June 12, 2019

Fantasy Strategy: Plenty of early uncertainty in 2019

Adam Gagnon/CFL.ca

An unprecedented amount of player movement in the off-season leads to a first week of the 2019 Fantasy season with an unprecedented amount of uncertainty. Leaning into the math is still a big part of building winning lineups, but there is a lot more guess work this week than most.

With a number of starting roles yet unknown to the public, it will be essential for Fantasy players to keep an eye out for the team depth charts as they are released.

QUARTERBACK

Top Projected:

Mike Reilly, BC – $11,754

Jeremiah Masoli, HAM – $10,760

Trevor Harris, EDM – $8,689

Punt Single:

Dominique Davis, OTT – $5,221

Mike Reilly tops the projections to begin the season based on his statistical dominance in 2018, when he threw for 5,562 yards and 30 TDs while tacking on another 13 scores on the ground. His return to Edmonton though puts him in a new offensive system with a whole new corps of receivers and running backs to work with. Last season, Lions QBs threw for the third fewest yards per attempt (7.49) so it remains to be seen how much Reilly’s 8.9 yards per attempt from 2018 will be affected.

New weapons, Bryan Burnham, Duron Carter and Lemar Durant all have exceptional yards per target career averages (9-plus yards per target), so it’s hoped that Reilly’s big-play ways will continue under the dome. The other big unknown going into 2019 is whether Reilly will continue to get short yardage and goal line work in BC as he did in Edmonton. His 13 rushing TDs last season made up a big chunk of his value. The matchup with Winnipeg would have brought some hesitancy last season, but the loss of Loffler, Fogg, Santos-Knox and Randle makes their secondary significantly more vulnerable.

Masoli was the 2018 East nominee for Most Outstanding Player and he is expected to have most of his top weapons available to him to begin this season after suffering through a rash of injuries in the receiving corps late last year. The loss of June Jones from the coaching staff means that there will likely be some changes in the offensive scheme, but Tommy Condell’s proven track record of success in the CFL should allay most fears.

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Jeremiah Masoli is looking to build on his breakout season of 2018 (Hamilton Tiger-Cats)

Hamilton passed for the most yards per attempt last season as well as the third highest rate of touchdowns per attempt, so there’s reason for optimism for Masoli’s 2019 campaign. The biggest knock against him this week is a matchup with the Riders vaunted defence – well known for its ability to put pressure on QBs (45 sacks) and force turnovers (41). In two games versus the Green and White in 2018, Masoli had two of his four worst passing performances of the year, making his $10,000-plus price tag difficult to justify.

A good chunk of the REDBLACKS’ offence moved west to Edmonton in the off-season, including Mike Reilly’s replacement, Trevor Harris. Harris only averaged 8.3 yards per attempt versus Reilly’s 8.9, and his passing TDs per attempt came at only about 60 per cent Reilly’s rate, so there is reason to believe the Edmonton offence may slow a bit from its torrid pace of the past few seasons. That said, the coaching staff has said they intend to run the same scheme so there may be room for Harris’s rates to improve. Montreal allowed the third most passing yards per attempt last season (8.42) and the fourth most passing TDs per attempt, so this is an enticing matchup to target. If Harris can get the goal line carry work, as he has been seen doing in practice, his Fantasy value could skyrocket.

If players are looking to punt the QB position to pay up for stars like Andrew Harris, William Powell or Brandon Banks, Harris’s replacement in Ottawa is worth a look. The general consensus is that the REDBLACKS’ offence will take a major step back this season with the loss of Harris, Ellingson, Spencer, Powell, and Rogers, but Davis’s athletic ability could lead to Fantasy points on the ground for him even if the passing game regresses. The matchup versus Calgary would have made considering him a non-starter in 2018, but the loss of more than half their defensive starters in the off-season may leave them more vulnerable than they’ve been in years.

RUNNING BACK

Top Projected:

Andrew Harris, WPG – $8,075

CJ Gable, EDM – $7,006

William Powell, SSK – $8,916

Punt Single(s):

Sean Thomas-Erlington, HAM – $3,000

John White, BC – $4,686

Andrew Harris may be the most known commodity in CFL Fantasy and will top the projections most weeks based on Winnipeg’s focus on the run – the Bombers had the highest percentage of rushing play calls last season at 41 per cent – and his high involvement in the passing game (4.6 targets per game). This week, Harris also gets the benefit of playing in the dome in BC versus a Lions defence that allowed the third most yards per rush attempt last season (5.42) and that will be missing four significant defenders that were primarily salary cap casualties to make space for Mike Reilly’s contract. He is one of the safest plays with the fewest unknowns of any player to start the season.

