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CFL Western Free Agency Rundown
DAILY FANTASY RUNDOWN
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It may not get nearly the press that free agency gets in other leagues. There are no reporters camping out on the lawns for prospective free agents, but the roster turnover every year in the CFL provides more action than just about any other pro sports league. Free agency in the CFL is kind of a weird animal, as most of the best players are only willing to sign one or two year deals as the possibility of a far more lucrative NFL contract is always on the horizon. I’m not going to be tediously listing the movements of every back up Canadian offensive lineman that was up for a new deal. If you want that kind of info you can go straight to the CFL website. Also, you need to seriously reconsider how you use your time. There have been a number of notable moves this offseason though, so here we are with the possible fantasy impact they’ll have starting with the Western Conference.

BC Lions

Staying Put

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Carries Rush Yards TD Tackles Sacks INT
Bryan Burnham 103 79 1392 3
Nick Moore (2015) 113 76 899 4
Jeremiah Johnson 16 12 131 138 809 7
Solomon Elimimian 125 7 1

 

All the fantasy relevant re-signings for the Lions have been significant contributors the past couple seasons. Bryan Burnham had a breakout season in 2016, but it’s worth noting that he only emerged after the season ending injury to Nick Moore in week 4 versus Saskatchewan. With the return of Moore this season, and the addition of speedster Chris Williams from Ottawa, Burnham will have a lot more competition for targets this season and may well find himself as the third or fourth option in the passing game. It’s unlikely to be a popular take, but Burnham is in line for negative regression after a season in which he had little competition for looks after Emmanuel Arceneaux.

It’s more than fair to assume Williams and Arceneaux will be 1a and 1b in the BC passing game. Do you know what WR3 in BC looks like?

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards TD
Bryan Burnham 103 79 1392 3
Shawn Gore 90 59 835 3

 

Now, you can’t just assume that Burnham falls down to Gore level production, but there’s seemingly no way he gets back to the levels he was at in 2016. The Lions were the the most run heavy offence in the CFL last season and Burnham will now be at best the third target, and possibly fourth depending on how Nick Moore fits in. Burnham will likely be priced at 6-7k to start the season, but may well produce more like a 4k receiver in a diminished role. On the other hand, Moore will likely be priced near minimum at 3k, but may well be in line to produce closer to 5k value.

At the running back position, the Lions opted to keep Jeremiah Johnson in the fold after acquiring him from Ottawa last offseason. Johnson was certainly the more productive of the backfield duo he formed with Anthony Allen, and it appears he may get the chance at full time work after a season in which he was a healthy scratch a number of weeks. The only other competition for carries in BC comes in the form of special teams return man Chris Rainey. He may lose some work to Rainey in the two minute drill as Rainey is a more accomplished receiver, but overall this is a big win for Jeremiah Johnson’s value.

Key Losses 

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Carries Rush Yards TD
Anthony Allen 18 16 91 87 436 4
Terrell Sinkfield 23 16 297 3

 

As previously mentioned, the Lions elected not to re-sign Anthony Allen and appear to be content to move on from him. He has had a penchant for fumbling in his career, and may have trouble getting playing time in his new home in Saskatchewan. BC also seems poised to move on from Terrell Sinkfield Jr after having signed him part way through the season. Sinkfield was a major contributor in Hamilton previously before heading south for NFL tryouts, but never really seemed to find a niche in the Lions offence. It remains to be seen where he will wind up this year, but he still holds a lot of potential in the right offence.

Key Additions 

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards TD
Chris Williams 114 77 1246 10

 

Through the first quarter of last season, Chris Williams was clearly the top receiver in the CFL, compiling 25 receptions, 463 yards, and 6 TD. That kind of production was obviously unsustainable, but he likely has the highest ceiling of any player in the league. The addition of Williams to the BC receiving core gives them what is likely the strongest unit in the league. Any of Williams, Arceneaux, Burnham, and Moore could be the top target on just about any other team in the CFL. It’s hard to imagine any defence being able to double team any of these receivers and diminish their value, but with a group this deep, it will also be hard to get consistent weekly production from any one of them. This may well be a real football dream, but a fantasy nightmare.

