level, or even just play a little of both throughout his career. I expect his immediate value to come on special teams, where he has the size and ability to play on nearly every unit.

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@SamShadySports Reporter
I began writing years ago out of an obsession with the NFL. I never intended to take it anywhere but after watching so many others succeed as freelance writers I decided it was worth a shot. I jumped I and have loved every minute of it. I have expanded my content to include YouTube, as well as Twitter Spaces, SoundCloud, and should be launching on Amazon Podcasts soon.
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