Sick of 2010s’ lists? Well, we have good news — this is a 2020’s list! Totally different. In all seriousness, there are a ton of CFL players under 30 — an unofficial cutoff age for this team — who deserve some recognition for their greatness to come. And considering the CFL’s ratio rules of course, this team has to be made up of the necessary roster requirements (21 Canadians, two Global players, etc.).
Here are Nik Kowalski’s and Stephen Bolen’s best guesses at the 2020 CFL All-Decade team, with full rationale below and the “just missed” potential candidates:
Nik: Bo Levi Mitchell, Cody Fajardo, Vernon Adams Jr.
Stephen: Bo Levi Mitchell, Cody Fajardo.
Other candidates: Dane Evans, Will Arndt, Nathan Rourke.
Nik: Sean Thomas-Erlington, Ka’Deem Carey.
Stephen: Sean Thomas-Erlington, Don Jackson, Johnny Augustine.
Other candidates: Karlos Williams, Shaq Cooper, James Wilder Jr.
Nik: Nikola Kalinic, Declan Cross.
Stephen: Nikola Kalinic, Declan Cross
Other candidates: Spencer Moore, William Langlais, James Tuck.
I still consider Bo Levi Mitchell as the league’s best quarterback, so I don’t care that he’s now in his 30’s. Cody Fajardo’s 2019 breakout season should develop into a decade of success. A 27-year-old Vernon Adams Jr. would serve as the third-stringer.
Sean Thomas-Erlington should be the guy in Hamilton’s backfield for years to come, with the potential for Andrew Harris-like production. Ka’Deem Carey’s a 27-year-old speedster coming off an injury-shortened rookie season. He’ll be the Stampeders starting back for years to come, which should equate to 1,000-yard seasons.
For starters, Nikola Kalinic is likely to still be in the league during the 2029 season. At 23, he’s shown to be a legitimate block and a threat — in terms of fullbacks — in the passing game. If Declan Cross can get back to having 300-yard seasons and bulldozing opponents, he’ll be one of the league’s finest for the next decade.
Bo Levi Mitchell has all the tools to continue his success well into the 2020s. Even if he doesn’t finish the decade, the numbers he’s likely to put up over the next 5-7 years will earn him a spot on this list and likely in the Greatest of All-Time (GOAT) debate. Though Fajardo only has one year under his belt, pairing him with Jason Maas appears to look like we’ll see a more aggressive offence that could catapult him into the elite of elite quarterbacks.
Nik and I are in agreement for Thomas-Erlington. However, with Don Jackson, I can see his production increasing in Hamilton and being used in creative ways alongside Thomas-Erlington. And as Andrew Harris enters the twilight of his career, Johnny Augustine is in prime position to take the reigns at 26 years old and take over.
Nik: Shaq Evans, Dominique Rhymes, Diego Viamontes Cotera.
Stephen: Shaq Evans, Hergy Mayala, Max Zimmerman.
Other candidates: Eugene Lewis, DaVaris Daniels, Shaq Johnson, Drew Wolitarsky.
Nik: Kyran Moore, Lemar Durant, Hergy Mayala, Kenny Lawler.
Stephen: Kyran Moore, Lemar Durant, Juwan Brescasin, Ricky Collins Jr.
Other candidates: Bryan Burnham, Jaelon Acklin, Greg Ellingson, Nic Demski, Jake Weineke, R.J. Harris.
With over 2,000 receiving yards in his first two CFL seasons, Shaq Evans is going to be a problem for every opposing defence. If a 26-year-old Dominique Rhymes can put up 1,000 receiving yards in Ottawa, I’d love to see what the 6’4 receiver can do paired with Mike Reilly. Diego Viamontes Cotera was the first overall pick in the inaugural CFL Global Draft, making him a worthy choice for one of the two global players.
As one of the youngest players in the league, Kyran Moore fell four yards short of 1,000 yards last season. Lemar Durant was flirting with a 1,000-yard season in 2019, breaking out as the league’s top Canadian receiver. Hergy Mayala recorded 562 yards in his rookie season, and the connection with Bo Levi alone is scary to think of. Then Kenny Lawler, a late bloomer who could be Winnipeg’s number one guy for the entirety of the 2020s.
