MOP Watch: Lucky races to top spot as season reaches midway point

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.

As the CFL season reaches its midway point, the MOP candidates are well-established and Week 8 featured the fewest players on a ballot of any vote this season. But a shake-up at the top has a new front-runner in position, one who is particularly qualified for a sprint to the finish.

1. Lucky Whitehead, REC, B.C. Lions (last week: 3)

Lucky is just too fast and right now he looks like the best receiver in the CFL. With 665 yards receiving on the year, Whitehead is pacing the league in that category by 126 yards and he also leads by 114 in most yards after catch. His big play ability led to two more touchdowns last week and his fourth 100-yard outing, leaving our voters unperturbed by a muffed punt and late fumble.

Photo courtesy: George Fourlaris/Edmonton Elks

2. Zach Collaros, QB, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (last week: 1)

You might criticism Zach Collaros for a lack of signature MOP performances, but it is his incredible consistency that makes Winnipeg the best team in the CFL. Without a 300-yard game to his credit, Collaros hasn’t dipped below 200 yards either and that places him both second in passing yards and tied for first with ten touchdowns.

Photo courtesy: CFL

3. Willie Jefferson, DE, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (last week: 2)

Willie Jefferson has finally hit his stride, racking up four sacks and two forced fumbles in the last three games. With five QB takedowns on the season thus far and a bye week in Week 8, the question everyone in the league is asking themselves is just how much more dominant Jefferson can be down the stretch?

Photo courtesy: CFL/Darryl Dyck

4. Michael Reilly, QB, B.C. Lions (last week: 4)

As of Week 8, there isn’t a single passing category that Michael Reilly isn’t leading the CFL in. The Lions’ franchise player is tops in completion percentage (74.4 percent), yards (1,870), touchdowns (10), interceptions (1) and efficiency rating (117.9). While those numbers are inflated by a boom-or-bust big play offence, there is little debate as to whether Reilly has delivered his end of the bargain.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

5. William Stanback, RB, Montreal Alouettes (last week: 9)

Stanback has still only played six games compared to seven by most of his competition, but after three straight 100-yard games the bruising back is ahead in CFL rushing yards by 119. The only problem is that even when he bashes through a defence for 133 yards and a touchdown, like he did against Toronto, his team still loses.

Photo courtesy: CFL

6. Cody Fajardo, QB, Saskatchewan Roughriders (last week: 6)

Fajardo hasn’t quite been the dynamo he was early in the year, but his late-game heroics against B.C. made him the CFL’s top performer this week and keeps him stable in our rankings. The dual-threat pivot was 24-of-31 for 279 yards, a touchdown and a pick in Vancouver, leading a heroic game-winning drive where he punched in his fourth rushing touchdown of the year.

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

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

Just like Stanback, Wilder Jr. is still a game behind most of the competition with only six games played, but he still sits second in CFL rushing with 499 yards. His capacity to impact in the passing game remains an underutilized resource, but he is still tops among all backs with 163 yards through the air.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

8. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (last week: 7)

Jeffcoat has been slowly losing steam in the voting as his teammate Willie Jefferson has rounded into form, but it takes two fearsome pass rushers to make the best defensive line in the country. With five sacks and four forced fumbles, Jeffcoat would be the best player on any other defence.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

9. Jordan Williams, LB, B.C. Lions (last week: not ranked)

The first overall selection in the 2020 CFL Draft, Williams has lived up to the billing in the middle of the B.C. defence. He’s leading the league in tackles with 52 at the halfway point, with a sack, interception and fumble recovery also to his name, putting him in the conversation to for all major awards.

Also receiving votes: Kenny Lawler (WPG), Kamar Jorden (CGY — LW: 8), Jonathan Woodard (SSK)

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