3DownNation’s contributors are sticking their necks out once again, predicting which CFL players will stand out the most over the next six months.
As always, we’ve taken a fearless approach to these predictions, so be prepared for some hot takes.
With the CFL set to kick off the first full 18-game season since 2019, there are bound to be plenty of surprises. Make sure to let us know on Twitter which players you think we are sleeping on.
Most Outstanding Player (MOP): REC Reggie Begelton, CGY — The explosive target will have the best year of his career catching passes from Bo Levi Mitchell and Jake Maier.
Most Outstanding Defensive Player (MODP): LB Simoni Lawrence, HAM — The veteran is coming into the season with a chip on his shoulder, plus he no longer has to contend with Ja’Gared Davis as his teammate.
Most Outstanding Canadian (MOC): QB Nathan Rourke, BC — The second-year passer from Victoria, B.C. becomes the first quarterback to win Most Outstanding Canadian since Gerry Dattilio in 1980.
Breakout star: RB Jamal Morrow, SSK — He didn’t play a lot last year but appears ready to become a focal point in Saskatchewan’s offence as a speedy ball carrier and receiver out of the backfield.
Grey Cup winner: Winnipeg Blue Bombers — Winnipeg won the first regular-season game at Mosaic Stadium and the first postseason game at Mosaic Stadium. It stands to reason that they’ll win the first Grey Cup at Mosaic Stadium, too.
MOP: QB Jeremiah Masoli, OTT — The Redblacks are about to have a massive turnaround and, rightly or wrongly, Masoli will get all the credit.
MODP: LB Wynton McManis, TOR — I’m high on the Argos’ defence and McManis could be the straw that stirs that drink after returning from the NFL.
MOC: QB Nathan Rourke, BC — My heart says that Riders’ receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker will actually deserve this award, but the nature of the quarterback position means Rourke needs to be only average to win.
Breakout star: DT Garrett Marino, SSK — If he can stay both healthy and unsuspended, Marino will be considered one of the league’s elite defensive linemen by year’s end.
Grey Cup winner: Saskatchewan Roughriders — I love their receiving talent and their pass rush, so who am I to argue against the serendipity of a home Grey Cup?
MOP: QB Bo Levi Mitchell, CGY — It will seem like a homer pick, but Mitchell has been at his most dangerous when he has familiarity with his weapons.
MODP: LB Adam Bighill, WPG — Biggie goes back-to-back, as Winnipeg is likely on the field more defensively after losing chain-movers Lawler and Harris on offence.
MOC: QB Nathan Rourke, BC — A Canadian being starting quarterback will be too tempting for voters to pass up if he is at all adequate in the role.
Breakout star: DB Jonathan Moxey, CGY — With the return of Tre Roberson to Calgary, teams will be looking to throw elsewhere. Moxey came on strong in the late stages of last season and should collect more than a few picks this year.
Grey Cup winner: Calgary Stampeders — The youngest team in the league went 6-2 down the stretch last year and fell apart in the first playoff game. That experience gained will see Quick Six patrolling the Mosaic Stadium sideline as they down the other team the organization built, the Toronto Argonauts.
MOP: QB Zach Collaros, WPG — Not the sexiest pick but the Bombers have incredible stability throughout their roster and in the front office. That makes all the difference.
MODP: DE Jackson Jeffcoat, WPG — With teams firmly committed to keeping Willie Jefferson in check, his teammate coming off the other edge puts up career highs.
MOC: QB Nathan Rourke, BC — His leash will be long and he’s surrounded by weapons. If Rourke simply guides the Lions to the playoffs, the award is his.
Breakout star: REC Jaelon Acklin, OTT — The third-year pro will benefit immensely from being Masoli’s favourite target, becoming a true No. 1 receiver and leading the East in receptions and yards.
Grey Cup winner: Winnipeg Blue Bombers — No team has three-peated since the legendary Edmonton dynasty led by Warren Moon, but this Winnipeg squad makes history.
MOP: QB Dane Evans, HAM — Evans puts it all together as the Ticats try again to get over the hump.
