I love CFL daily fantasy contests, but I enjoy NFL too – usually. By the middle of last season though it started to get pretty boring. Building cash game lineups every week became the simple mind numbing process of starting by locking in Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson and then figuring out what cheap filler you’d have to make yourself swallow to fill out the rest of your squad. Kind of like eating at Olive Garden – everyone’s just there for the free salad and breadsticks but your still have to pick out some random menu item to get there. Every week became a monotonous march towards the cash line.
What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?
To this point in the CFL season, building lineups has similarly been the process of looking at the schedule to see who gets to face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and stacking their QB and WR ad nauseum. I am Phil the weatherman in the forsaken winterscape of Punxsutawney idling by the days in a universe full of endless possibilities that offers us only one.
That’s exactly where we find ourselves, squealing with glee over the matchup that Kamar Jorden gets this week. The Ti-Cats defence has been embarrassingly bad to this point. Haribo Gummy Bears bad. If you haven’t read the customer reviews for these things yet, enjoy laughing away your afternoon at the gastric expense of others. You’re welcome. The Hamilton defence is giving up a full yard per pass more than any other defence in the league. At 13.4 yards per pass allowed, they are a full 2 yards worse than league average. Normally, this would lead everyone’s eyes towards the established vet of the receiving corps, Marquay McDaniel, but he’s dealing with being old and forgotten in a cruel world that has passed him by. Enter Air Jorden. His price is slowly rising accordingly, but his upside is enormous. Stack up your Stampeders this week friends while you watch Kent Austin’s face turn many shades of magenta.
SEE THAT DEVOTED READERS? I didn’t even have to write a new opening paragraph for the article this week. All I had to do was change the names and it all fits the same. Nothing is new. Everything has been done. As Qoheleth wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:9, nearly 2500 years ago, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Preach Qoheleth. Preach.
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.
PROJECTED TEAM TOTALS
Calgary – 33.75
Winnipeg – 29.5
Edmonton – 28.75
Saskatchewan – 27.5
BC – 25.75
Montreal – 25.5
Toronto – 25
Hamilton – 21.25
There are a couple of things that could create significant shifts this week in team totals and the way that they should be attacked. There are a number of injury situations and outlier performances that need to be tracked closely this week as you go through the process of lineup construction.
Near the top of the list, the Edmonton Eskimos draw a pretty difficult defensive matchup with the Lions this week that caps their upside a bit, but the most significant issue in projecting player production will be the health of Adarius Bowman. He was placed on the six game injured list last week, but teams do have the option of brining players back early. At this point we are counting him as OUT, which gives Zylstra and Mitchell and significant bump in production. If that changes, they both take a sizeable hit and Bowman becomes an overpriced GPP option.
Injuries also play a significant role in BC projections at QB and WR. Travis Lulay has filled in admirably for Jonathon Jennings the past two weeks, and many fantasy players would probably prefer he keep the job for now. Jennings is set to dress for the game, but Lulay is still slated to start this week. With that in mind, a slow start for Lulay against an improved Eskimos defence could lead to Jennings seeing action in the game. It’s not concerning enough to totally fade Lulay, but there are certainly factors working against him this week. Another injured Lion that may return this week is last season’s early MVP – WR Chris Williams. Williams has yet to see any action for the Lions this season, but he has returned to practice without restrictions. His return likely pushes Nick Moore off the field, but also likely redistributes targets in the offence. It’ll be a bit of a mess to figure out touches when everyone is healthy in BC.
The final aspect worth noting that messes with projections a bit this week is what happened with the Alouettes last week. Through the third of the 2016 season, after Jacques Chapdelaine took over as head coach, the Als became the slowest paced offence in the league, averaging only 48 plays per game on offence – a full five plays per game slower than league average and 3 plays slower than the next slowest team. Through the first quarter of the 2017 campaign they stayed on the same sluggish rates at only 47 plays per game – 7 plays per game below league average. Then week 5 happened. On an otherwise nondescript Wednesday night in late July, the Als, after sandbagging for half a season came out like Ivan Drago after hearing his crazed Russian manager yelling for him to go in for the kill.
The Alouettes ran a stunning 63 plays against the RedBlacks that night: a full 34% increase over their usual pace. This pushed their otherwise anemic offense to dizzying heights that saw Darian Durant pass for 452 yards and two, nearly three, receivers eclipse the 100 yard mark. It’s only one game. The larger field of data shows it as an outlier. However, Coach Jacques has shown a penchant for up-tempo offences in other stops in the league and it makes it somewhat difficult to project what their offence may do against a very generous Winnipeg defence. Mean projections will keep Montreal’s expected outputs low, but they showed upside that was previously unthinkable. Some tournament exposure, despite not rating well in our projections this week, is certainly a good idea.
