The Canadian Football League’s Scouting Bureau recently released its Fall Edition of prospects for the 2024 CFL Draft, and it’s good news for Bobcats and Bulls fans: as of publication, both Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke and Buffalo offensive lineman Gabe Wallace are numbers 1 and 2 on the list.
Their positioning atop the scouting tables is important for a number of reasons; unlike American or internationally-born players, Canadian nationals are eligible for the National Draft, the much bigger and more publicized of the two league drafts (the other being the much smaller Global Draft.) Any other player must enter the league either via the Global Draft (primarily for non-North American players) or the negotiation list process (primarily for American players), where each of the nine teams must declare the names of 10 players with no CFL experience they wish to sign (although the actual lists are typically much larger). The teams then have total negotiating rights to a player until that player declares themself for the CFL and the team offers them (or doesn’t) a contract, usually a league minimum two year deal, within ten days.
Therefore, you won’t find Kurtis Rourke or Gabe Wallace on anyone’s negotiation list despite playing their collegiate ball in America, because teams are fighting for the right to draft them instead. All of this is done to obey the all-important Ratio, which dictates the percentage of Canadian, American and international players each team must roster. There’s a ridiculous amount of detail about this stuff, but again, for American rules fans, this is about as much as you materially need to understand.
As clear as can be? Alright. Let’s break this down.
Kurtis Rourke is the obvious prize of the draft, following in the footsteps of his brother, Nathan. Ever since the older Rourke became a national hero over the span of about two years, all eyes in CFL media and fandom have been turned to Kurtis. He’s from Oakville, Ontario, situated roughly halfway between Hamilton and Toronto. A breakout national star quarterback in the CFL is exceedingly rare. Nathan was the first in 42 years to earn the Most Outstanding Canadian award when he played for British Columbia, and the first to get talk of being a celebrity since Russ Jackson for Ottawa in the 1960s.
It’s big shoes to fill, but so far, Kurtis has seemed up to the task. In his four seasons so far in Ohio, he’s built himself a respectable resume, with 5,444 yards, 39 touchdowns and 11 interceptions through the air on a 67.5 completion rate, while also running for 609 yards and seven touchdowns with a 3.69 rushing average.
In his first full season as a starter, Kurtis had a 2022 to remember. Completing 69 percent of his passes for 3,257 yards and 25 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions, while also picking up 245 yards and four scores on the ground, the ‘Maple Missile’ earned first-team all-MAC honors and won the Offensive Player of the Year Award for his efforts. He’s currently in line to potentially be the first repeat candidate in the MAC since former Heisman candidate (and Grey Cup champion!) Jordan Lynch.
If Kurtis were to go to the CFL, he’d likely become a national phenomenon as well, a la Nathan. No matter where he ends up, he’ll be a gamebreaker and a celebrity.
Offensive line is perhaps the most unsung position in gridiron football, regardless of code. There aren’t any really reliable stats to track for line blocking, so they slip through the cracks of noticeability. But I notice you, offensive linemen, and I notice Gabe Wallace sitting at second overall on the prospect list. And let me tell you, that excites me almost as much as Kurtis.
Wallace has been a reliable starter for the Bulls throughout his tenure, starting all 25 games he was eligible for in 2021 and 2022. The Salmon Arm, British Columbia native has experience at both tackle and guard, eventually settling in at left guard last season. He earned third-team all-MAC honors after assisting Buffalo in finishing as one of the conference’s top five offenses.
Wallace, standing at a sizeable six-foot-six, 336 lbs., has great agility and burst from his days as a highly-regarded rugby player, and was once Canada’s premier offensive line prospect coming out of St. Andrew’s College. Wallace will likely get looks from both the CFL and NFL, as he was recently named a preseason second-team All-American by Phil Steele and a second-team all-MAC offensive lineman by Athlon Sports.
Quality offensive linemen are an even bigger need for teams than a quality starting quarterback. This season in the CFL has shown any quarterback pitching a complete 18 game season is not exactly reasonable; as of publication, there have been 21 different starting quarterbacks this season between the nine franchises. (Jake Maier, of the Calgary Stampeders, is the sole opening day starting QB who has started every game.)
There’s only so many times a quarterback can get dropped before it takes a toll. Wallace is certainly someone who could make an immediate difference, and unlike Kurtis, there’s not a team in the league, besides maybe Winnipeg, who could think about passing on him and feel okay about it. Every team needs him, and needs him yesterday. Edmonton, the current number one projection, could certainly use such a big body to protect their emergent quarterback prospect Tre Ford. What better can you get than a top offensive lineman who’s landed on the All-MAC list?
The CFL will release more editions of their scouting bureau moving forward, and we’ll be sure to update you when they do.
[Editor’s note: this was originally meant for publication in late August, but due to on-boarding issues for the author, is being posted now. We wanted to ensure Alexis got their full byline on the report before publication; as such, some information could potentially be outdated. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your continued readership.]