Who’s the favourite? The ‘MOP’ race is on

Who’s the favourite? The ‘MOP’ race is on

The question is, who is the favourite? That’s because the race to find the MOP is officially on.

During ‘awards season’ the CFL hands out a number of player honours including,  Most Outstanding Player, Most Outstanding Canadian Player, Most Outstanding Defensive Player, Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman, Most Outstanding Rookie, and Most Outstanding Special Teams Player.

On Wednesday the CFL announced each team’s nominees in each of these categories as voted for by CFL head coaches & respective CFL city’s voting members of the Football Reporters of Canada (FRC) . So with our focus on the ‘main’ player award, – the MOP, here is each team’s candidate:

BC Lions

Bryan Burnham WR: – A wide receiver who received a unanimous nomination.

With one game left on the schedule, Burnham is second among CFL receivers and has career-highs in receptions (93), receiving yards (1,401) and touchdowns (10).

He has also made a number of spectacular catches that have obviously caught the eye of voters.

Edmonton Eskimos

Trevor Harris QB: – Not bad for someone who has only just returned from the injury lists.

This award nomination is clearly because of his sterling work when leading the Edmonton O.

Through 13 games (13 starts), Harris has completed 343 of 478 passes (71.8%) for 4,027 yards and 16 touchdowns with only six interceptions. He has also rushed 48 times for 139 yards and six touchdowns.

Harris was named a CFL Player of the Week in Weeks 1 and 10 and CFL Player of the Month in June and August. 

Calgary Stampeders

Reggie Begelton – again a Wide Receiver who was unanimously nominated. Heading into the final week of the regular season Begelton has 96 receptions for 1,384 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Begelton has appeared in 16 games so far this season. he has a minimum of 3 catches in any game he has appeared in, five 100-yard games and a further three with 90+ yards receiving.

He has been a CFL player of the Week twice this season. 

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Cody Fajardo QB: After stepping in for Zach Collaros in Week 1, Fajardo has made this Riders team his own.

Through 17 games Fajardo has completed 338 of 473 passes (71.5%) for 4,302 yards with 18 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.

He has also had 107 carries producing 611 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Fajardo was named a CFL Player of the Week in Weeks 3, 8 and 20.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Willie Jefferson – the big Defensive End was nominated both as MOP and as Most Outstanding Defensive Player. He was a unanimous choice for the latter.

Jefferson’s first season as a member of the Blue Bombers saw him set a new CFL record for pass knockdowns by a defensive lineman with 16.

With one week to go he also has a league best 6 forced fumbles. Jefferson also had a team-best 12 sacks, as well as 24 tackles, one interception and two fumble recoveries.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

“Speedy B.”- Brandon Banks, another Wide Receiver, and another unanimous nomination.

Banks has started 16 games at Wide Receiver for Hamilton this season and leads the CFL through Week 20 in all major receiving categories, including receptions (112), yards (1,550) and touchdowns (13).

Those 112 receptions constitute a franchise record.

As well as that he has 13 carries for 56 yards and one rushing touchdown, 13 punt returns for 140 yards, and five missed field goal returns for 283 yards and two touchdowns.

With just the final week of the regular season left that means Banks has 16 touchdowns on the year, one short of the franchise record set by Chris Williams in 2012.

Banks was voted a CFL player of the Week in Weeks 5, 9 & 20. He was voted Player of the Month in June.

Toronto Argonauts

Derel Walker – WR: 2015’s Most Outstanding Rookie was a major off-season signing for the Boatmen. They have had a poor season but he has done what he can.

Walker has 65 receptions for a team-leading 1,040 yards and six touchdowns over 15 games this year. 

That means he averages 16 yards a catch, which is third best in the league among players with at least 30 receptions.

Ottawa REDBLACKS

Avery Williams LB: – This defensive stalwart has been nominated as MOP and as Most Outstanding Defensive Player too.

Williams is seeing out the season on the six game injured list. Before succumbing to that injury though he was one of the bright spots on a team suffering a poor season in Ottawa.

When he went down he was second in the league with 69 tackles made. In the 11 games he has played in 2019, Williams made 69 tackles on defense, 1 tackle on special teams and 1 sack.

Despite missing so many games, with one game left of the season, Williams is still ranked 13th in the CFL for most tackles by a defensive player. 

Montreal Alouettes

Vernon Adams Jr – Quarterback. The first unanimous selection not to be a Wide Receiver.

There is only so much the statistics can tell you in some cases. In Adams Jr’s case that is that he has completed 270 of 415 passes for 3,816 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions over 16 games.

Added to that have been 81 carries for 391 yards and 12 touchdowns.

What those stats don’t tell you is how much this team has coalesced around Adams Jr once he stepped in as starter.

He has led five fourth quarter comebacks this year, which is one short of the CFL record. Adams Jr is currently second in the CFL with 22 touchdown passes and sits in first place with 13 touchdowns (12 rushing and one receiving), one shy of the CFL record for quarterbacks in a season. 

The Als have also seen their field general lead the CFL with 44 completions of 20 yards or more. 

So who will the MOP be?

All of which leads to one inevitable question. Who will be the MOP? Doubtless fans of different teams will have their own favourites. Others will make arguments for particular players.

If you look back at the list of previous winners, you will see it is dominated by offensive players.

Teams have only nominated 2 defensive players here, – and Avery Williams shortened season won’t see him being touted for the award.

Willie Jefferson has had a great season in Winnipeg but I’d bet he has more of a chance at defensive MOP the way this vote usually goes.

Just as it is usually offensive players nominated, more often than not the winner of this award is a quarterback, as the last 4 winners have been.

If Saskatchewan finish top of the West there might be an argument to be made for Cody Fajardo there. Als fans may also argue that their best season in years has a lot to do with their man.

Clear Favourite?

However, for me, the clear favourite at the moment is a receiver. Which is quite a statement when you consider only 8 receivers have won this award since it began in 1953.

The first receive ever to win it was Hamilton’s Garner Henley in 1972. If I was a betting man I’d say Brandon Banks has a chance to join him this year.

We have seen how hard it is for a receiver to win the award – the last was Chad Owens in 2012. It may just be for Speedy B that his league leading receiving and special teams play give him a chance at the award.

Of course none of know who will win it and part of the fun is debating it until the announcement is made.

So let’s keep watching the product on the field and enjoying the debates off it as we wait to see who will be the CFL’s 2019 MOP.

Banner Image ‘Speedy B’ Brandon Banks is the Hamilton player among those nominated for MOP. Image from CFL.ca

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