2016 CFL Preveiw: Top Wide Receivers

*For previous articles in the series see the bottom of the page*

With the new CFL season getting ever closer, I will be taking a look at each position from Kicker to Quarterback going into 2016 and ranking who I see as the best. This will be a list made up of last year’s players as I have little info on new International players and the draft rarely yields elite level talent (at least in the player’s rookie year). Please feel free to leave a comment if you have other thoughts.

Here we go…

1. Chris Williams (2015 Stats: 88 Catches-1214 Yards-5 TDs)

I may get roasted for not placing Adarius Bowman up here but I can’t ignore what Williams has accomplished in his career since day one. I remember Williams exploding onto the scene in 2011 in a game against BC and then seeing him torch seemingly every opponent since then. Williams has never had less than 1000 yards or 5 TDs in a season and is one of the most dangerous return men in the CFL to boot. Blazing fast and able to handle a high volume of targets (70+ receptions every year), I see Williams as the unquestioned #1 receiver going into 2016.

2. Adarius Bowman (2015 Stats: 93 Catches-1304 Yards-7 TDs)

No way I can drop Bowman any lower than #2 after back to back years of monster production at level we haven’t seen in the CFL in some time. My issue with Bowman is his penchant to drop easy balls and, at times, disappear completely from a game. But make no mistake, when the 6’3 217 pound receiver gets going you CANNOT stop him. Recently watching the NBA playoffs, I liken Bowman to Lebron James: when it comes to these two being motivated and on their game they are too strong and too good for anyone to do anything but hope to slow them down. Maybe Bowman will put up a third monster season and forces his way back to the top of the list, I sure wouldn’t be opposed to watching that happen.

3. Emmanuel Arceneaux (2015 Stats: 76 Catches-1151 Yards-9 TDs)

One of my favorite CFL memories was watching Emmanuel Arceneaux come down with the game-tying Hail Mary touchdown against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 2010 West Division Semifinal. I knew then that the BC Lions star wide-out would be something special in the league, and nearly 6 years later I (and the Lions) haven’t been disappointed. As strong, fast, and keenly aware of the field and his position in it, Arceneaux fits the prototypical mold of a #1 receiver and has provided the Lions with a reliable option in the passing attack. While Arceneaux lost a few years to the NFL and his year to year numbers aren’t on the same level as Williams or Bowman there is no receiver I trust more to go deep and snag a critical jump-ball. With the strong-armed Jonathan Jennings set to take over at QB in 2016, Arceneaux could be set to light up the league in a big way.

4. SJ Green (2015 Stats: 71 Catches-1036 Yards-3 TDs)

SJ Green has made his name in the CFL with his incredible circus catches but it is his consistent production and leadership in the past few years that have him at #4 on this list. With Anthony Calvillo retired  and Jamel Richardson no longer on the roster, Green became the big dog on the Alouettes and put the offense on his back with several 1000 yard seasons, and yes, more circus catches, to keep his team competitive. With the return of Duron Carter (more on him below) and the steady hand of Kevin Glenn at QB (or tantalizing rookie Vernon Adams), I can see Green being a contender for leading the league in receiving this year. Even if his numbers don’t climb that high, Green will surely put on a show for CFL fans as he has each and every year.

5. Luke Tasker (2015 Stats: 76 Catches-1066 Yards-6 TDs)

Tasker may have been higher on the list had Quarterback Zach Collaros not been hurt last year (and now possibly to start this year). The two have an incredibly chemistry which has allowed Tasker to steadily improve over the years to my #5 overall receiver. This season, despite Collaros’s injury, Tasker never had less than 3 catches in a game and only fell beneath 50 yards twice. Consistent production like that, coupled with clutch plays in some tight games, already place Tasker in an elite category despite his slightly smaller size and frame (5’11 191lbs). Now, with yet another year under his belt, Tasker can really come into his own, especially if Collaros comes back earlier than expected.

The next superstars: Derel Walker (2015 Stats: 89 Catches-1110 Yards-6 TDs), Duron Carter (2014 Stats: 75 Catches-1030 Yards-7 TDs), Ryan Smith (2015 Stats: 59 Catches-991 Yards-7 TDs)

The future is bright for the CFL and these three young men are all a big part of it. Walker burst onto the scene with a rookie campaign that have some already crowning him the best receiver in the league. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider listing him above, but I need to see it once more before he knocks off one of the vets. Carter was well on his way to his own epic CFL career when an opportunity down south stole him away and reset expectations (to a degree). Now back with the Als, Carter can get to work in earnest for his own bust in the CFHOF which should match nicely with his Dad’s down south. When Ryan Smith left Saskatchewan there were some who felt it was a bigger loss to the Riders than similarly diminutive receiver Weston Dressler. While I’m not sure if I agree there, Smith wowed the CFL with several outstanding catches and nearly snagged 1000 yards while on a very bad Rider team. Expect Smith to continue to produce at a high level and work his way out of Dressler’s shadow to forge his own legend, in Winnipeg or elsewhere.

 

Previous Articles in the Series:

Top Defensive Secondaries

Top Running Backs

Top Linebackers

Top Pass Rushers

Top Kickers

Blog Update: In lieu of my weekly blog post

Hello everyone, this past week I accepted an offer to write freelance for Last Word on Sports in their CFL Department. Today my first article was published there (you can find the link below) and I will be doing about 2 articles a week on LWOS as I preview the teams ahead of the June 8 kickoff.

I will be attempting to continue my series here when I get the time in between the articles I write for LWOS and my job so don’t worry about me dropping the 2016 CFL Preview series. In the meantime be sure to check out my work on LWOS and check back here for the continuation of the Position Previews.

