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2023 CFL quarterback rankings: Zach Collaros takes the top spot, Trevor Harris ranks high and Vernon Adams lands in the top five

2MDYC73 Winnipeg Blue Bombers qb Zach Collaros during a CFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (AP Photo/Larry MacDougal)

  • Zach Collaros is the easy choice for best CFL QB: The Blue Bombers QB was the second-highest graded QB in the league (behind NFL-bound Nathan Rourke) and had the most big-time throws last season.
  • Trevor Harris slides behind Collaros: From Week 14 onward last season, no quarterback recorded a higher passing grade.
  • Vernon Adams Jr. round out the top five: Adams is one of the best deep ball throwers in the league. Last season, he threw 46 deep passes and not a single one of them was a turnover-worthy play.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

With only three opportunities to gain a first down in the Canadian game, the quarterback position is even more important in the CFL. A good quarterback can completely turn a team around.

With the season just about to get underway, the starters are all but locked in. Let’s take a look at how all nine rank.

1. Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Key 2022 Stat: 38 big-time throws 

It should be no surprise that the CFL's two-time defending Most Outstanding Player is ranked at the top of this list. No CFL quarterback embodies the gunslinger mentality like Collaros, as he was the second-highest graded QB in the league (behind NFL-bound Nathan Rourke) and had the most big-time throws last season. The other side of that gunslinger coin, however, is that he also led the league in turnover-worthy plays. Collaros plays a high-risk, high-reward game and while that can sometimes cause him to struggle, such as during last season’s playoffs, most of the time, he’s making throws that few others even attempt while leading the CFL's best passing offense.

2. Trevor Harris, Saskatchewan Roughriders

Key 2022 Stat: 8.9 yards per attempt

While he may not push the football downfield like some of the other quarterbacks in the CFL, there’s a reason that Harris is the all-time leader in completion percentage. He is one of the most accurate in the league, and his command of the entire width of the field is second-to-none. Harris will be 37 years old by opening day, but there’s no reason to think he’ll be slowing down any time soon. From Week 14 onward last season, no quarterback recorded a higher passing grade. While there may be some early bumps in the road as he adjusts to his new team, Harris is too consistent to be anything but one of the top QBs in the league again this season.

3. Bo Levi Mitchell, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Key 2022 Stat: 2.4% turnover-worthy play percentage

If you thought Mitchell getting benched halfway through the season last year was a sign of his decline, think again. While his numbers may not have looked as good as others in the league, his underlying production was still at the top of the league. At the time of his benching, he was the third-highest-graded quarterback in the league. He recorded the second-highest big-time throw rate and the second-lowest turnover-worthy play rate. Mitchell can make any throw on the field while also not making many mistakes. He’s still a quarterback that you can and should build your team around.

4. Cody Fajardo, Montreal Alouettes

Key 2022 Stat: 76.2% adjusted completion percentage

Fajardo may not have the raw numbers that the quarterbacks ranked above him have, but on the field, he isn’t far off. His accuracy is his biggest strength, as he ranked second to only Rourke last year in adjusted completion percentage. With that accuracy comes ball security as well, as he posted just a 2.5% turnover-worthy-play rate last year. If you’re looking for a weakness, it’s his deep ball. However, those struggles aren’t enough to hinder his play and even with them, he’s still one of the better quarterbacks in the CFL.

5. Vernon Adams Jr., BC Lions

Key 2022 Stat: 1.3% interception rate

When he’s healthy, Adams has the potential to crack into that top echelon of CFL quarterbacks. The issue is that he’s only played 16 games in the past two seasons due to various injuries. Adams is one of the best deep ball throwers in the league. Last season, he threw 46 deep passes and not a single one of them was a turnover-worthy play. He’ll still miss an easy throw here and there, but if he can stay healthy this year, he could take that next step as one of the best QBs in the CFL.

6. Chad Kelly, Toronto Argonauts

Key 2022 Stat: One Grey Cup winning touchdown drive

The big unknown on this list is the one who led his team to a huge Grey Cup upset last season. Kelly has very little CFL experience, starting just one game last season before taking over for the final two drives of the Grey Cup and leading the Argos to victory. He’s looked good in his limited experience though, enough that the Argos have handed him the keys to the offense. Coming out of college, Kelly’s biggest strengths were his arm talent and ability to run the ball. Both of those are huge in the CFL game and could help Kelly become one of the top QBs in the league.

7. Taylor Cornelius, Edmonton Elks

Key 2022 Stat: 20 explosive runs (10-plus yards)

One of the youngest starting quarterbacks in the CFL, Cornelius only has two years of CFL experience under his belt. He’s flashed high-level ability at times but has struggled to put it all together consistently. Last season, he was the least accurate starting QB in the league with just a 65.9% adjusted completion percentage. One area where Cornelius does excel is when he’s rushing the ball. No quarterback recorded more rushing yards or more explosive runs than he did. If he can improve his passing accuracy, he could become a true dual-threat quarterback.

8. Jeremiah Masoli, Ottawa Redblacks

Key 2022 Stat: 13.0 average depth of target

Looking simply at talent, Masoli shouldn’t be this far down the list. He’s accurate, can make all the throws and pushes the ball downfield without fear. Last year, his aDot ranked first and an impressive 76.5% of his passing yards were air yards. The biggest issue with Masoli is that last season was marred by the same problems his previous two were: injuries. Since 2018, Masoli has played in just 19 games. At 34 years old and coming off a serious leg injury, it’s a serious question whether he can stay healthy for a full season. If he can though, he’s better than this ranking.

9. Jake Maier, Calgary Stampeders

Key 2022 Stat: 7.8 average depth of target

The youngest quarterback on this list, Maier took over for Stampeders legend Bo Levi Mitchell last season and now is being handed the keys to the offense for an entire season. Maier’s strength is his accuracy and not taking big risks. That also limits his play though, as he does not make many tough downfield throws. While his turnover-worthy play rate last season was near the top of the league, his big-time throw rate was right at the bottom. If he can start pushing the ball downfield without sacrificing his accuracy, he could very easily rise on this list.

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