The 2019 CFL season kicks off on Thursday when the Saskatchewan Roughriders visit the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Tim Hortons Field.
3DownNation contributors Justin Dunk, John Hodge, Joey Alfieri, Ryan Ballantine, Santino Filoso, Joel Gasson, and Josh Smith have prepared a number of predictions pieces ahead of the season. The first one addresses year-end player awards.
Most Outstanding Special Teams Player
Dunk — KR Lucky Whitehead, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The speed is special. Big play ability has already been flashed – nothing lucky about it.
Hodge — KR Terry Williams, Calgary Stampeders
The league’s best return specialist will be a key player in Mark Kilam’s excellent special teams units this season. He just needs to stay healthy.
Alfieri — KR Terry Williams, Calgary Stampeders
Williams has speed to burn and I expect him to have a big season with the defending Grey Cup Champions.
Ballantine — KR Terry Williams, Calgary Stampeders
The Stamps will try to protect Williams by utilizing him solely as a returner. Although, based on usage stats, I’m tempted to select Roughrider punter Jon Ryan.
Filoso — K Lewis Ward, Ottawa Redblacks
For the second straight season, Ward hits on 98.1% of his field goal attempts.
Gasson — LS Jorgen Hus, Saskatchewan Roughriders
Long snappers are people, too! Seriously, though… Terry Williams. He’s one of many flashy returners who will catch the eye of voters.
Smith — K/P Justin Medlock, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
With a dearth of dangerous returners who really move the needle, this award goes to one of the greatest kickers of all time.
Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman
Dunk — T Chris Van Zeyl
For years Van Zeyl has been playing at a high level and it’s long overdue – if he keeps it up – for the ratio-breaking Canadian tackle.
Hodge — T Stanley Bryant, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The Bombers might not have the CFL’s best offensive line anymore but it will still be solid. Bryant is the heavy favorite for the this award, particularly with Edmonton’s SirVincent Rogers possibly out for the year.
Alfieri — G Brandon Revenberg, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Revenberg is starting to become a household name with CFL fans because of his ability to keep Jeremiah Masoli clean. I know this award often goes to offensive tackles, but I think this is his year.
Ballantine — T Stanley Bryant, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
A lot of voters pay little to no attention to this position and vote for the names they know. Bryant is a name they know for good reason. Dark horse: Derek Dennis, Calgary Stampeders.
Filoso — G Sukh Chungh, B.C. Lions
The Lions have assembled an all-star cast of playmakers on offence, capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Chungh will help protect Mike Reilly and, at year’s end, should finally get the recognition he deserves.
Gasson — G Brandon Revenberg, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Last year’s runner-up has more name recognition and will play for a team that should win a lot of games.
Smith — T Stanley Bryant, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The Bombers are going to win a lot of games and a lot of awards. This one goes their way, too, as Stanley Bryant wins his third-straight top o-lineman award.
Most Outstanding Canadian
Dunk — REC Juwan Brescacin, Calgary Stampeders
More targets have become available for Brescacin and Bo Levi Mitchell has a strong rapport with the big, athletic target. 2019 should mark his first 1,000-yard season.
Hodge — REC Lemar Durant, B.C. Lions
The big-bodied slotback no longer has to rotate in a deep Calgary receiving corps. Durant will be one of Mike Reilly’s best targets and should see the ball often in the red zone. Dark horse: Juwan Brescacin, Calgary Stampeders.
Alfieri — REC Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa Redblacks
Sinopoli was the only receiver in the league to surpass the 100-catch mark last season, so we know he can handle a heavy workload. Ottawa lost a lot of their playmakers over the winter, so he may be very busy again this year.
Ballantine — RB Andrew Harris, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Harris will once again be the focal point of the Bombers’ offense. With Brad Sinopoli losing his QB to Edmonton and Alex Singleton in the NFL, Harris is a lock if he stays healthy.