Calgary Stampeders

Staying Put

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards TD
Kamar Jorden 62 42 580 3
Marquay McDaniel 111 83 1074 4

 

Calgary re-signed two members of its deep receiving core, but it’s two receivers trending in opposite directions. After eight solid years in the CFL, McDaniel is likely nearing the end of his useful shelf-life at age 32. He topped 1000 yards for the third time in four seasons, but clearly became a secondary option in the offence accruing just 39 of his 111 targets in the second half of the season. This receiving core is now anchored by Kamar Jorden and DaVaris Daniels, and it would seem that McDaniel’s numbers will likely diminish this season. Jorden, on the other hand, seems to be in line for continued growth this season, having been re-signed to the team.

Key Losses

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards TD
Drew Tate
Bakari Grant 65 44 625 4

 

It’s tough to get too upset about the loss of a 29 year old receiver who was 7th on your team in targets a year ago. “Key” here is used pretty broadly. He only played in 7 games, so his numbers are better than what they may appear. Grant will compete for targets in Saskatchewan with Naaman Roosevelt, Duron Carter, Chad Owens and others from whatever lucky soul gets the job as the Riders starting QB. Calgary also traded away their backup QB, Drew Tate, to Ottawa for a 5th round draft pick. He’s pretty fantasy irrelevant at this point, but has shown some competency in the past. If Trevor Harris is lost to injury again at some point this season, Tate may be a valuable play in a high-powered offence.

Key Additions

None.

Calgary hasn’t added anyone of note to their roster this offseason. However, they managed to retain the vast majority of their free agents. When you’re as good as them, you really don’t need to add many pieces to your team, so much as find ways to retain the ones you have, and they have done that well.

Edmonton Eskimos

Key Losses

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Carries Rush Yards TD Tackles Sacks INT
Derel Walker 151 109 1589 10
Chris Getzlaf 62 41 455 2
Shakir Bell 12 8 48 68 425 3
Deon Lacey 87 1 3

 

After the first two seasons that Derel Walker had in Edmonton, it seemed inevitable that he would have contract offers in the NFL this offseason. The second half of the one – two punch that the Eskimos relied on with Adarius Bowman is now gone and leaves a massive number of targets for someone to pick up. Mercifully, that will not be Chris Getzlaf who showed signs of aging last season in Edmonton, after a great career in Saskatchewan.

It would seem that Brandon Zylstra may be the lucky recipient of Walker’s role. Zylstra had 34 receptions on 42 targets for 508 yards and 3 touchdowns in just six games. Even more interesting is that when Edmonton rested some starters down the stretch, Zylstra exploded for 15 receptions on 21 targets for 272 yards and 2 touchdowns in the final two games of the season. With both Derel Walker and Christ Getzlaf out of the way, there is a clear path for Zylstra to become a major producer in Edmonton this season. Despite being priced around 3k for most of last season, he could certainly produce at 9k value for the Eskimos right from the start this year.

Also leaving the City of Champions, were RB Shakir Bell and LB Deon Lacey. Bell was very productive at times, but seemed destined for a split with Edmonton after he was benched for attitude problems near the end of last season. He clearly felt he deserved the starting role over John White and hopefully will hopefully get a shot at playing time in Ottawa.

Lacey on the other hand leaves a significant hole in the Eskimos already porous defence. They were already in the bottom half of the league in both points and yards allowed, and the loss of Lacey to the NFL will be difficult to overcome. The Eskimos defence will likely make for a good matchup to exploit again in 2017.

