Top Ten – the CFL number one draft picks 2010-19

Top Ten – the CFL number one draft picks 2010-19
Reading Time: 7 minutes.

Everybody loves a good top ten list. They are ever popular for sparking debate.

We had some fun, and opened up some debate ranking the CFL championship games from 2010-2019 over the festive period. Now we thought it might be fun to create some more debate. This time with a top ten list focused around the number one picks of the last decade.

Which might be ironic as we’re ignoring our own advice to ‘look beyond the headliners‘ here.

The 2020 CFL draft is scheduled to take place on the 30th April. We don’t know how it will be run but there is some determination within the CFL to see it done one way or another.

So without further ado let’s get to it. Who was the worst and best first pick of the 2010’s and what happened in between?

Top Ten – Number 10

2018 Mark Chapman Wide Receiver Hamilton Tiger Cats

CFL games played: 0 Games played for the team that drafted them: 0

With Chapman going first Central Michigan became only the sixth team to have players selected No. 1 in both the CFL and NFL drafts. 

Unfortunately for the Ti-Cats Chapman never made the field. Whilst other playes inked contracts, their number one pick remained unsigned. After attending one of the Tiger-Cats early regular season games, he left without signing a contract.

Rookie Mini-Camps with the Giants & Broncos didn’t work out. Instead of returning to the CFL he headed for the AAF and their seemingly better offer. As we know things didn’t work out for the AAF. However Chapman never played there either, citing personal reasons.

Zero games played in the CFL, or any pro league for that matter. A wasted pick for the Ti-Cats who expended plenty of energy on trying to signs Chapman – had to take last slot in the top ten.

Top Ten – Number 9

2017 Faith Ekakite DT Winnipeg Blue Bombers

CFL games played: 14 Games played for the team that drafted them: 14

Ekakite proved you never really know until they hit the field at pro level. We, along with others, had Ekakite marked down as ” pro ready for the Canadian game” and a good fit for Winnipeg’s defensive rotation.

He mustered just 5 tackles in a rookie season that was followed by release from the team.

We’ll never know what could have been as Ekakite signed with the Alouettes in June 2018 only to tear his Achilles in practice a fortnight later. When Montreal released him after the 2018 season he announced his retirement in June 2019.

Top Ten Number 8

2019 Shane Richards OL Toronto Argonauts*

*This one is subject to change as we don’t yet know how Richards career will play out.

CFL games played: 8 Games played for the team that drafted them: 8

The 6’6″ 337 lb lineman has the size and ability to succeed. He was a day one starter for the Argos last season, but he only appeared in eight games, starting one.

He started the season opener against Hamilton, then spent the next 10 games on the injured list. If this was is whole contribution he would site at number nine. Because his career isn’t done yet we are giving Richards some leeway and looking forward to what comes next.

Top Ten Number 7

2013 Linden Gaydosh DT Hamilton Tiger-Cats

CFL games played: 53 Games played for the team that drafted them: 10

The former Calgary Dino has had a workmanlike 5 year career in the CFL. So why is he only at number 7 on the list? It’s not just about the career someone has but the value the team who drafted them got out of their top pick.

Less than a week after being drafted into the CFL, Gaydosh signed with the Panthers in the NFL. After spending the entire 2013 NFL season on injured reserve he headed to Hamilton for 2014.

He appeared to be developing into the squad player they envisaged with nine regular-season games seeing him register four tackles, two tackles for a loss and a pass knockdown. He also added four tackles in two playoff contests.

However he tore his Achilles tendon in the off-season and missed the entire 2015 season. He appeared in just one game in 2016. So the Ti-Cats number one pick amounted to 10 appearances over a 3 year period.

Between 2017 & 2019 he appeared in 43 games for the Argonauts. Including being part of the squad that lifted the 2017 Grey Cup. Did Toronto get more from him than Hamilton ever did?

Top Ten Number 6

2016 Josiah St. John OL Saskatchewan Roughriders

CFL games played: 22 Games played for the team that drafted them: 22

He may have played less games than Gaydosh, and bounced around some practice squads, but the Roughriders got more value out of their pick with St. John.

Over three years with the Roughriders, he dressed in 22 games and started in eight (including six games started in his rookie year).

After becoming a free agent in 2019 he was a practice squad member for the Argos, Lions & Esks. He did make an appearance for an Edmonton team chasing an impossible dream that lost in the Eastern Final.  

Currently back in the fold with the Roughriders. Will he make it to the regular season once more?

Top Ten Number 5

2012 Ben Heenan OL Saskatchewan Roughriders

CFL games played: 49 Games played for the team that drafted them: 49

Heenan suited up for 49 games, making 34 starts for the Riders between 2012 and 2014.

He was also part of the squad that won the 101st Grey Cup delivering Saskatchewan the latest of their 4 titles.

In February 2015 he signed with the Colts in the NFL. However he had a torn meniscus, never made it past the practice squad and retired from football in April 2016.