Filoso — RB Andrew Harris, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
I think Brad Sinopoli has another excellent year, but given that Harris is the linchpin of Winnipeg’s attack, he’ll put up huge numbers.
Gasson — RB Andrew Harris, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Harris is the heartbeat of the Bombers’ attack for a reason. He’s just that good.
Smith — RB Andrew Harris, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Andrew Harris is the clear favourite. He should have won it last year, but didn’t. He wins it in 2019.
Most Outstanding Defensive Player
Dunk — LB Larry Dean, Edmonton Eskimos
Dean has drawn rave reviews from coaches and football management in Edmonton. And the Eskimos have vowed to be more aggressive on defence. That combination should have the East MODP from a year ago in the mix again.
Hodge — LB Adam Bighill, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Bighill is the best linebacker in the CFL and should benefit from the addition of Willie Jefferson along Winnipeg’s defensive line. He repeats in 2019.
Alfieri — LB Adam Bighill, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The Bombers will continue to lean on their defensive playmakers, and Bighill is certainly one of them. If he stays healthy, he’ll likely lead the league in tackles in 2019.
Ballantine — DL Micah Johnson, Saskatchewan Roughriders
The Riders’ defensive line will be on the field a ton, giving Johnson more opportunities to make plays. A freak of nature set to go off. Dark horse: Adam Bighill, Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Filoso — DL Willie Jefferson, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
With a new deal and plenty to prove, a highly motivated Jefferson reminds the league why he’s one of the best pass rushers around. It doesn’t hurt that he’ll be surrounded by a strong supporting cast.
Gasson — DB Ed Gainey, Saskatchewan Roughriders
Might as well go off the board a little bit here. The Riders’ defensive line will allow the secondary to get to work with Gainey being the largest beneficiary.
Smith — LB Adam Bighill, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Linebackers pile up the numbers, so there is no reason to think Adam Bighill won’t repeat in this category.
Most Outstanding Player
Dunk — RB William Powell, Saskatchewan Roughriders
Craig Dickenson wants Powell to get 20 carries per game, just based on the pure workload Powell could put up gaudy rushing totals. If Saskatchewan wins enough games the sturdy back should have an MOP shot. Willy P for MOP.
Hodge — QB Bo Levi Mitchell, Calgary Stampeders
The starting quarterback of the CFL’s best team often takes home M.O.P. honours and I don’t see the 2019 season playing out any differently. Calgary hasn’t needed Mitchell to throw for 300 yards every week to win games in recent years; this year I expect he’ll be posting more gaudy numbers.
Alfieri — QB Bo Levi Mitchell, Calgary Stampeders
Mitchell is coming off an M.O.P. season, but they’ll need him to be even better this year, as they lost a lot of talent this offseason. This will be a fascinating year in Calgary. They’ve been remarkably consistent over the last decade, so we’ll see if Mitchell and the Stamps can keep rolling.
Ballantine — QB Bo Levi Mitchell, Calgary Stampeders
Last year Mitchell became the first quarterback in CFL history to pass for more than 5,000 yards without a 1,000-yard receiver. He may need to score more if Calgary’s new-look defense is leakier than last year, which will only improve his stat line. Dark horse: Mike Reilly, B.C. Lions.
Filoso — QB Mike Reilly, B.C. Lions
Reilly’s second stint as a Lion starts off with a roar as he makes the most of a dangerous receiving corps in shredding opposing secondaries.
Gasson — QB Jeremiah Masoli, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
With a head coach that knows the ins and outs of the CFL and an offensive coordinator to back him up, Masoli will prove he’s more than a system guy. The Ticats being the class of the East will help.
Smith — QB Jeremiah Masoli, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Former Most Outstanding Players Mike Reilly and Bo Levi Mitchell have to play up to their past selves (we saw a lot of awards not go to Anthony Calvillo for the same reason), a burden that Masoli doesn’t yet have to bear. I see Masoli getting his first M.O.P. with another year of experience, a new coordinator, and a team that should win a lot of games.