June 10, 2019

Deep receiver pool means difficult choices

The Canadian Press

This past off-season brought an unprecedented amount of player movement, including some elite names winding up in new places.

Every new Fantasy season brings along with it some level of uncertainty, but with all the changes in the past couple months, Fantasy players will really have to do their homework to get up to speed before Week 1.

BUILDING BLOCKS

Brandon Banks, Bryan Burnham

Quarterbacks get all the accolades, but Brandon Banks was the rightful 2018 CFL MOP. No player had a consistently higher floor and ceiling than Banks, regardless of position. Banks eclipsed 20 fantasy points in 10 of his 14 games, went over 30 points three times, and had 27 points or more in each of his last five games of the 2018 season. Statistically speaking, he surpassed 100 yards receiving in 10 of his 14 games and had three multi-TD games, with 11 total scores on the year.

On the downside, Banks’ success has made him the highest priced player in CFL Fantasy, making it difficult to roster him on a weekly basis. A broken clavicle suffered late in 2018 shouldn’t scare anyone away from him early, as it’s his legs that make him so valuable. The loss of June Jones’ offensive scheming may lead to some hiccups for the Ticats’ offence, but Banks should continue to thrive with Masoli under centre.


PLAY CFL TSN FANTASY
» Sign up and set your lineup for Week 1
» Play Total CFL Pick ‘Em
» Subscribe to the CFL Fantasy Podcast


Bryan Burnham was more of a Fantasy frustration in 2018 than a weekly building block, but he’s never had a QB like Mike Reilly before. The Lions passing attack struggled badly over the past couple season due to inconsistent play from Jonathon Jennings and Travis Lulay. Despite that, Burnham has an excellent career catch rate (70%) and averages over 10.9 yards per target, while the Lions passing game as a whole averaged only 7.4 yards per pass attempt in 2018. Mike Reilly and the Eskimos offence, on the other hand, averaged 8.9 yards per pass attempt in 2018, and his top receivers averaged well over 10 yards per target (Williams 10.7, Mitchell 10.9, Walker 12.1).

Burnham should get a healthier market share of targets than his 6.1 targets per game last season as Reilly’s top targeted receivers averaged close to nine per game and often hit double digits. Burnham checks in at nearly half the salary of Banks to start the season, and although there is some uncertainty, the reasons for optimism are through the roof.

SOLID PLAYS

Luke Tasker, Bralon Addison, Darvin Adams, Chris Matthews, Brad Sinopoli, DaVaris Daniels, Greg Ellingson, Eric Rogers, Reggie Begelton, Duron Carter, Derel Walker

Tasker and Addison aren’t in quite the same tier as Banks in terms of upside and consistency, but are still among the most dangerous Fantasy receivers in the CFL. Tasker has 30-point upside but also had periods where he nearly disappeared from the offence, scoring 13 or fewer Fantasy points in 10 of his 17 games last season. That’s a significant amount of risk for a near $9K receiver. Addison on the other hand, in a small sample size, eclipsed at least 17 Fantasy points in each of his three starts to end the season, going over 100 yards receiving each time. The departure of Chris Williams and Jalen Saunders makes both Tasker and Addison key fixtures of the Ticats’ high paced offence, which ran the third most offensive plays in the CFL in 2018 (1027).

In Winnipeg, Darvin Adams has been the top targeted receiver in the offence the past two seasons and will likely continue to be Matt Nichols‘ primary read. Adams was the eighth most targeted WR in the CFL last season (110), while averaging 9.4 yards per target and scoring 10 TDs. His new teammate Chris Matthews (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) should bring a much-needed element of physicality to a Bombers receiving corps otherwise stocked with small, quick, receivers. In just four games with Calgary in 2018, Matthews amassed 252 receiving yards on 19 targets, including one for a touchdown. Adams’ and Matthews’ complimentary skill sets should open up more space for each of them to work this season and makes them both worthy of weekly consideration.

Brad Sinopoli is the lone remaining member of the Ottawa receiving trio that led them to a Grey Cup appearance last season, as Greg Ellingson has moved on to Edmonton and Diontae Spencer has landed in Pittsburgh in the NFL. Sinopoli’s greatest assets are his reliable hands, leading to a 76.4 per cent career catch rate. He should continue to be the most targeted receiver in the nation’s capital, but the uncertainty at QB for the REDBLACKS this season makes him a risky spend near $7k to begin the season. His market share of targets may actually increase this year, but his total targets are likely to regress as the whole offence is expected to struggle more than in previous seasons.

