CFL DFS: The Importance Of Being Ernest
Welcome to the first of many CFL weekend slate write-ups, something I hope to last only until college football DFS is back. Until that time, I’ll be providing game-by-game analysis to equip you with the top plays and value CFL DFS selections each week.
For those new to the CFL, each weekend just four games are played, so we’re going to see small slates exclusively. This is just one of the many differences from the NFL and CFL season. Other important rules to know before playing CFL DFS include:
- Three downs to earn the first down (not four)
- End zones are 20-yards deep
- The field is 110 yards long (compared to 100)
- Receivers can go in motion so they are running full speed upfield as the ball is snapped
*In the breakdowns below, the numbers inside parentheses show receiving yardage from season before.
Hamilton at Toronto (-4.5)
Hamilton Team Total: 24
Toronto Team Total: 29
Hamilton is a very pass oriented team, but will be without their top quarterback, Zach Collaros. This has caused Jeremiah Masoli to be thrust onto the scene. He presents a very interesting option for the Tiger-cats because of his running ability. Many teams use multiple quarterbacks, but Masoli won’t need to be replaced on the goal-line. Masoli has struggled in the past throwing the football, so the offense’s receivers will have more potential when Collaros comes back from injury. With the offense being pass happy, their top target, Luke Tasker (76/1,066/6), represents a very safe option out wide. Chad Owens (55/570/3) is a veteran receiver that is playing against his former team in the Argonauts opening week. He’s priced up on DraftKings and isn’t necessarily their top receiver, so I’ll likely keep his usage in my lineups low (if at all). Terrence Toliver (48/679/6) should be starting out wide on the same side as Tasker, but there are no guarantees there. The great thing about using players from this game is that the depth charts should be out by Wednesday night. Toliver makes more sense than Owens, but once again has an expensive price tag. C.J. Gable will be starting at running back and is fairly cheap, sitting at $6,500, but other options in the same price range will receive more touches.
Toronto’s Ricky Ray led the CFL in passing yards and touchdowns in 2014, but injuries caused him to play in just three games last season. Ray has been one of the better quarterbacks in his career in the CFL posting 11 seasons out of 13 with 20+ touchdowns through the air. Ray is one of the quarterbacks in the league that will see consistent playing time without a backup quarterback stealing snaps, so he’s definitely in play opening week. Tori Gurley (58/791/10) and Vidal Hazelton (70/803/6) are the top receivers for the Argonauts and are moderately priced compared to other top receivers. They should be starting on opposite sides of each other. What makes Toronto interesting is the lack of dominant stats from these three players, which should result in the casual DFS player less likely to use them. With this being the first game and depth charts officially out for the game before others, that could change. In a vacuum, these three present as great tournament options because of the high total (29) and ability to use all three without overspending. With Diontae Spencer out for the game, Kevin Elliot (50/642/8) becomes an option as well. The nice thing about Elliot is that he falls into a price range on DraftKings that is very tough to fill. Below 6k options this weekend seem to fall into the “tournament” category rather than “safe” category. At running back, Anthony Coombs makes for a great tournament running back. His usage through the air (57/486/1) and low price provides an avenue for variation in your lineup. Brandon Whitaker is the starting running back, but isn’t as sexy as Coombs because of his price. He caught 53 passes last season, but I’d rather save the money and roll with Coombs, the running back/slot receiver (he’s used in both roles, but listed as running back). Toronto’s defense makes for an interesting option in this slate. The best ways to determine your defense are price and lack of talent at quarterback on the other side of the football. They are the third cheapest defense and face Masoli, who isn’t known for his passing.
Montreal at Winnipeg (-3)
Montreal Team Total: 23
Winnipeg Team Total: 26
Montreal has the lowest team total of the slate, so I’m not going to spend too much time here. Kevin Glenn is the quarterback for the Alouettes. He played 12 games last season (edited from three games to 12) and he wasn’t too impressive. Duron Carter is his number one receiver and is the son of NFL star, Cris Carter. He’s priced pretty high, but has shown great hands in pre-season action and practice and will be an immediate downfield threat for this offense. S.J. Green (71/1,136/3) is the first player I feel is underpriced in this slate. He generated 1,000 receiving yards last season with a mixture of quarterbacks getting time. Green’s size (6’3) and previous success makes him a very safe option even if I’m not a big fan of Glenn. Kenny Stafford (47/732/9) had a very nice season last year in Edmonton (even as the third receiver in that offense) and finds himself playing the same role for the Alouettes. He’s a mid-5k option that isn’t bad, but ranks behind Elliot in that price range. On the ground Tyrell Sutton is obviously the guy, as he led the CFL in rushing last season (180/1,059/5) while missing three games. He’s at the top of all options at the position, but I’ll likely look elsewhere, choosing to punt with Coombs or spend just a little with Jerome Messam. Montreal’s defense is definitely in play with their cost being low and some issues I’ll be talking about within their offense.
Winnipeg has had quite the interesting offseason, bringing in a new running back, two new receivers, and moving a few offensive lineman around to help solidify that group. They also finished the preseason on June 13, a week earlier than other teams. Because of this, I’ll likely be avoiding their offense. If you choose to target the Blue Bombers, then Drew Willy’s receivers are the place to look. Weston Dressler (68/928/4) and Ryan Smith (53/847/5) are the two new receivers to this group and should be pretty enticing. Darvin Adams (61/839/5) is the third and final receiver to target, but I’m unsure if there’s any specific pecking order as to who the top guy will be from the opening kickoff. Dressler battled an injury this preseason, but should be good to go after sitting out the final preseason game. Montreal is starting two rookie defensive backs this week after making some questionable cuts this preseason, so maybe the savvy veterans from Winnipeg can take advantage of those two. Andrew is possibly the best running back in the league, but tweaked a hamstring in practice and that’s enough for us to not even consider the highest priced running back on the board. The Winnipeg defense is the second cheapest in this slate and does have the benefit of playing a non-star quarterback. Those are two positives heading into the slate.
