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TORONTO — When you think of the best playmakers in the CFL, who comes to mind?
Is it 2019’s Most Outstanding Player, Brandon Banks? He had an incredible season on offence while also reminding everyone of how he broke into the league by being a threat on special teams.
Or how about Montreal’s QB No. 1, Vernon Adams Jr.? His ability scramble out of the pocket and make defenders miss was at the forefront of almost every Alouettes game last year.
Perhaps you think of an emerging star out West, Shaq Evans. In the Riders receiver’s second season in the league, Evans made a name for himself as the No. 1 pass-catcher for Cody Fajardo.
The CFL’s biggest stars weighed in on this debate, giving their opinions on who they deem the best playmaker in the league in the latest instalment of the Best in the League presented by Dr. Oetker series.
Since finding a full time role on offence just a few seasons ago, ‘Speedy B’ has turned into the league’s most explosive receiver. Last season, while helping the Ticats to the Grey Cup, led the league in receptions (112 – also setting a new team mark), receiving yards (1,550), receiving touchdowns (13) and touchdowns scored (16).
“I can’t believe I’m going to say it but I will say, it’s probably Speedy,” said REDBLACKS receiver Brad Sinopoli. “It’s almost like you can’t stop him.”
“You’re kind of holding your breath because you know he can make a crazy play anywhere on the field,” agreed Stampeders pass-catcher Kamar Jorden.
Opposing teams didn’t only have to worry about Banks on offence, however. Banks continued to show off his special teams play, he started in the league as a returner, and was dangerous every time the ball was kicked his away. In 2019 he showed off that versatility by scoring touchdowns in three different ways: receiving, rushing and via kick return.
“I don’t think there’s anyone you should be more worried about when you’re sending your field goal team out there,” said Lions receiver Bryan Burnham.
It took a few years for Adams Jr.’s to capture a starting job in the CFL, but when he did, he made everyone look his way. In his fifth season in the league, Adams Jr. was handed the starting role for the Alouettes and helped lead the team to their first playoff berth since 2014. He finished the year fourth in the league in passing yards (3,942) and tallied 24 passing touchdowns.
Not only could Adams Jr. toss the ball, he was able to use his legs to extend plays. He ended the year with 12 rushing touchdowns, tied for the league-lead with William Powell and Chris Streveler.
“I think Vernon Adams,” said the Edmonton Football Team receiver Greg Ellingson when asked who the best playmaker is. “The three times we played them this year, he made some guys look stupid out there this year.”
“When he was playing Ottawa,” remembered Ticats linebacker Simoni Lawrence. “(He) took off out of the pocket, it was pretty embarrassing. I was like, it’s got to be Vernon Adams.”
“I won’t name names, the guy on our team that he did that to,” laughed Sinopoli. “But it was in slow-mo on the bench. One of those moments where everyone all of a sudden goes silent when it happens to your team. You’re just like, ‘oh my God.'”
Evans ended last seasons with 1,334 receiving yard, which was fourth in the league behind Banks (1,550), Burnham (1,492) and Reggie Begelton (1,444). He also hauled in five major scores in his second season with the Roughriders.
The 29-year-old gained the trust of his QB, Fajardo, with his ability to make tough, contested catches anywhere on the field.
“Fajardo would just throw it up into double coverage up to him,” said Argos pivot Matt Nichols. “That’s something I would do too, if you have a guy that’s just constantly coming down with the circus catches. He’s a playmaker that can literally change games.”
“Watching him make plays last year, it was a lot of fun,” said Burnham. “Other than when he went for, I think 150 against us.”
Who’s the best playmaker in the CFL? Weigh in below.