Power rankings in February? What kind of crazy talk is that? Well, with Free Agency open and many of the league’s top names already signed, fans have started to talk about how their team is going to line up against other teams around the league. It might seem early to think about power-ranking teams, but hey, it’s always fun to do it.
Related: 2021 CFL Power Rankings Revisited
Our 2021 offseason power rankings missed the mark on some teams, most notable the Edmonton Elks towards the top of the list and the Saskatchewan Roughriders towards the bottom, but there were only two votes in that ranking. This time around, seven CFL writers at 13th Man Sports cast their votes before the total number of votes was tallied and averaged out. The lower the number, the better the team. Let’s take an early look at the 2022 CFL season.
9. Edmonton Elks
2021 Season: 8th
Highest Ranking: 8th
Lowest Ranking: 9th
Average Ranking: 8.429
If Chris Jones is going to continue his trend of bringing winning wherever he goes, it might take a little more effort with the current Edmonton Elks team. The disaster of a 2021 season saw them lose handily week after week and ship Trevor Harris, the quarterback who was supposed to lead their charge-back to the Grey Cup after Michael Reilly skipped town, off to Montreal. This led to the firing of head coach Jaime Elizondo and general manager Brock Sunderland, both of whom were replaced by Jones.
The Elks should be better this season than they were in 2021 by virtue of adding Jones to the mix, but their roster still leaves us asking questions about who will step up their games. Starting at the quarterback spot, they don’t have a solidified starter yet. Is Nick Arbuckle the player he was hyped up to be when the Ottawa Redblacks sent the first overall pick to Calgary to get him a few years ago? Will Taylor Cornelius steal the job and work his way to being a starter in the CFL? Could the Elks have something with either J.T. Barrett or Khalil Tate? In due time, we will know, but the fact of the matter is that without a quarterback, you don’t win games in the CFL. Someone needs to step up.
Some big-time names have been added, but there have been countless memes at the Elks’ expense as people joke that they are trying to win the 2015 Grey Cup with signings including Adarius Bowman and Emmanuel Arceneaux. They have signed a handful of players that should impact their team immediately with Mark Korte, Makana Henry, Deon Lacey, Adam Konar, Duron Carter as a defensive back, and Ed Gainey, but they have lost some talent as well. They should certainly be better than a guaranteed last place, but as of now, they aren’t close to being on the same level as the West Division’s top teams.
8. BC Lions
2021 Season: 7th
Highest Ranking: 4th
Lowest Ranking: 9th
Average Ranking: 8.000
Many have been quick to call the BC Lions the worst team in the CFL before the season has started, and while there is good reason to have them towards the bottom of the list, they might be a touch better than anticipated. The elephant in the room is of course Michael Reilly who retired prior to Free Agency opening and allowed the Lions to make some moves with their newfound cash. They soon after named Canadian Nathan Rourke their starting quarterback and put any rumours of them being involved in the Jeremiah Masoli or Trevor Harris sweepstakes.
Rourke looks ready to take the torch as a starting quarterback, and it’s for that reason they are ahead of the Elks for most of our writers. They do have big holes on the offence right now, however. The offensive line is particularly worrisome, especially with Ryker Matthews expected to retire ahead of the season. Rourke will have weapons to play with, of course. Bryan Burnham, Lucky Whitehead, Dominique Rymes, and Jevon Cottoy will all be back in the den next season, but if there is constant pressure on the quarterback, that might not be all that helpful.
Running back is another position that they could be in tough for. They might be asking a player like James Butler to step up and become the bell-cow back, but he may not be quite ready for that just yet. If they don’t touch their offensive line the rest of the offseason, they could be in a bit of trouble when the season does start. One saving grace for them is Rourke’s ability to move the pocket and his running ability. It should allow the Lions to be a little creative, but again, it wouldn’t be ideal to trot their franchise quarterback out on the field to take a beating every single weekend. If they want him to succeed, they need to protect him.
7. Montreal Alouettes
2021 Season: 4th
Highest Ranking: 4th
Lowest Ranking: 8th
Average Ranking: 5.857
On average, the next four teams were all ranked better than sixth, however, the Montreal Alouettes were the lowest of the bunch. It’s not that no one believes that this team can compete for a Grey Cup by the end of the season, especially not after some of the things they accomplished in the 2021 season while Vernon Adams Jr. was healthy. Their biggest issue looks like it’s going to be replacing some of the big names they lost via Free Agency.
They have lost key names like B.J. Cunningham, Tony Washington (who was traded to Edmonton), D.J. Lalama, Ty Cranston, Tyquwan Glass, Monshadrik ‘Money’ Hunter, and Patrick Levels just to name a few. Their biggest losses come on the defensive side of the football, and with a lack of impact signings to fill the void, they will have to rely on their depth and backups from last season to step up and become their starters.
