With October here the seasons are changing. You look outside and summer has been replaced by fall and in the CFL we are starting to enter All-Star season. It’s that special time of year where we must decide who will make the 2023 All-Star team, as we wish we could break the rules and include roughly 37 other deserving individuals. It’s an agonizing, guilt infused experience that frankly I’m thrilled I have no official capacity in deciding who makes the final cut.
Over the years I’ve been asked to vote on a variety of lists (I know, I’m as shocked as you are that an invitation was extended my way) either going into the start of the year or at the conclusion and every time I politely turn it down.
The reason is, these rankings, these All-Star rosters, are so important for the players. They define legacies, there are often economic implications and they are a deserving reward for all the work and sacrifice that comes with being a professional football player. I do my best to watch every second of this glorious game but there is a whole other level of analysis needed to break down who is truly the best left guard. Sometimes the best defensive back is the one with zero statistics because quarterbacks are afraid to test them. Proper assessments often needs proper game film and the sort of discerning eye that I do not possess.
Hence, I’m wary of being on the actual naming committees.
However, that does not mean I don’t have strong opinions about who should be an All-Star, who needs to be an All-Star and what my dream scenarios would look like. I could go on for days. But for the sake of brevity (I know, too late) here is a partial breakdown of what I would like to see the East Division and West Division All-Star teams look like.
The obvious picks
Off the top of my head Chad Kelly, Dalton Schoen, Javon Leake, Mathieu Betts, Demerio Houston and Brady Oliveira are all no-doubt picks. If any of these individuals are not All-Stars, we may as well find a new way of annually deciding who the best players are. Yes, there are another 10 or more players I could have added but we have to keep this moving.
Players I am rooting for to make it for the first time
Tyrice Beverette: Along with Reggie Stubblefield, Beverette made life miserable for the Ottawa REDBLACKS’ offence last Saturday with two sacks and six tackles. I’m a sucker for the self-made All-Star and for Beverette, who is fifth in the league in tackles, to go from special teams star to an actual All-Star would be a fantastic story.
Marc-Antoine Dequoy: I promise this is not a recency bias choice after watching him swoop in front of Bralon Addison at the last moment, picking off Dustin Crum and racing for a 108-yard touchdown, giving Montreal a 21-0 lead late in the third quarter of last week’s game. That play ended any chances of a heroic comeback for Ottawa. We’ve seen similar heroics from Dequoy in a win over Calgary (he had a huge end zone interception). Even in a loss against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Pro Football Focus had the third-year defensive back ranked as the CFL’s top performer for the week. He is second in interceptions and seventh overall in defensive takeaways.
Adarius Picket: Pickett’s play all year has been so good I considered putting him on the obvious selection list. Toronto’s most impactful free agent signing has played such an important role in transforming the Argonauts’ defence into the most dangerous unit in the CFL. His numbers are All-Star worthy (fourth in tackles, four sacks and two fumbles recovered) but it’s the eye test that stands out. The guy is all over the field on just about every play.
My favourite stat is Pickett is second by just one play to Calgary’s Micah Awe for total defensive plays registered. In a week where there was plenty of chatter about who was and who wasn’t starting for the Argonauts there has been one constant: if the Argonauts are on your TV, you will easily be able to find Pickett making things happen.
The feel-good story player I want in: Shawn Lemon
How did one of the game’s best pass rushing specialists not have a job at the start of the year? Is this my third Montreal Alouette in a row? Yes, yes, it is. I promise this not me overcompensating for not spilling a ton of ink about Montreal this year, but the team just clinched a playoff spot and so much of their success this season is a result of its excellent defensive play. Despite not being signed until near the end of July, Lemon has managed seven sacks on the year and is one shy of a clean 100 career quarterback takedowns. Here’s hoping he gets that even number and makes yet another All-Star team.
Quarterback who may not win MOP but should be an All-Star: Vernon Adams Jr.
I know the Most Outstanding Player award is a two-horse race between Zach Collaros and Chad Kelly, but how about some love for Vernon Adams Jr., who leads the league in total passing yardage and single-game passing yards? That second number he set last week with 458 aerial yards in the Lions’ 33-26 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. I know he’s tossed more interceptions than any other quarterback, but he also has thrown and completed more passes that traveled 20-plus yards through the air. Adams is not afraid to challenge a defence and I love a quarterback who will go deep early and often. That sort of high-risk attitude leads to mistakes but it’s also why the team is third in points scored.
Player I want in for just one play: Jeshrun Antwi
On a second-and-18 he perfectly executed the little known, hard to fully understand dribble onside punt. I had no idea what was going on (Kudos to the TSN broadcast and Marshall Furgeson for immediately recognizing what Antwi’s motivation were) but the Alouettes running back knew what he was doing.
Take a look:
Player I’m far more emotional about making it in than I should be: Willie Jefferson
The man treats playing on the defensive line like he’s a gold medal winning beach volleyball player (CFL leader in pass knockdowns) and he still treats quarterbacks like greedy kids treat a piñata on their seventh birthday.
Player who should be in even if the other guy has more yards: AJ Ouellette over James Butler
I understand that Butler has more yards and is such a weapon for the Tiger-Cats, but I’ll take the beast that is Ouellette, who is averaging a full yard more per carry than Butler. Ouellette is tied for the most runs of 20-plus yards and has played a big part in helping Chad Kelly go from CFL newbie to MOP finalist. To all Tiger-Cats fans, you have every right to be angry right now.
Crazy selection that isn’t 100 per cent fair, but it is justifiable: The entire Argonauts offensive line should be selected
Speaking of CFL fans east of Winnipeg being angry at me, I say invite the entire Double Blue blocking crew onto the East Division list. This team scored more than a touchdown per game than the next-best offence in the East and led the entire league in average yards per play while allowing only 12 sacks with a quarterback who is in his first year as a full-time starter.
Simoni Lawrence should be in just because of his connection with the City of Hamilton.
Lawrence is still a top-flight linebacker … but I mean … take a look at this:
Rest easy, Kent. Last week, I got to hang out with a season seat holder! I sat with Kent and just talked football. We laughed and watched baseball. My Mother’s prayer was always to be a blessing in anyone’s life, forever grateful for the the position I’m blessed with. Stay focus… pic.twitter.com/d3VX3ocvZ1
Wait, are you crying as well???