MOP watch: McBeth leads Week 1 Most Outstanding Player rankings

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Think the Heisman watch, CFL style.

The CFL’s most prestigious individual award has its own unique designation: Most Outstanding Player. The race for the MOP is always intriguing.

This season, 3DownNation is going to be doing something a little different. Rather than stick to just mid-season projections and late season predictions, we’re going to take a look at the race to be named the CFL’s MOP every single week. The end result should be a fascinating look at how public perception changes throughout a season.

The 3Down trio of Justin Dunk, John Hodge and J.C. Abbott will be ranking their top ten MOP candidates at the end of every week this year and those rankings will be aggregated and averaged to create a list of the top nine players in the mix for the trophy.

Each player will have their “highest rank” listed beside their name, indicating the highest position at which they appeared on one of the three ballots.

Week 1 posed a fascinating challenge for the voters with only one game to judge on, but there was no debate as to who was at the front of the pack.

1. McLeod Bethel-Thompson, QB, Toronto Argonauts (highest rank: 1)

Bethel-Thompson might not have even been Toronto’s starter if not for an injury to free agent prize Nick Arbuckle, but no other player received a first place vote after Week 1.

Bethel-Thompson completed 26-of-37 pass attempts for 354 yards and two touchdowns while rushing four times for 24 yards. The 33-year-old journeyman outdueled Bo Levi Mitchell in the opener, handing the two-time MOP his first regular season loss to Toronto in his nine-year CFL career.

Photo courtesy: Ottawa Redblacks

2. Abdul Kanneh, DB, Ottawa Redblacks (highest rank: 2)

Solomon Elimimian remains the only pure defensive player to take home the MOP award, but Kanneh has an early leg up in the 2021 competition.

The hero of the 104th Grey Cup announced his return to Ottawa in a big way, leading the Redblacks defence to an improbable victory over the heavily-favoured Edmonton Elks. Kanneh recorded six tackles and two interceptions off Trevor Harris, including a 102-yard game-winning pick-six.

Photo courtesy: Canadian Football League

3. Brady Oliveira, RB, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (highest rank: 2)

Another player thrust into the starting lineup because of injury, fans instantly fell in love with Oliveira’s bruising play style and the 3Down voters couldn’t argue.

The local product helped propel Winnipeg to victory and finished the week as the CFL’s leading rusher, carrying 22 times for 126 yards while living out his childhood dream of starting for the Bombers.

Photo courtesy: Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards/Saskatchewan Roughriders

4. Cody Fajardo, QB, Saskatchewan Roughriders (highest rank: 4)

After two quarters of action, Fajardo looked like a runaway MOP favourite, but a slow second half drops him down to number four on our initial rankings.

After crying tears of joy in the tunnel pre-game, Fajardo led the Riders to a 31-9 halftime lead and held on for the win. He finished 28-of-35 for 230 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, with enough flashes of early brilliance to get him on this list.

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

5. James Wilder Jr., RB, Edmonton Elks (highest rank: 2)

The CFL’s leader in yards from scrimmage after one week, Wilder Jr. is fittingly right in the middle of the opening rankings after our voters varied widely over how to assess his performance.

The former Most Outstanding Rookie was highly productive, carrying 15 times for 89 yards and adding nine catches for 72 more, but the Elks offence proved ineffective with him as the focal point, managing only four field goals in a stunning loss to Ottawa.

Photo courtesy: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

6. Zach Collaros, QB, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (highest rank: 3)

Collaros’ brand of chaotic scrambling earned high marks from two of our voters but wasn’t enough to get on the ballot of the third, landing him at number six on this list.

That difference of opinion is rooted in some of Collaros’ own inconsistencies and weaknesses, but he dazzled at times in the Bombers’ opener. The results were a 64.3 percent completion percentage, but 217 yards through the air and two flashy touchdowns.

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

7. Mike Moore, DT, Edmonton Elks (highest rank: 5)

Edmonton may have lost to Ottawa, but their defence wasn’t the reason. Big Mike Moore was sensational in the middle, making mincemeat of the Redblacks’ offensive interior.

Already building off a breakout 2019, Moore pushed the pocket all day and notched three tackles and two big sacks. The 270-pound wrecking ball sits tied for the league lead in QB takedowns with teammate Kwaku Boateng.

Photo courtesy: BC Lions

8. Bryan Burnham, REC, B.C. Lions (highest rank: 8)

Bryan Burnham is fifth in receiving yards in the CFL after Week 1 and second on his own team, but his reputation for greatness still made him the top pass catcher on this list.

Burnham caught all seven balls thrown his way during the Lions’ loss in Regina, bailing out an injured Michael Reilly on more than one occasion and providing guidance to young Canadian Nathan Rourke. He finished with 92 yards despite the quarterback chaos surrounding him and added another highlight reel touchdown catch to his impressive portfolio.

Photo courtesy: Toronto Argonauts

9. Ricky Collins Jr., REC, Toronto Argonauts (highest rank: 6)

Only one voter had Ricky Collins Jr. on his top ten ballot, but he thought so highly of the receiver that he earned the final spot on this list thanks to the point total.

Not even listed as a starter on the depth chart, Collins was the Argos top target in an impressive victory over the Stampeders, catching six passes for 126 yards as the CFL’s number two receiver. His only blemish? A fumble forced from behind by DaShaun Amos on his 81-yard catch-and-run.

Also receiving votes: Derel Walker (EDM), Kwaku Boateng (EDM), Kamar Jorden (CGY), Lucky Whitehead (B.C.), Jaelon Acklin (HAM), Jeremiah Masoli (HAM), Nathan Rourke (BC)

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.