Bo Levi Mitchell, CGY – $10800
Mike Reilly, EDM – $11000
Matt Nichols, WPG – $9600
Darian Durant, MTL – $9300
CFL Quarterback pricing has become far too bunched to consider anyone a punt at this point, but if you want a cheap-ish QB worth taking a couple GPP fliers on, Durant is that guy. There’s not really any reason to justify him in lineups though beyond that given that he’s only $1500 cheaper than BLM.
Bo Levi Mitchell hasn’t flashed much upside thus far. His first two weeks produced 26 and 23 points respectively against a poor Ottawa secondary, and since then he’s eclipsed the 20 point mark only once. This isn’t the kind of production you’d hope for when paying nearly $11K at QB. That generous Hamilton defence makes all the difference though in projections. QB’s facing the Ti-Cats defence through the first four weeks have looked like this:
Ricky Ray – 27.6
Kevin Glenn – 38.4
Travis Lulay – 39.1
Mike Reilly – 31
For each of these QB’s, it has been their biggest statistical game of the season. There’s a lot of reasons to get excited about BLM this week. Before you get too exuberant and lock him into every lineup though, realize that Jerome Messam limits his upside a bit, as does the possible season debut of DB Abdul Kanneh. He’s one of the better DBs in the CFL and he would certainly bring a little more resolve to their beleaguered secondary. If you want to go the game theory route in tournaments, there’s good reasons to fade BLM and the Calgary receivers this week.
It’s hard to say the Mike Reilly was a disappointment last week versus Hamilton with a 31 fantasy point performance, but he was. Edmonton’s inexplicable stubbornness running draw plays with Travon Van against a solid Ti-Cats defensive line when the Esks could seemingly pass at will against the worst pass defence in the CFL was frustrating to watch. Whenever Edmonton went up-tempo and pass heavy they moved the ball with ease. Yet, they chose to drive the Van into the brick wall time and time again. Reilly’s matchup against BC is much more difficult this week and his price has actually increased. BC ranks third in the league in yards per pass allowed at only 10.96, and yields the third fewest plays per game at only 52.6. If not for a 76 yard late bomb to Brandon Zylstra in week 1, Reilly’s numbers would have been only 239-2. The value isn’t as good this week for Mike, but he’s still worth exposure to in tournaments.
Over the past couple seasons, running the ball has been the way to beat the Als defence but this year it seems the converse is true. Despite the loss of Bear Woods, the Als defence actually ranks near the top of the league against the run at 3.49 ypc, but has regressed significantly in their ability to defend the pass, giving up 321.4 yards per game. Last week, Matt Nichols showed some of the reasons why he’s struggled to get a full-time starting QB job through his first four seasons in the league. He threw some ill-conceived passes late in the game versus BC and showed and general inability to move the ball when it mattered most. However, the Als allow the most plays per game to opposing offences in the league (60) and this gives Winnipeg a bump in opportunities to produce. Nichols has some great receivers to work with and the bump in pace makes him worthy of consideration.
If you’re looking to punt QB, you’re out of luck as there is only a $1700 difference between the top priced QB and the best “punt” option. Darian Durant ($9300) has struggled through most of his first season in Montreal, but showed flashes of huge upside last Wednesday versus the RedBlacks as I mentioned earlier. It’s hard to say which offence shows up this Thursday night, the one that runs at a snail’s pace or a sprint (47 vs 63 plays per game), but it is a favourable passing matchup against the Bombers who give up the second most yards per pass in the league at 12.46. I’d error on the side of the larger sample size (snail’s pace), but for the first week all year you can make some Als stacks and not look like a fool.
Andrew Harris, WPG – $7500
Jeremiah Johnson, BC – $7600
Jerome Messam, CGY – $7400
***Chris Rainey, BC – $6300***
Cameron Marshall, SSK – $5800
Anthony Coombs, TOR – $5300
Running back prices have seen a significant decline on DraftKings this season which is a welcome reprieve. In 2016 the sharp play was almost always to punt the position for someone good for 8-10 points priced around $4K. Putting two RBs in a lineup was unthinkable for the most part. Seeing top priced backs in the mid $7K range though, rather than the high $8K range, brings them right into the middle of the conversation of good plays weekly and even into consideration for flex spots. Thanks DraftKings!
Last week Andrew Harris saw a dismal 6 carries, less than half his season average, but had 12 receptions on 12 targets for 85 yards. It was like going back to early 2016 for the Bombers where Harris was the centerpiece of the offence. The results were also like early 2016 however and they couldn’t move the ball consistently when it mattered most. This week Harris matchup is even more difficult against an Als defence that ranks second in the league in yards per pass and yards per rush allowed. Harris’s usage rates are through the roof, but it’s probably unrealistic to expect him to catch 100% of his targets again, or to get 12 targets either. The bump in expected pace keeps puts him on the top of the RB projections, but there is some fragility in the projection due to the matchup.
