MOP Watch: Voters catch Fajardo fever in Week 2

There has been little predictable about the CFL season thus far.

Scoring is at a decade low, Calgary is winless, the Ticats look disheveled, an offence with Derel Walker and Greg Ellingson can’t score points, and people still can’t believe Ottawa has a win.

But no matter what happens in the standings, there will always be fresh candidates for the Most Outstanding Player Award and 3DownNation will always be there to rank them.

Every week of the 2021 season, the 3Down trio of Justin Dunk, John Hodge and J.C. Abbott will vote for their top ten MOP candidates. Those rankings are aggregated and averaged to create a list of the top nine players in the mix for the trophy.

Starting this week, each player will have their “last week” ranking listed beside their name, indicating the position that they held on the list the previous week.

As was to be expected early in the season, there were plenty of changes between the Week 1 season openers and Week 2 encores as players continue to find their footing. That means a new quarterback on top of the rankings and perhaps a few less angry Rider fans in our DMs.

1. Cody Fajardo, QB, Saskatchewan Roughriders (last week: 4)

There wasn’t a lot of consensus on the voters’ ballots this week, but one thing everyone could agree on is that Fajardo is looking like the CFL’s best player right now. Maybe now Rider Nation will finally be happy with us.

Through two weeks, Fajardo sits just fifth in passing yardage, but he’s tied for first in passing touchdowns and averaging 7.7 yards per carry as a runner. He was electric in Week 2, throwing for 222 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Hamilton, while rushing for 66 yards and another score.

Photo courtesy: CFL

2. Zach Collaros, QB, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (last week: 6)

Winnipeg continues to look like a well-oiled machine in 2021 and Collaros is a big reason why. Tied with Fajardo at four passing touchdowns, the Grey Cup champ has almost 60 more yards in the air through two weeks than his prairie rival.

With his normally dominant run game stalled against Toronto, Collaros showed he could carry the load in Week 2. He finished 32-of-40 for 292 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a commanding victory.

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

3. Vernon Adams Jr., QB, Montreal Alouettes (last week: not ranked)

Playing his first game after a Week 1 bye, Vernon Adams Jr. had to do a lot to beat out players with two games under their belt for this spot. One of our voters left the Montreal quarterback off his ballot entirely, but the other two were left so impressed that he still secured the number three spot on total points.

Adams Jr. was in his classic form against Edmonton, helping produce some of the best highlights of Week 2. He completed 13-of-21 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns, while flashing some impressive athleticism along with 29 yards on the ground.

Photo courtesy: BC Lions

4. Bryan Burnham, REC, B.C. Lions (last week: 8)

While reigning MOP Brandon Banks has had a subpar start to the 2021 season, the man who finished behind him in the 2019 receiving race has picked up right where he left off.

Bryan Burnham has caught 11-of-12 balls thrown his way over the last two weeks, racking up 213 yards receiving and one touchdown. He was as good as ever against Calgary in Week 2, posting 121 yards through the air, including a spectacular 61-yard bomb to kickstart his team’s first victory.

Photo courtesy: B.C. Lions

5. Lucky Whitehead, REC, B.C. Lions (last week: not ranked)

While Bryan Burnham ranked higher in the eyes of our voters, his Lions teammate Lucky Whitehead is the one actually leading the CFL in receiving yards with 244 and a touchdown in two appearances.

Whitehead continued to prove he’ll be a focal point for the Lions offence this season in Week 2, catching all six passes tossed his way against Calgary and amassing 108 yards receiving.

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

6. William Stanback, RB, Montreal Alouettes (last week: not ranked)

This time last year, Stanback was in Las Vegas Raiders training camp, only to be released after both his parents passed in the span of just 10 days. His return to the gridiron was a triumphant one.

Stanback carried 18 times for 112 yards against the Edmonton Elks, helping grind out a season-opening victory. Two drops prove the powerhouse back left yardage on the field and that should scare opponents.

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

7. James Wilder Jr., RB, Edmonton Elks (last week: 5)

Nothing has gone right for the Edmonton Elks in 2021, but the green and gold can still rely on James Wilder Jr. to churn out yardage. The recently unretired running back is the CFL’s leading rusher with 174 yards in two games and is second in the league with 246 total yards.

With quarterback Trevor Harris struggling, Wilder was still productive with 85 yards on the ground against Montreal, but saw his role diminish as the game went on. Unlike Week 1 — where he recorded 72 yards receiving –, the former Most Outstanding Rookie didn’t have a single catch and fell accordingly in the eyes of voters.

Photo courtesy: CFL

8. Michael Reilly, QB, B.C. Lions (last week: not ranked)

The Michael Reilly injury situation has proved a headache for CFL bettors, but those who placed wagers on him to win MOP are pretty happy after Week 2. After looking incapable of throwing in the season opener, Reilly was exquisite in the pocket against Calgary, going 26-of-33 passing for 342 yards and punching in a score on the ground.

Fans can now trust his elbow and the touchdowns will soon follow, as the Leos quarterback is second in the league with 545 yards passing despite playing little more than five-and-a-half quarters of football.

Photo courtesy: Ottawa Redblacks

9. Abdul Kanneh, DB, Ottawa Redblacks (last week: 2)

A Week 2 bye meant some voters forgot about Kanneh and the Redblacks, but he still managed to slip onto this list in the final spot as the lone defensive player.

Kanneh was a star in a shocking defeat of Edmonton in Week 1, recording six tackles and two interceptions off Trevor Harris, including a 102-yard game-winning pick-six.

Also receiving votes: Willie Jefferson (WPG), Kenny Lawler (WPG), AC Leonard (SSK), Brady Oliveira (WPG – LW: 3), Jonathan Woodard (SSK), Mario Alford (MTL)

Dropping out of the rankings: McLeod Bethel-Thompson (TOR – LW: 1), Mike Moore (EDM – LW: 7), Ricky Collins Jr. (TOR – LW: 9)

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