3DownNation’s 2023 CFL award winners

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

On Thursday night, the CFL will announce their 2023 award winners at Fallsview Casino & Resort in Niagara Falls. It is an evening meant to honour the league’s best, but there is no guarantee that the right players are even in attendance.

Based on the CFL’s current awards format, one nominee from each Division will be up for the honours. If the two best candidates are from the same area of the country or even the same team, the voters’ hands are tied — a worthy foe may not even make the national ballot.

At 3DownNation, we do things a little differently. We polled nine of our contributors on their selections for each of the league’s top honours, putting the nine best candidates on the ballot regardless of team. The result is the definitive list of players who should take home the hardware before Shaggy sings.

Just like the CFL awards, our votes were tabulated at the end of the regular season and do not reflect playoff accomplishments. A lot can change in a short space of time, as you can see from our mid-season selections.

Without further ado, here are 3DownNation‘s 2023 CFL award winners.

Most Outstanding Player: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Mid-season selection: QB Chad Kelly, Toronto Argonauts

The decision by local Winnipeg voters to nominate Brady Oliveira for M.O.P. instead of quarterback Zach Collaros was one of the most contentious in awards history, but our contributors seem to think the correct call was made. On a ballot that included Collaros, Oliveira still rose to the top after producing 2,016 combined yards from scrimmage. If national voters agree, he’ll become just the fourth Canadian ever to win Most Outstanding Player — joining Hall of Famers Jon Cornish, Tony Gabriel, and Russ Jackson.

Runner-ups: QB Chad Kelly, TOR / QB Vernon Adams Jr., BC

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

Most Outstanding Defensive Player: SAM Adarius Pickett, Toronto Argonauts
Mid-season selection: DE Mathieu Betts, B.C. Lions

There is considerable debate as to whether Pickett is even the best defender on his own team, but his impressive rate of production was virtually impossible to argue with. Playing the versatile strong-side linebacker position, the 27-year-old was all over the field, registering five tackles for loss, six sacks, a forced fumble and six pass break-ups. He also finished third in the league with 105 defensive tackles, while sitting fifth in special teams tackles with 19.

Runner-ups: DE Mathieu Betts, BC / LB Wynton McManis, TOR

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

Most Outstanding Canadian: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Mid-season selection: DE Mathieu Betts, B.C. Lions

Not even a new Canadian sack record from Mathieu Betts could split the vote here, as Oliveira emerged as a unanimous selection for his second major award. The bruising ball carrier’s 1,534 rushing yards is the second-highest ever by a Canadian while also being nearly 400 yards more than his next-closest competitor this season. If you look up dominance in the dictionary, Oliveira’s picture might be beside it.

Runner-ups: DE Mathieu Betts, BC / QB Tre Ford, EDM

Photo: Reuben Polansky/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman: RT Dejon Allen, Toronto Argonauts
Mid-season selection: RT Landon Rice, Montreal Alouettes

The CFL is a passing league and Dejon Allen is its best pass blocker by a wide margin, surrendering just 11 pressures and two sacks in 16 starts according to ProFootballFocus. Those are remarkable numbers for a tackle and they buoyed the Argonauts as a whole, with Toronto allowing a league-low 19 sacks this season. Allen was also capable of pushing the pile, helping A.J. Ouellette to his first career thousand-yard season.

Runner-ups: LT Jarell Broxton, BC / RT Jermarcus Hardrick, WPG

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

Most Outstanding Rookie: CB Qwan’tez Stiggers, Toronto Argonauts
Mid-season selection: QB Dustin Crum, Ottawa Redblacks

Rookies are typically young, but rarely are they so young or so dominant. At just 21 years old and without the benefit of playing college football, Stiggers forced a reshuffle in the secondary of the reigning Grey Cup champions by seizing a starting cornerback spot. In 16 games, he blossomed into one of the CFL’s best lockdown defenders and amassed five interceptions to go along with 53 defensive tackles. It’s clear that the six-foot, 197-pound DB is an NFL-calibre talent and was the unanimous choice for this award by our voters.

Runner-ups: HB Reggie Stubblefield, MTL / QB Dustin Crum, OTT

Photo courtesy: Toronto Argonauts

Most Outstanding Special Teams Player: KR Javon Leake, Toronto Argonauts
Mid-season selection: unchanged

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Nine games after earning our mid-season selection for this award, Leake is the only player to hold on to his trophy. He didn’t add to his total of four return touchdowns in that span but continued to rack up yards nonetheless, setting a new franchise punt return yardage record in the Argonauts’ 150th season of existence. His 15-yard average return per punt led the league, as did his 13 returns of over 30 yards — eight more than the next most explosive player.

Runner-ups: ST Carthell Flowers-Lloyd, HAM / K Boris Bede, TOR

Photo: Reuben Polansky/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Coach of the Year: Ryan Dinwiddie, Toronto Argonauts
Mid-season selection: unchanged

Certain recent events have sadly taken the shine off Dinwiddie’s candidacy, but his dominant regular season is still worth remembering. Coming off last year’s Grey Cup win, the Argos were able to reload and stay focused enough to tie the winningest record in CFL history — a mark that had not been touched in 34 years. He accomplished that feat with a first-year starter at quarterback, generating the second-best offence in terms of both yardage and points. Even after clinching first place historically early, Dinwiddie kept his team winning with backups on the field.

Runner-ups: Jason Maas, MTL / Rick Campbell, BC