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DraftKings CFL DFS Primer
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DraftKings CFL DFS Primer

I play MAC fantasy football. During college football season, I have grown to love the DFS offerings on DraftKings so much, that I have acquired a taste for Tuesday-Thursday four game slates involving teams I will never see play. They’re games filled with players names who will never see a down in the NFL, and yet wind up meaning everything to me on weeknights for three months. Nothing says drama quite like Akron vs. Ball State. The high scoring players change from week to week, with last month’s star not seeing a reception for the rest of the season. If you enjoy investing time and money in MAC football, then just maybe CFL DFS is for you.

CFL DFS will likely play out very similarly to small slate midweek college football slates on DraftKings.

Why am I telling you about MAC football? From what I can foresee, CFL DFS will likely play out very similarly to small slate midweek college football slates on DraftKings. The small player pool will lead to massive overlaps in rosters, very high ownership of dependable players, and very small margins between those who take down big GPP’s and those who don’t even cash. With small slates like this I would suggest forgoing cash games (50/50, double ups, etc) altogether and sticking with GPP’s. Playing head-to-head games will likely lead to a difference of 1 or 2 players between rosters, so you may as well play the contrarian style and go boom or bust. The difference between winning a GPP or a H2H will likely come down to having the right flex players anyways. There may be some money to be had initially with a lot of dead money coming into DK for the first time, but this will dry up sooner than later.

The CFL is a drastically different league than the NFL. The rules, the size of the football, and the dimensions of the field may be the least of the differences though. While the NFL has franchise players and rewards teams that build through the draft, the CFL has rosters in constant flux with few contracts being signed for more than 1-2 years. Star players are born from open tryouts in the offseason, and major contributors arise continually throughout the season as opportunities due to injury or ineptitude come around. There are no established statistical providers, no fantasy magazines, no vast deluge of weekly projections to work from; CFL fantasy football is the wild west of DFS. Because of this, most of what I have to offer you is a drive down narrative street, but it’s likely still more than you had to work with before, so hey, progress!

Unlike the NFL and college football, the CFL is a passing based league. This is driven by having only three downs to gain ten yards, a field that is ten yards longer from goal line to goal line, 12 yards wider, and featuring end zones that are 20 yards deep. This means that even in the redzone there is ample space to run routes and get open, unlike in the American game where everything is compressed in the scoring area. The big field makes a big difference. In general, scoring is higher, passing yards and touchdowns are more common, consistent production from running backs is rare, and defences are hard pressed to make stops even before coaches throw replay challenge flags begging for pass interference penalties (which they often get).

Playing head-to-head games will likely lead to a difference of 1 or 2 players between rosters, so you may as well play the contrarian style and go boom or bust.

As I mentioned before, roster turnover, not just season to season, but week to week is the norm. Players regularly lose starting jobs and roster spots to injury. At any time in the league there are usually two to three dependable quarterbacks, one or two every down running backs, and a plethora of receivers to spread the ball to. Don’t try to get to know the names too well: they’ll mostly be different by midseason. Success will likely come through keeping up to date on depth charts as they come out twenty-four hours before kickoff. Using the late-swap feature effectively will be the difference between winning and losing weekly.

The personnel involved in the gameplay are quite a bit different from American football as well. A standard formation will include the quarterback, one running back, and five receivers on offence. There has also been a move to bringing in specialized mobile QB’s in redzone packages to take advantage of the running lanes in close. This has been limiting the upside of some top QB’s in Edmonton, Calgary, and Hamilton. Many seasonal leagues have actually switched to “Team QB” to limit this effect.

Coming into any season, there are generally two or three teams with well established quarterbacks, two or three rolling with an aging veteran or promising but unproven talent, and two or three that have no idea who the quarterback will be from week to week. Coming into this season you can likely count on Henry Burris, Mike Reilly, and Ricky Ray every week. Drew Willy, Bo Levi Mitchell, Darian Durant and Zach Collaros are a less dependable second tier. This then leaves the mess of whoever BC and Montreal choose to start on a given week. Many mobile quarterbacks will come and go throughout the season using the large field to run and create offense. Very few of these players will last more than a couple weeks as starters.

Coming into this season you can likely count on Henry Burris, Mike Reilly, and Ricky Ray every week…

It’s not at all uncommon to just field a six pack of receivers with an empty backfield. Given the number of receivers involved in a game, it is often difficult to predict market share of targets beyond the top receiver for a team. The distribution is often spread throughout six or seven receivers. The production from the top receiver on a team is generally quite consistent, while production for secondary receivers will fluctuate wildly from week to week based on game plan and opponents. Look at Adarius Bowman/Derel Walker, Emmanuel Arceneaux, Marquay McDaniel, Chris Williams, Duron Carter and Luke Tasker as dependable weekly plays. The WR situations in Saskatchewan and Winnipeg are just too muddy at this point to know who the top targets will be. If you aren’t paying up for a WR1, you may as well save cash and slide a ways down the depth chart and play matchups. The difference in winning a GPP each week will likely come down to who can pick the right secondary targets on the highest scoring team of the week.

Running back is an interesting position in the CFL as most top performers only stick around for a season or two before going to be a third stringer in the NFL. A practice roster minimum salary in the NFL will still be four times the top money paid to a starting RB in the CFL. There are ever only one or two reliable every week RB’s to choose from. The rest of the teams run time shares or potentially don’t even run the ball at all (Hamilton). Andrew Harris will be the only every week starter at RB, with Jerome Messam possibly moving into that tier as well. Both are Canadian nationals and as such have leverage on their jobs. Both are aging though and will miss time to injury. I’d recommend starting both of them weekly to start with. After those two, it will be somewhat of a crapshoot from week to week trying to determine touches both in the passing and running games for every other RB in the league. It will depend on game flow and matchups both of which are hard to predict with such little data available.

Hopefully this gives you a good intro to the Canadian game. It’s a lot of fun to watch. I just hope for the sake of my American readers that you don’t have to listen to Canadian simulcasts on ESPN3. The folksy takes of Rod Black, Duane Ford, and Glenn Suitor will have you pining for the days you got to hear Phil Simms golden voice.

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