If there were concerns about the defence, the same can’t be said for the offence. With Adams back in the fold, fans should expect their offence to return to its high-flying form. They will throw the ball deep and score points, and with Jake Wieneke, Mario Alford, Eugene Lewis, Dante Absher, and William Stanback back for another tour of duty in the bird’s nest, they should be at the very least super entertaining.
6. Toronto Argonauts
2021 Season: 3rd
Highest Ranking: 4th
Lowest Ranking: 7th
Average Ranking: 5.714
The Argos might not have won the offseason as they have in the past, but they did do one thing they should be happy with, they were by far the team that trolled their rivals the most. Between signing Ja’Gared Davis and Brandon Banks, they have Tiger-Cats fans feeling some kind of way, telling players they used to idolize that they are traitors and were never really all that good, to begin with. If we were power-ranking social media presences, the Argos would be right towards the top of the list.
If there is going to be one limitation for the Argos this season, it comes with their starting quarterback, McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Every now and again, he will go out and have a phenomenal game that reminds you how good he can be, but most nights, he’s just okay. For most of his career in the CFL, he has been much too good to be a backup quarterback, but when given the reigns to be the full-time starter, he comes up just a touch short. He needs to excel this season if the Argos hope to get out of a highly competitive East Division.
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The rest of the team is looking like the East Division version of the Calgary Stampeders, but if you’re going to take something and make it your own, take something that was good in the first place. Big names have been brought in including Davis, Banks, and future Hall of Fame running back, Andrew Harris. They will be otherwise headlined by Juwan Brescacin, DaVaris Daniels, Henoc Muamba, Markeith Ambles, and Adrian Tracey just to name a handful. It won’t be a simple task to repeat as East Division regular-season champions, however, this Argos roster is still a threat to be back in the Grey Cup come November.
5. Ottawa Redblacks
2021 Season: 9th
Highest Ranking: 3rd
Lowest Ranking: 7th
Average Ranking: 5.286
When the Ottawa Redblacks take the field in 2022, most fans won’t recognize them at all, but that’s a good thing in this situation. In 2021, they boasted one of the most anemic offences the CFL has seen since… the 2019 Redblacks. It was bad, and they routinely went games on end without scoring a touchdown. The team’s offence ultimately cost Marcel Desjardins his job after building a team that went to three Grey Cups and won one of them in just seven seasons of existence.
With names like Jeremiah Masoli, Darvin Adams, Jaelon Acklin, B.J. Cunningham, Williams Powell, Darius Ciraco, Ucambre Williams, and Hunter Steward joining the fray in the offence, there’s no question that 2022 will feature a much different product for the Redblacks. On paper, they have one of the stronger rosters they have had in recent memory and feel much like the 2015 team that went to the Grey Cup did. They should be much improved and they should be competing for the top spot in the East Division.
Related: Jeremiah Masoli “Here To Win”
Their defence has gotten better with the additions of Kwaku Boateng, Lorenzo Mauldin IV, Money Hunter, Ty Cranston, and Patrick Levels among others. Their defensive unit was solid in 2021 and was far from the reason they lost games. If there was one unfortunate piece of news coming in the offseason, it was DeVonte Dedmon leaving for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. They will need to find a kick returner who can make some magic happen, but that could come in the form of second-year receiver, Ryan Davis.
4. Calgary Stampeders
2021 Season: 6th
Highest Ranking: 2nd
Lowest Ranking: 7th
Average Ranking: 5.000
No team was harder to place for our seven writers than the Calgary Stampeders. Some were really high on the Stampeders, expecting Bo Levi Mitchell to be back on his MOP calibre play we have grown accustomed to, but others think that the dynasty is officially dead. They find themselves relatively high on this list, but it’s really hard to tell how good they will be this season when it’s all said and done.
For the most part, the Stampeders brought back most of their key pending free agents. They have their franchise quarterback locked into place with Mitchell, they have his backup who can come in and win games if he’s needed in Jake Maier, and they have the playmakers to help out including Ka’Deem Carey, Reggie Begelton, Colton Hunchak, and Kamar Jorden. On the offensive line, they may have lost Ucambre Williams, but they get Derek Dennis back, and he sounds like a man on a mission.
The Stamps should be solid defensively, highlighted by their linebacking corps. With the likes of Cameron Judge and D.J. Lalama coming in, they get a boost in the room. It’s not likely that the Stampeders will have the league’s best defence, but it should be good enough to get the job done. The key really does lie with the offence and Mitchell returning to the form they have in 2018 and 2019. If they get that, they should be towards the top of the league standings, but if they don’t, they could be in for another underwhelming season.
