It’s amazing how quickly expectations can turn around. After a week one victory over the defending Grey Cup champs, the Riders were on top of the power rankings and talking heads all over the CFL landscape thought the sky was the limit. Week two hit like a dirty bomb and has seen fan and analyst opinion erode like Arctic glaciers into the ocean. Collaros was fine, Carter and Roosevelt were a dynamic receiving duo and the defence was creating pressure and turnovers. Now the Riders have two quarterbacks, neither of which are worth starting, a three headed running back devoid of a standout, Carter exiled to struggle at boundary corner on defence and Roosevelt trying to return from injury. Saskatchewan has become a veritable fantasy football wasteland and the man at the head of the ship is his own boss. There are plenty of great options to be excited about in Week 4 of CFL daily fantasy contests on DraftKings including RedBlacks, Eskimos, and Tiger-Cats. Pretty much all the top projected players come from one of those Three Amigos. None of them come from the Roughriders. Value plays are also tough to find this week making for tough decisions to be made at every position.
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Implied Team Totals
Edmonton – 28.75
Winnipeg – 28.25
Hamilton – 27.5
Ottawa – 27.25
BC – 24.75
Toronto – 23.75
Saskatchewan – 21.5
Montreal – 21.25
The implied team totals this week look about right, but it appears that Vegas has no idea what to do with the Alouettes. Last week they had them as +10.5 underdogs in Saskatchewan where they pulled out a six-point victory. A 10.5 spread in any professional football game is a huge margin. This week they’ve made Ottawa only a -6.5 favourite over Montreal which seems equally exploitable. It’s hard to believe the RedBlacks will only manage 27 points versus a defence that gave up 56 to a backup QB only two weeks ago.
Winnipeg held a closed practice on Monday and removed Matt Nichols from the six-game injured list leading to speculation he may return to the starting lineup at quarterback this week versus BC. Coach Mike O’Shea hasn’t confirmed anything yet, but the weather makes either Nichols or Streveler risky plays as the forecast is for winds sustained at 22 mph gusting to 33 mph. Steveler may actually make the better fantasy prospect of the two as his rushing ability would be pretty valuable.
The other weather note for this slate comes with high winds also forecast in Montreal for the game versus Ottawa. The forecast is for sustained winds at 16 mph gusting to 24 mph which could hamper the aerial attack for the RedBlacks. Wind forecasts are notoriously unreliable this far out, so be sure to keep an eye on the weather as game days approach.
Mike Reilly, EDM – $11700
Jeremiah Masoli, HAM – $10600
Trevor Harris, OTT – $9700
James Franklin, TOR – $7300
The Eskimos have scored the second most touchdowns in the league this season at 11 and Mike Reilly has accounted for 10 of those. The Eskimos are also second in the league averaging 9.6 yards per pass attempt and get to face the leagues’ most generous pass defence so far in 2018 – Toronto – allowing a whopping 11.1 yards per pass attempt. It’s a tiny sample size, but that projects Reilly for 13.4 yards per attempt this week. He’s expensive, but his market share of touchdowns and ridiculous efficiency make him tough to fade.
Jeremiah Masoli is the only player near Reilly’s area code averaging a league best 9.9 yards per attempt. The Riders pass defence is right on league average despite the struggles brought on by the DCD experiment (Duron Carter on Defence) and are third in the league in sacks with six, so Masoli’s matchup isn’t as enticing. What really holds his projection down though is his market share of TDs as he has accounted for only five of the TiCats nine TDs so far with the emergence of 2018’s first touchdown vulture, Mercer Timmis.
The other elite level opportunity this week comes in Ottawa’s Trevor Harris. Harris projects lower than Reilly or Masoli nearly every week due to his lack of rushing yards and his lack of goal line carries. Montreal has actually been slightly better than league average in terms of passing yardage allowed, but they continue to allow a lot of scores through the air (7) which is where Harris will have a chance to excel. In 2017 Ottawa scored their touchdowns through the air versus on the ground at a 2.69:1 rate and that has stayed about the same in 2018 at a 3:1 rate. Harris could certainly lead the slate in passing TDs this week.
If you are looking to punt the position this week James Franklin is the best-looking option. Franklin has only seen significant playing time in a handful of CFL games, so he’s an uncertain option at a position stocked with proven performers. His 2016 appearance versus Toronto in which he passed for 335 yards and four touchdowns shows his upside, but his 2015 appearance versus Calgary in which he completed only 46% of his passes for 105 yards shows he’s not a sure thing either.
James Wilder Jr., TOR – $7400
Andrew Harris, WPG – $8000
CJ Gable, EDM – $7500
William Powell, OTT – $7600
If Franklin is going to find success versus an Eskimos defence that is second in the league with eight sacks, the Argos will have to slow that pass rush through the run game and screen passes. This is exactly where Wilder has the chance to excel. He has yet to score this season, but his 5.1 yards per carry average and 12.3 yards per catch average show the Argos offensive woes aren’t all his fault. Negative game scripts in which Toronto has played most of the season from behind have limited his market share in the offence. The Eskimos have allowed a league worst 6.6 yards per carry this season. Mercer Timmis looked like Mike Pringle against them in week two, so this may be Wilder’s breakout game for 2018.
