June 10, 2019

Off-Season Fantasy Roundup: Who’s best in the West?

The Canadian Press

The 2019 off-season saw unprecedented levels of player movement as many teams will replace nearly half their starting lineups by the beginning of the season.

While every season brings some level of unknowns with it, it’s essential for Fantasy players to get up to speed on the new faces in new places in the West before setting their lineups for Week 1.

BC LIONS

Mike Reilly’s move from Edmonton to BC shook the CFL landscape this off-season (BCLions.com)

Key Losses: Emmanuel Arceneaux, Ricky Collins, Jonathon Jennings, Jeremiah Johnson, Travis Lulay, Chris Rainey, Tyrell Sutton, DeVier Posey, Shawn Lemon, Anthony Orange, Solomon Elimimian, Bo Lokombo

Name Attempts Completions Pass Yards TD INT Carries Yards TD
Jonathon Jennings 218 145 1488 8 7 36 266 0
Travis Lulay 295 177 2383 13 9 9 67 0

 

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Carries Rush Yards TD
Emmanuel Arceneaux 54 32 553 0 0 1
DeVier Posey 43 25 333 0 0 3
Ricky Collins Jr. 91 56 583 1 10 2
Jeremiah Johnson 42 40 308 120 633 5
Chris Rainey 31 24 207 50 217 0
Tyrell Sutton 6 3 20 50 253 2

 

Name Tackles Sacks Pass Defensed INT Forced Fumble
Shawn Lemon 16 10 3 0 0
Anthony Orange 47 0 8 5 0
Solomon Elimimian 26 0 0 0 0
Bo Lokombo 69 4 0 2 1

 

In an off-season that brought unprecedented levels of change in both front office staffs and players, the BC Lions were the busiest of the bunch. A year ago, it would have been near unthinkable to consider the Lions losing Jennings, Lulay, Arceneaux, Johnson, Rainey, Sutton, and Posey on offence and still have them generally considered net winners in the off-season. The new GM, Ed Hervey, and Head Coach, DeVone Claybrooks, clearly had a different vision for the club and chose to rebuild with a method more like a sledgehammer than a chisel. The group of offensive players that departed largely defined the Lions offence over the past half a decade, but their increasing ages make it unlikely any of Jennings, Arceneaux, Johnson or Rainey are likely to re-emerge as Fantasy superstars in their new homes.

On the defensive side of the ball, the loss of the Anthony Orange is the only significant hole they Lions will need to fill. They largely experienced life after Elimimian due to his season ending injury, and the although the departure of Lemon sees him take his 10 sacks with him, the defence will likely be glad to move on with someone more reliable in run defence.

Key Additions: Lemar Durant, Mike Reilly, Sukh Chung, John White, Duron Carter, Aaron Grymes

Name Attempts Completions Pass Yards TD INT Carries Yards TD
Mike Reilly 586 389 5242 29 17 111 554 13

 

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Carries Rush Yards TD
Duron Carter 23 10 119 1 -6 1
Lemar Durant 44 29 368 1 7 2
John White 11 8 51 69 312 2

 

Name Tackles Sacks Pass Defensed INT Forced Fumble
Aaron Grymes 55 0 7 3 1

 

The mass exodus of players from BC means there will be a lot of new faces on the offence, as there are likely to be five new starters in the seven Fantasy relevant positions. The biggest move of the off-season was the return of Mike Reilly to Vancouver, but the arrival of Duron Carter may be nearly as important. The Lions passed for the third fewest yards per attempt last season (7.49), but Reilly has averaged 8.9 over the past three seasons in Edmonton. The additions of Carter, who averages 9.39 yards per target, and Durant (9.08) to a receiving corps that already features Bryan Burnham (11.05 yards per target) shows a clear intent to push the ball downfield more often. Projected starting RB Brandon Rutley has also shown good hands as a receiver with a career 85.2 per cent catch rate. The Lions ran a below average percentage of pass plays last season, but the off-season changes this winter show that is likely to change significantly in 2019.

On defence, the only acquisition was Aaron Grymes from Edmonton who is likely to fill the hole left behind by Anthony Orange. The Lions defence was largely irrelevant for Fantasy purposes in 2018 despite the special teams skills of Chris Rainey. His departure, along with the loss of Shawn Lemon, makes the Lions even less likely to be Fantasy viable on a weekly basis.

