3DownNation’s 2024 CFL season predictions: M.O.P., Grey Cup & more

Photo courtesy: Tiffany Luke /B.C. Lions

The 2024 CFL regular season is almost upon us, which means it’s time to make some bold predictions about what will unfold this year.

Eleven of us at 3DownNation have filed prognostications, including editors JC Abbott and John Hodge as well as contributors Ryan Ballantine, Troy Durrell, Santino Filoso, Joel Gasson, Ben Grant, Pablo Herrera-Vergara, Andrew Hoskins, Peter Klein, and Brendan McGuire. Justin Dunk, our managing editor, will no longer make predictions as he’s involved in pre and postgame radio coverage with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Predictions have been made for Most Outstanding Player, Most Outstanding Defensive Player, Most Outstanding Canadian, Breakout Player, and Grey Cup. These are all standard award categories, except for Breakout Player, which we’ve created specially for this article. Those eligible include all young players in the league — not necessarily just rookies — who seem destined for stardom in 2024.

Please be sure to check back weekly throughout the season as we’ll make picks straight-up and against the spread for all 81 regular season CFL games plus playoffs. Enjoy.

Most Outstanding Player

ABBOTT: QB Vernon Adams Jr., B.C. Lions

Last year, V.A. was discounted due to his exceptional receiving corps and punished for one horrific game in which he threw six interceptions. When the Lions keep rolling in 2024 despite him being surrounded by inexperienced new players, voters will finally recognize V.A.’s contribution.

BALLANTINE: QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Every other offence lost weapons during the off-season but Collaros still has his. This is a boring pick, but it’s the right one.

DURRELL: QB Vernon Adams Jr., B.C. Lions

V.A. could become the first CFL quarterback since Michael Reilly in 2018 to throw for over 5,000 yards. The 31-year-old was spectacular in 2023, throwing for over 4,700 yards and 31 touchdowns, doing so while missing nearly three games due to injury.

FILOSO: QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Is this a sexy pick? No. Is it the most likely? Yes. The 35-year-old is surrounded by familiar weapons and has a total mastery of the system in which he operates. His biggest obstacle to winning this award might not be putting up stats, but rather convincing voters to look past the feeling that Vernon Adams Jr. is overdue.

GASSON: QB Vernon Adams Jr., B.C. Lions

This feels like a now or never year for the Lions. If they are to pull off the big win at home, it’ll be Big Play V.A. carrying the load.

GRANT: QB Trevor Harris, Saskatchewan Roughriders

He won’t finish the year with the best overall stats, but I think the Riders have a shot at winning the West Division and, if they do, Harris will get the laurels as the veteran leader who finally took down the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

HERRERA-VERGARA: QB Vernon Adams Jr., B.C. Lions

It’s now or never for the Lions and V.A. understands that. William Stanback’s presence will force defences to play heavier fronts, which will open things up for the passing game. V.A. will thrive under the pressure and deliver for his team.

HODGE: QB Vernon Adams Jr., B.C. Lions

The 31-year-old should benefit from an improved run game this year, though he remains the linchpin of the league’s most pass-happy offence. Voters love giving this award to quarterbacks and Zach Collaros and Chad Kelly have had their turn. Now, it’s V.A.’s.

HOSKINS: QB Vernon Adams Jr., B.C. Lions

After a big season last year, Adams is ready to be in the top spot this year. He narrowly missed in 2023 and I see him taking Jordan Maksymic’s offense to a new level.

KLEIN: QB Cody Fajardo, Montreal Alouettes

The 32-year-old unlocked a new level during the team’s Cinderella run to the Grey Cup and something special can happen to an athlete who gets that sort of validation. Fajardo rides that wave into a new chapter of his career.

McGUIRE: QB Vernon Adams Jr., B.C. Lions

He just keeps getting better with age. If he stays healthy, V.A. is the M.O.P.

Most Outstanding Defensive Player

ABBOTT: LB Wynton McManis, Toronto Argonauts

Will somebody please give this man an award already? Universally regarded as the best in the league at a position that often takes home the hardware, it is McManis’ time.

BALLANTINE: LB Micah Awe, Calgary Stampeders

Awe had an all-time great season last year and the Stamps’ secondary looks to be much improved, meaning Awe will get more shots to get to the QB in blitz packages. Combine that with his elite run defence and the reigning CFL all-star could really stand out.

DURRELL: LB Tyrice Beverette, Montreal Alouettes

The Montreal Alouettes took off after they added Shawn Lemon and Darnell Sankey last season, but their most consistent defender was Beverette at weak-side linebacker. The 29-year-old finished the season with over 100 tackles, seven sacks, and two touchdowns and could be even better in 2024.

FILOSO: DL Lorenzo Mauldin IV, Ottawa Redblacks

Two years removed from putting up 17 sacks and winning this award in 2022, the 31-year-old will put a disappointing 2023 season in the rearview mirror. With playmakers at every level of Ottawa’s improved defence, Mauldin will get more one-on-one looks and seems ready to feast.

