It’s not how much you’ve got, but what you do with it that matters. When it comes to efficiency, most of us really only consider it in terms of miles per gallon in our cars. When you’ve got four kids like me you sometimes consider it in terms of how few trips out of the house you can make and still get everyone taken care of with a single vehicle. If you’ve got a lot of excess being inefficient is a luxury that you can afford for a while, but if you’re playing CFL daily fantasy contests, inefficiency is a quick way to lose your shirt.
Now that we’re a little over halfway through the CFL season, I’ve taken a look at the production rates for a few players that have generally been projecting poorly that surprised me. There’s a deeper article to be written here in the near future, but I’ll mention a couple of them here and now because it will play a big role in the way I structure lineups this week. Last season I introduced the Target Efficiency Metric, but this season we’ve taken it a step further with our projections model.
The easy poster boy for decreased efficiency is Nik Lewis. No other football league in the world has ever had an offensive tackle atop its all-time receptions list. Nik’s yards per target and efficiency has declined every season he’s been in the league, but that doesn’t stop him from still trying to hurdle kids half his size. Bravo sir. Here’s your 2017 CFL efficiency decline squad:
You sing ’em in Toby…
A few more surprising players on the list though in terms of significant drops in fantasy points per target are:
Chris Williams – 0.88 points/target
Adarius Bowman – 0.72 points/target
Brandon Banks – 0.67 points/target
Emmanuel Arceneaux – 0.63 points/target
DaVaris Daniels – 0.60 points/target
Marquay McDaniel – 0.44 points/target
Bryan Burnham – 0.29 points/target
Some of the biggest play makers in the game from previous seasons have all seen sharp dips to well below league average in terms of fantasy points per target. Players like Chris Williams, Bryan Burnham and DaVaris Daniels were ones that we pointed out through much of 2016 as having unsustainable levels of efficiency. We thought regression was coming in 2016, but apparently it all built up and just unloaded in 2017 instead. It’s fair to blame a lot of the BC inefficiencies on QB Jonathan Jennings who has been just dreadful, but the return of Travis Lulay to the starting lineup may remedy some of that. The other one who may see positive regression coming his way is Brandon Banks as he’s seemingly become the focal point of June Jones new offence in Hamilton. The rest of them? Well, it may be they are who we thought they were.
As usual, our rankings here are based on projected fantasy points from our projections model – not preference or value. So far this season, we’ve been really encouraged with the success of the projections model at providing reasonable expectations each week. The issue comes in trying to determine the scoring ceiling in the range of outcomes for each player, as that’s what you’re looking for in tournament plays. Our model gives a good mean projection for each player, but determining upside requires a bit more nuance that we’ll try to provide in our writeups. Given that the CFL is primarily a GPP sport, we’ll keep working in that direction.
After 11 weeks of tweaking and tinkering though, we are finally at a place where we are comfortable sharing our projections with you our loyal readers. I’ve had a number of GPP wins this season, along with other high finishes, that have given me confidence in our product. Other sites might offer you generic player rankings and statistics, but this is one of the few places you’ll get access to actual projections to work from in building your lineups. We are offering them to you for $5 per week or $30 for the rest of the season. You can find me on Twitter @benyamen for details. This isn’t a DailyRoto premium subscription at this point, just access to our projections, but coupled with our weekly slate breakdowns and twitter chat, we think it’s a pretty powerful edge to have in CFL contests.
PROJECTED TEAM TOTALS
Ottawa – 33
Winnipeg – 31
Calgary – 31
Saskatchewan – 29
BC – 28.75
Edmonton – 25
Montreal – 21.25
Hamilton – 21
The Ottawa RedBlacks are the prime beneficiaries of the Hamilton bump this week and it should mean solid production for the big names in the RedBlacks offence. Having lost Kenny Shaw to injury again, the RedBlacks returned to a similar distribution of targets to what we saw through much of the first third of the season. Expect solid production from Ellingson, Sinopoli, and Trevor Harris.
Saskatchewan and Winnipeg face off in the back half of their annual home and home series and are again the highest O/U on the slate. Switching venues means switching the favourite too, but a Saskatchewan win last week accompanied by a series record of 7-6 in favour of Winnipeg in the Banjo Bowl means this could really go either way. Expect another high scoring and fast paced affair in the most heated rivalry in the CFL.