CALGARY STAMPEDERS

Despite losing much of their Grey Cup core, the Stamps still have quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell (The Canadian Press)

Key Losses: DaVaris Daniels, Lemar Durant, Chris Matthews, Marken Michel, Alex Singleton, James Vaughters, Jameer Thurman, Tunde Adeleke, Ciante Evans, Ja’Gared Davis, Micah Johnson

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Carries Rush Yards TD
DaVaris Daniels 82 50 747 2 -9 7
Lemar Durant 44 29 368 1 7 2
Chris Matthews 16 9 185 0 0 1
Marken Michel 57 31 435 2 36 6

 

Name Tackles Sacks Pass Defensed INT Forced Fumble
Ciante Evans 27 0 1 1 1
Ja’Gared Davis 57 6 3 2 2
Micah Johnson 26 13 0 0 0
Alex Singleton 123 0 1 0 2
James Vaughters 24 5 0 0 0
Jameer Thurman 76 1 2 1 1
Tunde Adeleke 28 1 3 0 1

 

The Calgary Stampeders lost enough quality players in the off-season to fully outfit a playoff contending team on their own. An injury marred 2018 campaign stretched their WR depth to its limits, but any of Daniels, Durant, Matthews, or Michel would be unquestioned starters on any team in the league. Daniels shipped north to Edmonton, Durant moved west to BC, Matthews went east to Winnipeg, and Michel is hoping to find a home down south in the NFL. The sustained excellence of the Stampeders now ships globally. Despite the lack of notable additions to replace those losses, their group featuring Begelton, Rogers, and Jorden should be more the adequate to continue to keep the chains moving in Calgary.

The losses on defence though may be more dire. The Stamps will be looking to replace 26 sacks and 11 forced turnovers – that’s more sacks than the Toronto defence had all last season. Losing Singleton’s league leading 123 tackles will also leave a big hole to fill.

Key Additions: Gerald Holmes, LaDarius Galloway, Ka’deem Carey

Maybe the most interesting thing to watch this season is how Calgary will replace the production they lost in the off-season on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball as they didn’t sign a single notable free agent from another CFL club. While teams like Edmonton and BC spent money like the Loonie is going out of style, the Stamps elected to spend most of their dollars on retaining some of their own talent and then trusting the scouts to re-stock the shelves.

The changes will be most evident on defence, but it’s interesting to note Calgary signed a number of international RBs in the off-season as well. Most folks figured the starting RB job was clearly Terry Williams’ last May, before Don Jackson emerged in training camp. Neither Williams nor Jackson showed sustained success in 2018 though so it’s possible that track stars like Galloway or Carey could earn a job as returner and receiver out of the backfield while the size and power of Holmes make him a Messam-like Fantasy prospect.

EDMONTON ESKIMOS

Trevor Harris leads a new-look Eskimos offence as the team tries to rebound in 2019 (Esks.com)

Key Losses: Bryant Mitchell, Mike Reilly, Derel Walker, Duke Williams, Bryant Mitchell, Aaron Grymes

Name Attempts Completions Pass Yards TD INT Carries Yards TD
Mike Reilly 586 389 5242 29 17 111 554 13

 

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Carries Rush Yards TD
Derel Walker 72 51 875 1 -4 8
Duke Williams 143 85 1534 0 0 10
Bryant Mitchell 70 52 763 0 0 3

 

Name Tackles Sacks Pass Defensed INT Forced Fumble
Aaron Grymes 55 0 7 3 1

 

It’s quite unbelievable to think that the Eskimos could lose Reilly, Walker, Williams, and Mitchell on offence all in the same off-season and yet Eskimos fans could feel optimistic about their 2019 prospects. Despite all the turnover, Fantasy players should feel pretty optimistic about the Edmonton offence too. Reilly has been the Fantasy MVP for much of the past three seasons, and his departure can’t be glossed over – it is a significant loss for the Eskimos. The departure of arguably the most valuable offensive player in the league will hurt the Eskimos offence.

One of the biggest unknowns it creates for Edmonton is how they will handle goal line carries this season, as Mike Reilly handled that duty exclusively in the past. His 13 rushing TDs from 2018 could be a boon to C.J. Gable’s Fantasy prospects, coming off a down season in 2018. Losing a perennial all-star like Walker to the Argos and both Williams and Mitchell to the NFL also stings. Duke Williams was second to Brandon Banks as the top Fantasy WR threat in the CFL in 2018. On defence, Grymes was the most consistent player in the Edmonton secondary the past few seasons and will be missed.

