Like any experienced slacker, I could use some help with my homework.
Dave Naylor over at TSN has been kind/dumb enough to bestow upon me a ballot for the broadcaster’s annual Top 50 players. The list always causes a little controversy as fans and players alike complain about oversights, omissions and the general wonkiness of the rankings.
So here’s what we’re gonna do: I’m going to fill out an initial ballot while trying to justify my rankings, then I’ll make adjustments based on suggestions from the comments section on the post. And if this thing devolves into another dumbass Riders-Stamps troll fest, I’m putting the lot of you in moderation purgatory. Forever.
According to the guidelines provided by Naylor, we are required to select a minimum of five offensive linemen, four defensive linemen, four defensive backs, four linebackers, three running backs, two receivers and a kicker. Obviously, there will be more than one quarterback but if they didn’t set quotas for the non-skilled positions, there might not be a big fella on the list. And even though it’s a Top 50 list, we only select 40 players. I don’t know why.
There are no stipulations surrounding Canadian content, however – one of my biggest gripes about the TSN Top 50. This is a league that mandates there be 21 nationals on the 44-man game day roster and seven Canadians among the 24 offensive and defensive players: shouldn’t there be a ratio component in the Top 50? I don’t make the rules but I’m going to try and take this into consideration.
The only other stipulation: only players currently on CFL rosters are eligible. So let’s just get this out of the way:
DARIAN DURANT, QB.
OK, here we go….
I put my list together by picking the appropriate number of players for each position group (five offensive linemen, four defensive backs etc. etc.) then went through and added other guys I thought were worthy. I reviewed the CFL all-stars from last season and the 2017 TSN Top 50 list, though that turned out to be more valuable as a comedic device (Derek Dennis at No. 9 and Durant at No. 29 in particular) and as an indicator of how fast things change (Alex Singleton at 47!!!)
Then I ranked them, which started off as an exercise full of contemplative thought, then quickly devolved into just shoving guys into random spots. This is, after all, my first draft and you guys will fix all my mistakes. Right?
Anyway here’s my list:
1. Mike Reilly, QB, Edmonton Eskimos, 50 points
Yes, it’s an easy and predictable pick. He’s still the reigning MOP and the best player at the most important position.
2. Duron Carter, WR/DB, Saskatchewan Roughriders, 45 points
Carter is one of the most dynamic players in the game, has produced consistently great numbers, made some unbelievable catches last year and could start both ways in 2018. Plus, he’s the best Twitter follow in the league and a future 3Down commenter.
3. Bo Levi Mitchell, QB, Calgary Stampeders, 40 points
Mitchell was No. 1 on the TSN Top 50 last year, finished third in passing yards despite a bum shoulder and came within a couple of crazy plays of winning another title. He’s really good.
4. Alex Singleton, LB, Calgary Stampeders, 38 points
In a league where offence is king, Singleton is one of the few defensive players who can dominate a game. Reigning defensive MOP and (fake) Canadian.
5. Ricky Ray, QB, Toronto Argonauts, 36 points
Yeah, yeah another quarterback. But the Argos don’t get a sniff at the title without Ray last year and he’s one of the best in the game until proven otherwise.
6. Andrew Harris, RB, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 35 points
Led the league in rushing and made a legit run at 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving.
7. Chris Van Zeyl, OT, Toronto Argonauts, 34 points
One of the best offensive tackles in the game and a Canadian to boot. Giving him a little extra value because he’s a legit ratio-breaker and that should count for something in this fake poll.
8. Brandon Banks, REC/KR, 33 points
Cracked the 1,000-yard receiving mark despite only starting 10 games in 2017 and has been an electrifying return man for five seasons.
9. Ed Gainey, DB, Saskatchewan Roughriders, 32 points
Led the CFL with 10 interceptions last season and has developed into one of the league’s best cover men.
10. Charleston Hughes, DE, Saskatchewan Roughriders, 31 points
Tops in the CFL with 14 sacks last season and has been an all-star four times. Is considered the best edge rusher in the league.
11. Greg Ellingson, REC, Ottawa Redblacks, 30 points
Tops in the CFL with 12 touchdown catches, third in receiving with almost 1,500 yards. Coming off three straight 1,000-yards seasons.
12. Adam Bighill, LB, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 29 points
Don’t call it a comeback. Top defensive player in 2015, four-time CFL all-star, Biggie brings his talents to Bomberland after a one-year NFL hiatus.
13. S.J. Green, REC, Toronto Argonauts, 28 points
Second in receiving yards, second in touchdowns last season: the only question about Green is how long he can keep up the production (he’ll soon be 33.)
