MOP Watch: A.C. Leonard gets no love from Riders’ voters

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant /

You’ve merely adopted the MOP vote. We were born to it, molded by it.

Each of the CFL’s nine teams have named their nominees for the league’s major individual awards — including the coveted mantle of Most Outstanding Player. Those choices came courtesy of every city’s select Football Reporters of Canada panel of voters, plus the team’s head coach, but for some not on the official ballot list, tracking the MOP race has been a year long pet project.

Every week of the 2021 season, the 3DownNation trio of Justin Dunk, John Hodge and J.C. Abbott have voted 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.

Unlike the CFL, our list doesn’t adhere to a one nominee per team model and it seems we have some serious points of disagreement with the real decision-makers. With 15 weeks worth of analysis to fall back on, here are the players who really deserve to be in the MOP hunt.

*indicates team nominee

Photo courtesy: George Fourlaris/Edmonton Elks

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

With 14 of MOP winners this century suiting up at the quarterback position, it’s no secret that this is a passer’s award. Right now, there is none better in that capacity than Zach Collaros and the league’s leader in every major QB statistic is the odds on favourite to win despite resting his arm in Week 15.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

2. William Stanback, RB, Montreal Alouettes (last week: 2)*

Quarterback is unquestionably the most valuable position on the football field, but the CFL’s most outstanding criteria should open the door a crack for the candidacy of William Stanback. The league’s only thousand-yard ball carrier is 262 yards ahead of the next best back in two fewer games.

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

3. A.C. Leonard, DE, Saskatchewan Roughriders (last week: 6)

Not only did Leonard miss out on the Riders’ MOP nod to Cody Fajardo, he was edged out for Most Outstanding Defensive Player by Louchiez Purifoy as well. It falls to 3DownNation to give the CFL’s sack leader the love he has so clearly earned and we are more than willing to overlook a three-game suspension to do so. 

Photo: Nik Kowalski/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

4. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (last week: 4)

Faced with a choice between two great pass rushers for their MODP nomination, Winnipeg’s awards voter opted to honour veteran linebacker Adam Bighill instead. That’s a fine choice, but the CFL’s leader in QB pressures would have been our clear selection and sits just off our MOP podium.

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym

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

Willie Jefferson’s numbers aren’t quite as eyepopping as they were during his MODP-winning 2019 season, but he’s still one of the only defenders in the CFL you have to scheme around. That should make him an MOP candidate any year.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

6. Eugene Lewis, REC, Montreal Alouettes (last week: not ranked)

Frequently on the outside looking in at our rankings this season, Lewis has quietly put together a career year. A two touchdown performance in the Als’ win over Winnipeg, in which he toasted all-star corner Winston Rose, has him tied for the league lead in touchdowns and second in yards.

Photo courtesy: B.C. Lions/Darryl Dyck

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

The new fastest player in the CFL could have kept his team’s playoff hopes alive had a fourth quarter punt return touchdown against Calgary been allowed to stand, but penalties robbed us of another Lucky Whitehead highlight. Without time missed to a broken hand, Lucky would be higher on this list.

Photo courtesy: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

8. Kenny Lawler, REC, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (last week: 8)

By virtue of being the CFL’s leading receiver and its premier deep threat, Lawler continues to deserve mention in the MOP conversation. Unfortunately due to CFL rules, he was never going to gain any tractions as the fourth best candidate on his team.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

9. Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Calgary Stampeders (last week: 9)*

They say running backs don’t matter, but it’s hard to see Calgary making the playoffs if it wasn’t for their dual-threat backfield dynamo. Carey had 85 yards rushing and a score in the clincher against B.C., just his latest in a string of stellar performances.

Also receiving votes: Simoni Lawrence (HAM)*, Jeremiah Masoli (HAM — LW: 5), DeVonte Dedmon (OTT)*

Team nominees not receiving votes: James Wilder Jr. (EDM), Cody Fajardo (SSK), McLeod Bethel-Thompson (TOR)

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.