CFL Power Rankings: Eskimos squeak into top spot

Given that we haven’t done a power ranking since before the end of the 2017 CFL season – the playoffs are the ultimate power ranking after all – we figured it was probably time to see where teams stand more or less halfway through the off-season. And what we found kind of surprised us.

We do our power rankings by having 3Down contributors – in this case Drew Edwards, Justin Dunk, John Hodge, Josh Smith, Joel Gasson and Santino Filoso – rank the teams from No. 1 to No. 9. The team with the fewest “points” gets the top ranking, the second fewest is No. 2 and so on. There’s often consensus at the top of the table (and at the bottom) with a bit of a jumble in the middle.

But while there is agreement on the CFL’s worst team – how you doing Montreal? – three different teams received top rankings including Calgary (3), Toronto (2) and Edmonton (1). The Eskimos, however, received three second-place votes, a third and a fourth while Calgary was ranked as low as No. 5 by two voters. That disparity of opinion was enough to put Edmonton in the top spot by the narrowest of margins.

Mike Reilly.

1. Edmonton Eskimos

They have league’s reigning MOP at quarterback and consistency in the coaching staff with Jason Mass’ staff returning virtually intact. Combined with the re-signing of some key pieces – Aaron Grymes, Adam Konar, Derel Waker, C.J. Gable – and the addition of Alex Bazzie was enough to put the Eskimos at No. 1.

2. Calgary Stampeders

The perennial Grey Cup bridesmaids still have Bo Levi Mitchell at quarterback and a rock solid front office and coaching staff, led by general manager John Hufnagel and head coach Dave Dickenson. The loss of some big names from their secondary (Tommie Campbell, Joe Burnett) as well as their big Canadian running back (Jerome Messam) likely has some wondering how long they can keep up their run of West Division dominance.

Ricky Ray.

3. Toronto Argonauts

The defending Grey Cup champions were able to bring back veteran pivot Ricky Ray and add James Franklin, thought by many to be the CFL’s next big star. They re-signed a number of key contributors including linebacker Bear Woods and defensive back Jermaine Gabriel while adding all-star DB T.J. Heath and linebacker Taylor Reed. Marc Trestman is a proven commodity as a head coach but how much will the loss of coordinators Marcus Brady and Corey Chamblin impact the Double Blue?

Zach Collaros.

4. Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Riders have a new No. 1 quarterback in Zach Collaros and that could be huge – if he returns to his 2015 form. Chris Jones also had an interesting free agent period adding Canadians Messam, Zack Evans, Sam Hurl while also re-signing Eddie Steele and landing defensive end Charleston Hughes. But there was also an exodus of talent including Henoc Muamba, Nic Demski, Otha Foster and A.C. Leonard so it remains to be seen if the Riders are better or just different. And then there is Duron…

Kyle Walters.

5. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

SAM linebacker Chandler Fenner was an excellent free agent pick up and repatriating hometown boy Nic Demski gave Winnipeg a boost of Canadian content. The team has stability with general manager Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O’Shea – bringing back Richie Hall as DC raised some eyebrows – but the Bombers still have to prove they can keep up with the Jones’ (and Hufnagels and Sunderlands) in the ultra-competitive West Divison.

Jeremiah Masoli.

6. Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The core from last season’s 6-12 will get a chance to prove their late resurgence (6-4 after an 0-8 start) under head coach June Jones was the start of something bigger. Jeremiah Masoli is the undisputed No. 1 quarterback for the first time in his career and the team re-signed all off its big-name pending free agents including Ted Laurent, Larry Dean and Luke Tasker. While the return of coach Orlondo Steinauer makes sense, the jury is still out on the installation of 76-year-old CFL neophyte Jerry Glanville as defensive coordinator.

Trevor Harris.

7. Ottawa Redblacks

The Redblacks made some major additions to their roster – Kyries Hebert, Luichez Purifoy, Rico Murray, Josh Johnson, A.C. Leonard – but there are questions surrounding their Canadian talent level. Trevor Harris returns at quarterback – as do the questions as to whether he is truly an elite player who can stay healthy.

Jon Jennings.

8. B.C. Lions

New general manager Ed Hervey re-made the roster, largely by adding Eskimos from his tenure with Edmonton. Quarterback Jon Jennings restructured his deal to give the team more cap flexibility but he’ll have to prove that last season’s disappointing performance was an anomaly and not a permanent regression.

Kavis Reed.

9. Montreal Alouettes

The hiring of NFL veteran Mike Sherman as head coach and the signing of NFL washout Josh Freeman as defacto starting quarterback has done little to inspire confidence in general manager Kavis Reed’s squad. Reed was able to attract to some big names in free agent – Canadian defensive end Jamaal Westerman chief among them – but had to overpay to do it. Montreal will need to prove they are anything but bad.