Andrew Harris is a versatile player that gets a large market share of his teams’ offensive touches regardless of game script. That being said, his rates of fantasy points per attempt are the lowest of any of the starting running backs in the CFL so far in 2018. The potential return of Matt Nichols may be a boon for him as Nichols loves to check down to Harris in the flats. The matchup as a rusher and receiver versus BC is nothing to get too excited about, so much of Harris value hinges on catching half a dozen passes with a shot at a touchdown. He’s aging. He hasn’t fallen off the cliff like Jerome Messam in Saskatchewan yet, but the golden age of Canadian born RBs is slowly winding down.
Last week I wrote that Gable’s struggles in 2018 were mostly due to playing from behind and negative game scripts that necessitated a pass heavy attack but that could turn around versus BC. That’s pretty much exactly what happened as Gable churned out 24.2 fantasy points with 165 rushing yards and a touchdown. Week four gives him a matchup with an Argos defence allowing over six yards per carry but having allowed only one rushing touchdown so far this season.
William Powell doesn’t project as well as other elite fantasy RBs because of his low involvement in the passing game. That said, he has the second highest yards per carry average among starting running backs this season at 6.8. It’s entirely plausible that Ottawa gets up big early versus Montreal and Powell gets near 20 carries. He doesn’t have as good a mean projection as other similarly priced options but could certainly have the highest ceiling of the bunch.
There’s not much to choose from in terms of value plays at RB or WR this week, so players might be forced into using some return specialists to get salary relief. Of that group, Martese Jackson ($4500), Stefan Logan ($4300), and Christion Jones ($3900) are the most appealing. All these options have stable floors from their return yardage but also very low ceilings due to a lack of opportunities from scrimmage.
Greg Ellingson, OTT – $9100
Diontae Spencer, OTT – $7900
Duke Williams, EDM – $8200
Derel Walker, EDM – $9800
Brandon Banks, HAM – $8600
Luke Tasker, HAM – $8700
Jalen Saunders, HAM – $7200
Kenny Stafford, EDM – $6300
Terrence Toliver, HAM – $6400
Ricky Collins Jr., BC – $4500
Shaq Evans, SSK – $4900
As mentioned earlier, Ottawa scores most of its touchdowns through the air and faces an Alouettes defence this week that has allowed a league leading seven through three games. Trevor Harris has attempted 65 passes this season and Ellingson has an absurd 33% market share of those attempts which tops the league. His teammate Diontae Spencer projects well, but as the second most targeted receiver in Ottawa he still only gets 23% of the looks. Both should have ample opportunity to score this week. Spencer’s aptitude as a returner also looks great for his value this week as Montreal allows the second most yards in the league to opposing punt and kick returners.
The dynamic duo of receivers out of Edmonton take up the next two spots in the projections versus the league’s most generous pass defence in 2018. The Tiger-Cats were the most giving pass defence in 2017 and only allowed 8.6 yards per attempt, so at some point the Argos inflated 11.1 yards per pass attempt is going to regress towards the mean. It’s unlikely though that the Eskimos are the best opponent to hope for positive regression against. Walker and Williams are each averaging over eight targets per game and each have touchdown receptions over 80 yards this season.
The yardage is always there for Hamilton receivers as they have run the most passing plays in the league in 2018 (106) and ran the highest percentage of passing plays in 2017 (71.4%). The yardage and PPR points should certainly plentiful for Banks, Tasker, Saunders, and Toliver in week four. Banks becomes nearly a must play if Duron Carter continues to line up at boundary corner for the green and white as he has allowed long touchdown receptions over 50 yards in consecutive weeks. Banks could have a much bigger day than any mean projection can account for.
The best mid-tier values also come from Edmonton and Hamilton in Kenny Stafford and Terrence Toliver. Although they lack the ceiling of their more notable teammates, they come at significant discounts to their compatriots in positive game environments. Both of these players were some of the best values in week three and their affordable price tags make them good week four options as well.
If you need a punt option at WR or Flex Shaq Evans has flashed some big play ability but his price tag continues to rise. At $4900 he’s not nearly the value he once was. If he continues to start at boundary WR he should get a half a dozen targets which makes him a reasonable play, but uncertainty at QB makes him a significant risk. Ricky Collins Jr. COMEBACKSZN has not had the glorious start some hoped for, but a matchup versus the Bombers pass defence that has allowed a league high 906 yards through three games makes him interesting on a slate devoid of value plays.
Ottawa RedBlacks – $4800
Hamilton Tiger-Cats – $4700
The RedBlacks defence showed the difference that a good co-ordinator like Noel Thorpe can make as they dissected the Riders offence in week two while giving up only 24 points to Calgary in week three which is nothing to be ashamed of. The Alouettes don’t pose nearly that much of a threat in week four with Jeff Mathews under centre. Mathews has a 7:10 TD/INT ratio in seven career starts, so this Ottawa defence that has already forced seven turnovers through two games could be in for a big day. Being one of the cheapest units on the slate just makes them that much more appealing.
Saskatchewan has given up the most turnovers in the league at nine while allowing the third most sacks with six. The TiCats defence is middling in both these categories but should have the opportunity to climb the stats sheet this week with uncertainty at nearly every position in the Riders offence. Bridge and Watford both threw two interceptions in week three and poor blocking on the line has led to a lack of a rushing attack and too many passes having to be thrown under duress. The Hamilton defence looks like another solid play on Thursday night in Saskatchewan – a veritable fantasy wasteland.
Enjoy the holidays this week and good luck in all your contests!