Talking about quarterbacks is at times both the easiest, and hardest, thing to tackle and debate in the CFL. We love to rank them, pick who would be the best fit for your own team, rate the back-ups, and so on.
Back in May, we ranked the top-20 quarterbacks in the CFL. The top of the list has stayed pretty much the same while some moved up, some moved down, and some disappeared forever.
So, in the spirit of keeping the CFL water-cooler chatter 365-days a year, here are the post-season top-20 rankings with their previous ranking in brackets.
1. (1) Bo Levi Mitchell – Calgary Stampeders
There was a question whether Bo Levi Mitchell could have another great season and win another Grey Cup. He did both and did it with a revamped receiving core and offensive line. Granted the bulk of the season was won by virtue of a great defence, but when needed BLM proved yet again that he was and is the best quarterback in the CFL. The free agent is now trying to convert his CFL success into a potential NFL opportunity. Considering the lack of mid-level pivots down south, he just may get that opportunity.
2. (2) Mike Reilly – Edmonton Eskimos
The gritty gunslinger led the CFL in passing yards with his third straight 5,000-yard season. He kept his TD-to-INT ratio (30-18) to a minimum and had the highest yard per pass attempt average in the CFL. In the end though, missing the playoffs hurt his chances of taking over the number one spot. Yes, it’s not all on him but with a season like he had, it really should translate into a playoff berth. The other great thing about Reilly is that he played almost every snap at quarterback for the Eskimos in 2018. Reilly is also a free agent and it will be interesting if he stays in Edmonton or looks elsewhere.
3. (4) Trevor Harris – Ottawa Redblacks
2018 was a bit of a Coming Out Party for Trevor Harris. He had his first 5,000-yard passing season and was lights-out when it counted in the Eastern Final throwing six touchdown passes leading the Redblacks to their second Grey Cup appearance since returning to the CFL in 2014. The Grey Cup was a dud of a game, but as a whole, it was a successful step for one of the league’s up-and-comers.
4. (8) Jeremiah Masoli – Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Masoli experienced one of the biggest jumps of all the starting quarterbacks in the CFL in 2018. This was the first season that he was alone at the helm of the Ti-Cats. He was able to fend off the distraction of former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. So much so that Hamilton traded Manziel. In the end, he rewarded Hamilton with an East Final berth and a 5,000-yard passing season and the number-two passer statistically in the CFL.
5. (5) Matt Nichols – Winnipeg Blue Bombers
It was an incredibly important season for the seven year vet in his third season as the starting quarterback for the Blue Bombers. He passed, not with flying colours, but he nevertheless had a passing grade in a season interrupted again by injury. There were times Nichols looked like a top-three quarterback and then there were times that he wouldn’t be a starter for most teams in the CFL. It was a decent step in his career that the Bombers hope continues to improve in 2019.
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6. (8) Zach Collaros – Saskatchewan Roughriders
This will be a bit of a “feeling” instead of the pure stats side of things, but the starting quarterback had to overcome concussions, vanilla play-calling and a very mediocre receiving corps to have an average season. Not a great one, not a bad one, just -- ok. The thing that makes it tough to put Collaros this high is that he is capable of so much more but wasn’t able to produce on the field. Where he lands in 2019 is anyone’s guess.
7. (10) Travis Lulay – B.C. Lions
It was yet another injury-filled season for a player that has battled the trainer’s table over the past few seasons. When Lulay was playing, he was solid but was still prone to the big mistake and only threw two more touchdowns than interceptions (13 - 11). Father time is ticking for the 35-year-old quarterback whose best years are now behind him.
8. (3) Ricky Ray – Toronto Argonauts
Even with what is more than likely a career ending injury in the second game of the season, veteran quarterback Ricky Ray is one of the top players in the CFL. Who knows what would have happened with the Argos if Ray played the whole season. Marc Trestman would probably still be leading the Double Blue and they would have had a better shot at defending their 2017 Grey Cup title.
9. (NR) Chris Streveler – Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Here at Out of the Tunnel, we love Chris Streveler. He plays a lot like a young Mike Reilly. As a 23-year-old raw rookie out of South Dakota, he didn’t look out of place when he had to start game one of the season for the Bombers. There were times that he made the mistakes that rookies are bound to make, but boy if there was a potential “next one” in the CFL, it is Streveler.
10. (6) Jonathan Jennings – B.C. Lions
After a 5,000-yard season in 2016, the former potential “next one” has had a couple of seasons to forget. The soon to be free agent will more than likely not be returning to B.C. and a fresh start may be what is needed for the 26-year-old.
11. (9) Kevin Glenn – Edmonton Eskimos
The 39-year-old quarterback didn’t take a single snap for the Edmonton Eskimos in 2018, but his past resume, even in 2017 doesn’t change anyone’s mind on how skilled the journeyman is. He will be a great backup for whoever needs him in 2019.
12. (11) James Franklin – Toronto Argonauts
The former hottest young quarterback had a difficult time when thrust into the starters role when Ricky Ray went down for the season. Franklin looked lost at times and at others he tried to force throws when he shouldn’t have. The talent is still there, and he is still young but a relative no-name when 2018 began, shared starting duties and will compete as a starter in 2019.
13. (NR) McLeod Bethel-Thompson – Toronto Argonauts
That player competing with Franklin is McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The 30-year-old played in his second season in the CFL and was given a chance to compete as the starting quarterback with the Argos when Franklin struggled. Bethel-Thompson was ok, but was still adjusting to his surroundings and the CFL game.
14. (20) Johnny Manziel – Montreal Alouettes
It was a very interesting first season for the former Heisman Trophy winner. He began the season with the Hamilton Ti-Cats but was deemed expendable with the play of Jeremiah Masoli. He showed flashes of what made him a great college quarterback but still has trouble reading a defence and still relies too much on his scrambling skills. It will be interesting to see where he ends up at this time next year.
15. (12) Brandon Bridge – Saskatchewan Roughriders
In 2017 there were times that Bridge looked like he could be a starter in the CFL but 2018 was a step back for the lone Canadian quarterback in the CFL. The arm-talent and athletic ability is there but the rest of the skills needed to be a successful quarterback in the league still aren't there.
The best of the rest:
16. (NR) Antonio Pipkin – Montreal Alouettes
17. (19) Dominique Davis – Ottawa Redblacks
18. (NR) Cody Fajardo – B.C. Lions
19. (NR) Dane Evans – Hamilton Tiger-Cats
20. (20) Danny O’Brien – Edmonton Eskimos
A Canadian to watch in the NCAA
Justin McInnis (Sr.) - WR
Hometown – Pierrefonds, Que.
High School – Lindsay Place High School (Pointe Clair, Que)
After a couple of seasons at Dodge City (Kansas) C.C., McInnis found a home in the Arkansas State receiving corps. In his second and senior season with the Red Wolves, McInnis was second on the team in receiving with 694 yards and five touchdowns.
His performance garnered him a Sun Belt Conference all second-team honour.
He is one of the top players available for the 2019 CFL Draft and you can have a real good look at him on December 29th as his Red Wolves take on the Nevada Wolfpack in the Arizona Bowl.