Key Additions

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Carries Rush Yards TD
Travon Van 27 19 137 81 422 2
Kendial Lawrence 26 18 149 37 150 1

 

Replacing Shakir Bell in Edmonton, will be Travon Van who moved over from Ottawa. Van looked quite serviceable during his stint as the starting RB for the RedBlacks last season before ceding his spot to Mossis Madu late in the season. Van is no one to get excited about, but WHEN John White gets injured again this season, Van will be a good value play for a couple weeks. Kendial Lawrence returned back to the team he had his most success with after an ill-fated season with the Roughriders last year. He was ineffective as a returner, and worse as a RB or SB. He’ll likely take over the return duties for the Eskimos this season, but is unlikely to contribute anything on offence.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Staying Put

Name Tackles Sacks Pass Defensed
Willie Jefferson 8 3 4

After being the worst defence in the CFL through most of the season, the Riders seemed to stabilize a bit down the stretch after adding Willie Jefferson to the roster when he was cut from the Washington Redskins. In just five games he managed to make a significant impact in the Riders pass rush and seems poised to be a stabilizing force on the defensive line. Given the losses the Riders also had, there’s no reason to think they’ll be a great unit, but Jefferson gives them a chance to be less awful.

Key Losses

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Carries Rush Yards TD
Shamawd Chambers 40 25 269 1
Jeff Fuller (2015) 92 47 619 3
Curtis Steele 29 16 138 54 314
Joe McKnight 11 11 90 38 228
Kendial Lawrence 26 18 149 37 150 1

 

Name Attempts Completions Pass Yards TD INT Carries Yards TD
Darian Durant 495 330 3839 14 7 57 308 6

 

Name Tackles Sacks Pass Defensed INT Forced Fumble
Otha Foster 71 3 5 1 1
Jeff Knox (2015) 114 1 1

 

As they were throughout last offseason, and much of the 2016 regular season, the Roughriders were the most active franchise in terms of personnel moves. Mercifully, the Shamawd Chambers era is over in Regina, as he limped back to the Eskimos after a dreadfully underwhelming season for Saskatchewan. All he really had going for him was his non-import status, and it simply wasn’t enough to deal with his egregious salary on the books. The Riders also lost receiver Jeff Fuller in the offseason, who showed flashes of brilliance in Calgary, but never had a chance to get established in Regina before getting injured. The Riders also will be moving on from running backs Curtis Steele and Kendial Lawrence who were both prized signings last offseason. Neither had the expected impact for the Riders and were let go. In what was unfortunately the saddest story of the CFL offseason, Joe McKnight was lost to an alleged murder in a road rage incident in Louisiana in December. He showed great promise in his short time in Regina and will be sorely missed.

The Riders also lost key defenders LB Otha Foster and DB Jeff Knox Jr. to the NFL. Just as the defence was starting to show signs of hope, these two losses will be difficult to deal with. Both showed enough promise to merit looks down south and will be hard to replace for a defence that already struggled throughout the season.

Last but not least, the Roughriders decided to move on from oft injured star QB Darian Durant when they traded him to Montreal in January. Durant was set to become a free agent and was suggested to be seeking a multi-year deal in the neighbourhood of $400,000 a season despite not having played a full campaign since 2013. It’s unknown who the Riders starting QB will be this season but it’s clear the full rebuild is underway in Saskatchewan. Durant found great success when previously paired with new head coach Jacques Chapdelaine, but has a lot to prove at age 34 after three injury plagued seasons.

Key Additions

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Carries Rush Yards TD
Duron Carter 69 47 744 6 43 5
Chad Owens 90 58 808     5
Bakari Grant 46 30 383     2
Kienan LaFrance

(Playoffs)

      27 157 1
Anthony Allen 18 16 91 87 436 4

 

Name Attempts Completions Pass Yards TD INT Carries Yards TD
Kevin Glenn 318 224 2563 13 11 10 57 1

With all the players the Riders have moved on from, they needed to be equally aggressive in acquiring replacements. Replacing Shamawd Chambers and Jeff Fuller, will be Duron Carter, Chad Owens, and Bakari Grant coming in from Montreal, Hamilton, and Calgary respectively. This seems to be a pretty massive upgrade. When able to avoid suspensions, Duron Carter has shown the talent to be the top receiver in the CFL. When able to avoid injury Chad Owens has been a monster as a return specialist and a deep threat receiver. Early reports are that Owens role will be primarily restricted to return duties for the Riders, but we’ll see how that plays out in camp. Bakari Grant hasn’t been a special player at any point in his CFL career, but he’s certainly above replacement value. The Riders starting receivers seem poised to be Naaman Roosevelt, Duron Carter, Bakari Grant, and some combination of Caleb Holley/Rob Bagg/Armanti Edwards/Ricky Collins. This may not be quite the gauntlet that BC appears to have, but it is comparable. Whomever winds up being the Riders starting QB this season will certainly have a vast array of weapons at their disposal.

