August 21, 2023

MMQB: Argos’ Kelly leads mid-season award picks

Kevin Sousa/

It’s hard to believe but here we are. We’re now 11 weeks into a 21-week schedule and thus officially past the midway mark of the 2023 campaign. As such, let’s see where we’re at on the road to the CFL’s top individual awards by selecting our top performers halfway through what has been an exciting season.

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Most Outstanding Player: Chad Kelly, Toronto Argonauts

Kelly has been more than just the quarterback of the league’s best team. In his first year on top of the depth chart, Kelly has been dynamic, explosive, consistent and is one of the league’s only quarterbacks not to miss a start this year. With plenty of competition from the likes of Zach Collaros and Vernon Adams Jr., we’re leaning Kelly as the MOP frontrunner halfway through.

Kelly’s numbers have been solid. In eight starts, he’s thrown for 2,041 yards and 13 touchdowns against just five interceptions. Kelly has also been a difference maker running the ball; he’s racked up 129 rushing yards on 22 carries and his five rushing touchdowns are tied for the league lead with Hamilton running back James Butler.

There were plenty of unknowns surrounding Toronto’s quarterback situation when McLeod Bethel-Thompson opted to walk away following last season’s Grey Cup win. The Argos decided to stay in house and trust the guy they’ve been grooming since his arrival in early 2022. So far that decision has paid off in a big, big way.

Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Mathieu Betts, BC Lions

Goodness, you could go so many different ways and not be wrong with all the strong candidates defensively so far this season. Micah Awe in Calgary, Winnipeg’s Willie Jefferson, Toronto’s Robertson Daniel and fellow Lions’ standout Boseko Lokombo are just a few names of many that should be getting huge consideration for this award. But the season Betts is having needs to be recognized.

In his second year with BC, Betts has been a man possessed. Betts leads the CFL with 11 sacks in 10 games and has been disruptive on what feels like every single snap. His consistency is perhaps what puts him over the top in this conversation; Betts has only failed to record a sack in three games so far this season. If 2022 was his breakout campaign, 2023 is the year that’s cementing Betts as a league superstar.

Most Outstanding Canadian: Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Brady Oliveira has been dominant on the ground for the Bombers this year, racking up 783 rushing yards through 10 games (Daniel Crump/

Much like the previous award, the race for top Canadian is stacked. But of all the players in the conversation, we feel like Oliveira’s resume is the strongest through 10 outings. After using last season to establish himself as a bona fide starter, Oliveira’s list of credentials starts with being the unquestioned top tailback in the league through the first half of 2023.

Oliveira leads the CFL with 783 rushing yards in 10 starts and is well on his way to a second straight 1,000-yard campaign. Oliveira’s outstanding first half also includes a league leading four games with 100 or more yards on the ground. As a result, he leads his closest competitor (Saskatchewan’s Jamal Morrow) by more than 200 yards on top of the rushing table.

Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Ryan Hunter, Toronto Argonauts

In his first full year in the CFL, North Bay product Hunter has been stellar for the defending champions after joining them from the NFL late in 2022. You don’t get an MOP-quality quarterback without a great offensive line and that’s exactly what the Argos have had all year. That line has been anchored by Hunter at left guard throughout the team’s 7-1 start.

Toronto’s line has allowed just 10 sacks in eight games, which is by far the fewest in the league. Hunter and Co. have given Kelly all kinds of time and space while also paving the way for an outstanding ground attack. The Argos are averaging more than 115 rushing yards per game and Hunter has been instrumental in opening space for tailbacks AJ Ouellette and Andrew Harris.

Most Outstanding Rookie: Dustin Crum, Ottawa REDBLACKS

When starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli went down in his Week 5 return to the lineup, we weren’t sure what Ottawa was going to do. Nick Arbuckle had struggled in his first two outings, while Tyrie Adams was also lost for the season after a promising first outing. Enter 24-year-old Crum, who has helped keep 2023 on the rails for the REDBLACKS.

In his first two starts, Crum helped engineer a stunning comeback win over Winnipeg, which was followed by a strong performance in a second straight overtime triumph on the road in Calgary. Crum has been solid throwing the ball and is up to 1,419 passing yards and five touchdowns. But what makes the rookie pivot so exciting is what he can do with his feet. Crum has racked up 451 rushing yards this season to go along with four additional touchdowns.

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