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TORONTO — They may have had the fewest picks in the draft, but it didn’t stop the Saskatchewan Roughriders from making the biggest splash.
Four rounds after opening the 2016 CFL Draft by selecting 6-foot-6 offensive tackle Josiah St. John, the Riders picked up the draft’s most hyped player in number one prospect David Onyemata – one of many twists and turns on a busy night in Toronto.
“I’m extremely blessed and happy to go number one overall,” said St. John, now a centerpiece on a rebuilding Riders team being engineered by Head Coach and General Manager Chris Jones. “And to a place like Saskatchewan with good tradition also and a really strong fan base.
“I’m really excited to get up there and get started and contribute to this team early and win a championship in Saskatchewan.”
As expected, Jones and the Riders were bold on draft night despite owning no picks between the first and 24th overall, where they selected Calgary defensive back and 18th-ranked player on the CFL Scouting Bureau Elie Bouka. Just like with Onyemata, Bouka’s rights belong to an NFL team and the Riders may have to wait a while to see him in the CFL.
It was no surprise that three Laval offensive linemen went in the first round, starting with guard Philippe Gagnon to the Alouettes at second overall. For Gagnon, a Montreal kid growing up dreaming of playing for Laval and the Als, Tuesday night was a dream come true.
“Of course it feels special,” said Gagnon. “It’s the team I saw on TV ever since I’ve been watching football.
“Going to Montreal was the dream for any kid playing football in Quebec,” he added. “It’s the ultimate goal for anyone watching football like me since when I was 12 years old.”
Gagnon, who opened eyes at the combine with 40 reps on the bench press, said the pick caught him a little bit off guard.
“Coming into this draft I didn’t set any expectations,” said Gagnon. “Coming in at number two it was a surprise, I even learned it by hearing my name called on TV – I didn’t get the call from Mr. Popp in time.
“It was pretty special, I’m happy about it and I’m excited about this opportunity.”
“Going to Montreal was the dream for any kid playing football in Quebec. It’s the ultimate goal for anyone watching football like me since when I was 12 years old.”
The Ticats traded up from fifth overall to third with the BC Lions to take Grand Valley State offensive lineman Revenberg, a Division II football player with versatility after playing every position on the O-line during his college career.
Revenberg has ties to the Windsor area and was thrilled to become a Ticat after storming up the draft board late.
“I got a phone call a little bit before my pick was up because I saw it was the BC Lions, but it was from Hamilton and it was Coach Kent Austin,” said Revenberg. “He just told me how he traded up for me and how I was going to be a Tiger-Cat.
“I was overwhelmed, I’m ecstatic. I couldn’t be happier with the choice.”
The Argos may have turned the most heads with their selection of Acadia receiver Brian Jones fourth overall, while linebacker Alex Singleton went sixth to Calgary in between offensive linemen Charles Vaillancourt and Jason Lauzon-Seguin.
With Vaillancourt going to BC and Lauzon-Seguin to Ottawa, Laval officially made history by tying Calgary for the most first round picks in a single round. It also marked the most players from one school taken in the first round over a two-year span after Danny Groulx and Karl Lavoie were first round selections a year ago.
Like Saskatchewan, the Eskimos also weren’t afraid of taking players they may have to wait for but could pay off down the road. They selected Iowa receiver Tevaun Smith and Michigan State defensive back Arjen Colquhoun at the bottom of the first and second rounds, the second and fourth-ranked players in the CFL Scouting Bureau respectively.
Winnipeg didn’t have a pick until the second round, last year forfeiting a first round pick in the supplemental draft for the services of Garrett Waggoner. The Bombers found good value with back to back picks in the second round however, drafting Virginia defensive lineman Trent Corney (No. 8) and Simon Fraser offensive lineman Michael Couture.
The second round was highlighted by the selection of Burlington, Ont. native Mercer Timmis by the Ticats, while the Stamps added some Canadian content to their receiving corps in Juwan Brescacin (No. 12) of Northern Illinois.
Taylor Loffler (No. 11) and Brett Blaszko fell to the third round to Winnipeg and Calgary respectively while the Argos added a local product in former University of Toronto receiver and Windsor AKO Fratman receiver Llevi Noel.