After having brought in a number of import WR this offseason, the Riders appear poised to change up their ratio distribution and start Canadians at RB instead of WR with the addition of Kienan LaFrance from Ottawa and Aaron Milton from Edmonton. The Riders were 7th in the league in rushing attempts last season, so neither LaFrance or Milton figure to see significant work. The Riders also added veteran import RB Anthony Allen for a second stint with the club early on in training camp. No one is sure who will get the most work at RB this season, but even rookie Cameron Marshall has a shot at starting. None of them appear to be great options in fantasy games.

No one has any idea who will be starting at QB for the Roughriders this season. It’s quite questionable if the Roughriders have any idea who will be the starting QB for the Roughriders this season. The only certainty is that it won’t be Darian Durant for the first time in eight years.

Kevin Glenn has been added as veteran insurance, and may be a one year bridge to finding the next long-term starter. Vince Young is in contract talks with the team, there is clear interest in acquiring James Franklin from Edmonton, and right now Bryan Bennett, GJ Kinne, Brandon Bridge, and Jake Waters are all still on the roster. Training Camp will provide a starter in a few months, but the Riders are likely to audition quarterbacks throughout the season.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Staying Put

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards TD
Darvin Adams 74 51 690 6

 

Name Attempts Completions Pass Yards TD INT Carries Yards TD
Matt Nichols 471 327 3666 18 9 35 90 6

 

Despite an injury shortened season in 2016, Darvin Adams was the top target in Winnipeg. If you extend his production out over an 18 game season, instead of the 8 games he played, he could easily have competed for the title of the most productive receiver in the CFL. Re-signing him was a big win for the Bombers. Matt Nichols seems set to be the starter in Winnipeg for the forseeable future. He was the consummate “Game Manager” last season. He rarely went out and won his team a game, but also was rarely the reason the team lost. He was extremely consistent as a fantasy QB, but also had a very low ceiling. He was THE cash game QB every week through the second half of the season. I remain unconvinced he’s good enough to win a Grey Cup, especially with the defence set for significant regression this season, but the job will be his for a long time after signing an extension through 2019.

Name Tackles Sacks INT Forced Fumble
Khalil Bass 82 4 2 4


Key Losses

The two key losses for the Bombers were both impact performers at their respective positions. Khalil Bass excelled at creating turnovers for the Bombers last season, while still being a reliable tackler. He however will be creating turnovers in Ottawa this season instead. Quincy McDuffie was nothing special on offence outside of an exceptional Labour Day game in Regina (7-153-1), but his electric return skills netted him work in the NFL. Both of these guys can be replaced in Winnipeg, but also leave holes to be filled in what was an exceptionally high scoring D/ST on DraftKings last season. As I’ve noted before, this defence is in line for statistical regression this season and these two losses will only increase that likelihood.

Key Additions

Name Attempts Completions Pass Yards TD INT Carries Yards TD
Dan LeFevour 105 73 779 6 6 41 155

 

Hopefully Blue Bombers fans continue to bring lots of cowbells to games this season, as it is the only known cure for LeFevour. In previous stops in Hamilton and Toronto, LeFevour has shown flashes of adequacy due to his strong arm and mobility, but has often been turnover prone.

After having shipped failed starter Drew Willy to Toronto for a half empty box of sock tape last season, Winnipeg was in the market for a backup QB and Dan LeFevour seems poised to take that role. He’s not exciting, and certainly shouldn’t be relied on in for fantasy purposes even if pressed into duty. He is however, the most exciting addition the Bombers have made this offseason.

CFL season is only a week away now, so be sure to join in the chat in the forum and Twitter as we all ramp up for week 1 contests.

 

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