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July 10, 2018

Fantasy Strategy: Expect plenty of scoring from the Esks

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

One of the quirks of having only nine teams in the league is the penchant for having home-and-home matchups on the schedule. This week, five of the six teams in action face the same team they did in their previous game. It may leave Fantasy players with a sense of déjà vu, but back-to-back matchups are notoriously difficult to sweep.

QUARTERBACK

Top Projected

Mike Reilly, EDM – $14,000

James Franklin, TOR – $6,835

Bo Levi Mitchell, CGY – $8,239

Things didn’t all go according to plan for Reilly and the Eskimos in Week 4. The yardage was there through the air (370 yards), but he lacked his normal floor of rushing yardage to pad his Fantasy stats. Reality is, if Derel Walker had managed to stay on his feet in the end zone on a play which resulted in an interception, that would have been another six points for Reilly, seven points for the Eskimos, and a totally different ball game. Yardage is one of the Fantasy stats that correlates most closely with scoring touchdowns, so expect the Eskimos offence to put a few more scores on the board this week while Reilly projects for 12.4 yards per pass attempt versus the vulnerable Argos secondary.

It’s always nice when the best value play of the week is one of the top projected players of the week as well. Franklin and the Argos’ offence came out of the gate on fire with two touchdowns in the first quarter last week but really struggled to sustain production throughout the rest of the game. Franklin’s two touchdowns – one rushing and one passing – led to a fine Fantasy day for his price tag, but the Argos will need more than 20 points to win in Edmonton on Friday night. The Eskimos have allowed the second most yards per pass attempt this season at 8.74 and the second-most passing TDs at seven, so this is as good an opportunity as Franklin will find for success.


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The rest of the QB group all project within a couple points of each other and all cost a lot more than Franklin, so it’s tough to justify the spend. The best contrarian pick of the bunch is likely Mitchell as Calgary has passed at the second-highest yards per attempt rate this season at 9.35. Eric Rogers, DaVaris Daniels, and Kamar Jorden all have big-play ability, so there is a chance for Mitchell to be a low owned alternative to the top two options.

RUNNING BACK

Top Projected

Andrew Harris, WPG – $7,855

James Wilder Jr., TOR – $8,002

Jeremiah Johnson, BC – $6,705

Punt Single

Don Jackson, CGY – $5,000

Harris didn’t get a ton of work down the stretch in a blowout last week vs. the Lions, but he did more than enough through the first three quarters to make Fantasy players happy. Despite all this, Harris comes at a discount to other popular backs like Wilder and Powell. In PPR scoring formats, pass catching backs are Fantasy gold and Harris’ 20 targets through four games is tops at the position. If the Week 5 matchup with the Lions is a little more competitive, Harris will have ample opportunities for receptions, yards, and touchdowns.

As noted here last week, the Eskimos defence has not shown any ability to stop the run since the beginning of the 2017 season and Wilder gets to be the beneficiary of that matchup for a second week in a row (Edmonton allows 6.1 yards per attempt this season). He hadn’t shown much through his first two games, but “Team Math” was rewarded for their faithfulness to him with a 120-rushing yard effort to go along with three receptions for 27 yards and a touchdown. Week 5 offers no good reason to believe Edmonton will have found a solution to stop him.

Johnson continues to put up solid Fantasy scores each week despite the struggles of the BC offence. Powell gets the headlines for his yardage but Johnson’s involvement as a receiver and his nose for the end zone have seen him post Fantasy scores of 15.8 and 17.3 in the past two weeks despite BC’s struggles. If the Lions are going to get on track this week it will be through feeding him the ball and keeping the high-scoring Bombers offence on the sidelines. His production as a discount contrarian option makes him appealing.