3. Saskatchewan Roughriders
2021 Season: 2nd
Highest Ranking: 2nd
Lowest Ranking: 5th
Average Ranking: 3.286
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are the next team to be tasked with trying to make it to the Grey Cup game that they host. Many fans have expressed their concerns about the players lost versus the players gained in the Free Agency window, but the team as a whole should still be good enough to contend for the Grey Cup in 2022. Still led by quarterback Cody Fajardo, the Riders have their heart and soul player, the guy who will do whatever it takes to win and then some. Not only is he a good enough player to get the job done, but he is also precisely the kind of player who can be a captain in the locker room and set a good example for rookies and veterans alike.
There are some solid pieces for Fajardo to work with on the offence, however, there are still some concerning holes that need to be filled. At receiver, the Riders are set with the big play ability and reliability of Shaq Evans, Kyran Moore, and Duke Williams primarily, but they also have a considerable amount of depth options that could have breakout seasons. At running back, Kienan LaFrance is their most experienced back, but production could be limited from him. Instead, they will likely rely on Jamal Morrow in the event they can’t bring someone in to fill that hole, ideally, a player like Timothy Flanders could help bring in someone to play in tandem with Morrow or LaFrance.
Defensively, the Roughriders pass rush should still be particularly scary for opposing teams with A.C. Leonard back in the fold. Their two prized signings also came on the defensive side of the football with Darnell Sankey and Derrick Moncrief coming in. It seems that both offensively and defensively, the Riders have a Grey Cup contending team, but if there was one position to exercise caution with, it would be their offensive line. Still, they have some players who are Free Agent including Brett Boyko, and exactly how their starting line is going to shake down is a question, especially if Brendon LaBatte does decide to retire.
2. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
2021 Season: 5th
Highest Ranking: 2nd
Lowest Ranking: 3rd
Average Ranking: 2.429
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats may have lost a fair bit in Free Agency, but they should still be considered one of the top dogs, or cats if you will, in the East Division. Their biggest losses have mostly come at the hands of the rival Ottawa Redblacks and have included Jeremiah Masoli, Jealon Acklin, and Lorenzo Mauldin IV, but they still have the players to be competitive and potentially end their Grey Cup drought in 2022.
They will be led by Dane Evans, but for the first time, he won’t have a starting calibre backup to step in if he stumbles. Evans stepped up in 2019 and took the Tiger-Cats back to the Grey Cup and looked like a star in the making, however, when the team came back after the missed 2020 season, it was Masoli who won the starting job and started the majority of the games in 2021. In that season, Evans only threw 107 passes, completing 69 of them for 787 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.
The defence should be scary. A pass rush that includes Dylan Wynn, Micah Johnson, and Ted Laurent should get to the quarterback frequently. Pair that with big-time playmakers including Simoni Lawrence, Jovan Santos-Knox, Tunde Adeleke, Jumal Rolle, Richard Leonard, and Alden Darby, and they should have a complete unit capable of turning the ball over. Their battle to get back to the top of the East will be more complicated this season with the Redblacks being back in the conversation, but they are still good enough to get there.
1. Winnipeg Blue Bombers
2021 Season: 1st
Highest Ranking: 1st
Lowest Ranking: 1st
Average Ranking: 1.000
For those fans of rival teams that were hoping the 2022 offseason would bring the demise of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, you’re going to be disappointed because their roster looks as strong in many places as it did in 2021. They brought back countless big names including Zach Collaros, Jackson Jeffcoat, Willie Jefferson, and nearly their entire offensive line outside of Drew Desjarlais who signed in the NFL. For the most part, their best players are back for a chance at a third consecutive Grey Cup.
There have been a couple of key losses for the Bombers in the offseason, however. Andrew Harris has moved on and signed with the Toronto Argonauts, while both Kenny Lawler and Darvin Adams have left via Free Agency to the Edmonton Elks and Ottawa Redblacks respectively. On the defensive side of the ball, they will be without Alden Darby, Mike Jones, Steven Richardson, and Jonathan Kongbo in 2022. Their losses have been minor in comparison to what they could have been, but their depth will be tested in the event of an injury when the season starts.
It’s clear that the Blue Bombers spent their money on pending free agents with how quiet they have been with bringing in fresh faces and it’s hard to blame them for that. Their two big signings come in the form of defensive back Tyquwan Glass and receiver Greg Ellingson. Some have made the prediction that Ellingson will finish the season with more receiving yards than Lawler, and that is a real possibility. Ellingson hasn’t gotten the same touches he had previously in Ottawa, but if he becomes Collaros’ favourite target, he could remind everyone why he was a fixture in the Redblacks offence for years.
|BC Lions||Free Agency 2022|
|Calgary Stampeders||Free Agency 2022|
|Edmonton Elks||Free Agency 2022|
|Hamilton Tiger-Cats||Free Agency 2022|
|Montreal Alouettes||Free Agency 2022|
|Ottawa Redblacks||Free Agency 2022|
|Saskatchewan Roughriders||Free Agency 2022|
|Toronto Argonauts||Free Agency 2022|
|Winnipeg Blue Bombers||Free Agency 2022|
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