3DownNation contributors fearlessly predict 2021 CFL award winners

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

3DownNation’s contributors have taken the plunge, predicting which CFL players will stand out the most over the next four months.

We’ve taken a fearless approach to these predictions, so be prepared for some bold takes. It’s been forever since any teams hit the field, so it makes sense to go big when it comes to prognosticating the 2021 season.

Our contributors predicted how the CFL standings would look in 2021 on Tuesday, so don’t forget to check out that article if you haven’t already.

John Hodge

Most Outstanding Player (MOP): QB Trevor Harris, EDM — With a new body and an elite arsenal around him, Harris should lead the league in passing.

Most Outstanding Defensive Player (MODP): DE Ja’Gared Davis, HAM — Willie Jefferson got all the attention last year, but Davis might be the best all-around defender in the CFL.

Most Outstanding Canadian (MOC): DE Kwaku Boateng, EDM — The former fifth-round draft pick continues his accent in the CFL’s defensive ranks, establishing himself as one of the league’s premier pass-rushers.

Breakout star: REC Hergy Mayala, CGY — Calgary’s American receivers are mediocre at best, which creates a prime opportunity for the second-year slotback to become Bo’s favourite target.

Grey Cup winner: Hamilton Tiger-Cats — Oskee Wee Wee, the drought is done.

JC Abbott

MOP: QB Trevor Harris, EDM — Inconsistency has been his downfall, but Harris has never lacked production. If he can’t be an MOP with these weapons, when will it ever happen? 

MODP: LB Jameer Thurman, CGY — The buzz around Thurman is palpable and the versatile linebacker is ready for a statement season after returning from the NFL and XFL.

MOC: REC Hergy Mayala, CGY — The Stampeders need someone to emerge in the receiving corps and the sophomore Canadian could be Bo Levi Mitchell’s No. 2 target.

Breakout star: DE Julian Howsare, HAM — After six sacks in 2019, the 28-year-old will take the next step and become more than just ‘that other guy’ in the Ticats’ pass rush.

Grey Cup winner: Hamilton Tiger-Cats — Come on, they can’t blow it again, can they?

Ryan Ballantine

MOP: QB Bo Levi Mitchell, CGY — A healthy Bo will return to prominence to win the third MOP award of his career.

MODP: LB Jameer Thurman, CGY – He was very underrated next to Alex Singleton in 2017-18, so it’s Thurman’s time to shine. 

MOC: K Lewis Ward, OTT — Has a kicker ever supplied more than 50 percent of a team’s total points? Ward might be close this year. 

Breakout star: REC Hergy Mayala, CGY — Mayala is set to take the spot in the offence that Nik Lewis, Marquay McDaniel, and Reggie Begelton dominated from.

Grey Cup winner: Calgary Stampeders — Did you honestly think I’d say anything else? In this COVID-19 delayed season, the best front office will produce the best team, and that is Hufnagel and Dickenson by a wide margin.

Santino Filoso

MOP: QB Bo Levi Mitchell, CGY — With no household names at receiver to lean on, Bo takes his game to the next level by spreading the ball around while orchestrating one of the league’s most dangerous offences.

MODP: LB Cory Greenwood, CGY — Greenwood set career-highs in 2019 despite only playing in 12 games. He’s long in the tooth but fully healthy and his experience will be a big reason why the Stamps remain atop the West.

MOC: RB Andrew Harris, WPG — Brad Sinopoli is retired and defensive players rarely get the love they deserve. That means the only thing stopping Harris from claiming this award is injuries or another positive PED test.

Breakout star: REC/KR DeVonte Dedmon, OTT — Under Bob Dyce’s tutelage, Dedmon becomes a game-breaking returner.

Grey Cup winner: Calgary Stampeders — As the world gets back to normal, the Stamps remind everyone why their franchise is the gold standard.

Joel Gasson

MOP: QB Vernon Adams Jr., MTL — The second-year starter builds off a very fun 2019, as the resurgence of the Alouettes continues. 

