CFL 2018 QB Rankings

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Ranking CFL’s Quarterbacks

1. Mike Reilly (Edmonton)

Though unorthodox in his throwing motion and style of play, Mike Reilly continues to produce year in and year out. Despite shaky production from Adarius Bowman and not having Derel Walker for a portion of the season, Reilly would go on to throw for 30 touchdowns and 5,830 yards on his way to an MOP campaign. Whether it’s his heart or his skill, it has led Reilly to be the cream of the crop and worthy of being the CFL’s best quarterback.

2. Ricky Ray (Toronto)

This may not age well as the 2018 season progresses but when Ricky Ray is healthy, he can rarely be stopped. Last season saw Ray go for 28 touchdowns and 5,546 yards, hardly a guy who is “too old” or “lost a step”. Many are speculating the recently acquired James Franklin to supplant Ray this season. However, if Ray continues his 2017 production into 2018 he will not give Marc Trestmen any reason to give Franklin the keys.

3. Bo Levi Mitchell (Calgary)

Bo Levi has seen a dip in production since his MOP campaign in 2016. 2017 saw Mitchell throw for the least amount of touchdowns since his 2014 season where he only started 14 games. This past off-season has seen Mitchell delete his Twitter account after this happened in 2017. There is no doubt that Bo Levi has all the tools to be an all-time great Quarterback in the CFL and while he has two straight Grey Cup losses to overcome, Mitchell appears geared up to return to his MOP-form in 2018.

4. Trevor Harris (Ottawa)

This is where it becomes tricky, one could put Matt Nichols here and to be honest it could be subject to a coin flip. Harris put up a good set of numbers last season clocking in with 30 touchdowns to 11 interceptions and 4,679 yards passing. Despite an inconsistent season as a team, Harris, when healthy, kept this team in contention throughout the season. Not having to look over his shoulder for Henry Burris certainly helps his cause and while he will continue to put up great individual numbers, the wins now need to follow before he can be included with the upper echelon of CFL quarterbacks such as Reilly, Ray and Mitchell.

5. Matt Nichols (Winnipeg)

What is holding Nichols back from becoming an elite quarterback in the CFL is his inability to shake the “game-manager” tag that has followed him throughout his career. And while not necessarily a bad thing, his lack of success in the post season the last two seasons have done little to aid him in that process. Often referred to as the “CFL’s Alex Smith”, Nichols put up career numbers last season with 28 touchdowns, 8 interceptions and 4,472 yards passing. However, his season ended similar to 2016 with a West Semi-Final defeat. In any event, if Nichols puts up similar numbers and is able to will his team to the Grey Cup, look for him to move up the rankings.

6. Zach Collaros (Saskatchewan)

*Braces for impact

Collaros is coming off of his worst season as a professional quarterback. However, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that the squad he was with in Hamilton had run its course. It appeared the Ti-Cats were still trying to stretch out the prime of a group that had been to two consecutive Grey Cups (13’&14′), three straight East-Finals (13′-15′) and four straight playoff appearances (13′-16′). The roster had gotten stale and not much was being done around Collaros that put him in a position to succeed. However, on pure optimism alone, it is my belief that a change of scenery, one of the most loaded skill position groups in the CFL and a solid coaching staff will see Collaros return to his 2015 form. Before his season-ending ACL injury, Collaros had put up 25 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in 12 games. First, he will have to beat out Bridge in a QB competition sure to dominate headlines. 

7. Jonathon Jennings (B.C.)

At one point he was hailed as the “Canadian Russell Wilson”, but after a tumultuous 2017 season, things have come crashing back down to earth for the young pivot. Similar to Collaros, his supporting cast did him no favours as the Lions boasted one of the worst O-Lines in football last season. However, poor decisions and injuries are also to blame for the poor season Jennings experienced last season throwing for more interceptions (19) than touchdowns (16) and losing his job to veteran Travis Lulay. If Jennings has anything going for him going into 2018 is that Lulay is still recovering from a brutal injury suffered last season, meaning that the keys belong to him for the beginning of the season anyways. There is no doubt the upside Jonathon Jennings has as a starting quarterback in this league, the true question is whether he is able to realize this potential or not.

8. Jeremiah Masoli (Hamilton)

Masoli has slowly built up his repertoire since entering the league in 2013. He has unreal athletic ability and led Hamilton to a strong finish after an 0-8 start led by Collaros. The reason for his low ranking in this list is simply that we have not seen enough of Masoli to put him above starters who have proven themselves over several seasons. Masoli put up an impressive stat line with 15 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in 12 games played. 2018 will be the true test for Masoli to see if he is a true #1 starter and if he is able to hold off Manziel and lead the Tiger-Cats back to the playoffs, look for him to jump up the list next season.

