TSN released their Top 50 CFL players list for 2018 on Tuesday — in a news dump in the morning as opposed to during the 30-minute show they’ve produced and will air tonight *shrug emoji* — and for the most part the voters got it right. We may argue about the ranking of some players — Taylor Loffler at No. 39 is way too low, and what does Brad Sinopoli have to do to get some respect? — but the list was pretty good.
But it wasn’t perfect, and as intended whenever a list like this is published, we are going to debate who should and shouldn’t be on it, and while naming 50 players covers a lot of the league’s elite there are always going to be snubs. Here are the eight players I think are the biggest snubs from TSN’s Top 50 players list (in alphabetical order).
Ryan Bomben, offensive lineman, Montreal Alouettes
I’m not sure if Ryan Bomben is the most underrated player in the league, but he is most definitely the league’s most underrated offensive lineman. Year in and year out Bomben has been remarkably durable and performed at a high level for both Montreal and Hamilton. Seven offensive linemen made the list, and I could argue for Ryan Bomben ahead of all but one or two of them.
John Bowman, defensive end, Montreal Alouettes
Continuing the trend of underrated, we have John Bowman. The sure-fire Hall of Famer was once again left off the list. At one time — meaning two years ago — Bowman was the No. 10 ranked player. He was left off the list in 2017 and again this year. All he did in 2017 was finish third in the league in sacks. The guy who finished first, with 11 to Bowman’s nine, was Charleston Hughes, who came in at No. 13. Why John Bowman continues to be overlooked and underappreciated is something I will never understand.
Jeremiah Johnson, running back, B.C. Lions
Let’s keep the underrated thing and talk about B.C.’s Jeremiah Johnson. Johnson may be the best running back in the CFL that no one gives credit to. He was fourth in the CFL in rushing last year — one spot higher than James Wilder, Jr., who was ranked at No. 11 — and his 5.8 yards-per-carry average was over a full yard higher than Jerome Messam’s (who was ranked No. 29). His nine rushing touchdowns were tied with Messam for the most by a running back. Any way you slice it, Jeremiah Johnson deserves a spot on this list.
Cleyon Laing, defensive lineman, Toronto Argonauts
Cleyon Laing belongs in the conversation with Ted Laurent and Almondo Sewell as one of the game’s best interior defensive lineman. His numbers don’t pop off the page — although his five sacks were more than Laurent’s four — but he is a disrupting force in the middle and has been that for back-to-back Grey Cup champions (2016 with Ottawa, last year with Toronto). Laing may not be as flashy as some of the other players on the list, but he is still one of the best in the game at what he does and if you are going to put Laurent on the list, which you should, then Laing deserves to be there as well.
Antoine Pruneau, defensive back, Ottawa Redblacks
I know Canadian content isn’t taken into account when these lists are compiled, but maybe it should be. And if it was you would have to think that Antoine Pruneau would have been named to the Top 50. He was tied for seventh in the league with four interceptions, but he also added 73 tackles, which is more than T.J. Heath (No. 30), Chris Randle (No. 23) and Ciante Evans (No. 38). Eight of those tackles came on special teams, where he also contributes on a weekly basis, and he did find the end zone once last season as well. He may not be the best at any one thing, but he is a jack-of-all-trades-type player who does every really well. Ottawa’s defence is better for having Pruneau and he has done more than enough to earn a place on the Top 50 list.
Jalen Saunders, receiver, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Brandon Zylstra, S.J. Green, Greg Ellingson and Bryan Burnham. That’s the list of players who had more receiving yards than Jalen Saunders last year. There are 10 receivers on the list, seven of whom did not put up the numbers Saunders did in his first season in the CFL. DaVaris Daniels made the list a year ago with nearly 300 fewer receiving yards than Saunders had in 2017. I know it’s not all about the numbers, but the numbers have to mean something and based on the numbers Jalen Saunders should be on this list.
Tyrell Sutton, running back, Montreal Alouettes
I have used the term underrated a lot in this, but in each case it has been warranted, and it is again here. If Tyrell Sutton had played for any other team than the Montreal Alouettes he would get the respect he has earned. He led the league in rushing in 2015, he finished fifth a year ago and his five rushing touchdowns was good for fifth amongst running backs. Imagine what his numbers would be a on team that wasn’t dead last in scoring (Montreal’s 314 points were 129 fewer than the eighth-ranked scoring team). His number don’t match those of the league’s elite, because his offense is garbage. Considering what he does bring to the table, and considering the numbers he does put up even on a putrid offense, he deserves to be somewhere in the Top 50.
Spencer Wilson, offensive lineman, Calgary Stampeders
Last but certainly not least is Calgary’s do-everything lineman, Spencer Wilson. He is as versatile as any lineman in the league and I’m not sure what happened between last year and this year for Wilson to go from No. 36 in 2017 to off the list entirely. Feels like an oversight to me.