In a year full of surprises in Saskatchewan, the Riders’ nominees for player awards were surprisingly easy to predict.
The CFL released the list of nominees from across the league this week and, for the most part, the names were more or less what we expected. My colleagues on this site will have everyone else covered. So, let’s get into the names in Saskatchewan.
For the record, I did not have a vote.
Most Outstanding Player – Cody Fajardo
Fajardo was one of four unanimous selections by the local panel of voters and it was fully deserved.
It wasn’t that long ago that I remained unconvinced Fajardo should be the team’s slam dunk nominee, but his continued performance (ie. leading the league in passing) made it the obvious one. Completing yet another game-winning drive against Edmonton was the icing on the cake.
Chance of winning: 50%
Fajardo could very well end up being the West nominee at the CFL awards but will probably lose out to Brandon Banks.
Honourable mentions: William Powell, Shaq Evans
Most Outstanding Defensive Player – Charleston Hughes
Hughes ends up with the award, but not everyone agreed and that’s good.
If this award was handed out mid-season, Hughes would have been a slam dunk. Once again this year, Hughes’ sack totals slowed down in the back half of the season. His nomination speaks more to the balance of the defence than the play of any one individual. I would have voted for Judge.
Chance of winning: 20%
Hughes will be hard-pressed to get out of the West with likes of Tre Roberson and Willie Jefferson on the ballot.
Honourable mentions: Cameron Judge, L.J. McCray
Most Outstanding Canadian – Cameron Judge
There isn’t much to say here — this was the obvious selection and the panel agreed as his vote was unanimous. Judge has been all kinds of good for the Riders this year and it seems the sky is the limit for the former first-round pick.
Chance of winning: 40%
I think Judge should be the western nominee, but he isn’t that well-known outside of Saskatchewan. That could hurt Judge here.
Honourable mentions: Dan Clark, Mike Edem
Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman – Dan Clark
It was a breakthrough season of sorts for Clark. The team was without the guy who usually wins this nomination — Brendon LaBatte — for most of the season and the offensive line performed very well in his absence, something that doesn’t usually happen. Clark played a big part in that. The fact that his best season came following a car crash that could have ended his career is even more remarkable.
Chance of winning: 25%
It’s really hard to say — this award is about longevity and reputation more than any other.
Honourable mention: Thaddeus Coleman, Dakoda Shepley
Most Outstanding Special Teams Player – Jon Ryan
There’s no question that this was the most interesting nomination for the team. Everyone else seemed fairly straight forward or there was just a couple of options.
For the Riders, a lack of options define their special teams. The units have been fine, but nothing has really stood out as outstanding. The return game dried up after a strong start to the season, Brett Lauther has been good but his drop from an out-of-this-world 2018 is hard to vote for.
Then there’s Ryan. Yes, he leads the league in punting average, but there’s been a lot of rouges (some unforced) and his directional punting still leaves a lot to be desired.
Chances of winning: 10%
Not really that confident here. Ryan can do no wrong in the eyes of some in Saskatchewan, but don’t think the rest of the country will feel the same.
Honourable Mention: Alexandre Gagne
Most Outstanding Rookie – Dakoda Shepley
This might be the only nomination more obvious than Judge. Shepley wins this for the Riders in a lot of years, but there was no competition in 2019.
Chance of winning: 25%
An offensive lineman won’t wow anyone with numbers, so it’s a long shot. He’s certainly deserving though.
Honourable mention: N/A
Coach of the Year
Obviously, these nominees don’t come out until later but Craig Dickenson should be one of the three final nominees, likely up against Orlondo Steinauer and Khari Jones.
As a first year head coach, Dickenson has the Riders in the driver’s seat to host the West Final, something that doesn’t happen often around here.
Chance of winning: 50%
The vote breakdown on this should be interesting as Jones and Steinauer may split some votes out east. There’s no wrong answer here, though Steinauer would probably get my vote.