For better or worse, some things just don’t work like they used to.
Advertised fuel mileage rates on new cars are about as reliable as fourth tier DFS sites offering you “free deposit bonuses”. You never get what you expect. Your efficiency might go up or down based on the weather, the load you’re carrying, the terrain, the fuel, or any number of different factors.
When I was in high school I went for a drive with my friend Christian in his Geo Metro. We had three or four other friends in the back. We got on to the freeway and the car just wouldn’t get up to speed. Christian put the pedal to the floor and there just was nothing there. We got maybe up to 70 km/hr (40 mph) with that engine firing as hard as it could. Now, a half dozen teenagers can weigh down a little car, but nothing should cause that much strain. We got a few KM down the highway and still couldn’t get up to speed. It wasn’t until we smelled the smoke from under the car that we noticed the emergency brake light on on the dashboard. EFFICIENCY IN ACTION!
Fantasy production is a lot like that: circumstances and abilities change leading to changes in production. Twelve weeks into the 2017 CFL season, we’ve got pretty good production baselines to work with and it’s becoming quite apparent which players are much improved and which ones are on decline. There can be a lot of different variables at play in each case, but anytime you see noticeable changes in production it’s worth investigating in the hopes of gleaning some predictive data for the future. Each of the following charts will show you the players rate in terms of fantasy points scored per attempt (rush or target) and their change in scoring rate from the 2016 season. There’s some interesting points to work from…
Andrew Harris was the most reliable option at the RB position in 2016, and that has carried in on the 2017 season as well. Most of his value comes in the receiving game, as he nets more targets than any other RB in the game, but it’s interesting to note that his efficiency in the running game is also the most improved among all RBs in 2017. His rates are still nothing special, but it’s nice to know that he’s at least above league average now.
Maybe the most interesting data point from all the rushing numbers are the sheer dominance of Jeremiah Johnson in the category. Some of this is buoyed by a number of short rushing TDs in the goal line offence despite very few overall carries in a number of games this season, but he has been much more efficient than you’d expect for a player that no one ever gets excited to put in their lineup this season. BC has morphed into a much more pass reliant offence this season with all the mouths to feed at WR and as such JJ’s touches in the rushing game have been down quite a bit. With Travis Lulay lost for the season, it’s quite probably that the Lions may return to a more run heavy attack to take the pressure of a shaky Jonathan Jennings at QB. At this level of efficiency, and at an increased rate to even last season, Jeremiah Johnson is a player to keep an eye on down the stretch.
It’s also notable just how bad Tyrell Sutton is. Despite his significant improvement in rate this season, he’s still below league average in that department. As we’ll see in the receiving rate numbers, there’s really no good explanation for why he remains the starting RB in Montreal.
Running Backs are often featured in the passing game in the CFL as well due to the large field that creates lots of opportunities to leak out of the backfield underneath coverage. Interestingly, Jeremiah Johnson rates as one of the most efficient RBs in the passing game as well. His rates in 2016 put him around league average, but this season has seen him excel in the passing game to nearly lead the league in the category. He’s outpaced only by his teammate Chris Rainey whose rate is pretty astonishing. He’s literally double the rate of C.J. Gable. If Jonathan Jennings can gain any semblance of competency in the stretch run of 2017, Rainey and Johnson may see significant jumps in productivity.
Even at 2016 rates both Gable and Sutton are showing the ravages of age. Neither is an effective weapon in the rushing game and both are well below league average and declining in their effectiveness in the passing game as well. It’s frankly kind of astounding that either of them remain the starter on offence for their respective teams given younger and more efficient options. It appears high skills as pass blockers are about all they have left to offer.
Last season we regularly bemoaned the fact that Naaman Roosevelt was the league leader in targets, but just did so little with them that he was rarely a GPP threat, and rather simply a cash game floor. SAY NO MORE! This year Rosie has shown much more explosiveness, in part due to improved QB play, and likely in part due to coverages have to roll over to equally talented Duron Carter, opening up space for him to run. His 2016 rates had him around league average but his big play abilities this season have really made him one of the tops targets in the league. Greg Ellingson may get more press as the biggest big play threat in the league, but Rosie has shown competency this season that rivals it. It’s quite something to see this growth. With Ellingson being far more volatile, I’ll take Rosie thanks very much.
Other players that have shown significant improvement this season are preseason darlings Kamar Jorden and B.J. Cunningham. Both are growing into the dominant receivers in their respective offences and hopefully, given health and competent organizations, will see continued success going forward.
This however, brings us to the curious case of Diontae Spencer. I don’t have time or space to regale you with all these tales but you can find them in the www.DailyRoto.com/cfl archives. Spencer spent most of 2016 as the most targets receiver in the league with no production to show for it and a DraftKings price that mirrored his opportunity, not his results. $8K Diontae Spencer was an embarrassing pricing gaffe every week. This year however his shift to Ottawa has given him duties in the return game that have brought his $6-7K value to life. He’s become a really consistent option frankly. However, looking at his numbers purely as a receiver, he’s not special. Even below average actually. His 2017 rates put him in the same category as Nik Lewis and Brad Sinopoli – certainly not the big play burner he’s billed to be. Nic Demski numbers. So long as he stays active in the return game, he’s a fine value, but if ever he loses that gig run like Joseph ran friends.
The rate decline list is littered with busts and aging disappointments. Athletes may be fast, but no one escapes father time. The ravages of age are quickly creeping in on aging former greats like Adarius Bowman, Emmanuel Arceneaux, and Marquay McDaniel. They may have a little left in the tank in spurts, but their days of being season long dominant receivers are in the rearview mirror.
Bryan Burnham and DaVaris Daniels were guys that we pegged in the preseason as likely candidates for some negative regression this season given their unreal rates of efficiency in 2016. They’re both good options, but no one can sustain those levels for a whole career. Speaking of negative regression, can we all agree that the Chris Williams we see is the real Chris Williams? He was a force of nature in July 2016 seeing his DK price well over $10K while continuing to exceed 3-4x value every week, but since then he’s been really quite unexciting. His production certainly doesn’t merit his pricing and those who pay for July 2016 will likely continue to get what they deserve.
The last play I want to take specific note of is Ernest Jackson. He deserves better than this. His stretch run in 2016 was dominant and he deserved the payday he got in Montreal, however, no one deserves the languishing pace of the Als offence thanks to former coach Captain Jack, and he certainly didn’t deserve the swap out to boundary WR from the SB position he excelled at. His production rates are still exceptional in 2017 despite shaky QB play, a terrible offensive scheme, and playing out of position, so hopefully a new coaching regime gets things right for him. He needs more than 6 targets a game. That’s just silly. Unfortunately, the new coach is Kavis Reed, so I’m not holding my breath.
Hopefully this gives you some perspective down the stretch run of your 2017 CFL daily fantasy season on DraftKings. These numbers and more are available in our weekly emailed projections for $5/week or $30/rest of season. Feel free to find me – @benyamen – on twitter for more details. Enjoy the weekend of football, and good luck in all your contests!