Oh, predictions. Everyone’s favourite thing. The motto of the CFL has always been “expect the unexpected,” and of course, it’s typically a difficult league to predict, especially when it comes to player stats. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of five predictions for players around the league.
As always with these kinds of things, it’s merely a prediction. If you agree, disagree, or would even like to add some of your own, we encourage you to do that (in a respectful manner) in the comments below, or on any of our social media channels! Let’s hop right into it.
Duke Williams Gets 1,500 Yards
This one might be difficult for some to believe, especially coming off a shortened season where statistical totals were way down (for obvious reasons) but Duke Williams is special. Realistically, you could end it there and say nothing more than “Williams is special,” and that could be a logical prediction that most people would agree with. But let’s put a tangible number on it, Duke Williams will finish the season leading the league in receiving yards, with 1,500 or more.
That number might seem astronomically high to some, but we have seen that number reached before in the CFL, most recently in 2019 when Brandon Banks did it, and in 2018 when Williams himself reached that total in Edmonton. Each season, a handful of players come close, and eventually one seems to break through, but Williams is a guy who has done it before, and even at the age of 29, he’s more than capable of doing it again.
The situation for Williams is also quite advantageous. With a receivers room where he is far and away the number one option and a running game that is anchored by inexperience, Cody Fajardo will be looking the way of number five frequently. That, combined with Williams’ ability to stretch the field makes him the perfect candidate to eclipse the 1,500-yard mark. The question is, how many times can he take it to the house?
Andrew Harris Rushes for 1,000 Yards
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers didn’t move on from Andrew Harris in the offseason because he is washed up, don’t get that twisted. They did it because they were tight on cap space, and they have two young players who are ready to take the next step. Sure, Harris probably isn’t the same player he was during his peak, but thinking that he is done or cooked just isn’t true. In just seven games in 2021, Harris rushed for 623 yards, putting his full-season pace at just over 1,600 yards. That mark would be crazy, but it goes to show that Harris isn’t just effective, he’s still elite.
Now with the Toronto Argonauts, Harris has some people to prove wrong. He’s a year older now and running behind an offensive line that, on paper, isn’t as good as the one he had in Winnipeg, but why would you doubt Harris at this point? If he stays healthy during the season, he should easily eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark that defines a good season.
The biggest part of this is health, of course. Harris has had issues staying healthy over the past handful of seasons, but we can’t forget his usage in Winnipeg. It was extremely high, both running the ball, and catching it out of the backfield. In Toronto, that figures to be reduced a touch, and while his numbers will almost certainly be down from his career-best seasons where he nearly recorded 1,000 receiving yards as well, it will be for the better. Don’t sleep on arguably the best Canadian running back to ever play the game just because he’s 35.
Greg Ellingson Becomes Bombers Leading Receiver
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers didn’t make too many changes to their already league-best roster during the offseason. They didn’t need to. There was one position where they lost some formidable talent, however, and that was the receiver spot. With Kenny Lawler signing with the Edmonton Elks and Darvin Adams signing with the Ottawa Redblacks, there was a hole left that if unfilled, could seriously hamper the team’s chance at a threepeat. The answer the Bombers were looking for turned out to be Greg Ellingson, a player that CFL fans know well for his big statistical seasons and timely receptions.
At 33-years-old, Ellingson is coming off a disappointing season with the Elks where he totalled just 687 yards in 10 games. His numbers were down, but that wasn’t entirely his fault. With Trevor Harris having a down season to start the year, Taylor Cornelius coming in as a rookie in the middle of the season, and Dakota Prukop ending things off, how could you blame Ellingson for a down season? The bottom line is Edmonton stunk, and there was no way anyone was going to come out of the year looking very good.
But one down season during a quarterback carousel shouldn’t define Ellingson today. Before that, Ellingson had five consecutive seasons with over 1,000 yards, including a career-high 1,459 in 2017 where he also found the endzone 12 times. He’s not the young player he was when he signed with the Ottawa Redblacks in 2016, but he’s still effective, and an under-the-radar player for the Bombers. It should come as no surprise if Ellingson ends the season as the Bombers’ leading receiver for yardage, touchdowns, or possibly even both.
Jeremiah Masoli Leads League In Passing Yards
Jeremiah Masoli has never before led the league in passing yards at the end of the season, but in Ottawa with a rejuvenated Redblacks roster, this is his best chance yet to do that. The closes he has ever come was in 2018, when he finished just over 300 yards behind then Edmonton Elks quarterback, Michael Reilly with one fewer game played. For the first time since Henry Burris in 2016, an Ottawa Redblacks quarterback will finish the season with the most passing yards.
This is obviously one of the more bold predictions on the list, but it’s not like Masoli doesn’t have the talent to throw for 5,000 yards (league leaders typically throw for 5,000 to 5,500 over the course of a season, although there have been seasons where it takes less), and with some of the receivers around him, he has options when getting the ball into the hands of playmakers.
Outside of staying healthy and his overall performance, the biggest factor that could make or break this prediction is how well the Redblacks’ offensive line protects Masoli when the chips are down. If they can keep him on his feet and give him time, he’s going to make the plays, very similar to how Zach Collaros has been making things happen with the Bombers. If the heat starts getting to Masoli and his passes become rushed and inaccurate, this will fall apart. He has the talent, he has the receivers, and so far, it looks like the blocking will be good enough, now it’s just a matter of putting it all together.
Jake Maier Ends Season As Stampeders’ Starter
Let’s go ahead and cap this off with the hottest of hot takes. By the end of the season, Bo Levi Mitchell won’t be quarterbacking the Calgary Stampeders, it will be his heir apparent, Jake Maier. This is not a cut-and-dry situation in Calgary, and it really could go either way, but there are a couple of reasons why this is something I’m expecting to see.
For one, this isn’t at all to suggest that Mitchell isn’t good enough to start in the CFL anymore, or anything ridiculous like that. This isn’t even based on a preseason performance where the stats looked ugly, this comes down to the future of the Stampeders and what Maier means to them going forward. The Stamps don’t have the dynasty they used to have, and they will take their lumps at times this season. If there’s ever a moment where Mitchell struggles, Maier will be right there looking to steal the job.
The situation in Calgary is quite similar to what the Hamilton Tiger-Cats had with Jeremiah Masoli and Dane Evans. One quarterback was the future, and one was going to leave. This season, the Stampeders will likely have to pick their starter for next season. If it’s Maier, then Mitchell will likely move on. If it’s Michell, Maier will likely move on. The age of Mitchell complicates that, as Maier is the far younger, more attractive player long-term.
It might just take one chance for Maier to win the job. That could come in a game where Mitchell struggles early, it could come if Mitchell misses time with injury, or it could come if the Stampeders have a losing streak. Maier showed last season that he is ready to start, and with him being the future for the Stamps, it just might be a little easier to make it stick.
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