Hodge: The post-Labour Day CFL all-star team

Below is my all-star team for the 2018 season thus far. These players have all stood out for the right reasons be they statistical or otherwise.

I used two parameters that differ from the league’s traditional all-star selection process in deciding on the players below.

First-off, each CFL player was only eligible to be named an all-star for the position at which they officially play.

This means that Alex Singleton, Adam Bighill, and J.C. Sherritt were ineligible to be my three all-star selections at linebacker because they play the same position — middle linebacker. In the interest of comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges, my all-star linebacking corps includes one middle linebacker, one weak-side linebacker, and one strong-side linebacker.

The same is true for the five positions in the receiving corps, the five positions along the offensive line, and the five positions in the secondary.

Secondly, I chose to recognize one running back and one fullback instead of two running backs like the CFL does. Why? Because #FullbacksArePeopleToo.

Without further ado, here is my post-Labour Day all-star list.

Quarterback – Mike Reilly, Edmonton Eskimos

Reilly is on pace for the best season of his career which, given that he’s the reigning M.O.P., is remarkable. He’s the best player in our league. Period.

Honourable Mention: Bo Levi Mitchell, Calgary Stampeders

Running Back – Andrew Harris, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Harris is on pace to record 1,575 rushing yards this season — the CFL’s best single-season total since Jon Cornish’s 1,813-yard season in 2013. At 31, Harris is playing arguably the best football of his career.

Honourable Mention: William Powell, Ottawa Redblacks

Fullback – Declan Cross, Toronto Argonauts

A solid blocker, receiver, and special teamer, Cross is the most well-rounded fullback in the game. There’s a reason the Argos so frequently look his way in the red zone.

Honourable Mention: Rolly Lumbala, B.C. Lions

Boundary Wideout – Brandon Banks, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Banks only has five touchdowns to Walker’s eight, but he’s accumulated more yardage than his Edmonton counterpart in one fewer game this season. For someone who’s so petite, Banks’ catch radius is gigantic.

Honourable Mention: Derel Walker, Edmonton Eskimos

Boundary Slotback – D’haquille Williams, Edmonton Eskimos

Williams became the first receiver to reach the 1,000-yard mark on Labour Day in just his eleventh game of the season. Williams’ production will only increase should the injury to teammate Derel Walker hold him out long-term.

Honourable Mention: Eric Rogers, Calgary Stampeders

Field Slotback (y) – Kamar Jorden, Calgary Stampeders

Jorden recorded a jaw-dropping 500 receiving yards in August, a month during which his team played only three games. Sadly, it appears Jorden’s season will be cut short after the fifth-year man was added to Calgary’s six-game injured list earlier this week.

Honourable Mention: Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa Redblacks

Field Slotback (r) – Jalen Saunders, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

You know who has more receiving yards than Luke Tasker, Darvin Adams, S.J. Green, and DaVaris Daniels? Jalen Saunders, arguably the most underrated player in the CFL.

Honourable Mention: Greg Ellingson, Ottawa Redblacks

Field Wideout – Kenny Stafford, Edmonton Eskimos

Stafford has been by far the CFL’s most impactful strong-side wide receiver this year, currently sitting tenth in league receiving. Cut twice over the past three seasons, Stafford is having an excellent bounce-back year in green and gold.

Honourable Mention: Drew Wolitarsky, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Left Tackle – Stanley Bryant, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The league’s best blindside protector, Bryant leads a Blue Bomber offensive line that dominates league rushing totals and consistently gives Matt Nichols time in the pocket.

Honourable Mention: SirVincent Rogers, Ottawa Redblacks

Left Guard – Brendon LaBatte, Saskatchewan Roughriders

The future hall of famer has helped a young Roughrider offensive line improve steadily as the season has progressed. Playing hurt earns respect and LaBatte has earned as much as any player in the league.

Honourable Mention: Brandon Revenberg, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Centre – Matthias Goossen, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Tough, tenacious, and physical, Goossen is a solid technician who consistently plays to whistle (and sometimes slightly thereafter).

Honourable Mention: Sean McEwen, Toronto Argonauts

Right Guard – Ryan Bomben, Toronto Argonauts

Bomben is having another strong year and has helped secure Toronto’s offensive line since his trade to the Big Smoke. He also catches touchdown passes, which is pretty awesome for a 295-pounder.

