March 10, 2017

Fantasy landscape shaken after free agency

Johany Jutras/

CFL Free Agency is slowing down but now that most of the dominoes have fallen, let’s take a look at the fantasy stock rising for some players.

Out west, many teams stayed the course. The exception is Saskatchewan and we’ll deal with that separately.

In Winnipeg and Calgary, the big names players are in the same spots like DaVaris Daniels, Marquay McDaniel, Jerome Messam, Andrew Harris, and Weston Dressler, and they’ll be expected to lead their teams again as Bo Levi Mitchell and Matt Nichols spread the ball around.

The biggest name free agent for the top four teams in the West was Chris Williams in BC. The receiver comes in to add to an already explosive receiving group with Emmanuel Arceneaux, Bryan Burnham, Shawn Gore and Nick Moore. The biggest fantasy impact is quarterback Jonathon Jennings. His 5,200 passing yards last year will be hard to top but it’s the TD passes that you could see climb and thus add incredible value.

» The latest on 2017 free agency
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» Upgraded secondary elevates Ticats

Johany Jutras/

Ernest Jackson is one of several high-profile receivers on the move in 2017 (Johany Jutras/

Now to the Roughriders, who were extremely busy. In are receivers Bakari Grant and Chad Owens as well as running backs Kienan LaFrance and Cameron Marshall.

But the biggest thing in Saskatchewan is competition. There is no ‘favourite’ out of the crop of free agents they signed to make a big impact. They have a lot of players at both positions and Chris Jones is going to take the best players out of camp. There are no guarantees.

The one player I like is Kienan LaFrance. With the Riders possibly needing extra Canadian starters, LaFrance could be an incredible addition and with Derek Dennis and a healthy Brendon LaBatte on the left side of the offensive line, the run game could take a big leap forward in Saskatchewan from where it was last year.

The receivers group is deep with an open camp battle but if you were going to go by experience, the starting five would be Duron Carter, Naaman Roosevelt, Bakari Grant, Chad Owens and Rob Bagg. However, Caleb Holley, Ricky Collins Jr., Joe Craig and Armanti Edwards showed flashes last season in a young group. One or two of those could start and be interesting sophomore fantasy sleepers.

Biggest impact on the above is who will be throwing them the ball.

Edmonton hasn’t added but has bright young receivers to look for to replace the catches and yards lost with Derel Walker’s departure. Brandon Zylstra and Bryant Mitchell are the less known players with Vidal Hazelton, who came from Toronto late last year, the best bets to pick up the slack. Zylstra is my pick to rise to stardom this season.

The Canadian Press

With Derel Walker out, Brandon Zylstra could get plenty of attention in Edmonton (The Canadian Press)

Out East, with the exception of Hamilton, there are a lot of new faces in new places following free agency.

In Toronto, there are openings all over the place in Marc Trestman’s offense. I’ve got my eye on Khalil Paden to be the veteran presence in the offence with many top receivers leaving in the off-season. Paden was always playing second fiddle to a star studded cast of receivers in Ottawa. Now he has the chance to be a No. 1 target and with the accurate Ricky Ray throwing the ball, that can only mean good things. But watch the Argos closely for value picks because there are going to be some rookies making impacts in the receiving corps and out of the backfield this season.

As for the Montreal Alouettes, Ernest Jackson’s arrival is going to be welcome addition alongside a healthy S.J. Green and veteran Nik Lewis. All those three have 1,000 yard seasons in their career and Jackson is just going to give those other two more room. Look for a fourth receiver (Tiquan Underwood/B.J. Cunningham) to benefit from some extra room as well.

Ernest Jackson, Chris Williams and Khalil Paden have all moved on from the Grey Cup Champs so Marcel Desjardins had some work to do and did it by signing Diontae Spencer and Kenny Shaw out of Toronto. Spencer gives the REDBLACKS the speed they lost with Chris Williams. He’s my bet to have the biggest impact on the offence, alongside Greg Ellingson and Brad Sinopoli.

Desjardins isn’t relying on those two additions however. They are loaded up at receiver with what looks to be an interesting competition to push those veteran receivers. Juron Criner is also a player to watch with some space opening up at receiver. Criner had 177 yards combined in Ottawa’s two playoff games, which actually led the team in the playoffs. A potential sleeper if he can crack the starting five.