Key Additions: Ricky Collins, DaVaris Daniels, Greg Ellingson, Trevor Harris, SirVincent Rogers, Don Unamba, Anthony Orange, Jovan Santos-Knox, Larry Dean

Name Attempts Completions Pass Yards TD INT Carries Yards TD
Trevor Harris 615 431 5124 22 11 27 117 0

 

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Carries Rush Yards TD
Ricky Collins Jr. 91 56 583 1 10 2
DaVaris Daniels 82 50 747 2 -9 7
Greg Ellingson 144 91 1086 1 1 5

 

Name Tackles Sacks Pass Defensed INT Forced Fumble
Anthony Orange 47 0 8 5 0
Jovan Santos-Knox 80 6 3 0 2
Larry Dean 104 0 3 2 0
Don Unamba 59 4 8 1 3

 

As was the story with the Lions, the Eskimos did more than enough work to try to replace the pieces they lost. Trevor Harris is no Mike Reilly, but he also comes in with only 60 per cent of the cap hit, which allowed Edmonton to spend up at other positions for replacements like Collins, Daniels, Ellingson, and Rogers. The receivers will certainly get most of the headlines but getting Rogers to follow Harris to Edmonton may be the most important piece of this revamped offence — though Rogers will be sidelined for much of the 2019 season after suffering an injury in training camp.

Reilly was often seen running for his life and being tossed to the ground like a ragdoll in 2018 and Harris isn’t nearly as physically built to take that punishment. It will be interesting to see though if Harris is given goal line carry duty, much like Reilly had before him, as that would be a huge boost to his Fantasy value. Harris averages a half yard less yardage per pass attempt than Reilly for his career so the whole offence may feature some shorter looks than previously seen flying to the likes of Walker, Williams and Mitchell. It would be unlikely to expect the offensive fireworks in the City of Champions to continue as they have in the Reilly era, but this new group should more than hold its own.

For years now, the Eskimos have been home of one of the league’s most porous rush defences. The additions of LBs Santos-Knox and Dean should help to seal up the gaps. Anthony Orange’s proclivities for creating turnovers and turning them into touchdowns along with Unamba’s stellar pass coverage also means that the Eskimos could be a fantasy relevant option out of the gates in a Week 1 matchup versus a Montreal offence that still can’t find a starting QB.

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS

Emmanuel Arceneaux gives the Riders a much-needed veteran presence at receiver (Riderville.com)

Key Losses: Caleb Holley, Cam Marshall, Tobi Antigha, Sam Eguavoen, Willie Jefferson, Jordan Williams-Lambert

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Carries Rush Yards TD
Caleb Holley 28 14 213 0 0 0
Cam Marshall 5 3 32 34 220 0
Jordan Williams-Lambert 87 62 764 0 0 0

 

Name Tackles Sacks Pass Defensed INT Forced Fumble
Tobi Antigha 21 2 2 3 0
Sam Eguavoen 81 3 2 1 2
Willie Jefferson 34 10 3 2 2

 

Most of the Riders’ off-season departures came from the defensive side of the ball. That’s largely understandable though as no other franchises were interested in scooping up spare parts from the 2018 Saskatchewan offence which was third worst in the league in offensive points, while scoring the fewest passing TDs (11) and second fewest rushing TDs (14) – most of which were scored on goal line plunges (7) by their starting boundary corner, Nick Marshall. Caleb Holley has shown flashes as a downfield threat and Cam Marshall seemed to still have some tread left on his tires in some late season action, but neither player leaves a significant hole in the Riders offensive plans.

Their defensive losses though may prove to be slightly more damaging. Tobi Antigha emerged as more of a versatile athlete that could play multiple positions than simply a threat on the line of scrimmage, while Eguavoen and Jefferson were the heart of the Riders defence that largely carried the team to its 12-6 regular season record. Having to replace those 15 sacks and 10 forced turnovers with only three players is a difficult but necessary task if the Riders are to remain the most dangerous defensive Fantasy option in the league. The other big question mark hanging over the Green and White is the effect of losing Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Chris Jones to the Cleveland Browns.

