January 23, 2024

Cauz: Predicting the next 10 CFL MOPs

Geoff Robins/CFL.ca

Spoiler Alert!

If you don’t want to know who is going to win the MOP Award in 2031, I suggest you stop reading right now.

I always appreciate when my editors throw out story ideas for me to write about. Sometimes I can be stuck coming up with a fascinating angle for the week, especially during this lighter time of the year.

So shoutout to Kristina Costabile for throwing out this concept; predict who will win the league’s ultimate individual award for the next decade.

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Oh, sure, anyone give a reasonable defence about why Player X has the best odds in 2024, but what 10 seasons from now at the end of the 2033 season? The beauty is if I get any of these selections right, I will bring it up to my fellow CFL colleagues as often as I can and if I go 0-10 I’ll make sure to keep it quiet. Hey, predictions are hard!

2024: Running Back Brady Oliveira

Let’s give some love to a position that could use a little confidence boost.

It’s been over a decade since a running back took home the MOP. Oliveira has gone from overqualified backup to a more than capable Andrew Harris replacement to the best running back in the CFL. It’s not that he led the league in rushing, it’s that he finished 2023 with nearly 400 more yards than the runner up Kevin Brown. My guess is that Brady signs a one-year deal with Winnipeg this year during free agency, bets on himself, and is rewarded with the MOP after threatening to break Jon Cornish’s record for single season rushing by a Canadian. In an added twist, the former Stampeder is the last running back to win the award.

2025: Defensive Lineman Folarin Orimolade

Sticking with droughts, one year after Cornish won, we saw the last defensive player rewarded with the MOP; linebacker Solomon Elimimian.

In this scenario, despite a strong year at quarterback with Tre Ford and Jake Maier battling it out as the West’s top passers, it is the Toronto Argonauts defensive lineman winning it all. The trajectory for the 2023 East Division All-Star is only going up. He went from being a disruptive force in Calgary to a flat-out star in Toronto.

In 2025 Folarin will still be under 30 and at the prime of his career. With free agency pecking away at other Toronto defenders, Orimolade will be the key cog in the Argonauts defence.

2026: Quarterback Tre Ford

 

Let the parade of quarterbacks begin!

By the time the 2026 awards season is done, Ford will have won both the Northern Star Award and MOP while Waterloo University will be stacked with top end high school quarterbacks looking for a chance to following in Ford’s footsteps. In 2026 Zach Collaros will have retired, Vernon Adams Jr. is starting to slow down and at only 28 years old, Ford will the premier dual threat quarterback.

2027: Quarterback Jake Maier

The battle of Alberta is back in a big way. Anyone else having Michael Reilly versus Bo Levi Mitchell vibes?

It will take several years for Jake to develop from being a great stats but not a winning quarterback to one of the game’s best. His interception totals steadily go down over the next three years as his completion percentage goes up culminating with the 2027 MOP.

Is this a leap of faith? Yes, but I still believe in the infrastructure and culture of Calgary. I imagine John Hufnagel will have retired from his role as President of the team but will not have left the cupboards bare.

2028: Defensive Lineman Akheem Mesidor

Time to take a wild swing. What’s the fun doing a far-flung prediction piece without betting on some real long shots?

The Ottawa born defensive linemen was phenomenal in his first year with the Miami Hurricanes after transferring from West Virginia earning an All-ACC honourable mention. Unfortunately, this past season was cut short in a Week 2 game against Texas A&M. Mesidor has been a force since arriving in College (also named to the ESPN True Freshman All-America First-Team in 2020) and he bounces back in 2024 helping the Hurricanes get into the expanded College Football Playoffs.

After spending a couple years in the NFL, Akheem joins his hometown REDBLACKS and puts up even better numbers than Lorenzo Mauldin IV did six years earlier.

2029: Quarterback Kurtis Rourke

It took seven years but finally the CFL gets to see Rourke dominating the league but this time it’s his little brother Kurtis.

In 2023 Rourke’s play at Ohio earned him a second-team All-Mid-American Conference (MAC) honour and then he put up even bigger numbers after transferring to Indiana in 2024 for his final year of eligibility. His college career will be remembered for the part he played (387 yards passing, three touchdowns and no turnovers) in the Hoosiers’ November 9, 2024 win over the defending Champion Michigan Wolverines. Dismissed by ignorant scouts as nothing more than a collegiate system quarterback, Rourke makes his way up to Hamilton to do battle with “old man” Chad Kelly.

2030: Defensive End Willie Jefferson

Willie Jefferson led the league in knockdowns in 2023 with 13 (Chris Tanouye/CFL.ca)

I know, I know this one may be a bit out there even for me. But ask yourself this, did 32-year-old Willie Jefferson who finished tied for third in sacks with 11 in 2023 look that much different than the 28-year-old version? Yes, he will be 38 during the 2023 season but I remember Charleston Hughes had 16 sacks at the age of 36.

I love this Jefferson quote from a recent Ted Wyman Winnipeg Sun article: “I’m just here living a dream. I wake up every morning wanting to be great, wanting to come into this building and spread excellence around. That’s what I’ve been doing since 2019 and that’s what I’m going to do until I’m out of here.”

Willie will still be spreading excellence six years from now.

2031: Quarterback Christian Veilleux

The Ottawa born Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback had an up and down sophomore year but the six-foot-four, 220-pound passer was a highly coveted prospect coming out of high school and he’ll put it all together in 2024. His two-year run of excellence really kicked off in that stunning Panthers upset over Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers and Veilleux never looked back.

Unfortunately, poor offensive line play on the Carolina Panthers doomed his NFL chances and after a couple injury riddled seasons Christian finds a more than welcoming home with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

2032: Quarterback Jonathan Sénécal

“The next Tre Ford” finally lives up to all those expectations that started nearly a decade earlier in that magical 2023 season that saw Sénécal win both the Hec Crighton Trophy and the Vanier Cup.

Jonathan’s success is bittersweet for Alouettes General Manager Danny Maciocia who was quoted at the time about the former Montréal Carabins star saying, “it wouldn’t surprise me if he plays in the CFL one day. He’s a quality football player.”

The Alouettes had a chance to sign the former NFLer but Jonathan instead chooses the fledgling Halifax Schooners and led them to an improbable run to the Grey Cup. (Boy, I hope this is the one that comes true!)

2033: Quarterback Nathan Rourke

He’s finally back! The two-time Super Bowl champion returns to Vancouver, wins both the MOP and the Grey Cup MVP. After beating out rookie Drake Maye for the New England Patriots starting job Rourke with new coach Jerod Mayo would have an eight-year marriage similar to the Brady/Belichick years but with more smiling from the coach.

Having accomplished everything he could in the NFL Rourke decides to take on his greatest challenge, for the first time since 2011 the BC Lions are Grey Cup champions!

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