GASSON: DB Garry Peters, B.C. Lions

Without Matthieu Betts, the Lions’ pass rush may not be quite as ferocious, which means their secondary will have to make a few more plays. The eight-year veteran has continued to get better every season, earning a CFL all-star selection the past two years.

GRANT: DL Folarin Orimolade, Toronto Argonauts

The 28-year-old is a sack waiting to happen on every snap. With Jake Ceresna beside him, Orimolade will be on an island most of the time, plus Toronto has the ability to execute dangerous twists that will help both defenders put up numbers.

HERRERA-VERGARA: DL Lorenzo Mauldin IV, Ottawa Redblacks

After a disappointing 2023 season, Mauldin IV should bounce back in a big way. He will finally be surrounded by plenty of talent, which should ease the pressure on him.

HODGE: DL Jake Ceresna, Toronto Argonauts

Offences aren’t going to be able to double-team Ceresna consistently unless they’re willing to block Shawn Oakman and Folarin Orimolade one-on-one, which seems like a bad idea. The five-year veteran recorded a career-high 12 sacks in Edmonton last year and could easily top that number with his new team.

HOSKINS: LB Jameer Thurman, Saskatchewan

The five-year veteran will play a pivotal role in the new Corey Mace defence and seems ready to reach new heights. I think he will challenge for the league’s tackle lead this year as the captain of an upgraded defensive unit.

KLEIN: LB Jameer Thurman, Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Riders made a lot of moves this off-season and this one could be a home run. As the leader of the defence for first-year head coach Corey Mace, Thurman will be tasked with setting the tone his hard-nosed coach wants, giving him the numbers and the headlines to help lock up this award.

McGUIRE: DL Bryce Carter, Ottawa Redblacks

The reigning East Division all-star is a sack factory and I have a hunch he’s more than a one-hit wonder after notching 12 in 2023.

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

Most Outstanding Canadian

ABBOTT: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

This pick is no fun, but Oliveira has it on lock so long as he stays healthy. He remains in a class of his own.

BALLANTINE: K Rene Paredes, Calgary Stampeders

The rest of my cohorts here will pick position players, but I’m going with a kicker. Paredes has long been the best one around and can do it again this year. Kickers are people, too!

DURRELL: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

If the Winnipegger comes remotely close to his production from last season, he should be the runaway favourite to land his second consecutive Most Outstanding Canadian award. He is by far the league’s most talented Canadian and he’ll prove that once again in 2024.

FILOSO: LB Ben Hladik, B.C. Lions

The six-foot-three, 235-pounder started every game at middle linebacker in 2023 and notched 102 tackles, five sacks, and an interception. Look for him to build off his career year while patrolling the heart of the Lions’ defence.

GASSON: RB Brady Oliveria, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

This is a boring pick but Oliveria was so much better than everyone else last year, even a regression should leave him at the top of the heap.

GRANT: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

I don’t think he’ll put up the same numbers he did last season, but he won’t have to. He’s a star league-wide and, so as long as he can stay healthy for most of the season, his numbers will be good enough to be the runaway winner.

HERRERA-VERGARA: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The former second-round pick should have another great year in Winnipeg. It might not be as good as last year, but at the end of the day, he’ll likely still have the edge on every other Canadian in the league.

HODGE: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The 26-year-old might not go for 2,000 yards from scrimmage again this season but he’s a cut above everyone else in the CFL right now. The Winnipeg native would be the league’s first repeat Most Outstanding Canadian since Jon Cornish won the award three straight times from 2012 to 2014.

HOSKINS: REC Kurleigh Gittens Jr., Edmonton Elks

This year could bring a big bounce back for Gittens as he’s been paired back with McLeod Bethel-Thompson, the quarterback he had the most success with back in Toronto. He’s healthier than anyone expected at this point and will be a focus in Edmonton’s offence.

KLEIN: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

I’d love to come up with a dark horse pick here but Oliveira is the best Canadian in the CFL on one of the league’s top teams. If he can stay healthy, this could be a copy-and-paste pick for the next few years.

McGUIRE: REC Kurleigh Gittens Jr., Edmonton Elks

I love the synergy between Gittens and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. This could be a very fruitful reunion in the City of Champions.

Breakout Player

ABBOTT: LB Josh Woods, B.C. Lions

After two years as a noticeable package player and an incredible starting stint in the playoffs, Woods will be on the field a lot more for B.C. this year. If he’s not at least a West Division all-star, I’ll be shocked.

BALLANTINE: REC Cam Echols, Calgary Stampeders

The first-year Stampeder has bounced around in football for a while but managed eight catches on ten targets for 160 yards against Winnipeg in the preseason. The early replacement for Malik Henry could shine in Cowtown.

DURRELL: REC Kevin Mital, Toronto Argonauts

The Laval product was the steal of the 2024 CFL Draft at fifth overall and could be a great under-the-radar player that fans will come to recognize as the season progresses. Mital already showed glimpses in the preseason, ripping off an 82-yard touchdown against Hamilton. Let’s see what the kid’s got when the real games begin.

FILOSO: REC Kalil Pimpleton, Ottawa Redblacks

The speedy 25-year-old was one of Ottawa’s standouts in training camp and the preseason. Whether it’s via catching passes or returning kicks, everyone across the country will know his name by the end of 2024.

