Monday, May 27, 2024

A closer look at who the Ottawa Redblacks selected in the CFL Draft

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The Ottawa Redblacks went into Tuesday’s CFL Draft with a plan: Stick to the order of their draft board, don’t swerve and start selecting by position of need.

Chad Hudson, the Redblacks’ director of Canadian Scouting and Football Analytics, says the organization is excited with the results.  

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Ottawa came away from the draft with seven players, led by the No. 2 overall selection, receiver Nick Mardner. Others taken: Defensive lineman Daniel Okpoko, defensive backs Dawson Pierre and Yani Gouadfel, receivers Jahquan Bloomfield and Russell Dixon and linebacker Zachary Philion.

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You’d expect the Redblacks — and every other CFL team — to talk about how happy they are with their selections. When’s the last time you heard a team representative say their draft class really sucks? But Hudson says the team was surprised at how many of the players they had highly ranked fell into their laps.

“It was a deeper draft, right to the eighth round for us,” said Hudson. “Guys we thought wouldn’t (still be available) were there later for us. We got guys in every round we didn’t think (would still be there). A lot of teams picked for their needs, that bumped some guys down. We are a team that’s going to pick to our board. We have them ranked, if (the top player on the board is available), that’s who we take.

“We feel like for all of these guys, there’s a path to play. That was the thing (general manager) Shawn (Burke) challenged me with — is there a path to this kid playing? And if there was not, are we picking them because we need them to practise or are we picking them because we want to build a team around guys that can play and contribute? That was our guiding philosophy. So, we ranked the board. Then we were going to take guys we think have a chance to play for us.

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“It can be emotional. With Mardner and Okpoko, there was relief we got those guys, the ones we wanted. It was an anomaly. Most years, there’s going to be a guy that gets taken and you’re pissed. Not this year. We thought we got great value.”

One thing that stands out about the Redblacks’ 2024 draft class is their size; all are six feet and above, led by a tall pass catcher – Mardner – at 6-foot-6.

Another thing: The Redblacks put a big emphasis on character; it’s something they look for when they do interviews at the CFL Combine. And, with good locker-room fits on their minds, they feel they’ve hit the motherlode of “good guys” this time around.

And, for the first time in their history, the Redblacks did not select an offensive lineman.

“It was a strong O-line class,” Hudson said: “There were opportunities to take O-linemen at different spots. But we wanted to stick to our plan. We like our (offensive linemen). We’ve got some good Americans coming in and we feel very good about the Canadians we’ve picked the (previous) two drafts.”

Here’s a player by player breakdown, with comments from Hudson:

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Round 1

Nick Mardner (Auburn), receiver

Height: 6-foot-6 Weight: 206 pounds Age: 24

Hometown Oakville

Hudson: “He’s got great hands. He’s been used in the red zone; he’s a huge threat there. He can stretch the field. He’s really quarterback friendly, he can extend.”

Round 2

Daniel Okpoko (San Diego State), defensive lineman

Height: 6-foot-4 Weight: 274 pounds Age: 23

Hometown: Saskatoon

Hudson: “He’s a huge guy, a real stud. He’ll play D-tackle for us. He’ll give us some depth and learn behind Cleyon (Laing).”

Dawson Pierre
Concordia defensive back Dawson Pierre (60) was selected by the Ottawa Redblacks in the third round of Tuesday’s CFL Draft. Photo by Supplied /CFL photo

Round 3

Dawson Pierre (Concordia), defensive back

Height: 6-foot-2 Weight: 208 pounds Age: 23

Hometown: Longueuil

Hudson: “He was playing a lot of different positions, halfback and safety, in university. We see him more as a linebacker, we’ll try him out there first. He’s another big kid. He’s fast, he’s strong and he loves to hit.”

Round 4

Jahquan Bloomfield (Prairie View A&M), receiver

Height: 6-foot Weight: 188 pounds Age: 24

Hometown: Ottawa

Hudson: “He was brought to our attention by (former Ottawa Gee-Gees coach) Nate Taylor, our running back coach who tried to recruit him. He did great (in the NCAA) on special teams and was a deep threat. It gives us a little more depth at the receiver position. He’s another guy who can play special teams and receiver for us.”

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Round 6

Yani Gouadfel (Bishop’s), defensive back

Height: 6-foot-3 Weight: 200 pounds. Age: 24

Hometown: Mitry-Mory, France

Hudson: “He was a punter, but he was also the starting free safety. He’s from France, but (he qualifies as) Canadian through going to school and getting his degree; he’s one of the first kids to get his degree and become a national that way. He’s another big, strong kid. He likes to hit and he’s a good tackler. He gives us more depth at the position.”

Round 7

Zachary Philion (Concordia), linebacker (son of longtime CFL player Ed Philion)

Height: 6-foot-1 Weight: 221 pounds Age: 25

Hometown: Buffalo:

Hudson: “He’s a tenacious kid, great on special teams. The kid loves to be in the gym – he’s really fit, he’s an absolute specimen that way. I worked with his dad in Saskatchewan and Montreal and I got to know Zach a bit. He loves football. Some of these kids love to eat, breathe and sleep football and he’s a guy that does that.”

Round 8

Russell Dixon (UConn), receiver

Height: 6-foot-3 Weight: 230 pounds Age: 23

Hometown: Edmonton

Hudson: “He’s got an injury (shoulder/neck). He’s committed to Carleton so we’re going to see him whenever he gets (to Ottawa) for fall ball because he missed spring ball. He’s a future player for us. He played at Connecticut and was a great (special) teamer and also a tight end. The kid can block. He’s a strong, hard-nosed kid who plays very hard and has a great attitude even though he’s injured.”

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