Honourable Mention: Sukh Chungh, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Right Tackle – Chris Van Zeyl, Toronto Argonauts

Some insiders feel as though Van Zeyl should have been the league’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman last season and it’s easy to see why. He may be 35, but Van Zeyl is still playing at an exceptionally high level.

Honourable Mention: Jermarcus Hardrick, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Defensive Tackle – Micah Johnson, Calgary Stampeders

Johnson is the most disruptive interior force in the CFL. Second in the league in sacks with six, Johnson commands a double-team on virtually every down.

Honourable Mention: Cleyon Laing, Toronto Argonauts

Defensive Tackle – Almondo Sewell, Edmonton Eskimos

Now into his eighth CFL season, Sewell continues to exhibit quickness and agility that no 31-year-old, 290-pound man should possess. A five-time league all-star, Sewell is quickly becoming a shoe-in for the hall of fame.

Honourable Mention: Ted Laurent, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Defensive End – Charleston Hughes, Saskatchewan Roughriders

Hughes has been the best defensive player in the CFL this season, recording thirteen sacks in just eleven games. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Hamilton should have kept the eleven-year veteran after trading for him this past off-season.

Honourable Mention: Odell Willis, B.C. Lions

Defensive End – Ja’Gared Davis, Calgary Stampeders

Davis is quickly establishing himself as one of the league’s best defensive ends in his first full season as a starter. Only five players have more interceptions than Davis this season, which — considering his position — is impressive to say the least.

Honourable Mention: Willie Jefferson, Saskatchewan Roughriders

Weak-side Linebacker – Chris Ackie, Montreal Alouettes

A bright spot for the 3-8 Alouettes, Ackie has recorded 64 tackles in just ten games this season. The first-year linebacker has taken to his new position well after three years spent predominantly at safety.

Honourable Mention: Simoni Lawrence, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Middle Linebacker – Alex Singleton, Calgary Stampeders

The third-year man out of Montana State is having another brilliant season for the Stampeders. Leading the league in total tackles, Singleton should repeat as the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player come November. The NFL awaits.

Honourable Mention: Adam Bighill, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Strong-side Linebacker – Otha Foster, B.C. Lions

Foster is on pace record career-high totals in both tackles and sacks. He’s been a welcome addition to a B.C. line-up that needs more play-makers on the defensive side of the ball.

Honourable Mention: Don Unamba, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Boundary Cornerback – Delvin Breaux, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Breaux is the best cover man in the CFL. Period. The only reason that we don’t hear his name more often is that teams know better than to throw the ball his way.

Honourable Mention: Nick Marshall, Saskatchewan Roughriders

Boundary Halfback – Brandon Smith, Calgary Stampeders

Now in his eleventh CFL season, Brandon Smith continues to do Brandon Smith things. It’s a crime that this 34-year-old has flown under the radar for as long as he is playing arguably the toughest position in the secondary.

Honourable Mention: Aaron Grymes, Edmonton Eskimos

Safety – Taylor Loffler, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

His name has been called less frequently since Adam Bighill started playing in front of him, but Loffler remains the most-feared safety in the game. The two-time all-star’s range is a big part of why Winnipeg is allowing just 11.42 yards-per-completion this season, second-fewest in the league.

Honourable Mention: Antoine Pruneau, Ottawa Redblacks

Field Halfback – Emanuel Davis, Calgary Stampeders

Enjoying a nice bounce-back season in Calgary after a rough finish to his tenure in Hamilton, Davis has been solid in DeVone Claybrooks’ league-best defence. He’s got two interceptions with more sure to come.

Honourable Mention: Richard Leonard, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Field Cornerback – Ciante Evans, Calgary Stampeders

The third Stampeder in this all-star secondary, Evans is good enough to start at boundary cornerback for most teams in the league. He’s a play-maker at a position where a lot of teams can’t afford to field a difference-maker.

Honourable Mention: Kevin Fogg, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Kicker – Lewis Ward, Ottawa Redblacks

You can’t not be an all-star if you almost never miss, right? Not bad for a five-foot-seven kid that went undrafted last year.

Honourable Mention: Brett Lauther, Saskatchewan Roughriders

Punter – Richie Leone, Ottawa Redblacks

Leone leads the league in net yards, by far the most important metric when assessing punting.

Honourable Mention: Ty Long, B.C. Lions

Kick Returner – Terry Williams, Calgary Stampeders

Two punt return touchdowns in eight games is pretty outstanding — particularly when your punt return average (14.2) ranks first among players with at least thirty attempts.

Honourable Mention: Christion Jones, Saskatchewan Roughriders

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