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March 20, 2017

Steinberg’s MMQB: Who will be this year’s Brian Jones?

Johany Jutras/Argonauts.ca

Opportunity exists this week in Regina. As we close in on the CFL Combine presented by adidas, I want to know who is going to jump up and seize that opportunity and really improve their stock heading into in May’s CFL Draft. We’re only a few days away from finding out.

Make your mark

There was one player who seemingly impressed everyone at last year’s combine, and his performance sure did help him come draft day. That’s why I ask a very important question: who will be this year’s Brian Jones?

Jones is a perfect example of how to nail it at the combine. Jones knocked last year’s meet out of the park and saw his draft projection go from a middle round pick to being selected fourth overall by the Argos. I can guarantee Jones doesn’t go that high if it weren’t for his explosive and emphatic performance at the combine.

The Acadia receiver jumped off the page in drills like the short shuttle and the three-cone because of his explosiveness and size. At 6-foot-4 and 233 pounds, Jones was already a physical specimen heading into the combine, but it was his speed and explosiveness that drew so many scouts his way.

RELATED
» A year later, Jones reflects on combine success
» For Comparison’s Sake: Projecting the top prospects
» Mock 1.0: Calgary, Auclair a potential fit
» View national combine participants

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

Brian Jones’ dominance at the combine led to him becoming a fourth overall pick (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

It’s all about coming equipped with the right attitude. Jones was clearly a motivated player one year ago and he wanted to show teams they shouldn’t sell him short just because he played in Atlantic Canada. Mindsets like that are the ones needed to really make a big mark.

Of course, not every player needs a standout performance at the combine. Many of the top ranked players are safe regardless of what they do later this week. For a player with a little less fanfare and notoriety, though, a good showing can go a long, long way.

Jones wasn’t the only standout one year ago, either. Simon Fraser offensive lineman Michael Couture and UBC defensive back Taylor Loffler also had great combines, for instance, and both players ended up being top 20 picks.

The point is, the opportunity is very much there for multiple players to seize. While I’m no expert on this year’s draft class, I do know how excited I am to read about our experts’ thoughts on the biggest standouts by the end of the week. Who will be this year’s Brian Jones? We’ll find out in just a few days.

The Money List

Last year during the off-season, I put together the Monday Morning Quarterback Fantasy Team. Well, I want to do the same thing one year later, but I’m putting a little bit of a different twist on it.

Last year I went about it from more of a fantasy football perspective, sometimes picking multiple players at a position to build a group resembling a fantasy roster you might enter in a league with your friends. This year’s change is all about picking the best player at each position, so we’ll end up with fewer players this time around.

My criterion is simple: if I had to start a team to try and win a Grey Cup right now, which player at each positional group would I want to build my team around? That means we’ll end up with one each at quarterback, running back, receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, defensive back, kicker, and punter.

Before we get started on this year’s “Money List”, lets take a look at the group I put together last year for MMQB Fantasy Team.

Position Player
QB Bo Levi Mitchell – Calgary Stampeders
RB Andrew Harris – Winnipeg Blue Bombers
WR/SB Adarius Bowman – Edmonton Eskimos
WR/SB Emmanuel Arceneaux – BC Lions
OL Jovan Olafioye – BC Lions
OL Pierre Lavertu – Calgary Stampeders
DE Justin Capicciotti – Saskatchewan Roughriders
DT Ted Laurent – Hamilton Tiger-Cats
LB Solomon Elimimian – BC Lions
DB John Ojo – Edmonton Eskimos
K Justin Medlock – Winnipeg Blue Bombers

With a few exceptions, that’s a pretty solid looking group and there are definitely going to be some repeat names one year later. We’re going to roll this year’s group out over the course of a few weeks, and we’ll get started with the game’s most important position.

QB – Bo Levi Mitchell, Calgary Stampeders

With the 2016 season he had, it was going to be pretty tough to knock Mitchell off his perch as the best quarterback in the game. While Mike Reilly and Jonathon Jennings are both extremely enticing talents, I just can’t look past Mitchell’s package of age, talent and killer instinct. As such, he’s at the top of the list at quarterback.

First and foremost, Mitchell is a special talent. He led the CFL with 32 passing touchdowns in 2016 in just his third full year as a starter and finished second only to Reilly with 5,385 passing yards. Mitchell has great vision on the field, gets the ball away quicker than anyone in the league, and does a great job of limiting mistakes. Case and point, Mitchell’s 32-8 touchdown to interception ratio was top of the class in 2016.

We’re also talking about a quarterback with lots still ahead of him. Mitchell turned 27 earlier this month and looks like he has another decade of high-end football left in him. Other than Jennings, who is 24, Mitchell is the youngest starting quarterback in the league, which gives him yet another leg up.

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

Bo Levi Mitchell, last year’s Most Outstanding Player, is a can’t-miss pick at quarterback (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

The way Mitchell plays when games are on the line is what really puts him over the top for me. Looking back at Calgary’s banner 2016 season, Mitchell was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter when his team frequently turned close games into no doubters. And, in two Grey Cup appearances, Mitchell got it done when it mattered most, too.

Sure, the Stamps fell to Ottawa in the title game a few months ago, but Mitchell was the man chiefly responsible for a 26-point second half that necessitated an overtime we’ll never forget. Two years prior, Mitchell threw for 334 yards and completed almost 75 per cent of his passes in Calgary’s Grey Cup triumph over Hamilton. Plain and simple, the guy shines when the pressure is on most.

Finally, when you take into account Mitchell’s durability and leadership, he’s a no-brainer pick at quarterback. Mitchell has missed just a handful of games in his three seasons as a starter while virtually all of his contemporaries have missed far more significant time due to injury. And there’s no question who leads the Stampeders on and off the field, as Mitchell is very much the general of that team.

Mitchell truly is the total package and that’s why he gets my nod for a second straight year at quarterback.