Next in line is Jeremiah Johnson, but there are also reasons to be wary of his upside. Since Travis Lulay took over as QB, the Lions have gone much more pass heavy in their offensive scheme and JJ’s touches have declined steeply from near 18 per game down to only 11 in each of his past two contests. At this rate, it’s nearly impossible to justify his $7600 price tag. Working in his favour though is a Eskimos defence that gives up the third highest yards per carry in the league at 5.23 ypc. If Jennings returns to action this week there’s reason to believe the Lions would revert to a more run heavy attack and JJ could be had at decreased ownership levels.
Last week Jerome Messam, who had averaged 14 carries per game to that point, got a whopping 28 carries that he turned into 135 yards versus the Riders. That kind of workload is totally unheard of in the CFL and was completely unexpected from an offence that generally runs only 34% of the time. Last week that number was 53% run. Given the matchup with the hapless Ti-Cats secondary this week, there’s reason to believe Calgary will be more pass heavy. Logic however didn’t keep Edmonton from continuing to run against Hamilton all last week with little success. IF the Stamps give Messam significant carries this week it will likely be with decreased efficiency as the Ti-Cats are third in the league in yards per carry allowed (4.26 ypc). The mean projection is good, but like with JJ, the ceiling is low.
With all the doom and gloom surrounding the matchups and game scripts for the top three projected RBs, this may well be the week to fade the top players at the position and zag while other game log watchers zig. I have notably spoken against putting kick return specialists like Chris Rainey in lineups. It’s essentially an all or nothing gambit, hoping for a return TD that happens once or twice a season. Rainey this year is more than just a KR specialist though. He has been receiving meaningful snaps and touches in the offence out of the backfield and his KR yardage gives him a solid floor to build from. He winds up our fourth ranked RB this week and at a significant discount from the top three at only $6000. Some of his projection is unrealistically buoyed by the possibility of a KR TD, but with a lot of bad matchups to go around Rainey may be your guy this week.
Other punt options at RB this week, priced even lower in the $5K range are Cameron Marshall and Anthony Coombs. The Riders offence moves at an above average pace and run an above league average percentage of the time (33%). Facing a banged up Argos defensive unit could mean increased efficiency for Marshall in the run game, and he gets averages 5 targets in the passing game. Facing the league’s best secondary to this point in the season may put even more emphasis on the RB position. On the other side of the ball game, Anthony Coombs has seen a massive uptick in targets with the loss of DeVier Posey in Toronto. Coombs is pretty inefficient with those targets, but with 8 targets per game the past two weeks, he’s certainly worth considering as a punt option at only $5300.
Kamar Jorden, CGY – $8500
Brandon Zylstra, EDM – $8900
Darvin Adams, WPG – $7300
Naaman Roosevelt, SSK – $8400
S.J. Green, TOR – $8600
Weston Dressler, WPG – $7800
DaVaris Daniels, CGY – $7100
Marquay McDaniel, CGY – $7400
Bryant Mitchell, EDM – $4000
(Armanti Edwards, Bakari Grant, BJ Cunningham, Tiquan Underwood)
Calgary gets to face Hamilton this week and as such, have three of their receivers projected in the top 8 players at the position. It’s probably unrealistic to expect them all to wind up there in actual production, but it shows you just how bad the Ti-Cats defensive backs have been to this point. Kamar Jorden tops the list with a similar projection to what Brandon Zylstra had last week, but at a $500 higher price tag. This is Jorden’s offence now as he receives a full 27% of his team’s targets – 5% more than previous target hog Marquay McDaniel. Working out of the slot, Jorden should get similar working room to other top receivers that have feasted on the Ti-Cats halfbacks to this point. McDaniel is worth consideration in tournament double stacks as well, but Jorden is the clear WR1 here. DaVaris Daniels has really struggled to get into the flow of the offence since returning from injury, with just a single reception last week. His targets have remained consistent though, and his deep speed and target efficiency make him an excellent tournament play this week looking for a low owned bounce-back performance. EVERYONE will have Kamar Jorden in their lineups this week. He was near 50% in most spots in week 5. If you are looking for leverage on the field, you’ll have to find it somewhere beyond Air Jorden and Daniels may be it.