MODP: DE Ja’Gared Davis, HAM — Voters love splashy numbers and Davis could put up some wet ones with Hamilton this year.

MOC: LB Cory Greenwood, CGY — Greenwood will be in the mix for MODP but settles for top Canadian. 

Breakout star: OL Logan Ferland, SSK — Can an offensive lineman be a breakout star? Maybe if they’re from Saskatchewan and play for the Riders. There’s a lot of hype about the former member of the Regina Thunder.

Grey Cup winner: Montreal Alouettes — I probably should pick Hamilton, but we’re supposed to be fearless. I’m running with Vernon Adams Jr. this year.

Jonathan Hudson

MOP: QB Bo Levi Mitchell, CGY — Usually 14 games is when the early favourite loses steam and gets overtaken by the ultimate MOP winner. A healthy Mitchell has made it a habit to have dynamite starts throughout his career.

MODP: DE Ja’Gared Davis, HAM — As I called him in Calgary: Charleston Hughes 2.0. The East will have some struggling offences and a short season will let the top pass-rushers feast on opposing QBs.

MOC: DE Kwaku Boateng, EDM — With no pre-season games and irregular camps, expect a veteran to take this trophy. As the Elks’ team MODP nominee in 2019, Boateng has a great opportunity to supplant Almondo Sewell as the team’s No. 1 defensive lineman.

Breakout star: REC Hergy Mayala, CGY — Calgary was leaning on Mayala as a breakout player in 2019. After demonstrating smart field awareness and good hands, expect his targets in red zone and production to rise.

Grey Cup winner: Hamilton Tiger-Cats — The hometown hosts have the best path to the Grey Cup. They largely returned their staff and key roster pieces and have a weak division for a playoff path and will be able to host the East Final.

Mike Ludwig

MOP: QB Trevor Harris, EDM — Great receivers, great running backs, great offensive line, great offensive coach… great quarterback! Team success will earn the last few votes for the perfect team player.

MODP: DE Ja’Gared Davis, HAM — The elite pressure-generator stands out of a stacked group.

MOC: REC Hergy Mayala, CGY — Calgary has a lot of uncertainty at receiver. Can Mayala carry his late-2019 excellence forward with a target increase?

Breakout star: DE Mathieu Betts, EDM — If teams focus on Boateng on the other side — plus Mike Moore and Jake Ceresna in the middle — Betts will still be there to cause mayhem.

Grey Cup winner: Hamilton Tiger-Cats — They’re the best team. Take heart that the rest of the league still has a combined 75-80 percent chance of winning instead.

Brendan McGuire

MOP: DE Willie Jefferson, WPG — With offences slow out of the gate, a defensive player will finally stand out enough to get his due.

MODP: DE Willie Jefferson, WPG — He can’t win the MOP and not win this one, can he?

MOC: LB Cory Greenwood, CGY — The veteran will lead a defence aided by an offence hitting its stride.

Breakout star: REC Paul McRoberts, SSK — His head coach, Craig Dickenson, has raved about his efforts in training camp. He’s fought his way through practice rosters since 2016 and doesn’t give up easily.

Grey Cup winner: Hamilton Tiger-Cats — They’ve been sitting around stewing over the sour taste from their last game for 20 months. Expect them to get it done in 2021.

Josh Smith

MOP: QB Jeremiah Masoli, HAM — If the Ticats go undefeated like I think they can, Masoli is the unanimous winner.

MODP: LB Simoni Lawrence, HAM — The gregarious tackler will be the face of a great Ticats’ defence.

MOC: DE Kwaku Boateng, EDM — The veteran edge rusher will have a monster year and finish top-five league-wide in sacks.

Breakout star: RB Sean Thomas-Erlington, HAM — He was on the cusp of something special in 2019 before an injury ended his season in Week 4. He is a multi-faceted weapon who Tommy Condell will use in multiple ways.

Grey Cup winner: Hamilton Tiger-Cats — The first Grey Cup in the Hammer in a quarter century ends with the home team exorcising over two decades worth of demons.

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.