9. Brandon Bridge (Saskatchewan)

You do realize you’re reading this on RoughridersDaily right? While it’s tempting to put Travis Lulay, Kevin Glenn, Drew Willy or James Franklin, all of them either have topped out in their careers (Lulay, Glenn, Willy) or haven’t had the opportunity to show what they have yet (Franklin). Bridge would probably be lumped in with Franklin had it not been for Glenn’s poor first half play in a handful of games last season that spurred Bridge into action. An impressive 10 touchdowns 4 interceptions ratio last season and his ability to escape pressure with his legs puts Bridge amongst the Top 9 quarterbacks in the CFL. Bridge just simply needs to continue making plays from the pocket and while the improvisation is fun, it is not sustainable.

Honorable Mentions:

Travis Lulay (B.C.), James Franklin (Toronto), Kevin Glenn (Edmonton), Drew Willy (Montreal).

 

 

 

Training Camp Primer

Preview

With Training Camp is set to kick-off in a few days in Saskatoon, expectations are higher than previous years for the Riders. Coming off a 10-8 record and a 4th place finish in the West that saw them crossover to the East defeating the defending the then defending Grey Cup champion RedBlacks, the Riders are expected to pose a significant threat to the West this season. It feels like a lifetime ago when fans were calling for Chris Jones’ head after the release of Dressler, Chick and other fan favorites but numerous signings, trades and draft picks later the refreshed Riders roster is light years ahead of the dismal roster Jones inherited.

Shrinking Window

It’s odd to thinking about a closing championship window when it feels like the Riders are still trending upwards but this is football after all. And while the 2018 version of the Roughriders roster are primed to make a run, one has to remember that championship windows are short in football and though it’s been a slow build back to prominence, the Riders are in “win now” form. One can’t be certain how much longer Duron Carter will stick around in the CFL, he’s been singing 1-year deals at a time and is set to become a free agent once again in 2019. Messam, the 33 year-old workhorse running back along with his fellow former Stamp DE Charleston Hughes (34) probably won’t be dawning green and white for very long post-2018. Tack on Chad Owens (36), Jovon Johnson (34), Robb Bagg (33), Marc-Olivier Brouillette (32), Thaddeus Coleman (32), Marcus Thigpen (32), Brendon Labatte (31), Bakari Grant (30), Crezdon Butler (30) and Naaman Roosevelt (30) who are all either entering their prime or the twilight of their careers. This is not to say CFL players hit a brick wall at 30 years old, it’s different for every player but that is a large number of contributors who are north of 30 years old.

Jaimie Nye of the Green Zone put together a mock depth chart going into Training Camp and the Riders have massive depth at the skill positions.

Riders Depth ChartThe biggest weaknesses are at the offensive line and linebacker position. In my previous write-up outlining the QB competition between Bridge and Collaros, I mentioned that Bridge spent a majority of last season using his legs as his biggest weapon, often escaping pressure that Glenn was unable to. Common sense would dictate that the Riders want to avoid a similar scenario this season and took steps to change that with the addition of Offensive Guard Travis Bond.

What To Expect

The cliché saying “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” is often used in the sporting landscape however it may have never been more true than what to expect from the 2018 Roughriders. Being loaded at Running Back and the Receiver positions bode well for whoever resides under center for the season, but that may not mean anything if the line can’t protect and buy Bridge or Collaros the time they need in the pocket. No matter how open Carter, Grant, Roosevelt, Bagg or Holley get, if the Quarterback is running for his life (see the 2017 Seahawks), this team won’t go very far. On the defensive side, there is lots of talent to be had at multiple positions but depth is a cause for concern for this squad behind Johnson, Gainey, Jefferson or Hughes is a lot of unproven talent.

Strong as our weakest link.

Either way Rider fans should be optimistic going into 2018’s Training Camp, despite aforementioned points, there always seems to be a surprise stand-out contributor or a “diamond in the rough” that helps alleviate depth issues. Also, one really has no choice but to trust in Jones who has taken this team from 3-15 the year before he took over to 5-13 in 2016 to a game away from the Grey Cup and a 10-8 record. Expectations should be high, but they must capitalize because just as fast as they’ve rose to prominence, they could fall back down.