On Tuesday, TSN unveiled their annual Top 50 CFL Players list, headlined by Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ quarterback Zach Collaros.
The rankings are always a source of controversy and conversation ahead of the opening day of the season, and this year was no exception. In total, four 3DownNation contributors were among the dozens of media members invited to submit ballots for this process — John Hodge, JC Abbott, Ben Grant, and Ryan Ballantine.
Today, Abbott and Ballantine have agreed to peel back the curtain and reveal how their ballots compared to the consensus board.
Please note that each voter is asked to rank only 40 players on their ballot, with certain positional requirements that must be met. All must include a minimum of five offensive linemen, four defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs, three running backs, two receivers, and one quarterback and kicker. Only players on CFL rosters at the time of voting were eligible to be placed on ballots.
With those restrictions in mind, here are how two of our contributors saw the players.
50. DB Jonathan Moxey, Calgary Stampeders
Abbott’s rank: 20 — With Tre Roberson hurt last year, Moxey surpassed him as Calgary’s top DB.
Ballantine’s rank: 30 — Moxey began last season moving around due to injury but once locked in at corner, he was one of the league’s best.
49. DB T.J. Lee, B.C. Lions
Abbott’s rank: 32 — Lee isn’t quite the player he once was, but he remains the spiritual leader of an elite secondary.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — With only 40 spots, Lee was left off my ballot in favour of other DBs.
48. RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Abbott’s rank: NR — Oliveira is a fine back in Winnipeg’s system, but he’s not yet a game-changer at the position.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — Oliveira didn’t crack my top three at running back, which was all I had room for.
47. REC Dillon Mitchell, Edmonton Elks
Abbott’s rank: 28 — Mitchell’s pace over the second half of last year would have placed him top four in receiving if he played the whole season.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — Mitchell may prove me wrong but with Eugene Lewis in town, his target share should drop last year.
46. K Rene Paredes, Calgary Stampeders
Abbott’s rank: NR — I went with Calgary’s other specialist for my lone kicking spot, but Paredes would have been my second choice.
Ballantine’s rank: 29 — Paredes has been so consistent throughout his career, his rare misses are somewhat shocking. Enjoy the CFL’s best kicker of all time while you can.
45. OL Jermarcus Hardrick, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Abbott’s rank: NR — Hardrick would have made my top 50, but narrowly missed out due to the structure of the ballot.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — Only so much room for offensive linemen on a top 40 ballot.
44. DB Tre Roberson, Calgary Stampeders
Abbott’s rank: NR — Roberson was close to making my list, but he’s played just eight games since 2019.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — When healthy, he is Calgary’s best DB. But he hasn’t stayed healthy.
43. RB Kevin Brown, Edmonton Elks
Abbott’s rank: NR — Not ranking Brown will probably look stupid at the end of the year, but I needed to see a few more games before placing another low-value position on my ballot.
Ballantine’s rank: 20 — I still place value on running backs and Brown tied for the league lead in yards per carry in limited snaps on a bad team.
42. DL Ja’Gared Davis, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Abbott’s rank: NR — His production remains solid, but I thought Davis took a step back in 2022.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — There are flashier linemen who grabbed my attention more than this “in the Grey Cup every season” player.
41. LB Jovan Santos-Knox, Ottawa Redblacks
Abbott’s rank: NR — Santos-Knox was the next linebacker on my board and would have made a true top 50.
Ballantine’s rank: 24 — Santos-Knox piled up tackles last season and should continue to do so when he returns to the Ottawa lineup.
40. DB Adarius Pickett, Toronto Argonauts
Abbott’s rank: 22 — Pickett broke out as an elite SAM backer last year and is still just 26.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — Pickett just dropped off of this list for me.
39. LB Larry Dean, Saskatchewan Roughriders
Abbott’s rank: NR — Dean would have made my full 50, but I felt there were a few more dynamic players at the position.
Ballantine’s rank: 34 – Dean got the last spot on my ballot for linebackers.
38. REC Malik Henry, Calgary Stampeders
Abbott’s rank: 33 — I shudder to imagine what Henry would have done with more than 13 games and a quarterback willing to stretch the field.
Ballantine’s rank: 31 — Henry was dynamic last year and has the ability to be elite this year as the Calgary offence expands.
37. REC Lucky Whitehead, B.C. Lions
Abbott’s rank: 36 — This is almost exactly where I see Whitehead on the league hierarchy.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — I felt like Whitehead was only the third-best receiver on his team last season.
36. DL Shawn Oakman, Toronto Argonauts
Abbott’s rank: NR — Oakman is the player I most regret not ranking. He was the next man up and frankly should have been included.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — I admit to watching the ball more than the trenches, but given his placement on the list, I will look closer at Oakman this season.
35. DB Tunde Adeleke, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Abbott’s rank: 24 — Adeleke was in Oakman’s shoes last year. This year, I gave him a fitting spot.
Ballantine’s rank: 33 — Adeleke is a player that I wish the Stampeders had been able to retain.
34. REC Nic Demski, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Abbott’s rank: NR — I love Demski as a player, but he has yet to surpass a thousand yards and his insane 2022 touchdown production isn’t sustainable.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — Not sure how a player who will be the third target on his own team got ranked this highly.