C.J. Gable is coming off a season that was largely a disappointment in Fantasy terms, given how he finished 2017, but one in which he still rushed for over 1,000 yards with six TDs. His price tag is significantly lower than many of the other top projected RBs due to his lack of involvement in the passing game, but he may be able to garner a little more work in the red zone this season with the departure of Mike Reilly. Montreal allowed the second most total rushing yards last season (2,067) but a below average number of yards per carry (5.04), so Gable’s Fantasy success may rely more heavily on volume than efficiency. If Edmonton’s revamped offence can get up early and run the ball late, Gable could have a solid game with a shot at a touchdown.


CFL Fantasy Podcast, Ep. 29: The return of the king

In his first game back in BC, is Mike Reilly a must-start vs. Winnipeg? Pat Steinberg, Jeff Krever and Hannah Nordman preview Week 1 in the CFL Fantasy Podcast presented by LeoVegas.


William Powell was in line to win the rushing title in 2018 before sitting out the final two games of the season and Fantasy players were well acquainted with his ability to take over football games with his power and elusiveness. His off-season move to Saskatchewan would seem to be a significant hit to his Fantasy value, as Riders RBs scored only seven total TDs last season as part of an offence than ran the second fewest offensive plays in the league. New coach Craig Dickenson said he hopes to get Powell 20-plus carries a game, but the Riders offence as a whole would have to make major strides to make that volume a reality, especially versus a Hamilton defence that allowed the fewest plays per game to opposing offences in 2018. Powell’s price tag and offensive uncertainty make him a difficult spend in Week 1.

The two cheaper value RBs this week both come with a significant level of uncertainty themselves. The unexpected release of Alex Green left a wide open competition in the backfield for the Ticats and Thomas-Erlington seemed to get the majority of the work in the pre-season. He may still lose touches to Bennett or Irons however. At his price tag though it’s worth the risk.

John White is less likely to be a part of a time-share in BC as they tend to rely on one back to carry the load, but until the depth chart is released it’s unclear whether he or Brandon Rutley may get the starting nod versus Winnipeg. None of the Hamilton or BC backs have ideal matchups versus Saskatchewan and Winnipeg respectively, but their value pricing makes them hard to ignore.

WIDE RECEIVER

 Top Projected:

Brandon Banks, HAM – $12,721

Greg Ellingson, EDM – $6,718

Luke Tasker, HAM – $8,886

DaVaris Daniels, EDM – $7,164

Reggie Begelton, CGY – $4,582

Bryan Burnham, BC – $6,165

Brad Sinopoli, OTT – $6,921

Eric Rogers, CGY – $6,286

Punt Single(s):

Bralon Addison, HAM – $3,762

Ricky Collins Jr., EDM – $3,190

Duron Carter, BC – $3,028

Chris Matthews, WPG – $3,500

Lucky Whitehead, WPG – $2,500

KD Cannon, SSK – $2,500

Brandon Banks went over 100 receiving yards and 20-plus Fantasy points in 10 of his 14 games last season. No player produced more consistently and with a higher upside than him. He really was the 2018 Fantasy MOP. That’s where some of the optimism stops for this week however as two of his four games below 20 Fantasy points were versus Saskatchewan last season and a price tag near $13,000 largely takes him out of consideration for lineups this week. His teammate, Luke Tasker, is the second highest priced receiver expected to suit up this week and is similarly a difficult spend. If playing the contrarian angle and assuming the Riders’ loss of Willie Jefferson is a game changer for them, both Banks and Tasker should come in at very low ownership levels.

The Edmonton duo of Ellingson and Daniels – assuming Daniels is healthy enough to suit up Week 1 – comes in at second and fourth in the projections. As mentioned above, the Eskimos’ retooled offence shouldn’t take a major step back this season and the matchup versus Montreal is worth picking on. The Als’ rates – yards and TDs allowed per attempt – aren’t that bad but their offence’s inability to stay on the field left their defence having to defend a league high 62 plays per game last season – seven more per game than league average. That added volume really bumps up a number of Eskimos players in the projections. Ellingson’s long tenured rapport with Trevor Harris should make him the most targeted player in the passing game early in the season.

