Welcome to the CFL Fantasy Football game. Here’s hoping for a full season of enjoyment filled with fun and some bragging rights for those who excel at playing each week throughout the 2017 campaign. Before the season starts, though, it might be wise to gather some ideas about how to succeed, because simply putting Bo Levi Mitchell, Adarius Bowman and a host of random players to fill out the roster just won’t cut the mustard.
A quick breakdown on how to play: Based on a salary cap of $40,000, each Fantasy owner selects a quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers and a flex player (either a running back or wide receiver). Points are scored in a variety of categories (points are also taken away for lost fumbles, interceptions and for defences allowing opponents to score more than 35 points in a game). Player values will go up or down according to performance, so be sure to keep a wary eye on updated salaries.
So, how to win? Follow these five paths and chances are good you’ll be among the best scorers each week.
1) Invest in QB-WR combos
One of the sounder routes to success in the game will be pairing a top-end quarterback with his favorite receiver. For example, pairing Alouettes quarterback Darian Durant ($9,842) with Ernest Jackson ($6,278) will cost $16,120. While that does take a significant amount of cap space, the prospect of having Durant throw for 350 yards and three touchdowns, and having Jackson catching passes for 145 yards and two scores will enhance your scoring potential.
Darian Durant will look to establish chemistry with his new receivers this season (Dominick Gravel/MontrealAlouettes.com)
Using this strategy comes with some risk. To play the Eskimos duo of quarterback Mike Reilly ($13,982) and wideout Adarius Bowman ($8,264) is a combined $22,246, leaving you with very little wiggle room on the other five positions. It also requires being adept at knowing when to go for broke, which is another tenet to be discussed here later. A Durant-Jackson combo is a reasonable option, as is a play of Argos quarterback Ricky Ray ($9,474) and new Toronto pass catcher S.J. Green ($3,777). The latter play would cost just $13,251, leaving Fantasy owners $26,749 to fill the other five positions.
2) Play the matchups
Some players love playing certain teams. For example, Eskimos receiver Adarius Bowman had a fondness for facing the Lions’ secondary last season, as he lit up BC for 15 catches, 296 yards and four touchdowns in the two games the Eskimos faced them. That’s something to keep in mind, especially when Bowman faces the Lions for the first time this season on July 28.
The ability to play the matchups will help Fantasy owners dictate the pace of their salary caps. Another example would be remembering how BC running back Jeremiah Johnson had his best game of the 2016 season against Montreal, rushing for 159 yards and three touchdowns against the Alouettes in Week 12. That’s a $7,649 slot filled at running back when Johnson gets his next opportunity to run through the Als in July, a chance that comes pretty quickly.
Of course, there are the players like Mitchell, Reilly and Lions quarterback Jonathon Jennings who are must-starts on a weekly basis. The elite players are usually going to get their numbers regardless of which defence they line up against, but even they have matchups that will have their point totals climbing above their per game average.
3) Be willing to take risks
Part of the fun in playing Fantasy ball is having the right to let friends know how you wisely rolled the dice on a certain player and — despite the naysayers — still got a big week of production. Everyone knows the star players, but it’s the players that occasionally fly under the radar who will be difference-makers more often than not.
Entering the season, a player like Argonauts running back James Wilder presents a certain amount of risk as he attempts to pry away carries from Brandon Whitaker. At just $2,500, Wilder has a chance to work his way toward Fantasy prominence while also available at a bargain price. If word of Wilder being more involved in the Toronto offence hits the newswires, a risk tolerant owner can play him and hope he pays off with a big night while still having plenty of cap space for the rest of his squad.
James Wilder could be a sneaky play at some point during the 2017 season (Johany Jutras/Argonauts.ca)
There is moderation with this, though. Again, spending $26,000 on three players and spreading the rest on risky picks can backfire on you. Risk is also another definition of “sleeper.” So, going all-in on a potential breakout player like Eskimos slot Brandon Zylstra ($4,163) or Stampeders receiver Kamar Jorden ($3,881) is a more sound play, as the two are projected to have bigger impact. Another sleeper example would be Roughriders receiver Bakari Grant ($4,862), who will be looked at as a go-to option for quarterback Kevin Glenn while Saskatchewan breaks in a host of younger receivers this season.
4) Stay informed
Obviously, there will be major injuries, key switches of personnel, a player or two released and the possibility of a player recently released from a National Football League team signing and becoming a difference-maker as the season goes on. The only way to know is to be informed. The CFL.ca website is always the best stop to gain information on the comings and goings of players during the regular season, so it will help Fantasy owners if they can go there via their smartphone, tablet or computer.
Player cards and salaries will be adjusted each week for Fantasy owners to get the latest information, while knowing who will be inactive will also help the cause. Knowledge is power, and the more a Fantasy owner has while playing the game will give them the edge over the rest of the pack.
5) Have Fun
At its core, the game is about having fun and enjoying the season. For veteran CFL fans, it’s an opportunity to watch the game’s best players while having a taste of competition with family and friends either on television or in the stadium. The game is also a great first step for CFL newcomers to learn the nuances of the game along with appreciating the fun and excitement the fast-paced action offers all the way to the Grey Cup on Nov. 26.