Ranking CFL receivers can be a difficult task, so tiering them makes much more sense.
In general I prefer tiers to hard and fast rankings because there are often clusters that are difficult to pick between – the top tier, for example, contains three brilliantly unique players. But I will choose one receiver from each group that I’m particularly high on and one that is at the bottom of the group.
This is an exercise to celebrate the fantastic talent in the Canadian game, but before I say anything else I want to be clear: yes, I personally hate your favourite player and their team. In all seriousness, tell me in comments who you have higher or lower.
Other general rules: players who have been around a while will naturally get some credit for historical work, assuming reason to believe they can keep doing it. Some players are trending upwards with experience, some downwards with age. If you think I’m missing someone, it’s probably because they only have about ten or fewer targets in 2019. And importantly, players are listed alphabetically within tiers, because otherwise they wouldn’t really be tiers.
Without further ado…
Brandon Banks, Bryan Burnham, Derel Walker
You don’t have a guy (outside of these three) who you wouldn’t trade for one of them.
High: I love Dee Sky, but for this group it’s Burnham. He has virtually no supporting cast and now when he finally gets a star quarterback the team takes a nosedive. I think he’s the most well-rounded pass catcher in the league.
Low: Borderline unfair to try so instead I’ll passive-aggressively wonder about Banks’ aging curve, since his quickness is obviously his best asset.
Reggie Begelton, Greg Ellingson, Kamar Jorden
You can count on them to do the darn thing. Probable all-star if they play a full season.
High: I liked Begelton before it was cool. With Jorden’s injury, he’s had and made the most of an opportunity to shine. He’s extremely close to cracking the top group and the way he’s playing definitely will before the end of the season.
Low: Man, I have to point out Ellingson. He has three games with three catches for 20-something yards to go with his pair of 170-and-two-TD games, although that’s not atypical of Edmonton’s offence. Still well on his way to a fifth straight 1,000-yard season, which is a rare accomplishment.
Fringe No. 1’s
Darvin Adams, Bralon Addison, B.J. Cunningham, DaVaris Daniels, Shaq Evans, Jordan Williams-Lambert
Alone they can struggle to carry the team (see: Adams, Darvin, for whom this tier was made) but with a bit of support, they can take over a game. A mix of established veterans and younger guys rapidly earning star status.
High: I like all of these guys a ton, but I’ll say B.J. Cunningham because it’s one of life’s great sorrows that we may never see him play with a proper quarterback. Williams-Lambert is a late addition that I thought had a tremendous rookie season in Saskatchewan’s underwhelming 2018 offence and now with some NFL experience should be even better.
Low: Very similar to Cunningham, I really wish for Adams’ sake that Winnipeg could find another solid No. 2 or higher beyond 31-year-old Weston Dressler. He’s had excellent stretches, but not consistently enough to be remembered outside Winnipeg as a league-wide star.
Solid No. 2’s
Ricky Collins Jr., R.J. Harris, Kyran Moore, Eric Rogers, Brad Sinopoli, Luke Tasker
Love to have them. They’re the best kind of complementary pieces. Capable of posting a 100-yard game on any night, but not every night. Also capable of sneaking onto an all-star ballot.
High: Kyran Moore, who I firmly consider drastically underutilized in Saskatchewan. Can you believe he only turns 23 this September? He’s in this tier because of his high ceiling, so a bit more of a forecast than what he’s produced so far. Honourable mention to personal favourite R.J. Harris, languishing in Ottawa thanks to the environment trifecta: quarterback, supporting cast, offensive co-ordinator.
Low: Rogers has this grand reputation, but he hasn’t… done much? He single-handedly KO’d B.C. in the fourth quarter but otherwise, surprisingly nothing special.
Capable No. 3 and 4’s
Lemar Durant, Armanti Edwards, S.J. Green, Chris Matthews, DeVier Posey, Dominique Rhymes, Naaman Roosevelt, Kenny Stafford, Lucky Whitehead
Don’t expect too much from them and they won’t let you down. Still have the ability to steal a game single-handedly, but just as likely to disappear on a given night.
