Chad Kelly, Brady Oliveira named finalists for CFL Most Outstanding Player award

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

The CFL has unveiled the divisional nominees for this year’s awards as voted upon by members of the media. The ballots were based on the nominees from each team, which were released last week.

Most Outstanding Player

QB Chad Kelly, Toronto Argonauts
RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Kelly completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 4,123 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions along with 41 carries for 248 yards and eight touchdowns along the ground. The second-year CFL passer went 15-1 as a starter with the lone loss coming in a game he didn’t finish due to injury. Kelly was a seventh-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Oliveira recorded 260 carries for 1,534 yards and 38 receptions for 482 yards and 13 total touchdowns over 18 games this season. The Winnipeg native became the second Canadian player ever to reach 1,500 rushing yards and 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a single season, setting all-new career highs.

Most Outstanding Defensive Player

LB Adarius Pickett, Toronto Argonauts
DL Mathieu Betts, B.C. Lions

Pickett recorded a career-high 105 tackles, the sixth-most in franchise history, along with 20 special teams tackles, six sacks, and one forced fumble. This is the 27-year-old’s first year with the team after joining Toronto in free agency following a two-year stint with the Montreal Alouettes.

Betts made a career-high 18 sacks, which broke the CFL’s all-time record for single-season sacks by a Canadian player. He also recorded 44 defensive tackles, three tackles for loss, two special teams tackles, and one blocked punt. The Montreal native was a first-round pick in the 2019 CFL Draft out of Université Laval.

Most Outstanding Canadian

DB Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Montreal Alouettes
RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Dequoy recorded a career-high 57 defensive tackles this season along with five special teams tackles, five interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and two touchdowns. The native of Île Bizard, Que. was a second-round pick in the 2020 CFL Draft out of the Université de Montreal.

Oliveira is also a candidate for Most Outstanding Player.

Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman

OL Dejon Allen, Toronto Argonauts
OL Jermarcus Hardrick, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Allen started 16 games at right tackle for a Toronto team that allowed a league-low 19 sacks. He also helped block for A.J. Ouellette, who became the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2016. Allen is in his third season with the Argonauts and was named an East Division all-star in 2022.

Hardrick started 18 games at right tackle, helping the Blue Bombers finish second-league wide with 33 sacks allowed. He also helped block for the league’s best rushing attack, which averaged 139 yards per game. Winnipeg also led the league in offensive points in 2023 with 594.

Most Outstanding Special Teams Player

KR Javon Leake, Toronto Argonauts
K Sean Whyte, B.C. Lions

Leake led the league with four punt return touchdowns, setting a new franchise record. He finished the season with 1,216 punt return yards, which is the third-best total in CFL history, and led the league with 14 “big play” returns, which is defined as punt or missed field goal returns of 30-plus yards or kickoff returns of 40-plus yards.

Whyte made 50-of-53 field goal attempts to lead the West Division with a success rate of 94.3 percent, setting a new career-high in field goals made. All three of his misses came from 50-plus yards, while he also made 44-of-45 convert attempts. The 14-year veteran scored 194 points this season.

Most Outstanding Rookie

DB Qwan’tez Stiggers, Toronto Argonauts
DB Kai Gray, Edmonton Elks

Stiggers made 53 defensive tackles, three special teams tackles, and a team-leading five interceptions in 2023. He also recorded five pass knockdowns over his 15 starts, 10 of which came at field-side cornerback and five of which came at boundary cornerback.

Gray made 14 starts at field-side cornerback and four at boundary cornerback in 2023. The Lincoln University product made 56 total tackles and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown in Week 16. He also knocked down four passes.

This year will mark the first time a defensive back is named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie since 1998 when Steve Muhammad of the B.C. Lions took home the honour.

Coach of the Year

Ryan Dinwiddie, Toronto Argonauts
Mike O’Shea, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Dinwiddie guided the Argonauts to 16 victories during the regular season, tying the all-time single-season CFL record. He became the ninth head coach to win division titles in each of his first three seasons and helped Toronto finish a perfect 9-0 at home and 10-0 against divisional opponents. This is Dinwiddie’s third consecutive nomination for this award.

O’Shea led Winnipeg to a third straight division title and a 14-4 record, going 8-1 at IG Field and 9-2 against divisional opponents. The native of North Bay, Ont. is the longest-serving coach in the CFL with a career record of 96-62. This is his third straight nomination for Coach of the Year.

The CFL awards show will take place at the Avalon Theatre at Fallsview Casino & Resort in Niagara Falls, Ont. on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 6:30 p.m. EDT.