June 12, 2018

Start vs. Sit: Buying low on Duke Williams

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

Life is wonderful now that the 2018 CFL regular season has arrived. With the TSN CFL Fantasy game up and ready to go, Fantasy players seek to find the inside track toward maximizing the $40,000 salary cap.

That’s where this column comes in, as this year’s version of Start ‘Em/Sit ‘Em will continue to offer the numbers and reasons why some players are gold-plated locks to produce Fantasy points while others…. well, let’s just say some players will be the opposite.

Thursday night can’t get here soon enough!

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Edmonton at Winnipeg
Thursday | 8:30 p.m. ET

Start: D’haquille Williams, WR, Edmonton, $2,868 Salary

Picking Mike Reilly ($14,000), C.J. Gable ($7,499) or Derel Walker ($5,755) is too easy. That said, Edmonton’s passing game has 145 receptions and 209 targets available following the departure of All-CFLer Brandon Zylstra (NFL) and former All-CFL standout Adarius Bowman (Blue Bombers). Despite missing five games, Williams finished third on the Eskimos with 83 targets and made the most of his 46 catches by recording four games of over 100 yards and eight receptions of over 30 yards.

Williams is a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who had five games of double-digit Fantasy production, including a season-best 17 fantasy points against Winnipeg in Week 9. With Edmonton looking to find a pass catcher to help complement Walker, Williams has a great opportunity to display why he is a good Week 1 bargain. Winnipeg allowed a league-high 321.6 yards per game in the air in 2017 and tied Hamilton with a CFL-high 33 passing majors allowed.

If Williams can improve on his 55.4 per cent catch rate, he could be the Zylstra of 2018. Moving into Zylstra’s old lineup spot at outside field SB and facing the Blue Bombers secondary is a good way to start.

Sit: Adarius Bowman, WR, Winnipeg, $4,810 Salary

With Matt Nichols ($8,344) on the sidelines, rookie Chris Streveler ($2,500) gets the keys to the car but won’t be able to hit the highway at full speed. Expect a lot of touches from All-CFL back Andrew Harris ($6,334) and a host of targets for Darvin Adams ($5,941) and Weston Dressler ($4,297). This won’t be a chance for Bowman to gain a measure of revenge against the team he played with the previous seven seasons.

Bowman had just 45 catches and a career-low 11.9 yards per catch last season, ushering in questions as to whether the three-time All-Star has hit his decline phase. It doesn’t help his – or Streveler’s – cause that Edmonton allowed just 264.1 passing yards per game last season, second only to Calgary. Bowman should have a strong rebound this year, yet Thursday won’t be the starting point.

The injury to Matt Nichols makes Adarius Bowman a risky play in Week 1 (The Canadian Press)

Toronto at Saskatchewan
Friday | 9 p.m. ET

Start: Brian Tyms, WR, Toronto, $2,500 Salary

Tyms is flying under the radar after a strong training camp put him in position to become the third international receiver in the lineup. While he didn’t play for the Argos after being signed to the practice squad last September, the former Ticat could benefit greatly as opposing defences commit their focus to James Wilder Jr. ($8,216) and S.J. Green ($6,310). Toronto averaged nearly 40 pass attempts per game last season and will continue to pass the ball at will. Someone will grab the bulk of the 79 targets DeVier Posey took to the NFL, with Tyms being the prime candidate to do so.

Sit: Jerome Messam, RB, Saskatchewan, $4,368 Salary

In all honesty, this is likely a two-game audition for Messam, who gets the role of lead back while Marcus Thigpen ($4,000) is suspended. Although he ran for 1,016 yards last season, Messam rushed for over 69 yards just once after Week 6 and did not score a touchdown after Week 12. The Roughriders will also give former NFL back Tre Mason ($2,500) his share of touches, making the decision to play the big sledgehammer a risky move.

Hamilton at Calgary
Saturday | 7 p.m. ET

Start: Bo Levi Mitchell, Calgary, $8,104 Salary

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Mitchell has what he calls “the best group of receivers I’ve ever had,” which means the Mitchell who strafed secondaries for 5,385 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2016 may be back. He’s also lighter and showed signs of becoming more active as a runner for the first time in years. While the Stampeders have faith in Terry Williams ($3,595) to spark the ground game, Mitchell will have his way with a Tiger-Cats secondary that allowed 321.2 passing yards per game and gave up 33 touchdown passes last season. Don’t bank on Calgary finishing sixth in passing this year.

The window to add Bo Levi Mitchell for under $10,000 may not be open long (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

Sit: Jeremiah Masoli, QB, Hamilton, $10,581 Salary

Masoli had a good game against the Stampeders in Week 17 last season, throwing for 326 yards and rushing for 29 yards and a score. However, he didn’t throw a touchdown pass, which shouldn’t be a shock considering Calgary gave up a league-low 17 scores through the air last year. The Stampeders remain the best defence in the league and although Masoli is in line for a big season, his lofty salary is best served on the bench for Fantasy players.

Montreal at BC
Saturday | 10 p.m. ET

Start: Shaquille Johnson, WR, BC, $2,500 Salary

Johnson’s big-play potential will be on stage with an improved and more focused Jonathon Jennings. The third-year pro hauled in a pass of 30-plus yards once out of every five receptions he had in 2017 and averaged an impressive 17.4 yards per catch. With the Lions hoping that Jennings can return to the explosive passer he flashed in 2016, it’s only natural that Johnson will benefit greatly.

Sit: Tyrell Sutton, RB, Montreal, $6,312 Salary

The Alouettes’ offence showed few signs of improvement during the pre-season, which means the Lions’ defence will focus heavily on Sutton, the best option in Montreal’s attack. Sutton had 16 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown in two games against BC last season and added eight catches for 40 yards. He will get his touches, but don’t expect a big night from Sutton.