Jeremiah Johnson remains the most appealing option in a struggling BC offence (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

Although the Stampeders backfield is still a timeshare, Jackson is clearly the lead back in Calgary having amassed 36 carries so far compared to Terry Williams’ 23. Jackson has also been significantly more efficient than Williams, averaging 8.2 yards per carry to Williams’ 5.1. That efficiency is also a bit of a double-edged sword though as the best backs usually average closer to six yards per carry on a full season. The price makes him appealing, but there are risks here as his efficiency will eventually regress towards the mean while the Ottawa defence has been the second-stingiest against the run this season, allowing only 4.48 yards per carry. Jackson’s lack of involvement as a receiver is also a cause for hesitation.

WIDE RECEIVER

Top Projected

Eric Rogers, CGY – $7,332

Duke Williams, EDM – $6,186

Derel Walker, EDM – $7,209

Kamar Jorden, CGY – $6,026

Greg Ellingson, OTT – $7,800

Diontae Spencer, OTT – $7,531

Kenny Stafford, EDM – $4,634

Darvin Adams, WPG – $5,532

Punt Single

Noel Thomas II, OTT – $2,500

It was hard to know exactly how long it would take Rogers to round back into form after a couple years away from the game while recuperating from injury. The answer was about one week. Rogers has quickly shown the big-play ability and scoring prowess that made him a Fantasy stud in 2015. The REDBLACKS defence has shown significant improvements this season with Noel Thorpe at the helm, but Rogers torched them for 16.7 Fantasy points in the first half of their Week 3 matchup before rain put a damper on everything. He and teammate Jorden make interesting — albeit expensive — plays this week.

Williams had an extraordinary Week 4 versus Toronto rolling, but injury slowed him down the stretch. He’s had three straight games over 100 yards and Toronto is the best matchup an opposing receiver can hope for. He still comes at a significant discount to Walker, but Walker will likely be the lower owned option, allowing players to gain leverage on the field if they can afford it. If not for Walker’s unfortunate slip and fall in the end zone, he would have put up over 20 Fantasy points as well. There’s no reason to believe Edmonton will look worse than they did in Week 4 and plenty of reasons to expect improvement.

Ottawa’s speedy duo of Ellingson and Spencer was somewhat silent last week vs. Montreal, scoring a combined 15.3 Fantasy points while teammate Brad Sinopoli stole the show with 11 catches for 148 yards and a score. Outlier performances shouldn’t fool Fantasy players into chasing points though. Ellingson and Spencer both project near the top of the pack, but the matchup with Calgary should make players proceed with caution as the Stampeders are allowing a measly 6.46 yards per pass attempt this season – only 0.2 yards more per attempt than they are allowing per rush. Ottawa’s reliance on the pass to score doesn’t bode well for them this week.

So far hit-and-miss, Diontae Spencer is looking to put up a big number in Week 5 (Arthur Ward/CFL.ca)

The mid-tier values are one guy experiencing a renaissance in the City of Champions, while another has been a somewhat forgotten man ready to return to relevance. Stafford has flashed potential in previous stops, but nothing matching the consistent production he’s had with Reilly this season. He’s averaging over seven targets per game — well over his career average of just under four — while he’s also been more efficient with those targets, averaging a career-best 16.3 yards per catch. Another matchup with Toronto makes him a great value. On the other end of the spectrum, Adams was nearly a forgotten man with Chris Streveler under center, averaging only 3.6 targets per game while he averaged 8.2 targets per game in 2017 through 14 full games with Matt Nichols as his QB. It didn’t take them long to hook up for a touchdown last week, so Adams’ best days are right in front of him this season.

If Fantasy players need significant salary relief this week, the best bottom of the barrel bargain is Thomas II in Ottawa. He had a great Week 4 versus Montreal with 17.6 Fantasy points, including his first touchdown. He carries some risk however as the Stampeders have the top ranked pass defence in the league. His price point is appealing but the mid-tier values are certainly much more dependable options.

