They say the CFL season doesn’t start until Labour Day and the same is true of the MOP race.
As rivals clashed, contenders made big statements and the result was a new set of rankings that had plenty of movement up and down the board.
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.
This week, there is new player atop the list and it happened in typical Labour Day fashion. One rival quarterback leap-frogged the other, with a chance for redemption just a few days away.
1. Zach Collaros, QB, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (last week: 2)
Collaros didn’t just walk into Mosaic and knock off the undefeated Riders on Labour Day weekend. He also outplayed the MOP frontrunner on the other sideline and claimed his spot on top of our rankings.
The Bombers’ star passer was 19-of-27 for 245 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while rushing for 31 yards on Sunday. His MOP resume is based more on consistency than it is defining moments, but Collaros is still second in the CFL in both passing yards and passing touchdowns.
2. Cody Fajardo, QB, Saskatchewan Roughriders (last week: 1)
After three straight weeks as our unanimous MOP favourite, Fajardo finally turned in his first stinker. While he was a respectable 23-of-39 for 211 yards, three interceptions helped prove the Bombers are Fajardo’s kryptonite. Another late pass off the uprights simply added insult to injury.
That still only caused the popular Riders’ starter to drop one spot in our rankings, as he remains third in the CFL in passing and is still a top ten rushing threat in the league.
3. James Wilder Jr., RB, Edmonton Elks (last week: 3)
Wilder Jr. played primarily the role of decoy in the Labour Day classic, but two big plays in the fourth quarter in Calgary ensured the workhorse back wouldn’t slip at all in our rankings.
He opened the final frame by leaking out of the backfield for his first touchdown of the season, which proved to be the winner. Then he dragged half the Calgary defence on a 29-yard run to set up the final score, sucking all life out of McMahon Stadium. Wilder Jr. also maintained his rushing crown through five weeks, adding 12 carries for 65 yards and four receptions for 16 more and a score.
4. Willie Jefferson, DE, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (last week: not ranked)
An odd player to assess this season, the reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player has been disruptive without lots of production. As a result, he’s fallen in and out of these rankings weekly. This week, there was no question whether he should appear.
Jefferson promised to bring more heat than the Riders could handle and it proved to be the best called shot since Babe Ruth. The Bombers’ defensive line ate and Jefferson had three tackles and a sack in the performance.
5. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (last week: 6)
The symbiotic relationship between the Bombers’ fearsome defensive ends has been a nightmare for offences all season and it was too much for Fajardo to handle. While Jefferson edged him in a tiebreak this week, Jeffcoat has arguably been the more consistent of the pair.
He had two tackles and a sack against the Riders, now sitting second in the league with four on the season. He also has four forced fumbles, double the next closest player in the league.
6. Bryan Burnham, REC, B.C. Lions (last week: 4)
A bye week meant that Burnham dropped to sixth in CFL receiving yards, but he’s still the pass catcher our voters feel is most likely to claim the MOP title.
Through four games, Burnham has 19 catches for 329 yards. Only Eugene Lewis has fewer catches among the league’s top ten receivers, but Burnham has had far and away the fewest targets among that group with just 22. He continues to catch most anything thrown his way.
7. Trevor Harris, QB, Edmonton Elks (last week: not ranked)
Two dreadful performances to open the season meant that the league’s leader in passing yards had never received an MOP vote before this week, but that had to change after Harris picked apart the Stampeders on Labour Day.
Playing angry after two weeks of COVID controversy, Harris was 31-of-41 for 398 yards and four touchdowns in front of a hostile crowd. The result was Edmonton’s first Labour Day win since 2011 and Harris’ first ever victory over the Stampeders.
8. Jake Wieneke, REC, Montreal Alouettes (last week: not ranked)
They call him ‘Touchdown Jake’ for a reason and Wieneke showed it again in Week 5, catching seven passes for 118 yards and two scores in an Alouettes’ offensive explosion against Ottawa.
Montreal’s top target through four games, Wieneke is now tied for the CFL lead in touchdowns with Calgary running back Ka’Deem Carey. Both have four a piece and Wieneke is already halfway to the numbers that saw him named the Als’ Most Outstanding Rookie in 2019.
9. Frankie Williams, DB/KR, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (last week: not ranked)
Special teams is integral to the CFL game and when you play it like Williams does, it can get you in the MOP conversation.
The reigning Most Outstanding Special Teams Player was coming off a week where he was named the league’s top performer, then followed it up with a back-breaking punt return touchdown in the Labour Day Classic.
Williams has been a force on defence as well as the return game. He has 11 tackles and an interception to go with 303 punt return yards and 269 more on kick-offs.
Also receiving votes: William Stanback (MTL — LW: 8), Vernon Adams Jr. (MTL), Kenny Lawler (WPG), Michael Reilly (BC — LW: 7), Lucky Whitehead (BC — LW: 5), Andrew Harris (WPG)
Dropping out of the rankings: Jordan Williams (BC — LW: 9)