Despite all the turnover on the defensive side of the ball and the loss of DaVaris Daniels, Marken Michel, and Lemar Durant on the offence, most of the faces on the starting receiver depth chart in Calgary are familiar. Most folks will expect Eric Rogers to be the top target in Cowtown, but there is a good chance Bagel Town will be open for business full time this season. In two starts late last season, Begelton totaled 12 receptions for 303 yards and a touchdown and has the combination of size and speed to be a Fantasy star in a starting role this year. Rogers and Ambles will get their share of targets as well, but the price discount on Begelton makes him the best value of the bunch in a matchup versus a REDBLACKS secondary, that like the Alouettes, may be left on the field a lot due to inefficiency on offence.

Greg Ellingson should be one of Fantasy’s most trusted receivers early on (The Canadian Press)

Even with the high price tag on Mike Reilly, none of his expected top targets are priced near their expected production. Bryan Burnham has averaged only 5.89 targets per game in his career but that number is expected to grow exponentially this season as Reilly has much more of a tendency to focus on his top 1-2 targets in the offence, as all of Williams, Walker and Mitchell averaged over 10 targets per game for Edmonton last season. It’s reckless to give him that big of a bump, but even a moderate projection of 8.8 targets, up from 6.1 last season, makes him one of the top projected receivers in Fantasy. The loss of four talented defenders on the Bombers defence makes the matchup that much more appealing.

If players are leaning on the salary relief at QB with Dominique Davis, pairing him with Brad Sinopoli seems to be logical extension. Sinopoli averaged 9.1 targets per game last season and the losses of Ellingson and Spencer in the receiving corps should only heighten his involvement. As mentioned earlier, the Calgary defence could be more vulnerable than in past seasons due to the turnover in players and the loss of defensive coordinator DeVone Claybrooks, so Sinopoli could be a low owned way to get leverage on the field.

There are a ton of low-priced options at receiver this week with depressed salaries but expected increases in opportunities. Bralon Addison had an exceptional run down the stretch late in 2018 and comes in very inexpensively priced. The issue will be whether he can keep up the production with Brandon Banks back in the lineup. Josh Crockett is another big play threat in the Hamilton lineup that averaged over 15 yards per reception in college.

Other cheaply priced experienced faces in new places include Ricky Collins Jr., Duron Carter and Chris Matthews, all of which could certainly pay off price tags in the $6,000 range but are priced at half that salary. Matthews’ teammate, Lucky Whitehead, was one of the stars of the pre-season and is expected to start at slotback as well as take the punt and kick return duties on special teams. Finally, KD Cannon has as much big play potential of any receiver in the bargain bin, but the run heavy tendencies in Saskatchewan make him a total boom or bust option.

DEFENCE

 Top Projected:

Calgary Stampeders – $4,835

Saskatchewan Roughriders – $5,440

Edmonton Eskimos – $3,488

The Stampeders defence would have topped the list in most weeks last season due to its talent creating sacks, turnovers, and limiting scoring. The loss of half their starters leaves their talent pool a little more in doubt to start the season but a matchup versus the REDBLACKS, who lost more than half of their starting offence, more than levels the playing field. Ottawa gave up the fewest turnovers last season, but that may change with Davis under centre as he averaged nearly 1.5 INTs per game in college. The REDBLACKS also allowed the second most sacks to opposing defences last season so the Stampeders have a nice matchup to debut their new starters.

The Riders defence lost Willie Jefferson, Tobi Antigha and Sam Eguavoen on defence, but replaced them with Micah Johnson, AC Leonard, and Solomon Elimimian. Elimimian is on the injured list this week, but their secondary and line play should be as good or better than last season. Saskatchewan is a little too pricey this week versus a powerful Hamilton offence, but the Ticats’ propensity to give up turnovers (41 in 2018) and the Riders’ ability to turn those into defensive TDs (11 in 2018) keep them in consideration.

The Edmonton defence has been more of a matchup to exploit in previous seasons than a unit to roster but the additions of Orange, Santos-Knox, Dean and Unamba this off-season make them an intriguing play. They should certainly be able to increase their sacks and turnovers with those additions and the matchup with a previously listless Montreal offence makes them a great option for upside and salary relief.