Key Additions: Emmanuel Arceneaux, William Powell, Cody Fajardo, Kyle Davis, Micah Johnson, AC Leonard, Solomon Elimimian

Name Attempts Completions Pass Yards TD INT Carries Yards TD
Cody Fajardo (NCAA) 405 239 2498 18 11 177 1046 13

 

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Carries Rush Yards TD
Emmanuel Arceneaux 54 32 553 0 0 1
William Powell 51 39 319 252 1363 8

 

Name Tackles Sacks Pass Defensed INT Forced Fumble
Micah Johnson 26 13 0 0 0
AC Leonard 48 6 5 0 0
Solomon Elimimian 26 0 0 0 0

 

Signing a high-profile free agent QB was the Riders’ biggest goal of the past off-season but they came up empty despite making concerted efforts to sign each of Reilly, Mitchell, and Harris. In the end, they settled for bringing back the oft injured Zach Collaros as their starting QB. The question for Riders fans and Fantasy players alike is who will start in place of Collaros when he gets injured in 2019. David Watford is the returning backup, but the most interesting Fantasy prospect under centre for the Riders may be the newly signed Cody Fajardo. Fajardo has bounced around from Toronto to BC where he largely served as a short yardage specialist. However, with that role ably filled by the aforementioned Nick Marshall, it’s unlikely the Riders signed him just to dive over the goal line. Fajardo is a big, strong, athlete with the ability to make plays with his feet as well as being gifted with a reasonably strong arm. If he can learn to settle his feet in the pocket, he may be the QB of the future sooner than later in Regina. At a relatively low price tag for a QB, he may be a strong fantasy option as well if he gets playing time.

The Riders’ other noteworthy signings of the offensive side of the ball are aging veterans that the club hopes can provide some stability for their rookie laden offence from 2018. Arceneaux and Powell both come with injury issues in their past, but both hope to be significant short-term upgrades for a Riders offence that really couldn’t get much worse. Powell was the league’s leading rusher in 2018, and with the Riders’ tendency to lean on their defence and play possession control schemes on offence, Powell may get an incredibly large workload as a ball carrier and receiver in 2019. The wildcard for the Riders at WR is international rookie Kyle Davis, whose size and speed could make him a Fantasy asset if he earns significant playing time.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Riders will look to replace the departing trio of Antigha, Eguavoen, and Jefferson with the incoming one of Johnson, Leonard and Elimimian. Johnson and Leonard look to be just entering their prime so the big question will be how much of his previous defensive MVP form Elimimian can regain, coming back from injury at age 32. If he can be even 80 per cent of his previous self, the Riders defensive Fantasy unit should be just as strong as ever.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS

Sophomore quarterback Chris Streveler will try to take another step in 2019 (BlueBombers.com)

Key Losses: Sukh Chung, Kevin Fogg, Taylor Loffler, Jovan Santos-Knox, Chris Randle

Name Tackles Sacks Pass Defensed INT Forced Fumble
Kevin Fogg 43 0 6 4 3
Taylor Loffler 52 0 2 3 0
Jovan Santos-Knox 80 6 3 0 2
Chris Randle 48 0 9 2 0

 

With as talent laden as the Bombers defence has been for the past half a decade, it stood to reason they wouldn’t have the cap space to keep all those players around forever. This off-season saw the departure of a few big names from their vaunted defence including Fogg, Loffler, Randle and Santos-Knox. All of them are fast sideline to sideline defenders with big hit ability that will leave significant gaps in the second level of the Winnipeg defence. Fogg’s contributions in the return game will also be missed. This isn’t to say that their defensive Fantasy unit is a clear fade, but there are fewer reasons to pay up for them early on this season than there have been for a while.

Key Additions: Chris Matthews, Willie Jefferson

Name Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Carries Rush Yards TD
Chris Matthews 16 9 185 0 0 1

 

Name Tackles Sacks Pass Defensed INT Forced Fumble
Willie Jefferson 34 10 3 2 2

 

On offence, the Bombers have been looking for a complementary piece to start alongside Darvin Adams for years now. Much of Adams’ game is based on his downfield abilities, but despite that most of his running mates have been small and quick – Dressler, Demski, Lankford, Washington, etc. – rather than providing Nichols with a larger possession target. Chris Matthews‘ return to Winnipeg is a clear answer to that problem. Matthews still has enough speed to keep defences honest but his large frame (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) will give the offence an added dimension of size and strength to keep drives rolling.

The Bombers offence struggled at times last season when they became predictable – looking either for a deep shot or checking down to Andrew Harris in the flat. Matthews’ ability to make plays over the middle should open up space for the other pieces in the offence to work.

The importance of the losses of Fogg, Loffler, and Santos-Knox can’t be understated for this defence, but Willie Jefferson may be the best defensive player in the CFL. His ability to contribute in pass rush, run contain, and pass coverage is unmatched and will certainly add to the appeal of a Winnipeg defence already known for its big play abilities.