June 5, 2024

O’Leary: 5 snubs from TSN’s top 50 CFL players list


Having done it more than a few times, believe me when I say that voting for TSN’s top 50 CFL players list is extremely difficult.

If you need proof, try to put your own list together. The top five or so, I’ve always found, come to you quickly and you can feel confident in your selections. It’s later, when you hit somewhere around 15 or 20 and you realize that there’s a defensive back that makes a ton of game changing plays that you haven’t considered yet, or an excellent running back who elevates their team’s offence that it gets tricky. And what about those offensive linemen that pave the way for that running back? Where do they land in your list?

The added challenge of TSN’s list is that voters only get 40 spots. When the votes from reporters across the country are tabulated, that’s when the list rounds out to 50. There are also (rightfully) positional requirements in those 40 picks.

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How do you value those more anonymous but integral positions, like offensive line, against a highlight-reel heavy player like a star returner? In assembling these lists, you’ll often see players named one after the other and you realize that it’s the first time you’ve ever thought of those two players in the same moment.

All of this to say that snubs are inevitable in a heavily voted on project like this.

The names below aren’t a slight against the players that got in ahead of them or against the people that voted them onto the list. We could be looking at a list of the top 100 players and those names just on the other side of that number would haunt you just the same. Here are a few that jumped out to me after I saw TSN’s list air on Tuesday.

DaVaris Daniels, Toronto Argonauts

The leading receiver (1,009 yards, eight touchdowns) on the second-highest scoring offence in the league last year, Daniels consistently made big plays for the Argos as they ran up a 16-2 record. Daniels led the league in 30-plus-yard receptions last year and was second in yards-per-catch (19.4). There were more receivers in the top 50 than any other position, with nine selected. To me, Daniels felt like someone who belongs in the top 50 with the league’s best.

Brandin Dandridge, Ottawa REDBLACKS

Yes, Dandridge was limited to 13 games last year — and he’s starting the season on the six-game injured list — but he makes an impact when he’s on the field. As a defensive back, he pulled in five interceptions and took two of those back for touchdowns. That productivity alone should raise eyebrows. When you see what he’s capable of on special teams, he elevates into elite territory. Dandridge took 45 punts for 539 yards and a touchdown last year and had 328 yards on 15 kickoff returns.

Mario Alford, Saskatchewan Roughriders


When voters went to include a returner, they looked to Javon Leake, the 2023 Most Outstanding Special Teams Player. That makes sense. Still, Alford wasn’t far behind in terms of return game productivity last year. The West Division All-Star had three punt return touchdowns, including two in one game against the Stamps. Alford is a game-changing threat every time he touches the ball and will be an integral part of any Riders’ success this season.

Boris Bede, Edmonton Elks

A kicker didn’t make their way onto the list this year, but Bede makes a strong argument for his inclusion. He heads into the 2024 season as the league’s all-time leader with a career kickoff average of 69.4 yards. Last year, he made 37-39 field goals for a career-best 94.9 per cent mark, which topped the league. A three-time East Division All-Star, Bede will shoulder all of the big kicks this season for the Elks as they try to climb back up the West Division standings.

Ben Hladik, BC Lions 

The numbers say it all: 101 tackles (sixth in the league), five sacks and an interception, in just his third year in the league. Hladik became the first National in Lions’ history to break the 100-tackle mark and at just 25, stands to do even more this season and the future. In a defence full of talented figures, Hladik is establishing himself as one of the best of the lot.

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