When going through preparations for our recent CFL draft analysis, I began observing the careers of the drafted players in the classes studied. Needless to say, this process enhanced my knowledge of Canadian players in the CFL to an extent that I have never known before. This got me thinking “who are the best Canadian players in the CFL?”
It gave me the idea for this article! Today we will dive into the rosters of all nine CFL franchises to determine who are the true difference-making nationals in the league. The rules are simple: any player classified as a National on a team’s official roster is fair game. This includes players that may not have been born in Canada, but hold ties to Canadian citizenship. It is important to keep in mind that for each team we can only pick one player, and that some rosters on the national side are much stronger than others. To that end, some players that weren’t selected are still impact players but got edged out simply because the depth on their particular team.
Next week, we will cover the best import players on each CFL roster, so stay tuned!
Now, without further ado…
WR Lemar Durant #1
2019 Statistics: 57 REC, 810 yds, 5TDs
The Lions had an extremely disappointing 2019 season after acquiring QB Mike Reilly in last year’s Free Agency, going 5-13 and missing the playoffs. Still, this roster has plenty to build around, particularly the team’s Canadian core at receiver led by Durant. The Simon Frazier product broke out in his 5th CFL season, doubling his career high in receiving yards. With good size for the position, some of his better plays come as a result of him becoming a basketball player and “boxing-out” the defender. He will remain a crucial part of BC’s offense as a compliment to star WR Bryan Burnham.
Honourable Mentions: OL Brett Boyko, WR Shaquille Johnson, DB Isaiah Guzlak-Messam
OL Shane Bergman #60
In recent years, Calgary has been one of the premier CFL franchises. Therefore, it is of no surprise that they find themselves with plenty of Canadian talent to choose from. While not flashy, our pick here is offensive lineman Shane Bergman, who has long anchored a Stamps line that has consistently ranked among the best in the CFL. From his Left Guard position, Bergman finally received his first All-Star selection in 2019 in his 7th CFL season since coming out of Western.
Honourable Mentions: OL Sean McEwen, K Rene Parades, WR Hergy Mayala
DE Kwaku Boateng #93
2019 Statistics: 20 tackles, 8 sacks
The Eskimos have a few other Canadians on the roster worth mentioning, but they stand little chance against Boateng. The rare Canadian starting defensive lineman has been an absolute steal ever since being selected in the 5th round of the 2017 CFL Draft out of Wilfred Laurier. With above average quickness for a defensive lineman, he often gets himself in good position against opposing offensive lineman right off the snap. He notched a career high 8 sacks in 2019, helping the Eskimos finish tied for 1st in the league in sacks.
Honourable Mentions: OL David Beard, OL Kyle Saxelid
OL Brandon Revenberg #57
Many, many options for the Tigercats, who have several high-level Canadian contributors. However, after reading Marshall Ferguson’s piece on Revenburg from the 2018 season up on CFL.ca, I opted to go with Hamilton’s premier left guard. The past two seasons, Revenburg has been among the best lineman in the CFL, with a true mean-streak for finishing his blocks, as analyzed by Ferguson. This has been illustrated with the Grand Valley State Alum being named an All-Star in each of the past two campaigns. Still just 27, he likely has several high-level seasons left in him.
Honourable Mentions: OL Chris Van Zeyl, DB Tunde Adeleke, DL Ted Laurent
LB Henoc Muamba #10
2019 Statistics: 93 tackles, 1 sack
Montreal had a pleasantly surprising season in 2019, anchored on offense by QB Vernon Adams and on defense by star linebacker Henoc Muamba. Selected by Winnipeg first overall in the 2011 CFL Draft out of St. Francis Xavier, Muamba has had multiple stops on NFL rosters in between starring in the CFL. Simply put, Muamba is a tackling machine. He finishes hits with punishment while still displaying plenty of range in coverage required for CFL linebackers. For his efforts this past season, he was not only named an All-Star but took home the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian Award.
Honourable Mentions: K Tyler Crapigna, OL Kristian Matte
WR Brad Sinopoli #88
2019 Statistics: 72 REC, 671 yds, 3 TDs
There were other options for the Redblacks, but the selection here is Sinopoli, a former Most Outstanding Canadian Award winner. The former Ottawa Gee Gees Quarterback had a down season in 2019 by his previous high standards, but we bank on him bouncing back. In the four seasons prior to 2019, he finished with over 1000 yards receiving in each campaign. With (hopefully) improved quarterback play next season in Ottawa, Sinopoli will likely re-establish his role as one of the CFL’s best pass-catchers.
Honourable Mentions: OL Alex Mateas, DL Cleyton Liang, K Lewis Ward
S Mike Edem #15
2019 Statistics: 69 defensive tackles, 7 special teams tackles, 3 sacks
Not going to lie, this was an extremely difficult choice. The Roughriders have three extremely legitimate nominees in addition to Edem in OL Brandon Labatte, LB Cameron Judge and OL Dan Clark. However, we decided to go with the long-time safety in Edem, who made a Divisional All-Star appearance last season while playing a pivotal role in a Saskatchewan secondary that allowed the second fewest pass yards. Now 30, the former Calgary and McGill product likely still has a few strong seasons left in him.
Honourable Mentions: OL Brandon Labatte, OL Dan Clark, LB Cameron Judge
LB Boseko Lokombo #20
2019 Statistics: 51 defensive tackles, 8 special teams tackles, 2 interceptions
Coming to Toronto via a trade from Montreal, Lokombo stands as the most proven Canadian player on the Argo’s roster. Forming a tandem with fellow Canadian LB Henoc Muamba, the Oregon alum consistently showed up on the stat-sheet. Being a regular CFLer since 2014, Lokombo made the West Divisional All-Star team in 2015 with BC while remaining productive over more recent campaigns. Another great tackler on this list, Lokombo will be needed on this Toronto roster that lacks many proven Canadian options.
Honourable Mentions: OL Phillip Blake, LS Jake Reinhart, LB Nick Shortill
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
RB Andrew Harris #33
2019 Statistics: 1380 yds, 4 TDs, 6.1 Yards Per Carry
Finally, we have arrived at the most obvious nomination on this list. Harris is far and away the best Canadian member of the Blue Bombers, despite the team holding significant National talent. Harris is just simply that good, and has shown it year after year, collecting 6 overall All-Star appearances and now a Grey Cup Championship. He has led the CFL in rushing multiple times, and this past season became the most prolific Canadian running back in history in terms of rushing yards. Harris is not only the best and most proven player on this entire list, but is without question one of the best players in the entire CFL.
Honourable Mentions: WR Nik Demski, OL Patrick Neufield, OL Michael Couture, LS Chad Rempel, OL Drew Desjarlais