Ottawa at Edmonton (-6)
Ottawa Team Total: 23
Edmonton Team Total: 29
Ottawa is probably my favorite offense to target in this slate and oddly has an implied team total of just 23. What does Canadian Vegas know that I don’t? Well, Henry Burris is the returning “Most Outstanding Player” and has looked great in postseason, even though the man is over 40 years old! He has the luxury of having four different 1,000-yard receivers on his team again this season and has a young receiver worth throwing into a tournament lineup. Those four receivers are Chris Williams (88/1,214/5), Ernest Jackson (84/1,026/5), Brad Sinopoli (86/1,035/3), and Greg Ellingson (69/1,061/9). If I’m targeting just one Redblacks receiver then it’ll be Jackson. The guy has serious size (6’2, 220) and was a favorite target of Burris’ in the preseason. Williams is much smaller (5’9, 155) and runs a lot of great downfield routes. Ellingson and Sinopoli both have good size and run similar routes to Jackson (intermediate to short range routes). Jake Harty didn’t record a stat last season due to injury, but is a second-year player with potential coming into the season. He is priced at just $3,300 and represents a great tournament option to pair with Burris. The reason I love this passing attack so much is that Edmonton is missing their top three defensive backs from last year’s team: injury, NFL, and free agency. On the ground, William Powell would be starting had he not injured himself, therefore leaving Travon Van as the likely starter. He’s looked great in the preseason and those in the know were raving about his spring practice before Powell got hurt. I’m going to use Jerome Messam over Van, but do expect to use Van in multi-entry formats. Travis Greene has been battling for the starting position, but doesn’t seem to have earned it quite yet.
Edmonton is led by one of the best quarterbacks in the CFL, Mike Reilly. He’s a gritty player that has been injured plenty in the past, but when healthy he ranks up there with Burris. What he has going for him the most is his receiving group led by Adarius Bowman (93/1,304/7) and Derel Walker (89/1,110/6). The offense lost their third best receiver from last season, so it’ll be interesting to see where those numbers go, but it can only be positive for those two. Bowman and Walker should be starting next to each other and make it very difficult to stop either one of them on every play. John White returns from his injury last season to take back his starting gig. He doesn’t appeal to me too much because of Jordan Lynch, yes that Jordan Lynch, and his usage at the goal line. Much like you would expect, Lynch is used heavily around pay dirt, rushing for 39/155/4 last season. Both defenses in this one are out of the question.
Calgary (-4) at BC
Calgary Team Total: 26
BC Team Total: 22
Bo Levi Mitchell was one of the best quarterbacks last season, staying healthy for every game and throwing for over 4,500 yards. He’s a guy I’m going to target in multi-entry tournaments where I’m not using their running back, Jerome Messam. Messam is a monster of a man, coming into the game standing 6’4, 250. One is surely going to vulture the other at some point in the game, so I’m more likely to avoid rostering both in the same lineup (unless in a cash game format). Marquay McDaniel (86/1,038/4) is the lone top receiver standing following Eric Rogers’ and Jeff Fuller’s departure for the NFL. His numbers before those two left were great, making McDaniel an attractive option at $7,400. I’m not so sure that Bakari Grant (35/492/4) is the number two receiver for this offense, but he sure is priced like it. In both preseason games, he was pegged as the backup at the slot receiver position behind Kamar Jorden (2/6/0). I’m not sure I can pay $6,100 for Jorden, but I definitely feel like using Grant comes with material risk. Instead, if I’m rolling the dice on anyone it is Joe West (36/385/2). West came on strong at the end of last season, catching 12 passes for 139 yards over two games. West is slotted in on the preseason depth charts as the starting wide out, opposite McDaniel (who is in the slot). West makes for my favorite punt receiver of the slate, ranking ahead of Harty from Ottawa. Calgary’s defense is in play because of the lack of experience from BC’s quarterback, loss of starting running back, and uncertainty at the receiver position past Arceneaux.
Jonathon Jennings is the quarterback to use if you don’t want to spend up for Burris, Ray, or Reilly. He’s the lowest priced starter and has the potential to generate points on the ground, although we haven’t seen it a whole lot in seven games of action. Emmanuel Arceneaux (76/1,1151/9) had a great connection with Jennings as we saw from those seven games played together. Austin Collie is no longer on the squad and Andrew Harris (last year’s running back) is now playing for Winnipeg, meaning the offense has lost their second and third most targeted receivers. Nick Moore (76/899/4) was the leading receiver for Winnipeg last year and makes for a great pickup for the BC offense. His price is below the rest of the studs, but I’m not sure there’s enough passing potential in this offense to warrant a near $7,000 for a second tier receiver. Overall, this receiver group is the hardest to figure out past their number one target as they have five receivers listed as starters and no real way to determine what the pecking order is. Marco Iannuzzi (5/91/1) and Bryan Burnham (35/423/2) are both listed as starters in their oddly constructed depth chart. Jeremiah Johnson comes into the season as the starter and he’s priced like one at $7,500. I’ll be avoiding him because of the low team total (22) and lack of offensive firepower this team possesses.
Got something to say? Jump in the CFL Week 1 thread that’s currently underway in our forums!