MODP: DE Jackson Jeffcoat, WPG — Bighill and Jefferson have combined to win this award on behalf of the Bombers for three straight seasons. Now it’s Jackson Jeffcoat’s turn on that Winnipeg defence.
MOC: REC Kian Schaffer-Baker, SSK — He’s looked really good in the preseason and seems poised for a big year.
Breakout star: RB Jamal Morrow, SSK — He will give the Riders a multi-use tool out of the backfield.
Grey Cup winner: Hamilton Tiger-Cats — Odds suggest it should be an entirely new match-up this year, but who knows? Hamilton has got to do it eventually.
MOP: QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, TOR — Collaros would be a boring pick, so I’m going to be fun and say MBT racks up yards in the East.
MODP: DE Willie Jefferson, WPG — This award always goes to a good player on a winning defence. Jefferson punches the ticket.
MOC: QB Nathan Rourke, BC — This one is fun because Rourke has the starting QB angle and won’t need to be dominant to draw votes.
Breakout star: REC Kian Schaffer-Baker, SSK — It depends on how you define a breakout but to me, it has to be Schaffer-Baker getting a full season of impact use in Regina.
Grey Cup winner: Toronto Argonauts — I don’t think they have the best odds to win, but Toronto should’ve done more in East last year and will find their way to Regina to upset the Western representative.
MOP: REC D’haquille Williams, SSK — I’ll give some love to Duke Williams. No receiver is as physically imposing as him and he’ll be the focal point of the green and white offence.
MODP: LB Jameer Thurman, CGY — Sliding into the centre of Calgary’s defence this year, Thurman will show he’s more than a complementary piece.
MOC: QB Nathan Rourke, BC — A starting Canadian quarterback with overwhelming weapons? All he needs to be is average.
Breakout star: DB Nafees Lyon, EDM — A full season of defensive back Nafees Lyon will make Chris Jones a very happy defensive coordinator.
Grey Cup winner: Winnipeg Blue Bombers — As an Edmonton fan, the Bombers are the only high-ranking West team I can pick without spontaneously combusting.
MOP: DE Willie Jefferson, WPG — Jefferson has been the best player in the league since at least 2018 and the voters will finally take notice now that he doesn’t have to share the spotlight with Andrew Harris in Winnipeg.
MODP: DE Jackson Jeffcoat, WPG — If there’s anything we know about CFL, it’s that if a defensive player wins MOP then he will automatically be disqualified from consideration for Most Outstanding Defensive Player. Jeffcoat is the beneficiary.
MOC: QB Nathan Rourke, BC — Rightly or wrongly, Nathan Rourke will win this running away because the voters always look to the quarterback first on any award they are eligible for.
Breakout star: REC Samuel Emilus, SSK — The Riders’ 2022 first-round pick is hiding in the weeds of the Saskatchewan receiving corps behind Duke Williams and Kian Schaffer-Baker. I’ll go with Sam.
Grey Cup winner: Winnipeg Blue Bombers — I have to be boring and choose Winnipeg. They’ve had just enough change to stay fresh and hungry. It’s hard to see how they’ll get beat, although they are not as built for the playoffs as much as they were in the past.
MOP: QB Jeremiah Masoli, OTT — If the Redblacks end up being as improved as I believe they will be, it will be almost entirely due to Masoli’s right arm.
MODP: LB Simoni Lawrence, HAM — After years of being the bridesmaid, Lawrence finally gets his recognition as one of the game’s best defenders.
MOC: REC Kian Schaffer-Baker, SSK — KSB has the chance to put up numbers we haven’t seen from a Canadian receiver since the heyday of Brad Sinopoli.
Breakout star: REC Tim White, HAM — After a very good rookie season, White makes the leap in Year 2 and has Ticats fans saying “Speedy who?”
Grey Cup winner: Saskatchewan Roughriders – I hate the idea of it, but both the Bombers and Ticats fail in their attempt to make it a threepeat matchup. The Riders and Redblacks make it to the big game and taking the Riders at home is a no-brainer.