Over the past years, TSN has done an excellent job stirring the pot with its Top 50 CFL Players list. CFL players care about their personal rankings, and when factoring in pride and salary bonuses, they surely care about whether their name’s on a CFL All-Star ballot.
That said, it’s no cakewalk narrowing it down to 48 divisional and 24 league All-Stars.
How to Form a CFL All-Star Ballot?
There’s the decision of whether a CFL All-Star ballot should have the positional category’s best players regardless of their specific position or not. It’s likely best to do a mix of both as it gets a tad silly trying to praise a Z (field-side receiver) with under 500 yards. Then on defence, without some research, you can’t pin-point players’ positions in secondaries who have moved players around by choice (Edmonton) or not by choice (Toronto and Ottawa).
What about games played? Are Cory Greenwood and Don Unamba All-Star worthy despite playing no more than 12 games? Is Jeff Hecht an All-Star despite getting benched? Chandler Fenner’s going to reach 80 tackles, is that All-Star worthy?
In an odd season, some positional races stand out for various reasons.
When looking strictly at individuals’ numbers, Cody Fajardo and McLeod Bethel-Thompson appear to be the favourites for each division’s All-Star quarterback. Mike Reilly and Vernon Adams Jr. are in the conversation too, but Fajardo’s record is much stronger than Reilly’s, as is Adams Jr.’s to Bethel-Thompson’s. So what matters more?
Then there’s Bo Levi Mitchell and Dane Evans, who are likely going to start 11 and 12 games respectively. They may be quarterbacking the top seeds in each division but again, how many games does an All-Star have to play?
For what it’s worth, right now Fajardo and Adams Jr. are my All-Star quarterbacks.
West Running Back
There are some who believe Andrew Harris shouldn’t win any awards after testing positive for PEDs, but what about an All-Star nod? He’s clearly the best running back in the game both fundamentally and statistically. As for other candidates, C.J. Gable is having a career year and is only 200 yards behind Harris, and William Powell has nearly triple the touchdowns as Harris.
Harris’ PED suspension had little to no effect on his play. Logically he’s the easy choice.
Larry Dean’s a lock for one linebacker spot in the West, but the other is between two veteran studs: Cory Greenwood and Solomon Elimimian. Greenwood’s sitting at 79 tackles and 12 games and is injured, while a healthy Elimimian is at 73 with three games left.
The injury dilemma’s in the East too. In each of their 15th games, Henoc Muamba and Justin Tuggle have got some breathing room on Avery Williams who has 69 tackles in 11 games. Muamba’s likely one of two nominees, but was Tuggle better on the field this season than Williams? Besides an interception, Tuggle’s just recorded 70 tackles. Williams has a sack, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries to his name too.
In the West, my current nominees are Dean and Elimimian, and Muamba and Williams from the East.
Patrick Levels has some phenomenal statistics, ranking fourth in the league with 77 tackles and four sacks to boot. Or there’s Rico Murray, Hamilton’s excellent cover man who only has 43 tackles, but two interceptions and a touchdown.
Out West, Derrick Moncrief has the best numbers with 67 tackles, four sacks and one interception and forced fumble. Edmonton’s Don Unamba has got four sacks in just 10 starts, along with 39 tackles and an interception and forced fumble too. Unamba’s also been slightly better in coverage, but will he have enough starts for an All-Star case?
The statistics are too hard to overlook here, so Levels in the East and Moncrief out West.
Interception machines Tre Roberson and Winston Rose deserve spots despite playing the same position, so they’d fill both cornerback spots. Josh Johnson needs to be at a halfback spot after his breakout campaign season. In my opinion, this leaves a halfback spot between Loucheiz Purifoy and the recently injured Aaron Grymes.
For my money, they are the two best lockdown defensive backs in the CFL. It takes away from their base statistics, but Grymes has remarkably given up less than 200 yards passing on the season and has 54 tackles compared to Purifoy’s 32. Grymes gets my vote.
So in the West, it’s currently Roberson, Johnson, Grymes, and Rose.
In the East, who’s the boundary corner All-Star? Jumal Rolle has a legitimate case despite currently being a healthy backup now. Rolle’s got five interceptions in nine starts, and none of Chris Randle, Tommie Campbell, or Delvin Breaux have exactly been studs this season. The Argos don’t even have a full-time boundary cornerback; if anyone it’s Alden Darby.
At halfback, there’s a serious debate between a pair of Alouettes and Tiger-Cats. All of Greg Reid, Cariel Brooks, Richard Leonard and Ciante Evans deserve to be on a CFL All-Star, but only two will be.
Despite Reid giving up three touchdowns, he’s countered that with three interceptions and an 11.05 yards per catch against average, the best of the four. He’s also been a major disturbance to opponents with 60 hard tackles. Leonard’s similar to Reid, as Leonard’s been beat for four scores but grabbed four interceptions. He’s also operating at an elite 44 per cent completion percentage against when targetted.
At the last cornerback spot, it’s between Tommie Campbell or Chris Randle as a second boundary nominee or Frankie Williams. Campbell’s recorded three interceptions but has surrendered a ton of yards and Randle’s been healthy scratched twice. Williams has been beaten by the odd deep ball but has had some terrific outings with a ton of pass breakups.
In the East, I’m currently going with Rolle, Reid, Leonard, and Williams.
Does Tunde Adeleke get the nod by default, despite average play? Or is Alden Darby qualified as a safety, or have Bo Lokombo’s Richter scale hits built him a case? Adeleke’s by no means the best safety in the East, but injuries and positional swapping may land him a spot on the East’s CFL All-Star ballot.
Darby’s my current choice after starting nearly half the Argos’ games at safety.
It was the year of the return early on, but who’s consistently been the best return man? At first glance, Loucheiz Purifoy or Frankie Williams appear to be the answers. Winnipeg’s Janarion Grant leads the CFL in return touchdowns in a smaller sample size and then there’s DeVonte Dedman’s five superb return games, or Ryan Lankford’s explosive returns.
You can’t go wrong, but my current picks would be Williams and Grant.
Within the next six weeks, there will be one Grey Cup champion among the six legitimate contenders. There will be a Most Outstanding Player that will leave many worthy candidates salty. Then there will be 48 divisional and 24 league All-Stars. As of Week 19, only a handful of players have their name cemented on a CFL All-Star ballot, but a lot can change.
Disagree with any choices or feel there’s more tight races or unmentioned nominees? Let me know in the comments section below or at @nik_kowalski on Twitter!
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