MOP Watch: Fajardo weathers bye while Collaros gains ground

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

There wasn’t enough CFL football to watch in Week 4 thanks to one Edmonton Elks’ fondness for massages, but while COVID can postpone games, it can’t stop the Most Outstanding Player race.

Every week of the 2021 season, the 3DownNation 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.

With three teams out of action, you’d expect more of a shake-up in our rankings. Not so, as our top ranked player kept his spot this week with his feet up on the couch.

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

He may have had a bye week and a belly full of corndogs, but Cody Fajardo is still our unanimous MOP leader for the third straight week.

Through three games, the apple of Rider Nation’s eye has thrown for 773 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception. That’s good enough for fourth in the league, but he’s pacing the field with a 78.9 completion percentage and 111.4 quarterback efficiency rating, while also rushing for 139 yards and two touchdowns.

Photo courtesy: CFL

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

The Blue Bombers got back in the win column in Week 4 and their prized quarterback was money on his final drive to set up Marc Liegghio’s game-winning field goal.

Collaros finished 16-of-25 for 243 yards against Calgary, a stat-line that would have been better if not for three awful drops from his receivers. He now sits second in the league with 956 passing yards and first with six passing touchdowns.

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

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

A COVID-19 outbreak forced the Edmonton Elks to isolate this week rather than take on the Argos, but the impromptu bye only dropped their workhorse back one spot in our rankings.

Wilder Jr. still leads the league with 301 rushing yards on 52 carries and has added 13 catches for 105 yards through the air. The only thing missing from his resume right now is a touchdown, something he’ll hope to add on Labour Day.

Photo courtesy: Steven Chang/B.C. Lions

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

Burnham is still second in receiving yardage in the CFL with 329, but the value of his body of work makes him the league’s best pass catcher in the eyes of our voters.

Burnham had six catches for 84 yards in B.C.’s Week 4 victory over Ottawa and keeps proving he has Velcro for hands. He’s been the CFL’s best deep threat as well, as his 17.3 yards per catch average is tops among receivers with more than five catches.

Photo courtesy: Paul Yates/B.C. Lions

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

He’s just behind his teammate on our list, but Lucky Whitehead is the top receiver in the CFL through four weeks. Put your hand up if you had that in your preseason predictions.

His breakout continued against the Redblacks, recording six catches for 64 yards. The speedster now has 339 yards on the year.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

6. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (last week: 6)

The Bombers pass rush didn’t get to rookie Jake Maier in Week 4, but Jeffcoat has been disruptive enough this season to stay put in the sixth spot on our list.

Jeffcoat’s four forced fumbles are double any other player in the league and he added two more tackles against Calgary for a total of eight on the season, all while sitting tied for second in the league with three sacks.

Photo courtesy: Steven Chang/B.C. Lions

7. Michael Reilly, QB, B.C. Lions (last week: unranked)

Michael Reilly’s season has been hot and cold through four weeks, but he makes his way back into the MOP race thanks to a strong outing against Ottawa.

The Lions didn’t need much to beat the Redblacks, but Reilly provided it with 301 yards passing and one touchdown, along with a score on the ground. His 974 yards passing leads the CFL, as do his three rushing touchdowns.

Photo courtesy: Dominick Gravel

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

The only player from the East Division to crack the rankings, William Stanback still has strong support from our voters despite a disappointing home-opening loss to the Ticats.

His quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. dropped out of the rankings thanks to the performance, but Stanback stays in after recording just 40 yards on 12 carries. He now has 234 yards and one touchdown through three games, good enough for third in the league.

Photo courtesy: B.C. Lions

9. Jordan Williams, LB, B.C. Lions (last week: unranked)

He’s currently the leading candidate for Most Outstanding Rookie and Most Outstanding Canadian, so why not add 2020 first overall draft pick Jordan Williams into the MOP conversation?

The athletic young linebacker has been everywhere on the field for the Lions this season and had another stellar performance against Ottawa, notching eight tackles and an impressive interception. He’s now tied for the league lead with 28 tackles to go along with the pick and one sack.

Also receiving votes: Jake Maier (CGY), Ka’Deem Carey (CGY), Vernon Adams Jr. (MTL — LW: 5), Nick Arbuckle (TOR)

Dropping out of the rankings: Willie Jefferson (WPG – LW: 8)

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.