With CFL awards voting set to begin shortly, 3DownNation’s Justin Dunk has talked with football people across the country to get their thoughts on the top candidates. Up next, Most Outstanding Rookie.
Every season there are first-year players who enter training camp as relative unknowns.
Then a mere 20 weeks of CFL football later stars have emerged, Canadian rookies and American standouts have risen to stardom in 2017.
In the East, Martese Jackson has been impressive in his own right as a returner piling up 1,854 return yards and Dylan Wynn’s put up six sacks for the double blue. Down the road in Hamilton, Richard Leonard has been a stalwart in the Ticats secondary all season and he’s got four interceptions. Ottawa found defensive pieces in Avery Ellis (six sacks) and cover man Corey Tindal (57 tackles, two interceptions and one sack. Meanwhile. Dondre Wright put a strong season together in Montreal after being selected in the third round of the 2017 CFL draft (41 tackles and one forced fumble).
Out West, Jovan Santos-Knox filled in admirably for the Bombers while Ian Wild was out, Tobi Antigha has made his ability to rush the passer known in Saskatchewan (five sacks), Riders returner Christion Jones has two punt return touchdowns, as does Tunde Adeleke for the Stampeders plus he’s started as safety, Marken Michel stepped up in Calgary’s receiving core (780 yards and three touchdowns), James Vaughters really took advantage of his opportunity at defensive end with six sacks, linebacker Jameer Thurman is keeping Deron Mayo off the field in Calgary (44 tackles, two interceptions and one sack), Kwaku Boateng has four sacks in limited reps on the Eskimos defensive front and Duke Williams emerged as a legitimate pass-catching threat (715 yards and four touchdowns). On the Left coast, Micah Awe has made his presence felt literally with high-impact tackles (44).
Toronto’s wild man stands out from the bunch. James Wilder Jr. has been a late-season revelation at running back for the Argos, in a similar fashion to Stampeders receiver DaVaris Daniels who won the award last year.
The Florida State product earned his first start at running back in Week 13 and every game since that he’s been the main man in the backfield the Argos are 4-1, Toronto is 8-9 through 17 games. In five starts Wilder Jr. has 1,178 yards from scrimmage, 736 rushing and 442 receiving – over 235 yards of total offence per game. That leads all rookies in offensive yards.
Wilder Jr.’s ascendence has been outstanding. Put that name on the trophy.