A quarterback change in Ottawa could impact Brad Sinopoli’s 2019 season (OttawaREDBLACKS.com)

Sinopoli’s former teammate, Greg Ellingson, moved west to Edmonton in the off-season where he will be joined by the also newly acquired DaVaris Daniels. Ellingson had an up and down 2018 Fantasy season with seven games of 18 Fantasy points or more, but also 10 games with 10 points or fewer. That’s the kind of inconsistency that drives Fantasy players crazy. Thankfully, his quarterback, Trevor Harris, also moved with him, so he has the benefit of chemistry with his QB despite playing for a new team. The Eskimos’ offence averaged nearly nine yards per pass attempt in 2018 – a full yard more than Ottawa – so there’s hope that a more downfield focused offensive scheme could help Ellingson’s prospects even further. Both Ellingson (9.9 yards per target) and Daniels (10.2 yards per target) are well suited for aerial attack offences, and should, together, eat up the lions share of the targets in Edmonton, making them solid weekly options.

The Calgary Stampeders shipped out a lot of high-profile talent in the off-season, losing more than half their starters on defence along with receivers Chris Matthews, Marken Michel, DaVaris Daniels, and Lemar Durant. This leaves a lot of targets to get picked up by returning International starters Eric Rogers and Reggie Begelton. Rogers began the 2018 season with a bang, scoring five TDs in his first five games, but was then slowed by a nagging knee injury. This opened the door for former reserves like Begelton to excel, as he had games of 22.3 and 26 Fantasy points before also being hit with an injury. Both receivers are expected to be healthy to begin 2019 and should be the top two targeted receivers in the Stampeders offence. Calgary receivers scored the highest rate of TDs per target in the CFL last season, all while posting the most receptions of 30 yards or more (43). Their reliable workloads and efficiency make both Rogers and Begelton important targets to consider each week.

Derel Walker made the move east to Toronto in free agency and he rejoins his old teammate, QB James Franklin, in the hopes of revitalizing an Argos offence that lacked downfield receiving threats in 2018. They passed for a league low 7.1 yards per attempt last season, while passing for the second lowest rate of passing TDs per attempt. However, in three starts for Franklin with Walker in Edmonton in 2015, Walker had 26 receptions for 393 yards and a touchdown. It’s a small sample size, but that’s the kind of hope Argos fans are looking for after a difficult first season for Franklin in the double blue. Among receivers with at least 40 targets in 2018, Walker was second in yards after catch per reception (6.5), fourth in yards per target (12.2), and sixth in yards per reception (17.2), showing he’s one of the most dangerous big play threats in the game.

The last member of this tier is tentatively so, as Duron Carter hasn’t seen significant playing time at WR since 2017 and has yards per catch has gone down each season since 2016. That said, Carter is still only 28 years old and will now be playing with the best QB and supporting cast on offence that he has seen in his entire CFL career. IF Carter can stay focused on executing his role in the offence, he could easily turn in career highs in receptions, yardage, and scores. That is, in full disclosure, a big IF. Starting the season with a mere $3K salary though makes him an option that is pretty hard to ignore given his upside.

SPOT STARTS

Geno Lewis, DeVier Posey, BJ Cunningham, RJ Harris, Ricky Collins Jr., Kenny Stafford, Emmanuel Arceneaux, Naaman Roosevelt, Markeith Ambles, Kamar Jorden, SJ Green

The Spot Starts tier contains players that have enough questions marks around their health, their team’s offence, or their role in that offence which makes them very risky options going into Week 1. Each of these receivers certainly has upside, but the risks keep them outside of weekly lineup consideration unless they find themselves in a matchup too good to ignore.

The Alouettes boast one of the most dangerous trios of starting receivers in the CFL with DeVier Posey, B.J. Cunningham, and Geno Lewis. The problem for their Fantasy prospects is that the Als have failed to solidify the QB position since Anthony Calvillo retired following the 2013 season. Each of Johnny Manziel, Drew Willy, Antonio Pipkin, Jeff Mathews, Darian Durant, Matthew Shiltz, Kevin Glenn, Rakeem Cato, Vernon Adams, Jonathan Crompton, Tanner Marsh, Brandon Bridge, Troy Smith, and Alex Brink have tried to fill that role to no avail. This season, some combination of Pipkin, Mathews, Shiltz, and Adams will try to win the job outright again but the uncertainty there really hurts the Fantasy value of the whole offence. Posey and Cunningham are known commodities in Fantasy circles, but Lewis may be the one to watch as he was second in yards per reception and yards per target among all WRs with at least 40 targets in 2018.

