Though the annual CFL Player Awards are the last thing on the minds of Canadian Football fans right now, it is never too early to look ahead and ponder who will be the top performers of the year. With all the moves of the off-season passed, we can better digress who may shine for their respective team.
In a league packed with star players and rising stars, which players will outperform everyone else. Who will be named the Defensive Player of the Year? Which rookie will be named the Rookie of The Year? And will a player other than a quarterback win the Most Outstanding Player Award.
Here is my take on who will win each award:
There are always a lot of players to consider when predicting who will win the Outstanding Player of the Year Award. Quarterbacks always seem to be favoured to win this coveted award and there are no shortages of options to pick.
Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray always put up MOP calibre numbers. Last years finalists Anthony Calvillo and Henry Burris could also very well compete for the award.
It may well be a running back who claims the hardware. Joffrey Reynolds is fresh off winning the rushing title and should continue to be strong behind a rejuvenated offensive line. Wes Cates and Avon Coburne will also be two running backs to watch for.
But for my prediction I am not picking a running back or a quarterback. This of course leaves wide receivers. Jamal Richardson, Geroy Simon, Ben Cahoon and Weston Dressler are just a few of the talented receivers to watch for.
My pick however, is BC slotback Paris Jackson. Paris Jackson is a wildcard pick, but he is one of the rising stars in the league and should see more passes thrown his way with the departure of Jason Clermont.
Throw in the fact that BC has no proven running game and defenders seem to key on Geroy Simon, and Paris Jackson could be the bright light on the Lions.
Outstanding Defensive Player
Cameron Wake, had he not bolted to the NFL, would have been the favourites to capture this award once again. As it stands, there are plenty of players who will compete hard to win the award.
Unlike Wake however, I don’t believe that another defensive lineman will win the award because no lineman rely stood out all that much beside Cameron Wake. Doug Brown got nominated last year out of the East, but I believed his nomination was questionable.
A few defensive players to watch for this season would be defensive backs Chris Thompson, Baron Miles and Jason Goss. In the line backing core, look for Toronto linebacker Zeke Moreno who will likely make a big impact for the Argos defense, and Calgary’s Mike Labinjo who is one of the rising stars on defense.
My pick is Edmonton middle linebacker Maurice Lloyd. Though it was a tough pick, I believe that Lloyd could potentially have a huge impact on the Eskimos defense. Maurice Lloyd was considered to be the second choice to Cameron Wake last year for the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
The only question mark to Maurice Lloyd winning the award is whether or not signing a large contract will affect his play. But, question marks aside, Lloyd has proven to be a menacing middle linebacker and should continue his success with the Eskimos.
Outstanding Canadian Award
Last year, much improved player Kamau Peterson claimed the Outstanding Canadian Award, who will win it this year?
Peterson may in fact be a logical choice to repeat. Edmonton will likely rely on him even more in the passing game and he does catch passes from Rick “Amazing” Ray. You could also make a strong case for last years runner up Ben Cahoon, who always catches a lot of passes.
My pick is Saskatchewan slotback Andy Fantuz. Fantuz has had some recent injury problems which have prevented him from reaching his full potential. But I believe Andy Fantuz is due for a breakout year. With Weston Dressler and Jason Clermont to complement him in the receiving core, Fantuz should face less double teams then he would have last season.
Outstanding Offensive Lineman
Let’s be honest, talking about offensive lineman is about as interesting as rearranging a shoe drawer. However, the award does exist and the competition is usually fierce… fiercer than two linemen fighting for the last chicken wing at a buffet.
Rob Murphy has claimed the award before, but will his success drop playing for the woeful Toronto Argonauts? Gene Makowsky and Scott Flory were both nominated last year, but will their age hurt their chances?
My pick is Hamilton offensive lineman Alexandre Gauthier. It is really hard to pick which lineman will outperform the other, especially without knowing whose running game will perform the best.
Gauthier is a talented offensive lineman and is part of a rejuvenated Tiger Cat offensive line. With running backs Kenton Keith and Terry Caulley running behind him, Gauthier could have a chance to impress the voters.
Outstanding Rookie of the Year Award
There are a number of enticing options this year for the rookie of the year award. Usually offensive linemen don’t seem to win the award, which may change this year as there are a number of solid ones.
My initial thought was to select Jamal Lee, but he may not even see the CFL this season. Other players that crossed my mind were lineman Simon Rottier and slotback Matt Carter.
My pick is Toronto defensive lineman Étienne Légaré. Légaré was viewed as one of the more talented players in the draft and could make an immediate impact to the Argos defensive line.
Of course, there is always the possibility of a player coming in from the states winning the award, like Roughrider receiver Weston Dressler.
Outstanding Special Teams Player
With last years winner Dominique Dorsey gone to the NFL, this years award is really up in the open.
The award could very likely go to a kicker such as Sandro Deangellis, Luca Congi or Noel Prefontaine. Look for return specialist Ian Smart to also garner some consideration.
My pick is Saskatchewan kicker Luca Congi. Congi has improved ever since he got into the league and has developed into a solid kicker. Congi will be challenged by Sandro Deangellis for the award.
Outstanding Player: Paris Jackson
Outstanding Defensive Player: Maurice Lloyd
Outstanding Canadian Award: Andy Fantuz
Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Alexandre Gauthier
Outstanding Rookie of the Year Award: Étienne Légaré
Outstanding Special Teams Player: Luca Congi
Do you have a magic crystal ball that you can use to look ahead and see what will happen in the upcoming CFL Season? If not, stay tuned for my CFL Team Previews, starting next week for a better idea about how each team will fair in the upcoming season.