The Canadian Football League conducted its annual draft on Tuesday evening, with each of the nine teams participating in the six-round selection process.
It was an encouraging sign for the league, which was forced to cease operations due to a combination of the coronavirus pandemic and reported financial difficulties in 2020, and the optimism resulted in several players getting drafted from MAC schools.
Mohamed Diallo, a six-foot-four, 305 lb. defensive tackle from Toronto, Ontario, was the first MAC selection taken in Thursday’s draft, as he was selected with the 19th overall pick (Round 3, Pick 1) by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Central Michigan product (via Texas A&M) was a late addition in the 2019 season who went on to have a starting role in the Chippewas defense moving forward, picking up all-first team MAC honors in 2020 after collecting 19 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in just four games of the six-game season.
Jake Julien, a six-foot-two, 210 lb. punter from Barrie, Ontario, was the next MAC player off the board, selected 31st overall (Round 4, Pick 4) by the Ottawa REDBLACKS. Over four seasons in Ypsilanti, Julien tied the program-high in career net average (43.4 yards per punt) and was on the national radar as one of the best punters in the NCAA, leading the MAC in punting, and finishing eighth in the country (44.25 yards per punt) in the shortened 2020 season to earn a Ray Guy Award nomination. Julien is also the only punter in EMU history to log two punts over 70 yards, and also had 51 career punts pinned inside the 20-yard line and 37 punts go over 50 yards.
Dominic Johnson, a six-foot-five, 220 lb. wide receiver out of Windsor, Ontario, was the final MAC prospect to hear their name called, selected directly after Julien with the fifth pick in the fourth round (32nd overall) by the Edmonton Football Team. Johnson was a two-sport athlete at Buffalo, with time split between basketball and football. After starting his career as a quarterback behind former NFL and XFL pro Tyree Jackson, Johnson made the conversion to receiver and would finish with a career 11 receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown. His low numbers could be partly attributed to an injury suffered in the middle of the 2019 season, right as he was transitioning positions. He’s an intriguing and raw prospect who could thrive as a deep threat option in the right situation.
The 2021 CFL season looks to follow a “return to play” phased rollout with an expected kickoff date of August 5th, but it’s a timetable that is widely reliant on Canada’s COVID fight, and subject to change as the situation continues to develop.