3DownNation’s 2023 CFL all-stars

Photo courtesy: Paul Yates/B.C. Lions

On Wednesday, the Canadian Football League unveiled their selections for the 2023 league all-star team, creating no shortage of controversy.

While most prominent players around the league have financial incentives tied to all-star selections written into their contracts, the process leaves a lot to be desired. The CFL continues to insist on an East/West selection format, seriously disadvantaging players who play in a division with an abundance of talent at their position. Of course, that only matters if the media voters make the correct choices to begin with, which can be a very dicey proposition at certain positions.

In the interest of correcting those errors, we polled nine of our contributors — some official FRC voters, others complete outsiders — to determine a better all-star team without divisional considerations.

Here are 3DownNation’s 2023 CFL all-stars.

* denotes player who differs from CFL All-Star team / ** denotes player who was not a Divisional All-Star

Photo: Matt Johnson/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Quarterback: Chad Kelly, Toronto Argonauts

Kelly doesn’t lead the CFL in any of the usual statistical categories used to rank quarterbacks, finishing fourth in yardage (4,123), third in touchdowns (23), fourth in completion percentage (68.5), third in touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.92), and second in quarterback rating (109.6). Still, his importance to Toronto’s all-time greatest regular season cannot be overstated and nobody averaged more aerial yards per attempt than his 10.5. The first-year starter’s numbers were stunted by just how good his team was this season and our voters made up the difference.

Second team: Zach Collaros, WPG

Courtesy: CFL/Jason Halstead

Running back: Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

In case it wasn’t obvious, this selection was unanimous. Winnipeg’s homegrown workhorse turned his unique brand of bully ball into 2,016 yards from scrimmage in 2023, producing one of the greatest seasons ever by a Canadian player. With nearly 400 more rushing yards than his next closest competitor and a league-leading 13 total touchdowns, nobody could stop Oliveira — especially in the fourth quarter.

Second team: Kevin Brown, EDM**

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Receivers: Tim White, Hamilton Tiger-Cats / Dalton Schoen, Winnipeg Blue Bombers / Keon Hatcher, B.C. Lions / Austin Mack, Montreal Alouettes / Alexander Hollins, B.C. Lions*

Our voters fingered the usual suspects when it came to the receiving corps, though the B.C. Lions’ high-powered passing attack got two league representatives in Keon Hatcher and Alexander Hollins — who both made the top five in receiving yardage. The league leader in that category, Tim White, was a unanimous choice, as was receiving touchdown leader Dalton Schoen. Despite a quieter second half to the season, first-year sensation Austin Mack was still named by all but one of our contributors.

Second team: Reggie Begelton, CGY / Shawn Bane Jr., SSK **/ Davaris Daniels, TOR / Nic Demski, WPG / Kenny Lawler, WPG**

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Offensive line: Dejon Allen, Toronto Argonauts / Jarell Broxton, B.C. Lions** / Brandon Revenberg, Hamilton Tiger-Cats* / Kristian Matte, Montreal Alouettes** / Chris Kolankowski, Winnipeg Blue Bombers**

There was no position group where our voters disagreed more vehemently with the media consensus than along the offensive line, with Toronto’s outstanding right tackle Dejon Allen being the only player everyone could agree on. Lions’ left tackle Jarell Broxton, Alouettes’ right guard Kristian Matte, and Bombers’ centre Chris Kolankowski were all robbed of even divisional selections by other outlets, but have that travesty corrected here. Perennial all-star Brandon Revenberg also gets the promotion to league status — an egregious omission on the official list that can only be explained by voter fatigue for the best guard in the CFL.

Second team: Jermarcus Hardrick, WPG / Nick Callender, MTL / Pier-Olivier Lestage, MTL** / Ryan Hunter, TOR / David Beard, HAM**

Photo courtesy: Jeff Vinnick/B.C. Lions

Defensive line: Mathieu Betts, B.C. Lions / Jake Ceresna, Edmonton Elks** / Casey Sayles, Hamilton Tiger-Cats / Mustafa Johnson, Montreal Alouettes*

It is impossible to argue with Mathieu Betts and his new single-season Canadian sack record when it comes to being the top defensive end in the league right now, but the other edge rusher spot is a more complex debate. Size mismatch Jake Ceresna lost out to Willie Jefferson’s name recognition on the CFL ballot but not on ours, earning Edmonton’s only spot on the first team. On the inside, it was all East Division thanks to two previously unheralded standouts in Casey Sayles and Mustafa Johnson, both of whom had impacts that far exceeded their sack totals.

Second team: Bryce Carter, OTT / Folarin Orimolade, TOR / Cleyon Laing, OTT** / Mike Rose, CGY

Photo: Larry MacDougal/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Linebackers: Wynton McManis, Toronto Argonauts / Micah Awe, Calgary Stampeders / Adarius Pickett, Toronto Argonauts

Nothing to see here, 3Down‘s linebacker selections were the same as the official list, though, unlike the league voting process, our ballot differentiated between weak-side and middle linebackers. That left an agonizing choice between Wynton McManis and Cameron Judge that was soundly won by the Argos’ defensive leader, while the overwhelming volume of production from Micah Awe in the middle and Adarius Pickett at strong-side linebacker made them impossible not to include.

Second team: Cameron Judge, CGY** / Larry Dean, SSK / Loucheiz Purifoy, EDM**

Photo: Neil Noonan/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Defensive backs: Garry Peters, B.C. Lions / Qwan’tez Stiggers, Toronto Argonauts* / Robertson Daniel, Toronto Argonauts / Deatrick Nichols, Winnipeg Blue Bombers** / Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Montreal Alouettes

No logical CFL viewer could construct an all-star secondary without Garry Peters at cornerback, Robertson Daniel at halfback, and Marc-Antoine Dequoy at safety after the season those three players had. Elsewhere, there were arguments to be had. Most Outstanding Rookie favourite Qwan’tez Stiggers outperformed even the most grizzled veterans at cornerback to earn our voters’ favour. Deatrick Nichols is still the consensus best halfback in the league but doesn’t get thrown at enough to have the numbers to back it up.

Second team: Demerio Houston, WPG / Richard Leonard, HAM** / Reggie Stubblefield, MTL** / T.J. Lee, BC / Stavros Katsantonis, HAM**

Photo courtesy: Toronto Argonauts

Special teams: Boris Bede, Toronto Argonauts* / Joseph Zema, Montreal Alouettes** / Javon Leake, Toronto Argonauts / Carthell Flowers-Lloyd, Hamilton Tiger-Cats**

Sean Whyte’s accomplishments as a field goal kicker were impressive this year, but Boris Bede was the star of our ballot after effectively performing all three kicking jobs this season. Net punting leader Joseph Zema rightfully earns an all-star nod after being cruelly ignored by the rest of the media, while we also give the coverage players some love by including special teams tackle leader Carthell Flowers-Lloyd on our list. As for the return specialist, Javon Leake was the clear and obvious choice, no matter your affiliation.

Second team: Sean Whyte, BC / Richie Leone, OTT / Mario Alford, SSK / Darius Williams, CGY**