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Edmonton Elks take linebacker Dublanko with No. 1 pick in CFL draft

B.C. Lions select offensive lineman Windsor offensive lineman George Una
Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet (85) tries to avoid a tackle by Seattle Seahawks linebacker Joel Dublanko (48) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Caean Couto)

The Edmonton Elks selected linebacker Joel Dublanko first overall in the CFL draft in Toronto Tuesday night.

Edmonton had the first selection after finishing last in the West Division with a 4-14 record.

The six-foot-three, 240-pound Dublanko was regarded as the most pro-ready draft prospect. After his college career at Cincinnati, he spent time in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks before playing in 2023 with the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars.

An American, Dublanko was eligible for the CFL draft because of having a Canadian parent.

The Ottawa Redblacks followed by taking receiver Nick Mardner second overall. The six-foot-six, 206-pound Oakville, Ont., native played in the NCAA with Hawaii, Clemson and Auburn.

Over his collegiate career, Mardner had 81 receptions for 1,488 yards (18.4-yard average) and 11 TDs. Mardner was invited to the New York Giants rookie mini-camp.

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The Saskatchewan Roughriders, preparing for their first season under rookie head coach Corey Mace, looked to shore up their offensive line at No. 3, taking Toronto native Kyle Hergel of Boston College. But the six-foot-two, 300-pound guard signed a free-agent deal with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.

At No. 4, the Calgary Stampeders took McGill defensive back Benjamin Labrosse. The six-foot, 190-pound was a first-team All-Canadian at cornerback in 2022 but was also invited to the Giants’ rookie mini-camp.

The Toronto Argonauts, who dealt Canadian receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. to Edmonton this off-season, landed Laval’s Kevin Mital with the fifth pick. The ‘22 Hec Crighton Trophy winner impressed at the CFL combine, posting a 4.58-second 40-yard dash time as well as 20 reps in the 225-pound bench press.

The B.C. Lions then selected offensive lineman Windsor offensive lineman George Una. The six-foot-three, 300-pound Toronto native helped his school last season win its first home playoff game since 1975.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats followed suit, taking Laval offensive lineman Nathaniel Dumoulin-Duguay at No. 7. The six-foot-two, 293-pound Rimouski, Que., is a two-time All-Canadian.

Calgary acquired the No. 8 spot from the Winnipeg Bombers and used it to select Christy Nkanu, an offensive lineman from Washington State. The six-foot-one, 309-pound Nkanu is a versatile performer who played four different positions.

The Grey Cup-champion Montreal Alouettes concluded the opening round by taking Memphis linebacker Geoffrey Cantin-Arku. The six-foot-four, 235-pound Levis, Que., native had 79 tackles (41 solo, 4.5 for loss) with a sack, interception, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and blocked kick last season.

Cantin-Arku, who began his college career at Syracuse, was invited to the Miami Dolphins’ rookie mini-camp.

The Canadian Press