Eleven CFL players who could win Most Outstanding Rookie

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

The midway point of the 2021 CFL season is upon us, which means it’s time to take a look at eleven players who are on track to potentially win Most Outstanding Rookie.

It should be noted that players who have dressed for meaningful NFL games are deemed ineligible to win this award, which rules out players like Hamilton receiver Tim White, B.C. defensive lineman Obum Gwacham, Calgary linebacker Darnell Sankey, Edmonton linebacker Keishawn Bierria, Saskatchewan defensive lineman Jonathan Woodard, Montreal linebacker Ahmad Thomas, Saskatchewan defensive back A.J. Hendy, and Winnipeg defensive back Deatrick Nichols.

Players are listed in alphabetical order by last name along with a few honourable mentions. Who do you think should win Most Outstanding Rookie this season? Let us know on Twitter.

DB DeAundre Alford, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The 23-year-old had one of the best performances of the season by a defensive back in Week 7, holding Derel Walker to a season-low two receptions on nine targets while intercepting two passes. The cornerback has officially put the rest of the league on notice: throw to the boundary at your own peril.

DL Tim Bonner, B.C. Lions

The native of Demopolis, Alabama has been ultra-productive in four starts this season, making ten defensive tackles, four sacks, and one forced fumble. The Lions completely overhauled their defensive line during the extended off-season and Bonner is one of the best players their scouting department uncovered.

REC Ryan Davis, Ottawa Redblacks

The Auburn product has been one of few bright spots this year in the nation’s capital, recording 27 receptions for 258 yards and a touchdown. Paul LaPolice has done a nice of job of getting the ball to Davis is a number of different ways, also supplying him with seven carries, six punt returns, and 13 kickoff returns.

REC KiAnte Hardin, B.C. Lions

The Pittsburgh State product has started seven games at field-side halfback this season and has helped establish B.C.’s secondary as arguably the league’s best. He has made 29 total tackles and two interceptions, which is tied for first on the team among defensive backs.

DL Garrett Marino, Saskatchewan Roughriders

He was recently added to the six-game injured list, but the Alabama-Birmingham product was disruptive in the middle early in the season, making nine tackles and three sacks. If he’s able to return to the lineup before the postseason, Marino could be a difference-maker later in the year for the Riders.

LB Nyles Morgan, Edmonton Elks

The Notre Dame product won the weak-side linebacker job in training camp and has performed consistently since, making 30 total tackles, one sack, and one fumble recovery. Edmonton allows the second-fewest rushing yards per game league-wide, which should go over well with voters.

OL Peter Nicastro, Toronto Argonauts

The 2021 CFL Draft first-round pick has been versatile for the Argos, starting four games at left guard before making the move to centre. He had a rough outing against Hamilton in the Labour Day Classic, but remains one of the league’s best young blockers with a lot of upside.

DL Shawn Oakman, Toronto Argonauts

The embattled 29-year-old appears to have finally hit his stride after reaching the CFL, making 19 tackles and four sacks with the Double Blue. Not many six-foot-nine, 287-pound defenders have the versatility to rush from the interior or off the edge, but this Baylor product can do exactly that.

QB Nathan Rourke, B.C. Lions

The native of Victoria made a surprise start in Week 1 for B.C. and has played pretty well when called upon, completing 10-of-18 passes for 194 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. We’d like to see Rourke get more involved in the run game, for which he’s contributed three carries for 28 yards.

REC Kian Schaffer-Baker, Saskatchewan Roughriders (N)

The Guelph product is quickly establishing himself as the steal of the 2021 CFL Draft, recording 24 receptions for 293 yards and one touchdown in just five starts. Featuring a rare combination of size, speed, route-running ability, and ball skills, Schaffer-Baker is a budding star in Rider Nation.

LB Jordan Williams, B.C. Lions (N)

The No. 1 overall selection of the 2020 CFL Draft has started every game at middle linebacker this season, recording 52 total tackles, one sack, one interception, and one fumble recovery. Williams is the first national player to lead the CFL in tackles since 2018 when Alex Singleton was named a league all-star.

Honourable mentions: DL Mason Bennett, Hamilton Tiger-Cats; K David Côté, Montreal Alouettes; LB Nick Cross, Hamilton Tiger-Cats; DB Jalon Edwards-Cooper, B.C. Lions; OL Logan Ferland, Saskatchewan Roughriders; P Cody Grace, Calgary Stampeders; LB Grant McDonald, Edmonton Elks.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.