33. RB James Butler, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Abbott’s rank: 39 — Butler fulfilled my running back quota but probably wouldn’t have made my list otherwise.
Ballantine’s rank: 22 — Butler is a great back and now has a QB with great pocket awareness who will use him as a safety valve in the passing game.
32. DL Jackson Jeffcoat, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Abbott’s rank: 31 — Jeffcoat is still elite if he stays healthy. Unfortunately, that is a bigger “if” every year.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — Jeffcoat is here on name recognition more than what he has accomplished the last few seasons.
31. DB Garry Peters, B.C. Lions
Abbott’s rank: 13 — Pound for pound, I think Peters is the league’s best cornerback.
Ballantine’s rank: 35 — I don’t watch the Lions as closely as J.C. and that may have led to me ranking Peters too low.
30. REC Jaelon Acklin, Ottawa Redblacks
Abbott’s rank: NR — Another narrow miss, I probably didn’t give Acklin enough credit given the poor QB play he dealt with last year.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — Too many other receivers I would take ahead of him, and did.
29. QB Jake Maier, Calgary Stampeders
Abbott’s rank: NR — Because this is a talent exercise and not a value one, I try to avoid rewarding average quarterbacks on my ballot.
Ballantine’s rank: 16 — Jake Maier had the third-best QB rating last year, the second-highest completion percentage, and was fourth in average completion distance. People are sleeping on him because he doesn’t stretch the field often enough, but that isn’t the only way to move the ball.
28. OL Drew Desjarlais, Ottawa Redblacks
Abbott’s rank: 15 — I’m glad voters haven’t forgotten how elite Desjarlais was before his NFL stint.
Ballantine’s rank: 18 — No question on talent, but sometimes coming back to Canada does require some time to re-adjust.
27. QB Jeremiah Masoli, Ottawa Redblacks
Abbott’s rank: 38 — Health nearly knocked him off my ballot, but I think Masoli can still be a top QB.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — Masoli looked good before getting injured last year, but still has not shown sustained success as a starter.
26. OL Derek Dennis, Free Agent
Abbott’s rank: 26 — Bullseye. Right on the money.
Ballantine’s rank: 13 — Derek Dennis would have won Most Outstanding Lineman if he wasn’t injured last season. If you are the best in the league, you should be ranked as such.
25. LB Jameer Thurman, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Abbott’s rank: 34 — I love Thurman’s versatility at the linebacker position.
Ballantine’s rank: 21 — Thurman can no longer be described as “totally underrated” given that he has been among the best every single season.
24. OL Sean McEwen, Calgary Stampeders
Abbott’s rank: NR — I agonized over how to place Calgary’s o-linemen, but I ranked a teammate instead of McEwen. He would have made the 50.
Ballantine’s rank: 7 — McEwen is the guy who calls the protection for the team who led the league in rushing and gave up the fewest sacks.
23. DL Anthony Lanier II, Saskatchewan Roughriders
Abbott’s rank: 8 — This isn’t high enough for a player who had eight sacks in 11 games.
Ballantine’s rank: 23 – Only injury moved him down my list.
22. OL Brandon Revenberg, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Abbott’s rank: 17 — Revenberg’s status as the best OL in the East has been very well-deserved.
Ballantine’s rank: 27 — Revenberg is among the league’s best.
21. REC Kurleigh Gittens Jr., Toronto Argonauts
Abbott’s rank: NR — Another near miss for me. I was apparently much stingier at receiver than other voters.
Ballantine’s rank: 36 — Free tip for the Argos’ marketing team: Gittens’ Mittens, for the guy with silky smooth hands.
20. QB Bo Levi Mitchell, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Abbott’s rank: NR — I wish Bo the best, but guys who got benched shouldn’t be in the top 50.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — Hope he can regain some of his former glory, but I’m worried about Bo’s long-term durability.
19. DL Mike Rose, Calgary Stampeders
Abbott’s rank: 16 — I think there is a good argument to be made for Rose higher than where I ranked him.
Ballantine’s rank: 14 — J.C. is right. He should be at least two places higher.
18. DL Folarin Orimolade, Toronto Argonauts
Abbott’s rank: 5 — Stats can be deceptive and Orimolade was the straw that stirred the drink for the Stampeders last year.
Ballantine’s rank: 10 — Great player with a great motor who has hopefully gotten past the injuries that plagued him for a few seasons.
17. DL Jake Ceresna, Edmonton Elks
Abbott’s rank: 3 — 10 sacks in 12 games at defensive tackle proves that Ceresna is the league’s best game-wrecker.
Ballantine’s rank: 4 — My highest-ranked defensive player. That kind of production from a defensive tackle is rare indeed!
16. LB Cameron Judge, Calgary Stampeders
Abbott’s rank: 29 — Judge is a dynamic athlete on defence but his passport has him slightly higher on this list than I would have placed him.
Ballantine’s rank: 15 — Just missed the consensus here but ignoring his passport, Judge was still elite for the Stampeders last season.