DEFENCE

Winnipeg Blue Bombers – $5,194

Calgary Stampeders – $4,934

None of the cheap defences look very enticing this week, while the top two priced options represent a volatile option in a good matchup and a consistent producer with a difficult matchup. The Blue Bombers have a well-earned reputation for giving up a lot of yardage but can be a Fantasy-relevant defence due to their ability to create turnovers, as evidenced in Adam Bighill’s interception returned for a touchdown last week in Winnipeg. Whether it’s Jonathon Jennings or Cody Fajardo under centre on Saturday, the opportunities should be there again. The Stampeders give up much fewer yards than the Bombers but draw a much more polished Ottawa offence in their matchup. Calgary may be a safer route than Winnipeg as they have not had worse than an eight-point fantasy outing this season, but they also have a lower ceiling.

STACKS

Reilly > Williams, Walker, Stafford

As the price tags on Williams and Stafford continue to rise, a double stack from the Eskimos offence becomes more difficult each week. Even a Reilly/Williams/Stafford double stack will run a hefty cap hit of over $24K which is tough to work with. Edmonton is likely single stack territory from here out.

Franklin > Wilder

While QB/RB stacks are rarely an optimal route, Wilder may be the top receiving option for Franklin right now. Franklin’s salary relief to go along with Wilder’s matchup versus the Eskimos rush defence makes this an interesting and less traditional stacking option.

Mitchell > Rogers, Jorden, Reggie Begelton

As I mentioned earlier, Reilly and Franklin are the top two options at the position and represent the best projection and best value respectively meaning that other quarterbacks will be largely forgotten options. Grouping Mitchell with one of his top options and a punt play like Begelton will be a low owned stack that could see players sneak up the leaderboard if the Edmonton/Toronto game fails to deliver.

Andrew Harris > Blue Bombers Defence

The Bombers blew out BC in Week 4 due to an unstoppable rushing attack led by Harris and Streveler. There’s plenty of reason to believe Week 5 will bring more of the same and make a Harris/Bombers stack a high correlation option as Winnipeg grinds down the clock in the second half of what’s expected to be another lopsided match.

WEEK 5 PROJECTIONS

QUARTERBACK

Name Postion Salary Team Opp Projection Pts/$ Pass Attempts Rush Carries
Mike REILLY QB $14,000.00 EDM TOR 29.16 2.08 35.87 5.95
James FRANKLIN QB $6,835.00 TOR EDM 19.79 2.90 33.91 2.10
Bo Levi MITCHELL QB $8,239.00 CGY OTT 19.00 2.31 32.22 0.51
Matt NICHOLS QB $7,563.00 WPG BC 17.40 2.30 33.50 1.44
Trevor HARRIS QB $9,464.00 OTT CGY 16.65 1.76 36.59 1.40
Jonathon JENNINGS QB $7,226.00 BC WPG 14.90 2.06 33.15 4.50
Chris STREVELER QB $8,141.00 WPG BC 5.37 0.66 1.50 4.50
Cody FAJARDO QB $5,309.00 BC WPG 0.71 0.13 1.40
Dominique DAVIS QB $5,000.00 OTT CGY 0.41 0.08 1.70
Mcleod BETHEL-THOMPSON QB $6,000.00 TOR EDM 0.40 0.07 0.80
Danny O’BRIEN QB $2,500.00 EDM TOR 0.30 0.12 0.50

RUNNING BACK

Name Postion Salary Team Opp Projection Pts/$ Rush Carries Receiving Targets Punt Returns Kick Returns
Andrew HARRIS RB $7,855.00 WPG BC 23.18 2.95 14.60 5.90
James WILDER JR. RB $8,002.00 TOR EDM 20.14 2.52 11.80 5.50
Jeremiah JOHNSON RB $6,705.00 BC WPG 16.79 2.50 11.50 3.00 0.00 1.00
William POWELL RB $8,741.00 OTT CGY 16.65 1.90 16.10 2.90
C.J. GABLE RB $6,483.00 EDM TOR 14.62 2.26 14.00 3.60
Don JACKSON RB $5,000.00 CGY OTT 12.66 2.53 14.30 1.20 0.00 0.00
Chris RAINEY RB $7,040.00 BC WPG 11.97 1.70 2.60 2.90 5.00 2.00
Martese JACKSON RB $3,355.00 TOR EDM 9.28 2.77 0.40 2.80 4.00 3.00
Terry WILLIAMS RB $4,842.00 CGY OTT 7.50 1.55 3.40 1.11 5.00 3.00
Declan CROSS RB $3,173.00 TOR EDM 6.82 2.15 0.20 2.60
Jordan ROBINSON RB $2,500.00 EDM TOR 5.25 2.10 0.00 0.00 5.00 3.00
Branden BURKS RB $2,500.00 TOR EDM 0.45 0.18 1.10 0.00