Calgary and BC also project to have high team totals, but they are pretty different situations. So many of Calgary’s scores seem to come through their D/ST that it’s hard to love many of their sluggish offensive players. The team total may be a little deceiving. BC on the other hand may be better than what they have appeared over the past month with Jonathan Jennings setting them back a long ways. The return of Travis Lulay should be a boon for their offence, as Chris Kay tried to tell Wally Buono a month ago.
Travis Lulay, BC – $9400
Kevin Glenn, SSK – $10100
Trevor Harris, OTT – $10500
Jeremiah Masoli, HAM – $7700
Last week Kevin Glenn was the darling of our projections and the key piece in GPP winning lineups on the Labour Day Slate. He projects about the same as he did a week ago, but Travis Lulay really pops in projections this week jumping him over the competition to the top of the list. Lulay has looked great in a handful of starts so far this season and even in limited action in BC’s last game versus Ottawa. He has a much sounder grasp of the offence than Jennings at this point and seems to inspire a lot more confidence in his teammates. There is some risk here that a slow start could lead to Jennings making an appearance again by halftime, but his track record so far this season seems to show the job will be his until he injures his shoulder again.
Lulay enjoys a bump in projection from the Montreal defence that allow the most plays per game in the league which leads to an increase in production through volume alone. He projects for 40 passing attempts this game at home in the comfort of the dome. Montreal’s defence is still in the better half of the league in terms of yards per attempt allowed, but they do give up a lot of scores through the air, as they have allowed the second most in the league at 18. Lulay shouldn’t have much trouble finding soft spots in the zone and picking apart an Als defence that has to travel across the country to Vancouver. Hopefully Lulay’s return gives a bump in efficiency to his languishing receivers as well.
The Labour Day Classic in Regina featured a Kevin Glenn smashfest through the first half versus the Bombers in which he passed for over 200 yards and 3 TDs in the first half alone. The second half saw the Riders take their foot off the pedal a bit, but Glenn was still the highest scoring QB available. Last week I pointed to Glenn’s shocking home/road splits, and although they are a small sample and not necessarily predictive, I’d temper expectations for him this week. The Riders have not been nearly the same team on the road as at home, and even in their lone road victory versus the Eskimos much of the scoring was from the D/ST. The price jump to over $10K just makes him that much less interesting to me. I’ll have some exposure certainly, but not the 50% I looked at a week ago.
The third QB in our projections is the recipient of the weekly jump courtesy of Hamilton. The Ti-Cats continue to give up the most yards per passing attempt by a wide margin at 9.2 yards per attempt, and their moderate rate of TDs allowed per attempt is simply a factor of the sheer volume of pass attempts they face. They have allowed the second most passing TDs in the league at 18 and the most total TDs at 31. The only real mitigating factor for Harris is his ceiling. He has yet to crack 30 points in any game this season which is odd for a QB that leads the league in TD passes and is 2nd in passing yards. His lack of rushing ability that loses TDs to a short yardage specialist Ryan Lindley hampers his upside.
For those looking to load up other positions, Hamilton QB Jeremiah Masoli has seen a price increase with his starting role, but he’s still $2-3K cheaper than his counterparts at $7700. It appears June Jones offence won’t feature his running abilities as much as Kent Austin liked to and that lowers his floor a bit. The Argos defence is much stiffer competition than this week’ RedBlacks squad, so he should find the going a bit easier. His ceiling though remains much lower. The propensity for turnovers from the Masoli Turnover Machine also hurts his value. He projects for about 3x value at his historical rates which is solid, but I wouldn’t get too much exposure to him due to opportunity cost.
Andrew Harris, WPG – $8100
Mossis Madu Jr., OTT – $7000
Jerome Messam, CGY – $7700
Kienan LaFrance, SSK – $4400
Another week of CFL football means another week in which Andrew Harris is the top projected RB. As we have seen though, his production is pretty heavily dependent upon getting 8-10 targets in the passing game when Matt Nichols freaks out. Can you believe Nichols completed only 2 passes deeper than 14 yards all game versus the Riders? Andrew Harris can. The spray chart of his attempts is almost entirely 10 yards and under. In this model, Harris will continue to very productive as a fantasy player although he seems to be slowing a bit as a runner. Despite Tim Flanders vulturing touches and TDs, Harris continues to have solid volume and production even if he isn’t as efficient as he once was.
