Every year the CFL is introduced to several players that seemingly come from nowhere to become stars or key contributors on their respective teams. Sometimes it’s a CFL Draft selection or an International rookie. Other times it’s a journeyman player who finally got his chance to shine. As the CFL season enters its final stretch, it’s time to take a look at each team and shine the spotlight on these deserving players. Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at the 2016 CFL breakout players.
2016 CFL Breakout Players
Kenny Shaw (Other notables: Llevi Noel and Thomas Gordon)
After failing to catch a pass in his rookie year, Toronto Argonauts receiver Kenny Shaw leads his team in both receptions and yardage through in 2016. The speedy playmaker has stepped up in his second season, helping carry the Argos offence in the early part of the season when fellow receivers Tori Gurley and Kevin Elliott were either injured or ineffective. In fact, Shaw has continued to find his way on the field even with Toronto’s receiving corps now nearly back to full health. With the Argos in serious need of wins down the stretch, expect Shaw to continue to produce at a high level.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Kevin Fogg (Other notables: Taylor Loffler and Timothy Flanders)
What is it with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and finding defensive talent? Last year linebacker Khalil Bass came into his own with the Bombers and the year before that Maurice Leggett was introduced. Whatever it is, the Bombers have found yet another promising defender in Kevin Fogg, who leads the team in defensive tackles with 61 and is third with three interceptions. Add on some unheralded return skills to go with his defensive acumen, and Fogg is likely to become a fixture in the ‘Peg for years to come.
Larry Dean (Other notables: Adrian Tracy and Drake Nevis)
After four years in the NFL, linebacker Larry Dean was quick to make his mark north of the border, notching a sack in his first ever CFL game. Playing in every match this year, Dean sits just behind star linebacker Simoni Lawrence for the team lead in tackles. An established run defender, Dean also has a knack for creating turnovers, notching an interception and two forced fumbles and another two fumble recoveries so far this season. In a defence full of new faces for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Dean certainly has not looked out of place.
Deon Lacy (Other notables: Kenny Ladler and Neil King)
For the past two years Deon Lacy has been a productive player. Yet despite his eye-popping 52 special teams tackles and six sacks, he was never a full-time starter on defence. That all changed this year when the Edmonton Eskimos coaching staff saw fit to give Lacy the full time starter’s gig at linebacker. Leading his team in total tackles with 77 and tied for first in interceptions (three) and defensive touchdowns (one), Lacy has cemented himself as an every down defender. With all the production Lacy has generated this year, the only surprise is that the Esks waited this long to get him on the field consistently.
B.J. Cunningham (Other notables: Jonathon Mincy and Anthony Fera)
It hasn’t been a good year for the Montreal Alouettes on offence with injuries claiming starters S.J. Green and Tyrell Sutton early in the year. Yet despite their poor record (3-9), the Als can certainly take some solace in the development of second year receiver B. J. Cunningham. While Cunningham had a productive rookie year in 2015 (308 yards and four touchdowns), the 6″2 pass catcher has excelled as a deep threat behind Duron Carter and the venerable Nik Lewis despite missing two games. With 633 yards already in the books and six games still to go, Cunningham is on track to push for an even bigger role in 2017.
Jonathon Rose (Other Notables: Connor Williams and Ettore Lattanzio)
Despite the team being in only its third year of existence the Ottawa Redblacks are a surprisingly veteran team. With not a lot of room for rookies or unestablished players to make an impact, the story of Jonathon Rose becomes even more impressive. Rose has made his share of plays this year, including a game changing interception last week against the Argos. With Ottawa attempting to make another Grey Cup run the Redblacks will need more of the same from Rose going forward.
Naaman Roosevelt (Other notables: Justin Cox and Tyler Crapigna)
The Saskatchewan Roughriders may not have a lot going for them this season with a 3-10 record, but the team is certainly not without promising building blocks. Without a doubt the biggest of these is Naaman Roosevelt, the leading Riders receiver and offseason hype machine. Despite being out with an injury that could cost him the rest of his year, Roosevelt has put up an outrageous 1095 yards in 11 games with his acrobatic sideline catches. So impressive is Roosevelt’s production that he could remain in the top 10 in receiving yardage without playing another down. The Riders would be wise to make sure their new top talent remains with the team for years to come.
Alex Singleton (Other notables: DaVaris Daniels and Roy Finch)
It’s not always a given that first round picks will produce immediate results in the CFL, but the Calgary Stampeders struck gold with their sixth overall selection of Alex Singleton. The dual citizenship linebacker garnered NFL interest for his stellar college play and has done well transitioning that talent to the field for the Stamps. Sitting fourth on the Stamps in total tackles with 39 to go along with a pair of forced fumbles, Singleton has been especially productive as of late with 21 tackles in his past four games. A stellar coaching staff and veteran leaders like Deron Mayo and Brandon Smith may be able to help Singleton develop into the next great National linebacker.
Bryan Burnham (Other notables: Loucheiz Purifoy and Chris Rainey)
One of the biggest breakout stars this season, Bryan Burnham has been turning heads everywhere since kicking off the season with a five-catch, 88-yard performance against the Stamps. With questions abounding in the offseason as to who would step up across from Emmanuel Arceneaux as the B.C. Lion’s number two receiver, Burnham has done his best to prove he is the man for the job. With a very real chance at going over 1000 receiving yards (currently he has 867) and the ever-growing trust of quarterback Jonathan Jennings, Burnham looks set to join the next wave of top CFL pass catchers.