Home Valuable stamps Steinberg’s MMQB: The West’s Most Intriguing Players

Steinberg’s MMQB: The West’s Most Intriguing Players


We’re less than three weeks away from the start of the 2021 season. Training camps across the league are over a week old and in full swing. My friends, football is back in this country and the kick-off countdown is on.

One of our annual Monday Morning Quarterback traditions is to identify a player to watch from each team entering a new year. There are no definitive criteria at all. We are only selecting nine players with great stories and many reasons to pay attention in 2021. The big five in the West Division are the first.

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Fans across the country are eager to see what Cody Fajardo can do in his second season as the Riders starting quarterback (Photo: Riderville.com)

Saskatchewan Roughriders: Cody Fajardo, Quarterback

The reigning West Division MVP finally had his breakout campaign in 2019. Fajardo has been around for a long time, too. The University of Nevada star had shown plenty of flashes in more low-key roles with Toronto and British Columbia before landing with the Riders last season. When Fajardo landed his first shot to really carry the ball, he made the most of it: 18 touchdowns, 10 on the ground and 4,302 passing yards.

Now it’s all about follow-up. There are some that are not yet fully sold on Fajardo as a premium starter. Personally, I am not one of them. Now 29, Fajardo has patiently worked to seize this opportunity to be number one. Meanwhile, Fajardo has greatly improved as a pocket passer without sacrificing the athletic gifts that make him so dynamic. With more time to prepare, an attack that returns almost entirely in tact, and a ton of motivation from the end of last season, Fajardo is ready to build on what was an outstanding exit party.

Kamar Jorden was about to enter into conversation with the league’s top receiver before a knee injury ended his 2018 campaign. Now in full health, he’s set to become Bo’s No.1 target. Levi Mitchell in 2021 (Arthur Ward / CFL.ca)

Calgary Stampeders: Kamar Jorden wide receiver

The last time Jorden played full-time football on a regular basis in 2018, he had started to emerge as perhaps the most dangerous receiver in the league. Sadly, just a week after a 249-yard performance against Winnipeg, Jorden suffered a devastating knee injury in a Week 12 game against Edmonton. It was early September, so almost three years ago. Since that time, Jorden has only played once, and sparingly, when he faced Calgary in the Western semifinals against Winnipeg last season.

But now Jorden is fully recovered, rested and ready to once again become one of the most exciting playmakers in the CFL. With one of the youngest stamp receiving groups we’ve seen in ages, Jorden, 32, is also considered a leader and tone-giver in 2021. We know how talented there is. and we also know how anxious Jorden must be to enter the pitch. When you add a healthy Bo Levi Mitchell to the quarterback, this year has everything to be huge for Jorden.

Andrew Harris finished the 2019 season atop CFL Mountain. With a new season ahead of him, he’s ready to start climbing again (Johany Jutras / CFL.ca)

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Andrew Harris, running back

It’s back to Harris. 2021 will be another year of questions as to whether we will finally see one of the greatest running backs in CFL history start to slow down. Every year these questions are asked and every year Harris shoots them down forcefully with his fieldwork. Last year was no different.

Harris 2019, at the age of 32, was perhaps his best ever: 1,380 rushing yards, 529 receiving yards and eight total touchdowns. And, when it mattered most, Harris saved the best for last. He was MVP and Canadian MVP in Winnipeg’s victory over Hamilton in the 107th Gray Cup. Look, I understand Harris is 34 now, but I’ve never bought into the angle of decline before. With a full year off to prepare for this season, why would I start now?

Seen here on his first round with the Elks, Derel Walker is set to come out of quarantine on Monday and will be an impact player for the team this season (Johany Jutras / CFL.ca)

Edmonton Elks: Derel Walker, wide receiver

The Elks reportedly entered 2021 with one of the CFL’s most powerful air strikes on paper before Walker even committed. With Trevor Harris as quarterback and Greg Ellingson, Kenny Stafford and newcomer Armanti Edwards in the fold, Edmonton already looked dangerous. But when Walker stunned the CFL world by signing with his former team, it pushed matters higher.

After a season with Toronto in 2019, Walker didn’t sign anywhere in free agency in 2020 and his future looked uncertain. With things looking more optimistic for this season, however, Walker has decided to re-sign where it all began in 2015. Despite sometimes limited action, either through injury or a stint in the NFL, Walker did not. ‘ve been productive for four seasons in green and gold. Even without quarterback stability with the Argos last season, Walker racked up more than 1,000 receiving yards and six touchdown passes. With Harris pitching him this year, his totals are expected to be huge.

The Lions got an all-star DB when they landed Marcus Sayles, a new face who will breathe some life into the BC defense (Jimmy Jeong / CFL.ca)

BC Lions: Marcus Sayles, defensive back

Optimism is in the air in Vancouver with a new management regime and a whole new coaching staff led by Rick Campbell. Since the close of a disappointing 2019 season, the Lions have worked hard to create a much better follow-up campaign. British Columbia have brought back many important players on both sides of the ball and made some key additions as well. In particular, the Lions welcomed Shaq Cooper and Dominique Rhymes in attack. Then there’s Sayles, who is a huge addition in defense.

Sayles comes to the Lions after two remarkable seasons in Winnipeg and a selection of All-Star in the West Division last season. In 2019, Sayles recorded 64 tackles, three interceptions, two touchdowns, one forced fumble and one sack. While he might not be the tallest guy on the pitch, Sayles has exceptional speed, reads the pitch at an elite level, and is a very efficient tackler. At just 26, Sayles joins British Columbia with a chance to help anchor a defensive backfield that also includes TJ Lee and Kenny Ladler.