RECEIVER

Name Postion Salary Team Opp Projection Pts/$ Rush Carries Receiving Targets Punt Returns Kick Returns
Eric ROGERS WR $7,332.00 CGY OTT 17.46 2.38 0.00 6.80
D’haquille WILLIAMS WR $6,186.00 EDM TOR 17.41 2.81 0.00 8.30
Derel WALKER WR $7,209.00 EDM TOR 17.17 2.38 0.25 8.30
Kamar JORDEN WR $6,026.00 CGY OTT 16.03 2.66 0.06 7.49
Greg ELLINGSON WR $7,800.00 OTT CGY 15.47 1.98 0.00 9.10
Diontae SPENCER WR $7,531.00 OTT CGY 14.58 1.94 0.13 6.80 4.00 3.00
Kenny STAFFORD WR $4,634.00 EDM TOR 13.44 2.90 0.00 6.90
Darvin ADAMS WR $5,532.00 WPG BC 12.80 2.31 0.08 6.50
DaVaris DANIELS WR $4,703.00 CGY OTT 12.29 2.61 0.09 5.80
Brad SINOPOLI WR $5,145.00 OTT CGY 12.28 2.39 0.00 8.10
Weston DRESSLER WR $4,617.00 WPG BC 11.94 2.59 0.80 6.50
S.J. GREEN WR $5,750.00 TOR EDM 11.25 1.96 0.00 8.18
Marken MICHEL WR $4,458.00 CGY OTT 11.21 2.52 0.10 5.80
Bryan BURNHAM WR $5,461.00 BC WPG 10.89 1.99 0.08 7.10
Emmanuel ARCENEAUX WR $4,086.00 BC WPG 10.73 2.63 0.03 6.90
Cory WATSON WR $2,500.00 BC WPG 9.27 3.71 0.00 4.90
Armanti EDWARDS WR $3,863.00 TOR EDM 9.17 2.37 0.00 5.50
Noel THOMAS II WR $2,500.00 OTT CGY 8.97 3.59 0.00 5.10
Drew WOLITARSKY WR $2,500.00 WPG BC 8.06 3.22 0.00 4.30
Adarius BOWMAN WR $3,674.00 WPG BC 7.18 1.96 0.00 5.20
Nic DEMSKI WR $2,698.00 WPG BC 6.99 2.59 0.80 4.10
Ricky Collins Jr. WR $2,785.00 BC WPG 6.78 2.43 0.00 4.50
Natey ADJEI WR $2,500.00 EDM TOR 6.63 2.65 0.00 3.00
Llevi NOEL WR $2,500.00 TOR EDM 5.73 2.29 0.00 4.50
Juwan BRESCACIN WR $2,500.00 CGY OTT 5.18 2.07 0.00 2.70
Jimmy RALPH WR $2,500.00 TOR EDM 4.49 1.80 0.00 2.60
Nate BEHAR WR $2,500.00 EDM TOR 3.54 1.41 0.00 2.50
Rashaun SIMONISE WR $2,500.00 WPG BC 3.20 1.28 0.00 1.10
Malcolm WILLIAMS WR $2,500.00 TOR EDM 2.90 1.16 0.00 2.20
Richard SINDANI WR $2,500.00 CGY OTT 2.73 1.09 0.00 1.40
Daniel PETERMANN WR $2,500.00 WPG BC 2.01 0.80 0.00 1.10