14. T.J. Heath, DB, Toronto Argonauts, 27 points
Two-time CFL all-star was once traded for Drew Willy, who is not on this list.
15. Diontae Spencer, Ottawa Redblacks, REC/KR, 26 points
Second in the CFL in combined yards last season and set a record for total yards in a game.
16. Stanley Bryant, OT, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 25 points
The CFL’s Most Outstanding Lineman last season, three-time CFL all-star, has missed a total of three games in the last five seasons.
17. Willie Jefferson, DE, Saskatchewan Roughriders, 24 points
Eight sacks is all well and good but Jefferson also had a league-leading 34 quarterback pressures – nine more than the next nearest player.
18. Jamaal Westerman, DE, Montreal Alouettes, 23 points
Seven sacks in just 11 games played for the Bombers last season, Westerman an elite-level ratio-breaker.
19. Derel Walker, REC, Edmonton Eskimos, 22 points
The league’s Most Outstanding Rookie in 2015, Walker had an absurd 1,589 receiving yards in 2016 (and 634 in eight games last season.) With Zylstra and Bowman gone, he could see even more balls this season.
20. Matt Nichols, QB, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 21 points
The Rodney Dangerfield of quarterbacks had his best CFL season in 2017 but isn’t included in the Bo Levi, Reilly, Ray club.
21. Ryan Bomben, G, Montreal Alouettes, 20 points
Bomben has been an East Division all-star the last three seasons and is one of the best guards in the game. Also, Canadian.
22. Solomon Elimimian, LB, B.C. Lions, 19 points
A career-high 144 tackles last season. At 31, still as fearsome a defender as they come.
23. Jerome Messam, RB, Saskatchewan Roughriders, 18 points
The Bus was second in the league in rushing last season behind Harris and is coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard campaigns. But he’s 33…
24. Marcus Ball, LB, Toronto Argonauts, 17 points
There aren’t a ton of statistical reasons to put Ball here other than my contention that he’s a dominant player and the spiritual leader of the Grey Cup champions.
25. Micah Johnson, DT, Calgary Stampeders, 13 points
Nine quarterback sacks at defensive tackle last season, two-time CFL all-star and an all-world disruptor.
26. Matt O’Donnell, OL, Edmonton Eskimos, 16 points
Big human, all-star at guard, Canadian.
27. Almondo Sewell, DT, Edmonton Eskimos, 15 points
Seven sacks and 36 tackles from the defensive tackle spot, a West all-star for six straight seasons.
28. Ciante Evans, DB, Calgary Stampeders, 14 points
CFL all-star two years running at corner, still just 25. His numbers aren’t better because quarterbacks don’t challenge him.
29. Chris Randle, DB, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 12 points
Emerged as an elite defender in 2017 season with 60 tackles and five interceptions.
30. Justin Medlock, K/P, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 11 points
The best combo kicker in the game led the league in scoring last year.
31. James Wilder Jr, RB, Toronto Argonauts, 10 points
Small sample size but Wilder Jr. seems to be on the verge of legit CFL stardom.
32. Spencer Wilson, OL, Calgary Stampeders, 9 points
Over the last two seasons, Wilson has started at least one game at all five positions on the offensive line. That’s insane. And he’s really good.
33. Chris Rainey, REC/KR, B.C. Lions, 8 points
Led the league in combined yards last season, is a legit scoring threat on every kick return.
34. Taylor Loffler, S, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 7 points
A CFL all-star at safety, Loffler has emerged as one of the most fearsome hitters in the game.
35. Trevor Harris, QB, Ottawa Redblacks, 6 points
Again, a very good quarterback who isn’t considered among the league’s elites.
36. Henoc Muamba, Montreal Alouettes, LB, 5 points
Canadian ratio-breaking linebacker had 82 defensive tackles and another 11 on special teams to go along with two interceptions and three forced three fumbles.
37. John Bowman, Montreal Alouettes, DE, 4 points
Nine sacks ans 37 pressures last season for the ageless one. Should have another good seasom opposite Westerman.
38. Naaman Roosevelt, REC, Saskatchewan Roughriders, 3 points
This one’s for Derek Taylor.
39. Rob Maver, P, Calgary Stampeders, 2 points
I only had to include one kicker but Maver’s ability to impact field position gets him on the list (second in the league in net, league-high 13 punts inside in the 10-yard line.) Plus, this.
40. Johnny Manziel, QB, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 1 points
Manziel already leads the CFL in one vital category: social media presence. He has 2.24 million Twitter followers while the CFL has 274,000. Like it or not, he’s already a star. (I may also be trolling everyone with this pick.)