Top Ten Number 4

2010 Shomari Williams Linebacker Saskatchewan Roughriders

CFL games played: 78 Games played for the team that drafted them: 72

Williams played 3 seasons with the Roughriders. During the first two seasons he mostly appeared as a member of the special teams. Although he did also add 31 tackles and 3 sacks alongside his 24 special teams tackles over this period.

2012 saw significant playing time at both Defensive End and Linebacker. This saw him contribute 59 tackles, 2 sacks and an interception.

In 2013 he signed with Hamilton but ended up contributing just 1 tackle and 1 sepial teams tackle as he went down with an injury.

Williams returned to Saskatchewan in 2014 appearing in all 18 regular season games and contributing 17 special teams tackles.

The Riders got 4 solid years, 90 tackles, 49 special teams tackles, 5 sacks and an interception from their 2010 top pick.

Top Ten Number 3

2014 Pierre Lavertu OL Calgary Stampeders

CFL games played: 41 Games played for the team that drafted them: 41

If you want to you could argue that other teams got more value. Because, for example, Williams played 31 more games for the team that drafted him. It would be a sound argument.

I am ranking Lavertu this high however because his career was brief, but he shone. He is the first player on this list to get an All-Star nod as he was voted a West Division All-Star in 2015.

Sadly following that excellent season injuries limited him to eight games in 2016, and he was then out for the entire 2017 season because of a high ankle sprain.

Despite that, Lavertu played 41 career regular-season games and three post-season contests for the Stamps and was a member of the club’s Grey Cup-winning team in 2014.

Top Ten Number 2

2011 Henoc Muamba Linebacker Winnipeg Blue Bombers

CFL games played: 108 Games played for the team that drafted them: 47

You might have expected Muamba to fill the top slot. His has been a sensational CFL career after all. We are talking about a man who is the current Most Outstanding Canadian, a 3 time East Division All-Star and 2 time CFL All-Star.

A lot of that success has come whilst not wearing a Winnipeg jersey however. For instance, in 2018 he was unanimously named the Alouettes Most Outstanding Player. Before that, in 2017 he was named the Roughriders Most Outstanding Canadian.

That’s not to say he didn’t have success with Winnipeg mind you. If we did not think they had got good value on their top pick in 2011 he would not be this high on the list.

2011 saw Muamba contribute on special teams with 15 special teams tackles, a forced fumble and a touchdown.

He really burst onto the scene more in 2012 with 61 defensive tackles, 20 special teams tackles, 3 sacks and 5 forced fumbles. For these performances Muamba was named the teams Most Outstanding Canadian.

2013 was even better. This time Muamba notched 92 defensive tackles, 19 special teams tackles, 1 sack and 1 interception. For this he was named a trifecta of the Blue Bombers Most Outstanding Canadian, Most Outstanding Defensive Player and Most Outstanding Player.

If by year 3 of being drafted your top pick is the best player on your team I’d say that was a pretty good return!

The Blue Bombers released Muamba in 2014 so he could pursue an NFL contract. In total he has played parts of 8 seasons in the CFL. Including a very successful first three years with the team who drafted him.

Top Ten Number 1

2015 Alex Mateas OL Ottawa REDBLACKS

CFL games played: 88 Games played for the team that drafted them: 88

The REDBLACKS began play in 2014 and following a 2-16 debut season had their first, and so far only number 1 draft pick. A pick they spent in the 2015 draft acquiring Mateas from UConn.

Mateas has lived up to his billing as a top draft pick helping to anchor the line as a regular starter.

From his debut season to 2018 Ottawa went 39-31-2, appeared in the playoffs 4 consecutive times, made 3 Grey Cups, and won it all in 2016.

Mateas has spent his whole career (so far) in Ottawa. During that time he has twice been named a CFL Eastern All-Star. Showcasing versatility, that was as a Guard in 2017 and a Centre in 2018.

The likes of Henry Burris, Trevor Harris, Brad Sinopoli, Greg Ellingson and William Powell grabbed headlines for the REDBLACKS teams challenging for the Grey Cup. But they can only do that because of good O line play.

So it only seems fair to put Ottawa’s first draft pick from 2015 top of the pile here. He was a key part of the line generating that success and it’s time an O-Lineman got the spotlight.

Do you agree?

There’s a strong chance you won’t agree with where we’ve placed people on this top ten list. These things are always very subjective. That’s OK though. Opening up debate and getting us all talking about the CFL is a win for this author at least anyway.

If you don’t agree and think this should have been a different order, or just want to let us know who you think should have come top let us know at @NinetynineYards .

Featured Image: Henoc Muamba 2011 #1 pick. Image from

6 thoughts on “Top Ten – the CFL number one draft picks 2010-19

  1. Muamba should be #1, due to the impact he has made at a position usually held by an American. Gaydosh maybe should be above St.John, neither have had the impact we thought they would, but Gaydosh has had more of an impact

    1. Hi Jeff – firstly thank you so much for taking the time to read the article. Secondly, thanks for engaging and putting out your point of view – a healthy debate is what it’s all about. I thought long and hard about Muamba at one but decided to go with Mateas due to his longer career with the team that selected him. I respect you right to choose differently though!

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