15. REC Tim White, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Abbott’s rank: NR — I ranked seven receivers on my ballot. White was my eighth choice.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — White made my shortlist at the position, but didn’t get into the top 40 total.
14. RB William Stanback, Montreal Alouettes
Abbott’s rank: 19 — One injury-plagued year couldn’t make me forget his prior dominance.
Ballantine’s rank: 25 — I have Stanback as the fourth running back on my list, only due to needing to know if he has fully recovered from that broken ankle.
13. QB Trevor Harris, Saskatchewan Roughriders
Abbott’s rank: 25 — Harris exceeded my expectations last year after picking himself off the scrap heap.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — There were only two QBs on my list and Harris has never been more than a middle-of-the-pack QB for me.
12. DB Deatrick Nichols, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Abbott’s rank: 2 — Nichols is the best defensive back in the league and it’s not even close.
Ballantine’s rank: 9 — Nichols is great but I can’t justify having a DB higher than this on my list.
11. REC Dominique Rhymes, B.C. Lions
Abbott’s rank: 9 — Rhymes’ ability to posterize defenders with his six-foot-four, 215-pound frame makes him the league’s top pass catcher.
Ballantine’s rank: 26 — Rhymes had the benefit of a trio of Nathan Rourke, Bryan Burnham, and Lucky Whitehead last season for defences to key on.
10. LB Adam Bighill, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Abbott’s rank: 7 — Age will catch up to him someday, but Bighill is the CFL standard until otherwise proven.
Ballantine’s rank: NR — Bighill should probably be on this list, but I think he suffered when compared to his previous self, let alone other players at his position
9. LB Wynton McManis, Toronto Argonauts
Abbott’s rank: 4 — If not for an untimely injury, McManis would have been last year’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
Ballantine’s rank: 5 — McManis is a great player, who will continue to be so.
8. REC Kenny Lawler, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Abbott’s rank: 18 — Lawler remains a matchup nightmare and could have challenged for the league receiving lead if healthy.
Ballantine’s rank: 12 — Recent immigration troubles aside, Kenny Lawler is the only reason people believe in Taylor Cornelius.
7. DL Lorenzo Mauldin IV, Ottawa Redblacks
Abbott’s rank: 12 — The reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player is an elite pass rusher, though I don’t think his 17-sack performance last year is sustainable.
Ballantine’s rank: 6 — Mauldin got to the quarterback a lot last year and had sexier stats than any Redblack. Was he that good, or were his teammates that bad?
6. DL Willie Jefferson, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Abbott’s rank: 14 — Jefferson is still the CFL’s biggest physical freak but 2022 was a down year for him.
Ballantine’s rank: 32 — Like Jeffcoat, I think Jefferson is ranked this high based on name recognition rather than what he did last season.
5. REC Dalton Schoen, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Abbott’s rank: 23 — Schoen lit the world on fire as a rookie but count me among those that felt his impressive statistics were slightly inflated.
Ballantine’s rank: 3 — Inflated stats are still a reflection of what he accomplished. My highest-rated receiver may fall off with Lawler back in town and a reduced target share.
4. OL Stanley Bryant, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Abbott’s rank: 10 — Bryant wasn’t as good last year as he has been in the past, but he was still pretty damn good.
Ballantine’s rank: 17 — The saying among linemen is that it is way easier to win a second Most Outstanding Lineman award than it is to win the first one. Bryant is elite but is no longer the best in the league at what he does.
3. RB Ka’Deem Carey, Calgary Stampeders
Abbott’s rank: 6 — Running backs don’t matter, but Carey’s talent is still head and shoulders above any other at his position.
Ballantine’s rank: 1 — Running backs do matter and that is why Carey was at the top of my list. Averaging 6.6 yards per carry, the Stampeders’ running back won the rushing title despite missing almost five games due to injury.
2. REC Eugene Lewis, Edmonton Elks
Abbott’s rank: 11 — Lewis is one of the few receivers in the CFL that elevates those around him.
Ballantine’s rank: 11 — If he wasn’t in Edmonton, where they have receivers, running backs, and DBs playing quarterback, I’d have ranked him higher.
1. QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Abbott’s rank: 1 — I don’t think there was any other legitimate choice.
Ballantine’s rank: 2 — Collaros is the best QB in the league this season, but if Carey stays healthy, he could put up prime Andrew Harris or Jon Cornish numbers.
Unranked players on our contributor’s ballots
Abbott: OL David Beard, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (#21) | DB Derrick Moncrief, Saskatchewan Roughriders (#27) | DL Pete Robertson, Saskatchewan Roughriders (#30) | OL Ryan Sceviour, Calgary Stampeders (#35) | DL Dylan Wynn, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (#37) | P Cody Grace, Calgary Stampeders (#40)
Ballantine: DL Pete Robertson, Saskatchewan Roughriders (#8) | DB Royce Metchie, Toronto Argonauts (#19) | OL Ryan Sceviour, Calgary Stampeders (#28) | OL Patrick Neufeld, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (#37) | WR Janarion Grant, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (#38) | RB Peyton Logan, Calgary Stampeders (#39) | OL Zack Williams, Calgary Stampeders (#40)