Mossis Madu Jr. checks in at second in the RB projections, but I don’t know if there’s a player I’ve felt less confident about in that slot all season. Hamilton gives up the second most rushing TDs per attempt in the league despite being above average at defending the run in terms of yards per rush. It felt extremely lucky for him to have scored 2 TDs versus BC two weeks ago and his yardage production is nothing to get excited about. There’s certainly a chance he scores one or two TDs again this week against the Ti-Cats abominable unit, but you’re really banking on that if you’re paying $7K for him. There is a ceiling to be chased here near 4x value, but his floor is also low single digits.
It’s hard to believe that a strong D/ST could actually HURT the value of a team’s offence, but that seems to be the case in Calgary this season. Each week the Stampeders have a projected team total over 30, and each week their offensive players underperform as they find themselves with double digit leads early in games due to D/ST scores that put the offence into cruise control just trying not to make mistakes. Thankfully Jerome Messam scored 2 TDs last week before he hit the showers as the yardage just hasn’t been there this season outside of a 28 carry game versus Saskatchewan. This week versus the same defence you’ll have to hoping he can score at least one time again or he’ll struggle to hit value at nearly $8K.
There have not been a lot of RB injuries or changes this season that have led to cheap value plays, but this week offers us Kienan LaFrance at $4400 for the Riders. LaFrance will give the Riders the option of playing an extra American at WR as he helps the ratio as a Canadian. Cameron Marshall looks to be out 2-3 weeks with a leg injury, so this will likely be his chance to show his magical playoff performance in the snow in 2016 wasn’t just a fluke. LaFrance’s baselines are a little lower than Marshall’s and he lacks some of his receiving skills, but he’s a powerful runner with some speed. Marshall was usually a solid play around $6K, so LaFrance provides a high floor with upside at a much lower price tag.
For what my opinion is worth, you’re either paying up for Andrew Harris his week or punting RB with LaFrance. Everyone else in between is worth a GPP sprinkle but they are boom or bust. It’s probably pretty viable to use both Harris and LaFrance in a two RB lineup.
Greg Ellingson, OTT – $9600
Naaman Roosevelt, SSK – $8700
Duron Carter, SSK – $8600
Brad Sinopoli, OTT – $7900
Brandon Zylstra, EDM – $9000
Diontae Spencer, OTT – $7400
Bryan Burnham, BC – $7900
Darvin Adams, WPG – $7600
Chris Williams, BC – $8300
Weston Dressler, WPG – $7100
Brandon Banks, HAM – $5000
Greg Ellingson is on top of the heap again this week which isn’t surprising for a guy with a mean projection of over 10 targets and who has scored 7 TDs. He really has to blow up to be worth the near $10K salary, but versus this same Hamilton squad only a couple weeks ago he went for 10/155/1 and 34.5 points. I wouldn’t bank on that again this week, but it’s certainly in the realm of possibilities. He and Sinopoli make up the vast majority of Ottawa’s offensive production so it’s a good bet that at least one of them will have an enormous game this week versus the most desirable matchup around. Sinopoli doesn’t score nearly as many TDs and lacks the big play ability but he’s still worth a stack or two in GPPs.
Next in line are the high flying Riders duo of Naaman Roosevelt and Duron Carter. Rosie projects a couple points higher than Duron, but it’s been Duron with slightly higher volume in recent weeks. At essentially the same price and similar projections versus the same defence that gives up the 2nd highest rate of TDs per pass attempt and the third most yards per pass attempt there’s good reason to roster both of them, even in a double stack with Glenn. Bakari Grant is worth a mention as well as a longer shot at lower exposure levels, but he’s far more volatile.
Brandon Zylstra continues to project well despite the return of Adarius Bowman last week and even with the return of Derel Walker to the fold this week. He seems to have carved out a 8-9 target role in this offence regardless of who lines up around him and was able to produce a monster week versus the stout Stampeders defence on Labour Day, going off for 9/127/1 and 30.7 points. This was all significantly aided by garbage time, but he has become one of – possibly the most – reliable fantasy receivers in the league. At $9K his ceiling is somewhat limited, but he’s almost always good for 20+ points a week which is an amazing floor to build from.
