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February 22, 2019

A look at QB Depth Charts across the league

Blue Bombers' Matt Nichols greats Stampeders' Bo Levi Mitchel after the game, CFL, West Final action in Calgary, AB, on Sunday, Nov. 18th, 2018. (CFL PHOTO - Dave Chidley)

Canadian Football League free agency opened 10 days ago with a tsunami of player movement that saw the loop’s marquee talent cash in with marquee deals.

That’s hardly a shocking development, as the league’s best always get paid.

Not surprisingly, quarterbacks gobbled up a huge chunk of available salary cap space in that spending spree as Mike Reilly, Bo Levi Mitchell, Trevor Harris, Jonathan Jennings and Zach Collaros all signed new deals – Reilly, Harris and Jennings landing with new teams.

What’s happened since that initial signing flurry – or more specifically, what hasn’t happened – has been intriguing. With teams piling up the dollars to welcome star pivots, some of the league’s other veteran QB talent like Travis Lulay, Kevin Glenn and Ricky Ray (said to be retiring) remain unsigned. Ditto for Brandon Bridge and Drew Willy, both of whom started games in 2018.

All of this means that QB depth charts across the CFL have not only undergone significant change at the top, but that spots 2-3-4 across the league are changing, too.

That’s significant because the league’s two best pivots – Reilly, now in B.C. and Calgary’s Mitchell – were the only two QBs to start all 18 games last year. Consider too, that over the last seven years an average of 20 QBs started games in each of those seasons, with a whopping 26 different pivots earning starts in 2015.

QB STARTS: BY THE NUMBERS

2018: 20 different starting QBs; Mike Reilly (EDM) and Bo Levi Mitchell (CGY) started all 18.

2017: 19 different starting QBs: Reilly started all 18

2016: 20 different starting QBs; Jonathan Jennings (B.C.) started all 18

2015: 26 different starting QBs; Henry Burris (OTT) started all 18.

2014: 21 different starting QBs; Burris (OTT) started all 18.

2013: 18 different starting QBs; Burris (HAM); Reilly (EDM) started all 18.

2012: 17 different starting QBs: Burris (HAM) started all 18

 

All of this is to say that with so much invested on No. 1 guns across the league, there are – at least currently – a lot of question marks for each team’s worst-case scenario. Namely: what happens if QB1 is felled by an injury? And knowing that, can teams afford not to have some proven help in their QB bullpen?

The Lions, for example, made Reilly the highest-paid quarterback in the league, but now have the promising, but unproven Ricky Lloyd – who dressed for two games last year and has yet to throw a pass – behind him. That said, Reilly has not missed a start in two straight seasons and his backup a year ago – the well-travelled Kevin Glenn – did not throw a single pass.

Calgary’s Mitchell was also durable a year ago, but his back-up – Nick Arbuckle – threw only 25 passes last season. In Edmonton, with the Eskimos moving on from Glenn, the No. 2 role appears to be owned by Danny O’Brien, who has been in the CFL for five seasons, but has thrown only 107 passes over that span.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are in an interesting position in this regard, having the veteran Matt Nichols backed up by Chris Streveler, who burst onto the CFL scene a year ago with four starts – three as an injury replacement to open the season; a fourth when the club rested a pile of starters in their regular season finale.

Streveler became the first Bombers QB in 25 years (since Matt Dunigan in 1993) to finish a season with double-digit passing and rushing TD totals, and in the process, established himself as one of the most intriguing players to watch in the CFL in 2019. Even third stringer Bryan Bennett got his jersey dirty every week, regularly suiting up on special teams and making a critical tackle in the Western Semi-Final victory in Regina.

Here’s a look at how the Bombers QB depth chart compares to the rest of the CFL:

PIVOTAL DEPTH

*Indicates Canadian

B.C. LIONS

1. Mike Reilly
2. Ricky Lloyd
3. TBD

Quick take: Lions are all in on Reilly, but the rest of the depth chart is incomplete. Reilly has thrown for a whopping 16,946 yards in the last three years.

CALGARY STAMPEDERS

1. Bo Levi Mitchell
2. Nick Arbuckle
3. Montell Kozart

Quick take: Mitchell is the league’s best player and the Stamps like Arbuckle’s upside, but that’s a significant question behind him.

EDMONTON ESKIMOS

1.Trevor Harris
2.
Danny O’Brien
3.
Logan Kilgore
4.
Jeremiah Briscoe

Quick take: Harris and O’Brien are reunited from their days in Ottawa. Harris’ TD-to-interception ratio over the last two years is a solid 52:22.

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS

1. Zach Collaros
2. Cody Fajardo
3. David Watford

Quick take: Collaros was 10-4 as a starter, but concussion issues have Rider fans worried. The signing of Fajardo likely guaranteed Bridge, who started the Western Semi-Final, won’t return.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS

1. Matt Nichols
2. Chris Streveler
3. Bryan Bennett
4. Bryan Schor

Quick take: Nichols is the clear-cut starter, but Streveler will likely be even more involved in the offence in 2019.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS

1. James Franklin
2. McLeod Bethel-Thompson
3. Dakota Prukop
4. Noah Picton

Quick take: Franklin and former coach Marc Trestman didn’t mesh, but he was considered THE QB prospect just a year ago. Big year for him to put the shine back on his star.

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

1. Jeremiah Masoli
2. Dane Evans
3. DeVante Kincade

Quick take: Masoli put up superb numbers last year, although he is just 18-18 in his career as a starter. The Ticats are very comfortable with Evans at No. 2.

OTTAWA REDBLACKS

1. Jonathan Jennings
2. Dominique Davis
3. Danny Collins
4. William Arndt

Quick take: The departure of Harris opened the door for Jennings, who was 12-6 as a starter in B.C. two years ago, but is 7-13 since.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES

1. Johnny Manziel
2. Antonio Pipkin
3. Vernon Adams, Jr
4. Jeff Mathews
5. Hugo Richard*

Quick take: Lots of names, no clear-cut starter. Manziel got all the hype last year after being traded from Hamilton, but Pipkin had the better won-lost record – 2-2 vs. Manziel’s 2-6.