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December 1, 2017

Nye: Building a 2018 pending FA All-Star team

THE CANADIAN PRESS

This year’s CFL pending free agents list is packed full of amazing talent to choose from.

So in the name of fantasy, here is a 46 man roster made up of the usual 22 Nationals, 21 Internationals and three quarterbacks for the all-free agent team for the 2018 free agent season.

QUARTERBACK

Trevor Harris
James Franklin
Brandon Bridge*

Brandon Bridge has become one of the league’s most intriguing young quarterback prospects (David Chidley/CFL.ca)

No Ricky Ray or Travis Lulay on this list as their future is very much in question, whether they even want play in 2018. If they commit, of course, they’d make the list.

But Trevor Harris has the most experience outside of those players on the list and can definitely win games. Can he get you to where you want to be, which is the Grey Cup? That is a major question.

James Franklin and Brandon Bridge are the quarterbacks to pin the future on. Two quarterbacks who both have 12 touchdowns in their limited opportunities in their CFL career but look to have a high ceiling on where they can go.

Other notables: Drew Willy, Jeremiah Masoli

RUNNING BACK

William Powell
Tyrell Sutton

The REDBLACKS’ running back overcame an Achilles injury to dominate the CFL rushing scene (Patrick Doyle/CFL.ca)

I think these two are the most complete running backs on the list. Powell and Sutton are running backs that you can put the tag ‘workhorse’ on to and rely on them every single down, whether it be a run or pass play.

Other notables: C.J. Gable, John White, Roy Finch

FULLBACK

William Langlais*
Brandon Gillanders*
Spencer Moore*

Riders fullback Spencer Moore showed his versatility in Chris Jones’ offence in 2017 (Matt Smith/CFL.ca)

These unsung heroes of the game are tasked to come out and play tight end every once in awhile and contribute, albeit rarely, in an offensive role. Gillanders saw more time than any other on the stat sheet.

The other contribution is on special teams from these players and these are the three that led the way in special teams tackles, which are important players to find to do the grunt work necessary to get wins, without the claim to fame.

Other notables: Carl Olivier Prime, Christophe Normand

RECEIVER

Brandon Zylstra
Emmanuel Arceneaux
Derel Walker
Duron Carter
Brandon Banks
Lemar Durant *
Nik Demski*
Shaquille Johnson*

League-leading receiver Brandon Zylstra could have the NFL in his sights (The Canadian Press)

What a talented group of receivers! Look at the group of notables left off of this list.

There is a mix of big body receivers like Arceneaux and Carter, while there are speed options at wideout like Brandon Banks and a player not on this list Diontae Spencer. If you’re looking for a receiver to get your team over the top, you shouldn’t have a hard time finding someone.

As for the Canadian receivers, there is a good selection there too, though not as deep a group as there is for the international receivers.

Other notables: Weston Dressler, S.J. Green, Luke Tasker, DeVier Posey, Diontae Spencer

OFFENSIVE LINE

Stanley Bryant
Brad Erdos*
Alex Mateas*
Cody Husband*
Joel Figueroa
Dan Clark*
Travis Bond

Bombers’ left tackle Stanley Bryant was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman (Patrick Doyle/CFL.ca)

If you need an international tackle, you’ve got a wide selection. If you need Canadian offensive line depth, you have some serviceable players but there aren’t a lot of all-star calibre players you’re going to find in this year’s free agent class.

Other notables: Bruce Campbell, Thaddeus Coleman, Phillip Blake, Danny Groulx

DEFENSIVE END

Willie Jefferson
Alex Bazzie
Justin Capicciotti*
Jamaal Westerman*

Jamaal Westerman is a ratio-breaker at defensive end for the Bombers (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

There are some very good pass rushers to pick from, although the man at the top of the list has already been rumoured to be re-signing in Saskatchewan. There are also some national pass rushers to give teams some ratio flexibility if they want to look at starting a national off the edge.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Ted Laurent*
Cleyon Laing*
Zack Evans*
Euclid Cummings

Interior lineman Cleyon Laing played a key role in the Argos’ run to the Grey Cup (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

A solid Canadian defensive tackle can do so much for a team and there are some very good national defensive tackles that should get some interest on the open market if their teams even allow them to get there in February.

Euclid Cummings adds a very good interior player for teams that need an added push up the middle as well.

Other notables: Drake Nevis

LINEBACKERS

Adam Konar*
Bear Woods
Sam Hurl*
Larry Dean
Chandler Fenner
Kenny Ladler

After four years in Montreal, Bear Woods emerged as a vital part of Corey Chamblin’s defence (Johany Jutras/Argonauts.ca)

The linebacker depth is another deep spot for free agency this season as there is talent for all three positions across the board from weak side to strong side and definitely the talent to fill the hole up the middle of a defence, even with a good mix of national talent as well.

Other notables: Ian Wild, Jeff Knox Jr., JC Sherritt, Maurice Leggett

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Tommy Campbell
T.J. Heath
Loucheiz Purifoy
Chris Randle
Jeremaine Gabriel*
Cauchy Muamba*
Jonathon Langa*

T.J. Heath remains one of the CFL’s top defensive playmakers after a strong 2017 (Matt Smith/CFL.ca)

Let the debate begin on this one! This is another place where you could have a second all-star list of free agent talent to put out on the field. When you see the list of players I left off the list, you see that general managers looking to upgrade the defensive secondary are hoping some of these players shake loose into free agency.

At safety, Jermaine Gabriel could get some big interest for teams looking for an upgrade at national safety.

Other notables: Ciante Evans, Ronnie Yell, Josh Bell, Matt Black*

SPECIAL TEAMS

Long snapper: Martin Bedard*
Kicker: Sean Whyte*