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CFL DFS Strategy: An Exciting Return to Football
Chris Kay
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CFL DFS Strategy: An Exciting Return to Football

What a wild first weekend of CFL DFS it was, as many were trying to enjoy the games while trying to figure out the rules. At the end of the weekend, I can say I really enjoyed the slate of games and think we have a fun new niche sport for us all to experience in absence of college football.

CFL is not the NFL. It’s not even college football with high scores and wacky offenses. And what was clear from Week 1 is that simply knowing the rules can propel you up the leaderboards at DraftKings – well, that and staying away from the injuries, of course.

The biggest takeaway from the first weekend of CFL was the impact of kickoff and punt returners to your lineups. If you rostered Brandon Banks or Chris Rainey then you likely placed in the money, but this doesn’t mean you should plug and play every returner. Don’t let these two force you to over-value the return man position in this league. These two are among the best special teams players in the CFL, and in the end, it was their offensive touches that made them extremely valuable to your lineup.

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As you can tell from the chart above, even the best return men need fantasy output on the offensive side of the ball to warrant a price tag over the minimum. Chris Rainey and Brandon Banks will receive touches on the offensive side of the ball enough to warrant using them in tournaments (price pending), but Rainey was the only special teamer that would have hit value on strictly return yardage.

The perfect example of why picking return men can be very risky is Kenzel Doe. His stat sheet reads four returns for 65 yards and just 3.25 fantasy points. I experimented in the two-game slate by using Doe as a punt at the receiver position to open up salary and it shined a light on something for yours truly. He returned just one punt in the game against Ottawa even though the Redblacks punted five times. If you watched the game then you witnessed a talented punter direct his punts out of bounds nearly every time, eliminating Doe’s opportunity for additional fantasy points on four separate occasions.

When to Use Return Men

There is a time and place to use these special teams stars, we just need to learn the exact value of one fantasy point per 20 return yards. We can’t bank on a touchdown return from Rainey every single week. For now, you’re accepting potentially unnecessary risk by rostering return men who receive a paycheck strictly for these services.

The ideal time to use guys like Rainey, Finch, McDuffie, and Banks is when they have a role in the offense. It seems obvious to point this out, but I have a feeling we’ll see an uptick in ownership rates for all return men in this upcoming slate. Consider these points earned on special teams as a tiebreaker when comparing players. It’s also an effective way to locate safe-value play from mid-range receivers, like Banks. He won’t score every week or bring down eight catches a game, but combining his role as third or fourth receiver with return yardage makes him a safer player in cash game formats.

Who Impressed

We saw how impressive Chris Rainey and Brandon Banks were, but they weren’t the only ones that recorded great individual performances. Quincy McDuffie showed a lot of talent returning kicks and punts – unfortunately, only 1.3 of his 8.75 total fantasy points came from the passing game. Conversely, Roy Finch impressed against BC on five returns for 106 yards. The problem? He only netted 5.3 fantasy points because he was absent from other offensive aspects of the game. While he is running back eligible, we’ll have to wait for an injury to open up carries or a role in the passing game before throwing him into our lineups.

In conclusion, it’s important that we recognize the rule differences between the NFL game and the CFL. However, after just one week, lets not allow recency to alter our thoughts completely on the value of special teams players. While we’ll always look to take advantage of every edge available, I’d caution those who might overreact to a one-week sample size.

1 Comment

  1. benyamen

    June 27, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Return yardage points are certainly a nice bonus, but like you pointed out, I would never count on them as the basis for rostering a player. There are a few more return points to be had in the CFL than NFL/CFB because of the \”No yards – 5 yard halo\” rule on returns and missed field goals being returned, but not enough to make returners consistent weekly contributors. It might be a tie-breaker, or a bonus, but it just won\’t be a reliable source of production. I\’ve played in leagues for years that use this stat and at best it\’ like starting a TD-vulture at RB: You may get a TD and a couple yards, but it\’s a complete boom or bust play.
    I too hope there\’s a massive over-reaction this week with everyone starting returners while regression to the mean lets cooler heads prevail.