MOP Watch: Celebratory corn dogs keep Fajardo on top

Photo courtesy: Cody Fajardo (@CodyFajardo17)

With just one undefeated team left standing, Week 3 of the CFL season somehow made the balance of power in the league even less clear than it was before.

However, one thing that is coming into focus is which players’ hot starts will make them early favourites in the Most Outstanding Player race.

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.

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

That number didn’t change for our top ranked player, as he was the unanimous choice for the second straight week.

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

Corn dogs and Cherry Coke aren’t generally the things you associate with athletic dominance, but after keeping the Riders undefeated, Fajardo can eat and drink whatever he wants.

Fajardo was 30-of-35 for 321 yards passing in Saskatchewan’s win over Ottawa and added 47 yards and one score on the ground. That places him second in the league for passing yards through three games and seventh in rushing, but more importantly is Fajardo has the Riders alone atop the CFL.

Photo courtesy: B.C. Lions

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

Rocketing six spots up the list from last week, Wilder Jr. leads the CFL in rushing by more than 100 yards and looks like the dominant force he was during his rookie year.

Wilder Jr. helped power the Elks to their first win of the season against the B.C. Lions, rushing for 127 yards on 22 carries and ramming it down the home team’s throat for a game-clinching final drive. He now leads the league with 406 yards from scrimmage, though that might soon change with Edmonton’s Week 4 game postponed due to a COVID outbreak.

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym

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

A loss to the Argonauts knocked the Bombers out of first place in the West, but it only dropped their quarterback one spot in the eyes of our voters.

Collaros was a rather pedestrian 18-of-33 for 204 yards with two touchdowns and one interception against Toronto, but his six touchdowns so far this season is top among quarterbacks and he is now third in yardage.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

4. William Stanback, RB, Montreal Alouettes (last week: 6)

The Alouettes came up short against Calgary, but it did little to slow Stanback’s impressive start to the 2021 season.

The physical runner had 82 yards and one touchdown against Calgary, impressive for a team that was playing from behind all second half. He’s now second in league rushing with 194 yards, despite having played one fewer game than the next four running backs behind him.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

5. Vernon Adams Jr., QB, Montreal Alouettes (last week: 3)

Win or lose, you can probably hold Vernon Adams Jr. responsible in Montreal and the quarterback showed his worst and best against Calgary.

Adams Jr. played some truly bad football for stretches against the Stampeders, but he still finished 20-of-42 for 261 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, while adding 65 more rushing yards. His early mistakes cost his team and yet some second half heroics still had him completing a pass just one-yard short of a game-winning touchdown.

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym

6. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (last week: not ranked)

The Blue Bombers lost to Toronto in Week 3, but they might not have even been in the game if not for Jackson Jeffcoat.

Viewed as the Robin to Willie Jefferson’s Batman, Jeffcoat has been the more productive of the two this season. He flew off the edge for two sacks in Toronto and forced two fumbles, one of which resulted in a Jesse Briggs scoop-and-score. That brings him up to three on the year in both categories.

Photo courtesy: Paul Yates/B.C. Lions

7. Lucky Whitehead, REC, B.C. Lions (last week: 5)

The absence of both starting tackles made Week 3 a particularly difficult one for the Lions’ passing offence, but Lucky Whitehead is still a legitimate MOP dark horse.

He was held to just four catches for 31 yards in a loss to the Elks, however Whitehead remains the league leader in receiving yards with 275 and is also tied for the most receptions of over 30 yards with three.

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym

8. Willie Jefferson, DE, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (last week: not ranked)

A somewhat controversial choice given his statistical production, only one voter had Jefferson on his ballot this week. He just happened to have him as his second overall player, ensuring the reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player a spot based on point total.

Save for a Week 1 interception, Jefferson has been quiet this year — at least on the box score — but he’s opened up chances for others on that Winnipeg front. He finally got some of his own in the loss to Toronto, recording two tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble.

Photo courtesy: BC Lions

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

Burnham almost dropped out of the top nine this week, but he won a tiebreaker over Saskatchewan defensive end Jonathan Woodard to stay in the rankings. Burnham appeared on every ballot, while Woodard did not.

Burnham only had two catches for 32 yards in a loss to Edmonton, but one of those was another vintage highlight reel snag that made the plays of the week. He sits second in receiving yards with 245 through three weeks.

Also receiving votes: Jonathan Woodard (SSK), Kenny Lawler (WPG), Michael Reilly (BC – LW: 8), AC Leonard (SSK), Nick Arbuckle (TOR), Greg Ellingson (EDM)

Dropping out of the rankings: Abdul Kanneh (OTT – LW: 9)

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.