With Adarius Bowman hobbled, and now on the six game injured list, Brandon Zylstra has stepped straight into the WR1 role in Edmonton receiving 9.5 targets per game in the past fortnight. His price tag continues to increase accordingly and his matchup is much more difficult versus BC this week, but few receivers get as consistent and efficient a workload as Zylstra does. If you’re play cash games, he’s about as safe a play as you’ll find. And well worth the $8900 tag. His teammate Bryant Mitchell, the SB replacement for Adarius Bowman is another excellent play. At only $3700 last week, he should have been a lock in cash games, but yet was only about 15% owned. He rewarded those who put faith in him with a 5-76-1 20.6 fpt performance. With only a $300 increase in salary this week I’d expect his ownership levels to skyrocket, but there’s really no good reason to fade his value at this price. He’s the clear top value of the week regardless of position.
At this point, let’s pause for a brief life lesson with Uncle Ben.
Not the rice package guy.
Opportunity and position are more important than track record when it comes to determining production in the CFL. As I’ve written each year in my season primer, the names come and go with regularity in the CFL due to injuries and incoming talent from NFL cuts. The top names often don’t stay the in the league for long, and the above average talent changes from week to week. Bryant Mitchell is case in point. He nearly had a starting receiving job in the preseason before the arrival of Duke Williams, and when a spot in the boundary slot opened up for him he was almost guaranteed targets. When you’re looking for production, look past the names on the depth charts to the production their roster spot generally produces.
– fin –
Following Zylstra in the rankings is Winnipeg’s Darvin Adams. Despite averaging over 8 targets a game to start this season, no one was excited to get Darvin in their lineups last week as shown in his tiny 6% ownership level. He rewarded the faithful few 5-87-2 for 26.9 fpts. His matchup this week is no easier, but his workload is consistent and his talent is notable. He saw a massive increase in efficiency last week, but his underlying baseline projections bear out that it was more of a regression to the mean than an outlier performance. His teammate Weston Dressler is worthy of consideration as well. It was a weird game for him against BC, receiving only 2 targets in the passing game, but four carries on jet sweeps from the SB position in a really odd game plan all around. I wouldn’t count on those carries with regularity, but I would certainly count on a return to normal around 7 targets in the passing game. Montreal won’t likely give him a lot of room to work with and $7800 isn’t cheap, but some exposure in GPPs is a good idea.
It’s hard to conceive of the Riders looking worse than they did in the first half last week versus Calgary. They were utterly overwhelmed. Rosie though continued to receive the lion share of Riders targets, albeit at the continued low efficiency we saw at times in 2016. If he’s going to produce well, it’s likely because he sees 10+ targets. The projections like him because of his work load, but there is some fragility to projecting him as a top 5 WR against arguably the best pass defence in the CFL.
Apart from his 40 point performance in week 3, S.J. Green has been largely underwhelming given his sizable price tag. If I have to choose between Zylstra, Jorden or Green for essentially the same price, Green is in fourth place out of the three. His upside is arguably higher than the other two as evidenced versus Ottawa, but his mean projection isn’t even in the same area code. Facing a Riders defence that is prone to mental errors and big plays (12.2 ypc allowed), Green is an interesting lower exposure guy in GPPs but doesn’t have near the consistency you’d want for cash games.
I already mentioned Bryant Mitchell as the top value regardless of position on the slate, and thus the top punt single at WR, but there are some other plays that bear looking at that don’t necessarily project well initially. Armanti Edwards (TOR – $6700) gets the same matchup and targets as SJ Green but at nearly $2K less cost. Apart from the week 3 contest versus the RedBlacks, he’s averaged 8 targets per game in a passing heavy offence versus a mistake prone Riders secondary. The Montreal trio of Ernest Jackson $6900, BJ Cunningham $6500, and Tiquan Underwood $4500 also are worthy of consideration if you believe the uptick in pace in MTL to be the new normal and not the deviation from the norm.
Calgary Stampeders – $5300
Winnipeg BlueBombers – $4700
Toronto Argonauts – $4900
BC Lions – $4800
Determining your DST exposure for DraftKings lineups continues to be trick as there is no one standout unit worth paying up for, and an unsustainable number of DST TDs have been scored leading to higher than average volatility in scores. Thankfully, Chris has been tracking DST scoring and where it comes from. He wrote an excellent article this week on what and who to target and you need to read it before building lineups for week 6.
Each of Calgary, Winnipeg, and Toronto are likely to create some turnovers due to matchups with turnover prone offences. Calgary and BC have the most dangerous return games. Calgary and Toronto lead the league in sacks and sacks are one of the most accurately projected defensive stats for fantasy purposes. I’m likely to have my heaviest exposure to Calgary and Winnipeg, but Toronto and BC belong in lineups as well. Stacking BC DST with Rainey at RB this week could be the cheat code to winning a GPP if he scores a return TD.
That does it for week 6. 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!