April 16, 2018

An early peek at the CFL Fantasy bargain bin

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

TORONTO — CFL TSN Fantasy is back and the Week 1 dollar figures are out, save for the Ottawa REDBLACKS who are off opening week.

The season may be two months away, but it’s an exciting time for Fantasy players to begin looking at roster configurations and possible bargain buys ahead of the new campaign.

QB Mike Reilly ($14,000), WR Brandon Banks ($8,075), RB James Wilder Jr. ($8,216) and the Calgary Stampeders’ defence ($5,254) are the most expensive players at their positions, but there are plenty of low-cost options that could provide value.

Let’s look at some of the top players that might help you stay under that $40,000 salary cap early on. Get them in your lineup while you can.

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QB – Bo Levi Mitchell ($8,104)

The price tag doesn’t scream bargain but at nearly $6,000 less than top-ranked quarterback Mike Reilly, Bo Levi Mitchell could be a steal early on for Fantasy players. Mitchell’s numbers were down in 2017 but an injured shoulder and too much turnover at receiver could have played a role.

If Mitchell’s arm is at full strength, he’ll make good use of a young, dynamic group of pass-catchers that includes Kamar Jorden, DaVaris Daniels, Marken Michel and Reggie Begelton. Look for elite production at a reasonable cost.

QB – Zach Collaros ($6,598)

There’s some risk inherent with a quarterback making his debut with a new team. It’s also worth noting that Zach Collaros failed to win a game in 2017 with the Ticats, starting 0-8 before losing his job to Jeremiah Masoli. But the price is right for anyone looking to make a gamble.

Collaros has the talent and is joining a well-tuned offence that features Duron Carter, Naaman Roosevelt and Bakari Grant. If you firmly believe Collaros can return to his pre-injury production of 2015, buy low while you can.

QB – Josh Freeman ($5,000) or Drew Willy ($4,441)

There’s no sugar-coating it, there is risk involved with whoever ends up being the quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes. The money saved will allow a stacked roster elsewhere, but does the cost come in lost production?

On the flip side, there’s some optimism in the province of Quebec. Whoever’s under centre will throw to a talented trio of receivers in Ernest Jackson, B.J. Cunningham and Chris Williams. The O-line is a veteran group that’s returning mostly intact from a year ago. There’s also Tyrell Sutton.

The ceiling isn’t as high, but the Als’ QB will be a low-cost option that allows for roster flexibility.

Former NFL pivot Josh Freeman is looking to win the Als’ starting quarterback job (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

RB – Andrew Harris ($6,334)

It’s not that Andrew Harris is cheap, but make no mistake, his price tag of just over $6,000 is a bargain — especially with the new format that awards one point per reception. Harris was priced at over $8,000 throughout most of last season, but his late-season usage made him a little more affordable going into the new  year.

If he comes anywhere close to his 100-catch total of 2017, Harris is a strong candidate to be this year’s Fantasy MVP.

RB – Brandon Rutley ($4,590)

The former Als running back is in competition for the Lions’ running back job after being traded to BC. Brandon Rutley is talented and a little bit younger than Jeremiah Johnson, so keep an eye on what happens in Lions camp.

If Rutley wins the job, he’ll be featured in a highly-explosive offence and should be among the most-used running backs in Week 1 in Fantasy.

RB – Jerome Messam ($4,368)

The Riders’ backfield lacks clarity, to say the least, but Jerome Messam should have a pretty big role with his new team. The power back with a Canadian passport could provide significant return on his $4,368 value.

Look for Messam to get plenty of goal line opportunities on an offence that should put up points in 2018.

RB – Terry Williams ($3,595)

The Stamps sophomore running back scored three touchdowns in his only start in 2017, and the starting job is now open following the departure of Jerome Messam. Dave Dickenson will like Terry Williams’ speed and what it brings to the offence, as Williams could work in tandem with the dynamic returner Roy Finch.

Keep an eye on that position battle in camp because if he’s starting, Williams will no doubt be productive in one of the league’s most consistent offences.

Sophomore Terry Williams could do damage as the Stamps’ lead back this year (The Canadian Press)

WR – Duron Carter ($4,247)

Usage as a defensive back late last season has resulted in a lower-than-expected price tag for one of the CFL’s top receivers in Duron Carter. But the 27-year-old is one of the few pass-catchers capable of flashing MOP-type numbers, as evidenced during an 11-catch, 231-yard game against the REDBLACKS last season.

Carter’s second season in Regina will come with added comfort and familiarity, and you won’t see his price tag below $5,000 for very long. Take advantage while you still can.

WR – Bryant Mitchell ($3,867)

Bryant Mitchell averaged 69 yards per game as an injury fill-in for the Eskimos, adding three touchdowns throughout his seven games played. He’ll have a chance to take on a full-time starting role this year, catching passes from the 2017 MOP in Mike Reilly.

Mitchell is one reason GM Brock Sunderland isn’t sweating following the departure of last year’s league-leading receiver Brandon Zylstra and the ever-reliable Adarius Bowman.

WR – B.J. Cunningham ($3,790)

There may not be a more underrated receiver in the CFL than B.J. Cunningham. The Als’ quarterback uncertainty may bring skepticism, but Cunningham has been the top option on Montreal’s offence and is coming off a career year with 1,128 receiving yards.

At a cost of under $4,000, this highly-talented pass-catcher should be on your radar going into Week 1.

WR – Bakari Grant ($3,632)

Who led the Riders in receptions in 2017? If you answered Duron Carter or Naaman Roosevelt, you’re actually wrong as it was 30-year-old Bakari Grant. Grant is a reliable receiver coming off a career-year with 84 catches for 1,033 yards, and in a point-per-reception format that’s excellent production.

Also keep in mind that Grant already has a rapport with new Riders pivot Zach Collaros after the two played together in Hamilton.

Bakari Grant led the Riders with 84 catches in his first year in Regina (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

WR – D’haquille Williams ($2,868)

The lengthy and acrobatic D’haquille Williams was a boom-or-bust pick in 2017, either flourishing or frustrating Fantasy players from week to week. But with Zylstra and Bowman out, an expanded role could mean even more production than the 715 yards Williams accumulated as a rookie.

Williams will get his share of deep balls in 2018 and should emerge as a favourite for Mike Reilly alongside Bryant Mitchell and No. 1 target Derel Walker.

WR – Anthony Coombs ($2,797)

The former third overall draft pick was flirting with the idea of a 1,000-yard season before an injury took him out of the lineup. Anthony Coombs was well-utilized in Marc Trestman’s offence, recording eight or more receptions in four of his 10 games. At one point he had 25 catches in three games.

Coombs becomes far more valuable in the PPR format as a pass-catcher who will see plenty of volume.

WR – Reginald Begelton ($2,500)

A bit of a deep sleeper, Reggie Begelton is one of four international receivers that should make a big impact for the Stamps in 2018 — without the steep cost. If he can find a way to stand out among fellow receivers Marken Michel, DaVaris Daniels and Kamar Jorden, he’ll be a sneaky pick early in the season.

Begelton was productive last year when active and his talent gives him a high ceiling.

WR – Nic Demski ($2,500)

It will be very interesting to see how the Bombers utilize their newest weapon in Winnipeg native Nic Demski. He’s the Swiss Army Knife of the offence and Paul LaPolice is a creative genius on offence, meaning Demski could get plenty of opportunities.

You could take a wait-and-see approach with Demski because one game won’t change his value that much.