Nik and I are in agreement with Evans, Moore, Durant, and Mayala. I chose the sixth overall pick in the European draft, Max Zimmerman to represent as one of my Global players. His speed and elusiveness could prove to be difficult for opposing defenders to handle if he gets a shot.
Ricky Collins Jr. has had a winding path in the CFL playing for three teams in four years. However, he put up his finest season yet in 2019 posting over 1,000 yards on 78 receptions. The Trevor Harris to Collins Jr. connection could prove to be lethal in the years to come.
Nik: Ryker Mathews.
Stephen: Ryker Matthews.
Other candidates: Tyler Johnstone, Terran Vaughn, Jamal Campbell.
Nik: Brandon Revenberg, Drew Desjarlais.
Stephen: Brandon Revenberg.
Other candidates: Drew Desjarlais, Sukh Chungh, Trey Rutherford, Nolan MacMillan.
Nik: Sean McEwen, Michael Couture.
Stephen: Sean McEwen, Michael Couture.
Other candidates: Ucambre Williams, Cody Speller, Alex Mateas.
Nik: Dakoda Shepley.
Stephen: Dakoda Shepley, Dariusz Bladek.
Other candidates: Ryan Sceviour, Jesse Gibbon, Darius Ciraco, Shane Richards.
Nik: Jermarcus Hardrick.
Stephen: Jermarcus Hardrick.
Other candidates: Takoby Cofield, Kyle Saxield, Brett Boyko.
Ryker Mathews is a dominant, big tackle who will be just what the doctor ordered in B.C., and at my other tackle spot is Jermarcus Hardrick, a just as big and menacing blocker who has a high motor. At guard, Brandon Revenberg’s an easy choice as one of the best in the game while Dakoda Shepley, 25, and Drew Desjarlais, 23, should be All-Star caliber players throughout the 2020s. Up the middle is Sean McEwen, the third pick in the 2015 draft and Calgary’s new centre.
Nik and I are in agreement on the majority of the line, I added Bladek as another option at right guard as he could be an anchor on at guard for the Toronto Argonauts for years to come.
Nik: Kwaku Boateng, Thiadric Hansen, Avery Ellis.
Stephen: Willie Jefferson, Jackson Jeffcoat, Kwaku Boateng, Chris Casher, Thiadric Hansen.
Other candidates: J.R. Tavai, Julian Howsare, Forlain Orimolade, Antonio Simmons, Mathieu Betts.
Nik: Dylan Wynn, Mike Moore, Mike Rose, Cleyon Laing.
Stephen: Dylan Wynn, Mike Rose, Cleyon Laing.
Other candidates: Derek Wiggan, Fabion Foote, Steven Richardson, Michael Wakefield.
At defensive end, Kwaku Boateng is the easy pick. The 25-year-old Canadian has registered 67 tackles and 21 sacks in his first three CFL seasons. There’s the underappreciated Avery Ellis, who in three seasons has 97 tackles and 16 sacks. Thiadric Hansen was easily the most productive Global player in 2019 and should have a fine CFL career.
The key piece in the middle is Dylan Wynn, who broke out with 44 tackles and 11 sacks last season. Mike Moore collected nine sacks in 2019, establishing himself in the trenches while Mike Rose quietly had 46 tackles and 5 sacks in his first season as a starter. The underrated National in Cleyon Laing rounds out my interior.
Willie Jefferson could very well have a Charleston Hughes career arc. At just 29 years-old there is lots of productivity left in Jefferson to land him on this list at the end of 2029. Casher burst onto the scene in 2019 with seven sacks in his first season. Now with the B.C. Lions, I foresee a strong decade ahead for the defensive end. Finally, Jeffcoat has been putting up consistent numbers for three seasons now, look for him to really break out this decade.
Nik: Cam Judge, Vontae Diggs, Chris Ackie.
Stephen: Cam Judge, Chris Ackie.
Other candidates: Jovan Santos-Knox, Micah Teitz, Kevin Brown, Tevin Floyd, Adam Konar.
Nik: Nate Holley, Nick Shortill, Fraser Sopik.
Stephen: Nate Holley, Micah Awe, Wynton McManis.
Other candidates: Kevin Haynes, Jerod Fernandez, Justin Herdman-Reed, Avery Williams, Thomas Miles.
Nik: Loucheiz Purifoy.