(http://lastwordonsports.com/2016/05/17/get-excited-2016-saskatchewan-roughriders/)

2016 CFL Preview: Top Defensive Secondaries

***For the Top Running Backs***

https://thepracticesquadblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/2016-cfl-preview-top-running-backs/

***For the Top Linebackers***

https://thepracticesquadblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/23/2016-cfl-preview-top-linebackers/

***For the Top Pass Rushers***

https://thepracticesquadblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/2016-cfl-preview-top-pass-rushers/

***For the Top Kickers***

https://thepracticesquadblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/2016-cfl-preveiw-top-kickers/

With the new CFL season getting ever closer, I will be taking a look at each position from Kicker to Quarterback going into 2016 and ranking who I see as the best. This will be a list made up of last year’s players as I have little info on new International players and the draft rarely yields elite level talent (at least in the player’s rookie year). Please feel free to leave a comment if you have other thoughts.

*For this particular preview I will be listing which teams I see as having the top overall defensive secondaries going into 2016. This makes it easier to account for corners, safeties, and hybrid linebackers all in one go.*

Here we go…

1. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Notable Players: Courtney Taylor, Emmanuel Davis, Johnny Sears Jr, Rico Murry, Demond Washington)

The more I researched the players above for this article the more I found myself thinking, “Wow, this team is scary in the back end“and for good reason. The thought was that both Taylor and Davis were too good for the Ti-Cats to not lose at least one of the dynamic playmakers to other teams (or the NFL) but they somehow managed to keep both! Combine those two elite corners with the hybrid player Rico Murry (one of my favorite tacklers in the CFL) and Johnny Sears Jr who was a solid playmaker early last year and even before then in Winnipeg and you have a crazy good group of guys to work with. That’s not even mentioning Demond Washington who is an underrated threat on defense and special teams, and the promising Mike Daily who filled in for Craig Butler last year. Oh yeah, Craig  Butler, scary to imagine if he makes it back this year isn’t it? This is a secondary that can absolutely smother people (and will need to with Collaros set to miss the start of the season).

2.  Calgary Stampeders (Notable Players: Brandon Smith, Fred Bennett, Jamar Wall, Joshua Bell, Brandon McDonald)

Depth. That’s what is see when I look at the Stamps secondary, and it’s not even close. All the above names could start on most teams if they were cut tomorrow and yet they are all in one lineup. While Calgary doesn’t have the elite covermen (at least in my humble opinion) that Hamilton and Edmonton boast the Stamps don’t have an area of real weakness or injury concern, and that can be way more valuable. Calgary has made it a point to develop and retain its stars each offseason and the result is a rock solid lineup with no overpriced free agents and tons of quality players who know the system. A new HC and the loss of some key players will hurt the Stamps some, but their Secondary should not be a concern.

3. Edmonton Eskimos (Notable Players: Patrick Watkins, John Ojo, Marcel Young, Cauchy Muamba, Korey Jones)

The reigning champions had a severe case of gang green this offseason, losing Head Coach Chris Jones (and their entire coaching staff), Otha Foster, and Kendail Lawrence (among others) to the rival Roughriders. For this list the Jones and Foster losses are particularly painful and contributed to the fall to #3. Yet the Esks still have a championship foundation they can lean on in the back end. Watkins is getting on in age but is still a top cover man, Ojo is a productive defender who looks to be the future star in the secondary, and Muamba has gotten markedly better every year he has played. The Eskimos will play with a chip on their shoulder this year with everyone doubting them, time will tell if the secondary can hold down the fort for a team desperate to repeat.

4. Ottawa REDBLACKS (Notable Players: Abdul Kanneh, Jerrell Gavins, Antoine Pruneau, Ryan Hinds, Brandon Sermons)

The REDBLACKS ended the year with possibly the best secondary in the CFL but several major departures have stripped them of some of the shine they held in the Grey Cup. Brandyn Thompson and Jovon Johnson were key parts of a nearly championship defense and not having them back has to create unease in Ottawa. Still, this roster possesses two top tier covermen in Kanneh and Gavins and one of the more versatile defenders in the league in Pruneau. Sermons was good enough to start in the GC last year despite little statistical production while Hinds is a journeyman defender that can still produce. If the REDBLACKS can keep stocking their depth behind Kanneh and Gavins they should remain an elite secondary into 2016.

5. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Notable Players: Johnny Adams, Maurice Leggit, Macho Harris, Matt Bucknor, Chris Randle)

When I did my initial assessments for this article I started by leaving Winnipeg off the list because I didn’t remember anything especially outstanding about them last year. In my reviews I went  back and actually looked at the Bombers roster was was blown away at the talent there. The above names are all productive starters and that’s not including Teague Sherman and Bruce Johnson who are also on the roster. Johnny Adams was tied for the league lead in Interceptions last year and is an ascending young talent. Macho Harris was a bright spot on a bad Riders team, Chris Randle is a rock solid starter, and Matt Bucknor is shaping up to be one of the better national defenders in the secondary. The Bombers greatly underachieved last year and may again this year but it won’t be due to lack of talent in the back end. If Coach O’Shea (or La Police…just wait) can get his team motivated and playing to their potential this could be an upper echelon secondary.

Wild Card: Saskatchewan Roughriders

The worst secondary in the league a year ago the Riders have completely remade their secondary to the point that Matt Webster is really the only player who played consistent snaps last year (and not much at that). This makes the secondary a complete mystery and nigh impossible to properly rank. The cynic in me says they stay near the bottom, but the football analyst in me says that there is no way Chris Jones puts out anything below average when it comes to his defense. Time will tell but I’ll give them a tentative ranking of “Tied for 5th” with the Bombers.