I finally gave into the dark side last week and had pretty high exposure to Diontae Spencer. Much to my delight he didn’t tank just to spite me and turned in a solid 3x performance priced at a very reasonable $6700 tag. With a solid floor from return duties, it doesn’t take much for him to meet value, and if when he scores a TD it’s off to the races. Unfortunately he’s seen a price increase over $7K this week that gives me much more hesitancy to build him into too many lineups. If he continues to start at receiver on the boundary side he’ll continue to get consistent looks on offence and be a reliable player serving double duty but this is about as much as I’d be willing to pay for him given his role as the third receiver in his own offence.
Following this group is a pair of BC receivers that have significantly underperformed their 2016 rates, being Bryan Burnham and Chris Williams. Both players have flashed big game ability, but have also had multiple single digit performances in which they have entirely disappeared. The return of Travis Lulay to the starting QB role likely means an uptick for all the BC receivers at depressed ownership levels compared to their upside. Montreal is not a great matchup to attack from an efficiency perspective, but they do give up the most plays in the league to opposing offences so they can be had on volume. They have been trending down lately as a team as shown in their debacle versus Ottawa a week ago. This is likely a good week to buy in on BC.
Rounding out the top 10 projected WRs are the Winnipeg pair of Darvin Adams and Weston Dressler. Darvin Adams was soundly eliminated by the Riders secondary led by a dominant Ed Gainey last week in Regina and Weston Dressler was largely a no show until their final possession. If not for a few late receptions underneath coverage against a deep prevent defence Dressler’s day would have been a disaster. The Riders defence has really stepped up their play in the past month and no longer falls victim to the broken coverages that allowed big plays in 2016 and early 2017. It will be tough for Adams and Dressler to find space to work, but if I would bet on either of them having a big day it would be Dressler getting to work underneath coverage and away from the edges.
The final receiver I’ll mention is the one I’ll likely have the highest exposure to this week. Throughout most of his career Brandon Banks has been more of a sideshow than a serious receiver. His speed and elusiveness have made him a dangerous return man, but his ability to run sharp routes has limited his talent as a receiver. New head coach June Jones seems intent on changing that and is trying to turn Banks into the focal point of his new offence as evidenced by 12 targets in week 11 versus Toronto. Toronto is the third most stingy defence in the league versus the pass so it’s reasonable to expect better results this week versus a much more generous RedBlacks secondary. At his 2017 efficiency rates Banks only rates as a moderate value, but if he can return to even his 2016 rates – which were around league average – he makes a massive jump up the projections with even 9 targets which is significantly below last week’s 12. At only $5K he’s the best value of the week in my opinion with increased volume and efficiency stemming from running more than fly routes. He’s money in the Banks, you guys.
Calgary Stampeders vs EDM – $5000
Saskatchewan Roughriders vs WPG – $4600
Ottawa RedBlacks vs HAM – $5100
With as dominant as the Stampeders D/ST unit has been this season it’s nearly impossible to imagine avoiding significant exposure to them even as the second highest priced option at the position. They have already amassed 7 TDs this season. Seven. VII. Sept. Siete.
That’s nearly as many as the Hamilton offence has passing on offence.
It’s impossible that they’d keep up this pace for an entire season, but I’m not going to be the guy betting against them until they indeed slow down. They lead the league in points allowed, yards allowed, turnovers created, and are second in sacks. Last season the Bombers appeared to be riding a statistical bubble ready to burst given they were awful in almost every category outside of D/ST TDs and turnovers, but this Stamps defence leads the league in nearly every quantifiable category. That they aren’t the top priced unit each slate is mind boggling.
As expected, the Riders defence came back down to reasonable levels last week versus a pretty talented Bombers squad and scored a mere 8 fantasy points after compiling a combined 59 in the two previous weeks. This week they face the same able-bodied offence in more hostile territory in Winter-pig. The turnovers will still be available and they have found a recipe for consistent pressure while rushing only 3 or 4. Don’t forget they were only yards away from another two D/ST scores last week in Regina.
You could take a shot in the dark with the RedBlacks D/ST and hope for Masoli turnovers accompanied with a Diontae Spencer return TD, but it would be a low exposure GPP sprinkle at most.
Well, that does it for week 12. We’ll keep updating this article throughout the week as depth charts roll out and projections adjust. Be sure to join in the conversation in the DailyRoto Forum and hit us up on Twitter at @benyamen or @RealestChrisKay. Enjoy the games, and good luck in all your contests!