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NIAGARA FALLS — The CFL celebrates its top performers tonight at the CFL Awards. When the nominees were revealed on Nov. 1, we saw that the Toronto Argonauts’ 16-2 record pushed a Double Blue appearance into six of the seven categories.
While the Argos’ dreams of hoisting the 110th Grey Cup fell short in the Eastern Final, the team has the chance to walk away from awards night with a great deal of hardware in hand.
Ahead of tonight’s festivities at the Avalon Theatre at Fallsview Casino and Resort in Niagara Falls, CFL.ca’s writers pooled their picks together to choose a winner in each category. Check back after tonight’s show, which streams live on CFL+ starting at 6:30 p.m. ET, to see who made the right calls on this year’s award winners.
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Jamie Nye: I voted for Brady Oliveira before the Division Finals so I’ve been consistent on him being my pick. I have a feeling the majority may disagree but I feel the ‘outstanding’ designation is more fitting for a running back who had over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Oliveira was a beast all season, while Kelly’s numbers individually were not as good as Oliveira’s.
Chris O’Leary: I had a tough time making this decision. Betts had a historic 18-sack season — a record for a Canadian player — and helped lead a very, very good BC Lions’ defence this year to a 12-win season. Pickett was third in the league in tackles and had six sacks, while seemingly having a hand in everything that the Argos’ tremendous defence did all year. In the end, Betts’ work spoke louder to me, as he surpassed a sack mark that had only been hit previously by Jamaal Westerman in 2015 and Brent Johnson in 2005.
Kristina Costabile: I agonized over this one, with Betts having a historical season, setting a new mark for sacks by a Canadian, but I’m going with Brady Oliveira. The Bombers’ running back had one of the best seasons ever by a tailback, Canadian or otherwise, on his way to an MOC and MOP nomination. Becoming only the 15th player in CFL history to pass 2,000 yards from scrimmage sounds pretty outstanding to me.
Don Landry: Jermarcus Hardrick. The Winnipeg right tackle enjoyed another tremendous year for the Blue Bombers. He’s had many, many years like this one, but never even got the team nod, what with Stanley Bryant winning five straight team nominations and four league-wide awards. I think the voters will reward Hardrick not only for a great season but also for his patience.
Matthew Cauz: I’m going with Javon Leake and not because of any conscious or subconscious bias against kickers. Whyte was ridiculously productive, but he did get to kick indoors at home and only attempted four field goals of 50 yards or longer. I will go with the player who led the league in punt return touchdowns and had over 200 more punt return yards than the next best returner. Toronto ranked second in offensive points scored. Having Leake creating short fields certainly played a part in the 56 touchdowns scored by the Argos’ offence.
Jim Morris: Unlike last year when Dalton Schoen was the clear favourite for top rookie, this year’s choice is a little more difficult. Looking at the numbers alone, not much separates Edmonton’s Kai Gray and Toronto’s Qwan’tez Stiggers. Both are cornerbacks. Gray played in two more games than Stiggers but had 54 tackles compared to Stiggers’ 53. Stiggers had five interceptions while Gray had two and a touchdown. My choice would be Stiggers because he managed to stand out on a very good Toronto team.
Chris O’Leary: Making this pick five days after the Argos were stunned in the Eastern Final and, in my case, now two weeks into being around Mike O’Shea and the Bombers adds a layer of difficulty to this choice. Knowing that these awards are based on the regular season and that the Argos made history with their record, becoming just the second team ever to go 16-2, I take Dinwiddie. If he does win the award tonight, I’m sure he’d happily swap it out for a chance to still be playing this week and to lead his team into the finish it was hoping for in 2023.