Ottawa Redblacks have four picks within first 17 selections of CFL draft

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TORONTO — Shawn Burke will have plenty of options in the CFL draft Tuesday.

The Ottawa Redblacks' general manager owns four of the first 17 picks, including the first and 10th selections.

Burke could upgrade his Canadian talent now, and for the future, with any of the seven blue-chip Canucks who were either selected in last week's NFL draft or signed as undrafted free agents afterward.

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Burke could also package picks to either move up in the draft or trade for an established veteran. Ottawa (4-14) finished fourth in the East Division in 2022 to miss the CFL playoffs for a third straight year.

"I think it gives you options and flexibility," Burke said. "You have the ability at No. 1 to take the player you want if you keep that pick.

"We have a lot of flexibility to do whatever we want in the draft. But I always say it takes two parties to make a deal happen so we'll see what comes to us and go from there."

While Burke remains open to entertaining offers for the top pick, he's not opposed to keeping it.

"I'd say we have an open mind but at a certain time you zero in on what you want to do," Burke said. "I think we're in the process of zeroing in.

"I wouldn't say we wouldn't listen to teams right now. But at the same time, I'm a firm believer that if you're picking a player you expect to be here this year that you have a certain level of commitment before you draft someone at No. 1."

Montreal and Edmonton will also have draft capital Tuesday.

Alouettes GM Danny Maciocia has two first-round picks (fifth, seventh overall) and another in the second (No. 13). Edmonton GM/head coach Chris Jones owns four selections within the first 23 (one first, one second, two third).

Edmonton will pick second overall with Saskatchewan and Calgary following. Hamilton is at No. 6 with Winnipeg and B.C. completing the first round (eighth, nine respectively).

Toronto's first selection will come in the second round (16th overall). The Grey Cup-champion Argonauts surrendered the ninth overall pick to the Lions in February for Canadian linebacker Jordan Williams.

The CFL global draft goes Tuesday afternoon.

The CFL draft comes after a record five Canadians went in last week's NFL draft. They include: offensive linemen Matthew Bergeron, of Victoriaville, Que, (second round, Atlanta) and Sidy Sow, of Bromont, Que. (fourth round, New England); safety Sydney Brown, of London, Ont. (third round, Philadelphia) and his twin brother, running back Chase Brown (fifth round, Cincinnati); and defensive lineman Tavius Robinson, of Guelph, Ont. (fourth round, Baltimore).

Receiver Jared Wayne of Peterborough, Ont., (Houston) and defensive back Jonathan Sutherland of Ottawa (Seattle) both signed as undrafted free agents.

Bergeron, the Browns, Robinson, Sow and Wayne held the top six spots on the CFL scouting bureau's top-20 draft prospects list. Sutherland was ranked eighth.

"I think with the five drafted players, it was expected," Burke said. "We obviously grade these guys too . . . we didn't think any would get to the sixth round.

"I think it (five NFL draftees, two undrafted free agents signed) just gives us more information, which is all you can ask for around draft time. You just want to collect as much information as possible to make the best decision for your organization."

Burke said what happened in the NFL draft reflects positively on the state of football in Canada.

"It should be a celebration of how far Canadian football has come," Burke said. "We owe a lot of credit to minor coaches who're developing these players, the resources of academies in our country that help give these athletes this opportunity at the greatest level possible."

Victoria's Dontae Bull, a six-foot-seven, 320-pound offensive lineman at Fresno State, was ranked seventh by the CFL scouting bureau. Edmonton's Lwal Uguak, a TCU defensive lineman, and Montreal's Francis Bemiy, a defensive lineman at Southern Utah, were ninth and 10th, respectively.

Montreal Carabins linebacker Michael Brodrique, of Saint-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Que., was the top Canadian university player at No. 11. The six-foot-three, 230-pound Brodrique had 32 tackles (4.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks and an interception in seven games after registering six sacks in 2021.

Bull started seven games at right tackle before sustaining a season-ending broken leg Oct. 29 after starting 11-of-13 games in 2021. Burke said Bull is on Ottawa's radar.

"You'd have to think so, yeah," he said. "He's obviously a mountain of a man.

"I think he has strong hands that can clamp down on guys and he can play a physical brand of football. But at the same time . . . he has very light feet. I think he has the ability to possibly compete at both tackle and guard in this league."

The six-foot-five, 271-pound Uguak played in 14 of TCU's 15 games, recording 10 tackles. After defeating Michigan 51-45 in the Fiesta Bowl, the Horned Frogs lost 65-7 to Georgia in the NCAA championship game.

Burke also likes Uguak's versatility.

"I believe he can play outside and inside on the defensive line," Burke said. "He's someone who loves football, loves the process, it's very important to him.

"I think he has a bright future in this league."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2023.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press