Outside of Brad Sinopoli in Ottawa, RJ Harris is the only other receiver with some built in Fantasy credibility. Harris actually led all REDBLACKS receivers in yards per reception (13.9), and yards per target (10.4), which is saying something for a receiving corps that boasted Ellingson, Sinopoli, and Spencer. Going into 2019, Harris will be relied upon much more heavily, but the level of QB play he has enjoyed from Trevor Harris will also drop significantly with either Jonathon Jennings or Dominique Davis under centre. The REDBLACKS’ offence is a huge question mark heading into the season so it’s difficult to get too excited about any of their receivers.

The big names in the Eskimos’ receiving group are Greg Ellingson and DaVaris Daniels, but the third international starter there has always been a solid Fantasy asset as well. One of Ricky Collins Jr. or Kenny Stafford is likely to emerge as a significant role player in the Edmonton offence, but it remains to be seen which it will be. Collins is coming off a resurgent campaign in BC while Stafford faded down the stretch in 2018. Fantasy players will have to watch the positional battles in training camp closely to determine which is the best option going into Week 1.

The Roughriders had one of the least effective passing offences in the CFL in 2018, averaging the second fewest yards per pass attempt (7.3), and having the lowest rate of passing TDs per attempt. Saskatchewan brought back last year’s starting QB, Zach Collaros, so there shouldn’t be a significant rise in expectations. This makes the Fantasy prospects of Emmanuel Arceneaux, Naaman Roosevelt and the rest of the Saskatchewan receivers are pretty similar to their counterparts in Montreal. There are some real talents in the Queen City, but unless there is an improvement at QB and a shift in offensive scheme towards the pass, it will be difficult to trust the Riders receivers in anything but prime matchups versus porous pass defences.

Coming off knee surgery, Emmanuel Arceneaux gives the Riders a different look (Riderville.com)

Kamar Jorden is coming off injury a serious injury; a dislocation of his knee, including tears to his ACL, PCL, and MCL. There isn’t a set timetable for Jorden’s return, but initial estimates hoped he could return within one year, around Labour Day. In two of his four games before season ending injury, Jorden posted games of 29.5 and 40.9 Fantasy points. When he returns to the lineup, he should be the top target for Bo Levi Mitchell and the multiple player losses on defence this off-season may leave the Stamps in even more passing situations than ever. Jorden won’t be available to start the season, but when he returns, he’s a name to remember. Until that happens, Markeith Ambles may keep the starting role at SB that he earned late in 2018 and be a Fantasy relevant target until Jorden’s return.

S.J. Green has been a mainstay of the Toronto offence since he arrived in 2017, posting back to back season of over 150 targets and 80 receptions. However, the arrival of Derel Walker in Toronto in the same year Green turns 34 may spell the end of his run atop the Argos receiver depth chart. Walker will almost certainly become the top target for Franklin, and Armanti Edwards isn’t going anywhere either. Green may still be worth consideration in good matchups if the Argos passing offence can make strides forward this season, but his salary to start this season will almost certainly line up with previous production rather than what Fantasy players can reasonably expect from him this season.

BACKUP PLANS

Daniel Braverman, Kyle Davis, Torrance Gibson

Every season, there are at least a couple of receivers that arrive seemingly out of nowhere and become weekly Fantasy stars. There are no guarantees that any of these Backup Plans will get playing time, but if they do, they have the speed, hands, and size to make an immediate Fantasy impact.

Daniel Braverman played his college football at Western Michigan and wasn’t a household name, but his 1,357 receiving yards on 108 receptions for 13 TDs in his senior year certainly turned the heads of some scouts. He is an excellent route runner with 4.47 second speed in the 40 yard dash that sets up well as a slot receiver in the CFL. His potential ability as a kick returner is a Fantasy bonus. If Calgary experiences some of the injuries they did last year in their receiving corps, he could step in and produce immediately.

Kyle Davis was removed from the Auburn football team early in 2017 due to disciplinary reasons and initially landed at Florida Atlantic University but didn’t play a down as a redshirt player. Rather than opting to transfer to another large NCAA program for 2019, he decided to turn pro with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Davis was a four-star recruit out of high school, so he certainly has the physical skills and size to excel if given the opportunity for playing time.

Gibson is a physical phenom, who was a five-star recruit out of high school. He’s physically capable of playing just about any position on the field. He began his collegiate career at QB for Ohio State, but quickly transitioned to WR. He eventually wound up at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, due to behavior issues, where he played five games at QB before transitioning to WR there as well. With the ability to run a 4.4 – 40, the Eskimos are certainly willing to give him a chance to prove that he’s matured, but he has a number of talented veterans ahead of him on the depth chart including Greg Ellingson, DaVaris Daniels, Ricky Collins Jr., and Kenny Stafford. If he has an exceptional training camp, or gets increased opportunity due to injury though, Gibson has the physical tools to be an immediate fantasy consideration.