Stephen: Loucheiz Purifoy.
Other candidates: Mercy Maston, Patrick Levels, Abdul Kanneh.
Cam Judge is the no-brainer here after his stellar 2019 season. The 2017 second overall pick is on the most dynamic players on defence. At 24, Vontae Diggs is a sneaky add — but he’s primed to become Edmonton’s go-to linebacker sooner than later. Chris Ackie can line up anywhere, and his Canadian passport helps.
In the middle is 2019 Most Outstanding Rookie Nate Holley, a 25-year-old tackling machine. Nick Shorthill (27) and Fraser Sopik (23) are two up-and-coming Canadians who would thrive as starters. Then at strong-side linebacker, it’s Loucheiz Purifoy, one of the few lockdown playmakers in the CFL.
When he played a full season in 2017, Awe showed fans what we can do with 18 games. Since then, he’s only been able to play in 17 games over the last two seasons. If he’s able to put together consecutive full seasons throughout the decade, Awe will blow many away.
Nik: Nick Marshall, Raheem Wilson.
Stephen: Nick Marshall, Raheem Wilson.
Other candidates: Gary Peters, Jumal Rolle, Alden Darby, Josh Johnson, Jonathon Mincy.
Nik: Greg Reid.
Stephen: Ed Gainey.
Other candidates: T.J. Lee, Cariel Brooks, Corey Tindal, Jeff Richards.
Nik: Brandon Alexander.
Stephen: Brandon Alexander.
Other candidates: Ciante Evans, Richard Leonard, Forrest Hightower, Brian Walker, Sherrod Baltimore.
Nik: Shaq Richardson.
Stephen: Shaq Richardson.
Other candidates: Arjen Colquhoun, L.J. McCray, Mike Jones, Najee Murray, Tuquwan Glass.
Nik: Royce Metchie, Bo Lokombo, Tunde Adeleke.
Stephen: Royce Metchie, Mike Edem, Bo Lokombo.
Other candidates: Branden Dozier, Isiah Guyzylak-Messam, Jordan Hoover, Antoine Pruneau, Justin Howell.
Nick Marshall is the best choice at cornerback after two excellent seasons. Raheem Wilson burst onto the scene in Calgary last year and should find success at the boundary spot now. I got Shaq Richardson at field corner, who can do it all in the secondary. Frankie Williams rounds out the corners, as he is a stout man defender and doubles as a returner.
Although he’s 29, Greg Reid is destined to be an elite halfback for the foreseeable future after a breakout 2019 season. Brandon Alexander can move around in the secondary, but field halfback makes the most sense for the 26-year-old.
I’m going all Canadian at safety with Royce Metchie as the starter. The 23-year-old had 48 tackles and three interceptions in his first year as a starter. The hard-hitting Bo Lokombo will be feared for years to come, while Tunde Adeleke’s best days are yet to come after three solid seasons in the league.
Ed Gainey at 29 years-old is right on that threshold. However, he’s put together a number of stellar seasons since joining the green and white and continue that momentum going into the 2020s. Nik and I are in agreement for the remainder of the secondary.
Nik: Lewis Ward.
Stephen: Brett Lauther.
Other candidates: Sergio Castillo, Tyler Crapigna, Richie Leone, Boris Bede.
Nik: Frankie Williams.
Stephen: Frankie Williams.
Other candidates: DeVonte Dedmon, Janarion Grant, Shakeir Ryan, Mario Alford.
Nik: Louis-Phillippe Bourassa.
Stephen: Jorgen Hus.
Other candidates: Tanner Doll, Pierre-Luc Caron.
With a 92.2% career field goal percentage, Lewis Ward is as consistent as they come. He’d be able to handle punting duties too after spending his final U Sports season handling all kicking duties.
2019’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player Frankie Williams is not only a dynamic defensive back but an explosive, All-Star returner. Jeff Hecht’s workout program or not, 28-year-old Louis-Philippe Bourassa is considered to be one of the CFL’s best long snappers.
Lauther has an 82.3% career field goal percentage, short of Ward’s 92.2%. However, I predict Lauther’s history of game-winning field goals carries over into the 2020s and that could be enough to propel him over his East Division counter-part. Hus has been a consistent presence on the Riders since 2015 and I don’t see that changing heading into the new decade.
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