GASSON: REC Dohnte Meyers, Saskatchewan Roughriders

Meyers showed a lot in camp and during the preseason. It might be a few weeks until he sees the field but he’s got all the tools to succeed.

GRANT: REC Kevin Mital, Toronto Argonauts

I believe Kevin Mital will be a star in this league for years to come. He might not get on the field right away with fellow Canadians Dave Ungerer III, Dejon Brissett, and Tommy Nield commanding time, but we saw what he can do when given the chance against Hamilton this past week with that 82-yard touchdown reception.

HERRERA-VERGARA: REC Charleston Rambo, Montreal Alouettes

Danny Maciocia signed Tevin Jones to replace Austin Mack but Charleston Rambo outplayed the veteran at training camp. Jones got released and Rambo will have a shot as a starter to begin the year where he should shine in Jason Maas’ offence.

HODGE: QB Dru Brown, Ottawa Redblacks

When he saw his first action last year, I tweeted that Dru Brown was better than several CFL starting quarterbacks and he proved me right, finishing the year with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. The 27-year-old makes quick decisions and throws well on the run, which will help take pressure off Ottawa’s offensive line.

HOSKINS: QB Dru Brown, Ottawa Redblacks

The Redblacks have found their guy and he will bring the team some long-awaited and much-needed consistency under centre. He will learn from Jeremiah Masoli and has a solid receiving corps at his disposal.

KLEIN: REC Jalen Philpot, Calgary Stampeders

His twin broke out in the Grey Cup, so why can’t Jalen have his coming-out party this season? Calgary’s receiving corps has been beaten up, providing Philpot with the perfect chance to reach the level so many people believe he can.

McGUIRE: REC KeeSean Johnson, Saskatchewan Roughriders

The former NFL draft pick could be the Robin to Kian Schaffer-Baker’s Batman and should play an integral role in Saskatchewan’s offence.

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

Grey Cup

ABBOTT: B.C. Lions 35, Montreal Alouettes 21

It’s now or never for the Lions to get over the hump and I trust them to do it at home in 2024. I don’t trust the talented but tumultuous Argos, so Montreal will be the de facto losers from the East Division.

BALLANTINE: Calgary Stampeders 27, Saskatchewan Roughriders 24

The Grey Cup is supposed to be fun and what would be more fun than the prairies dumping into Vancouver for the first-ever crossover Cup?

DURRELL: B.C. Lions 27, Montreal Alouettes 20

The Lions have all the pieces to make a run at the Grey Cup and will finally get over the hump by beating the Blue Bombers in the West Final before taking out the defending Grey Cup champions in a classic at BC Place Stadium.

FILOSO: Ottawa Redblacks 23, Saskatchewan Roughriders 20

The pressure of hosting the big game will be too much for the Lions to overcome, allowing Saskatchewan to squeak by. In their second full season together, head coach Bob Dyce and general manager Shawn Burke finally get stable quarterback play to pair with their stout defence and electric special teams units.

GASSON: B.C. Lions 30, Montreal Alouettes 25

It’s time for the Lions to get over the hump as Winnipeg’s run in the West Division has to end eventually. Meanwhile, the Alouettes seem like the only complete team in the East Division right now.

GRANT: Saskatchewan Roughriders 24, Montreal Alouettes 23

Everything in Saskatchewan turned around once Coach Mace was hired and, with a healthy Trevor Harris, they should have enough on both sides of the ball to scratch and claw their way to the Grey Cup. Montreal’s path will be more difficult if Chad Kelly returns to form following his suspension, but there are too many variables right now with every other team in the East Division not to foresee the Alouettes in the title game once again.

HERRERA-VERGARA: Montreal Alouettes 27, B.C. Lions 24

This is a bold prediction, but the Alouettes have the tools to go back-to-back as their offence and defence haven’t changed much and the path seems easier in the East Division. The Lions should finally beat Winnipeg in the playoffs and set up a great matchup.

HODGE: B.C. Lions 33, Toronto Argonauts 26

The Lions snap a 12-year Grey Cup drought in front of a sold-out crowd at BC Place Stadium in a story fit for a Hollywood film. It’ll be a dogfight between B.C. and Winnipeg for the top spot in the West Division but the Lions are bound to knock off the Blue Bombers one of these years.

HOSKINS: B.C. Lions 34, Montreal Alouettes 27

B.C.’s offence will take off again and they’ve gotten tougher on defence. Look for the Lions to be led to the promised land by M.O.P. quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.

KLEIN: B.C. Lions 32, Montreal Alouettes 20

The Lions have had success when hosting the Grey Cup in the past, so why can’t it happen again? Another year to grow and improve gives them a slight edge over the Blue Bombers in the West Division and homefield elevates them to a big win in the biggest game.

McGUIRE: B.C. Lions 30, Montreal Alouettes 27

Winnipeg’s defence isn’t going to hold on long enough to get a fifth straight trip to the Grey Cup. Montreal will only get there because of Toronto’s dysfunction and the rest of the East Division rolling over again.