High: Roosevelt’s tenure as a star wasn’t long, but he was a treat to watch. In the tail end of his career, but not done just yet.
Low: I never quite got the Matthews signing hype, 2018 or 2019. He’s done some great things in his career and suffered in Winnipeg’s pass-light program, but it seems that much like Eric Rogers his first CFL stint was his best.
Canadian Depth I
Natey Adjei, Juwan Brescacin, Anthony Coombs, Nic Demski, Tevaun Smith, Cory Watson, Drew Wolitarsky
Aside from Sinopoli and maybe Durant there isn’t really a standout Canadian pass catcher, but these guys are there for more than just the ratio.
High: Adjei is well above average for a national receiver and has at last earned a bigger role with the 2019 Esks. He’s got my vote for the No. 3 Canadian pass catcher.
Low: Demski is 25 years old and in his fifth CFL season. He might well be the best overall player of the tier but Winnipeg’s offence makes it so hard to get a read on guys that as a receiver he’s firmly lodged in ‘depth’ status. Paul LaPolice’s style isn’t easy to relate to when you’ve spent so much time watching Edmonton.
Jaelon Acklin, Quan Bray, Kenny Lawler, Eugene Lewis, Noel Thomas Jr., Jake Wieneke
Younger guys who have already flashed some excellence, but for the time being live mostly in a four or five spot until they earn a grander role.
High: Acklin has forced his way into a legitimate role in Hamilton’s offence with a fantastic 33 catches on 40 targets. And Geno Lewis is another one of those guys who I really want to see with a more reliable quarterback.
Low: It’s hard to pick on their faults when they all suffer from quarterback turmoil, so I’ll note that Wieneke best exhibits a typical young player phenomenon: seven games under 30 yards and now three straight over 40.
Canadian Depth II (a.k.a. ‘3 for 30’s’)
Nate Behar, Shaq Johnson, Mike Jones, Llevi Noel, Jimmy Ralph
Seems like 90 percent of the time they have a stat line of three catches for 25 to 30 yards, although most of them have shown the ability to do more. Some of the guys in the ‘I’ tier average almost exactly three for thirty but have much higher single-game ceilings.
High: Shaq Johnson has long seemed on the verge of great things but gets shunted to the lonely island that is field-side wideout far too often.
Low: His season is partly a product of being the token Canadian in a very deep receiving core, but Mike Jones has fallen off the map after a standout 2018 with a similar group around him.
Markeith Ambles, Manny Arceneaux, Duron Carter, Kevin Elliott, Caleb Holley, Josh Huff, Rodney Smith, Marcus Tucker
If your team signs one in free agency, you might nod and say ‘cool’, then scratch your chin a bit trying to remember who they played for last year. Wide range from “hey man that guy’s really good!” to “isn’t he in the NBA?”
High: Siphoning a few of Green’s targets towards Rodney Smith seems like it would be a solid investment for Toronto. Arguably deserves to be in a higher tier.
Low: A monster for years in B.C. but struggling to gain traction in Saskatchewan, ‘The Manny Show’ isn’t a fit for primetime anymore. Could form a band with Green and Roosevelt called ‘The Stars of Yesterday’.
Canadian Depth III
Jevon Cottoy, Michael Klukas, Hergy Mayala, Justin McInnis, Daniel Petermann, Richard Sindani
Every time they make a play you notice it, because it doesn’t happen super often. Early stage of their career means hoping for a long niche career with potential for more.
High: Petermann’s a guy I wish my team drafted, but the cards didn’t come down right. Feels like a Sinopoli-Dressler hybrid, but obviously at a very young and unproven stage.
Low: I’d like to take this moment to acknowledge grizzled soldiers like Julian Feoli-Gudino and Calvin McCarty and all those nationals before them who carved out 8, 10, 12 year careers and were anchors in their respective colours.