April 22, 2024

MMQB: Defensive positional power rankings


I think I bit off a little more than I could chew for the next couple Monday Morning Quarterback submissions. Well, not really…but putting together the first-ever MMQB positional power rankings was quite the undertaking. And I really poured myself into this exercise.

Let’s remember this is just the opinion of one person. It’s also important to point out there were numerous near misses on this list. There really isn’t much separating each of the league’s best at their position, which means players not mentioned here could easily be at the top of another person’s rankings. That’s what makes an exercise like this fun.

Next week it’s offence and special teams. This week we’re focusing on the defensive side of the ball.

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Defensive end: Folarin Orimolade, Toronto Argonauts

Honourable mentions: Jake Ceresna, Toronto Argonauts. Willie Jefferson, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Bryce Carter, Ottawa REDBLACKS.

In one of the CFL’s most star-studded positions, Orimolade takes top honours for me by the slightest of margins. Last year, which was also his first in Toronto, Orimolade posted career totals with 10 sacks in 17 appearances. Entering just his third season as a full-time starter, the 28-year-old Orimolade looks poised to break out in dominant fashion with his mix of speed and strength off the edge.

Defensive tackle: Mike Rose, Calgary Stampeders

Honourable mentions: Casey Sayles, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Woody Baron, BC Lions, Mustafa Johnson, Montreal Alouettes.

Rose cemented himself as the league’s most disruptive interior lineman in 2023 with a career high 11 sacks…if that wasn’t the case already. Over the last three seasons, Rose has recorded 25 sacks at defensive tackle, which just doesn’t happen very often. Rose demands significant attention on every snap and there’s no reason to think that’ll stop this year.

MIKE linebacker – Ben Hladik, BC Lions

Honourable mentions: Darnell Sankey, Montreal Alouettes, Nyles Morgan, Edmonton Elks, Micah Awe, Calgary Stampeders.

In another ridiculously close conversation, Hladik gets the nod in part because he’s the youngest of the group by a decent margin. Having just turned 25 last month, Hladik is coming off a breakout season in the middle of BC’s defence. 2023 saw Hladik record 100 defensive tackles to go along with five sacks and an interception. I shudder to think where this could go as Hladik enters just his third year as a regular starter.

WILL linebacker – Tyrice Beverette, Montreal Alouettes

Beverette helped a surging Alouettes team make an incredible run to win the 110th Grey Cup in 2023 (Minas Panagiotakis/CFL.ca)

Honourable mentions: Cameron Judge, Calgary Stampeders, Wynton McManis, Toronto Argonauts, Bo Lokombo, BC Lions.

The gaps between each of the four guys on this list were small but it’s Beverette getting the nod over Judge thanks to the championship bump. Beverette was stellar for the Als as they took the league by storm down the stretch and then turned in a trio of playoff gems en route to a Grey Cup victory. Beverette finished the 2023 regular season with 89 defensive tackles and seven sacks.

SAM linebacker – Adarius Pickett, Ottawa REDBLACKS

Honourable mentions: Reggie Stubblefield, Montreal Alouettes, Emmanuel Rugamba, BC Lions, Louchiez Purifoy, Edmonton Elks.

There are some incredible cover linebackers in this league, but Pickett has turned the position into a science over the last two seasons. Last year Pickett recorded 105 defensive tackles, six sacks and an interception at SAM and joins Ottawa as a cornerstone off-season acquisition.

Cornerback – Demerio Houston, Calgary Stampeders

Honourable Mentions: Jamal Peters, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Garry Peters, BC Lions, Qwan’tez Stiggers, Toronto Argonauts.

Knowing the high degree of difficulty that goes along with playing boundary corner, it’s no surprise the first three guys on this list play the position. As the league’s reigning interception champ, Houston gets the slight nod over Peters at No. 1 here. Houston picked off opposing quarterbacks seven times in 2023 to go with 50 defensive tackles and three fumble recoveries. Calgary’s biggest splash in free agency is set to pay big dividends in one of the league’s most stacked defensive backfields.

Halfback – T.J. Lee, BC Lions

Honourable mentions: Wesley Sutton, Montreal Alouettes, Evan Holm, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Kobe Williams, Calgary Stampeders.

I wrote and rewrote this one four different times, no word of a lie. I went back and forth between five-time West Division All-Star Lee and two-time East Division All-Star Sutton and finally zeroed in on Lee. It was just too hard to ignore the numbers Lee posted last year. Now entering his 10th season with the Lions, 2023 saw Lee record 82 defensive tackles, three interceptions and one sack.

Safety – Stavros Katsantonis, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Honourable mentions: Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Montreal Alouettes, Brandon Alexander, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Royce Metchie, Toronto Argonauts.

I’m not sure a microscope could spot the gap between Katsantonis and Dequoy here, because it’s that small. Statistically, both are coming off almost identical breakout campaigns with their counting numbers with single digits of each other across the board. Katsantonis is younger by a couple years, which helped give him the tiniest edge. Last year with Hamilton, Katsantonis recorded five interceptions, 54 defensive tackles, five sacks and two forced fumbles.

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