STACKS

Mike Reilly > Bryan Burnham, Duron Carter

Mike Reilly is expensive but his top two targets are not. Both Burnham and Carter’s salaries combined don’t reach what Banks costs alone. The matchup versus a Winnipeg secondary in transition and in the only game not forecast for rain this week makes them an enticing double stack.

Trevor Harris > Greg Ellingson, DaVaris Daniels

It’s unlikely Fantasy players will be able to afford all three of this expected top Eskimos trio, so there is a choice to be made between Ellingson and Daniels. Ellingson has a higher projection and lower salary, making him an obvious choice, but the unknowns in Edmonton along with Daniels’ higher price tag make him an interesting contrarian option. If players are still looking for a double stack, Ricky Collins Jr. is a cheaper option.

Dominique Davis > Brad Sinopoli, RJ Harris

Very few people will be stacking the REDBLACKS’ offence versus Calgary, and justifiably so given the circumstances. That said, if the REDBLACKS surprise, a Davis/Sinopoli or Davis/Sinopoli/Harris stack could provide exceptional leverage on the field.

CJ Gable > Eskimos Defence

The Montreal defence isn’t terrible and should only improve this season. The problem for them is the offence still doesn’t have an answer at QB and will likely leave their defence on the field most of the game. Pairing an RB and his defence provides positive correlation in a blowout type game script. The game versus Montreal could be exactly that.

WEEK 1 PROJECTIONS

QUARTERBACKS

Name Postion Salary Team Opp Projection Points Per Dollar Pass Attempts Rush Carries
Mike REILLY QB $11,754.00 BC WPG 23.38 1.99 34.9 6.3
Jeremiah MASOLI QB $10,760.00 HAM SSK 22.16 2.06 32.5 3.71
Bo Levi MITCHELL QB $8,636.00 CGY OTT 22.12 2.56 34.6 0.89
Trevor HARRIS QB $8,689.00 EDM MTL 21.9 2.52 38.5 2.7
Dominique DAVIS QB $5,221.00 OTT CGY 17.08 3.27 37.1 5
Antonio PIPKIN QB $7,050.00 MTL EDM 15.46 2.19 25.6 5.8
Matt NICHOLS QB $6,811.00 WPG BC 15.04 2.21 29.4 1.07
Zach COLLAROS QB $5,323.00 SSK HAM 10.22 1.92 28.6 1.71
Chris STREVELER QB $8,692.00 WPG BC 9.79 1.13 1.2 6.4
Nick ARBUCKLE QB $5,000.00 CGY OTT 1.4 0.28 0 1.2
Cody FAJARDO QB $5,000.00 SSK HAM 0.95 0.19 0 1.1

RUNNING BACKS

Name Postion Salary Team Opp Projection Points Per Dollar Rush Carries Recieving Targets Punt Returns Kick Returns
Andrew HARRIS RB $8,075.00 WPG BC 19.9 2.46 16.2 4.33
CJ GABLE RB $7,006.00 EDM MTL 16.62 2.37 13.3 2.9
William POWELL RB $8,916.00 SSK HAM 14.25 1.6 15.7 3.19
Don JACKSON RB $7,179.00 CGY OTT 13.34 1.86 13.2 2.69
Sean THOMAS ERLINGTON RB $3,000.00 HAM SSK 12.41 4.14 11.9 2.1
John WHITE RB $4,686.00 BC WPG 11.62 2.48 13.8 2.9
William STANBACK RB $6,865.00 MTL EDM 11.39 1.66 9.7 3.1
Terry WILLIAMS RB $4,887.00 CGY OTT 11.18 2.29 4.18 0.36 4 3
Mossis MADU RB $5,984.00 OTT CGY 10.45 1.75 13.6 2.9
Jordan ROBINSON RB $2,500.00 EDM MTL 7.48 2.99 0 0.8 4 3
Stefan LOGAN RB $3,010.00 MTL EDM 6.7 2.22 0.7 0.8 4 3
Christion JONES RB $3,200.00 SSK HAM 5.99 1.87 0 0 4 3
Marcus THIGPEN RB $6,570.00 SSK HAM 4.71 0.72 3.1 0.8
Maleek IRONS RB $2,500.00 HAM SSK 1.05 0.42 1.5 0
Wayne MOORE RB $2,500.00 BC WPG 1.03 0.41 0 0.8
Brendan GILLANDERS RB $2,500.00 OTT CGY 0.65 0.26 1.2 0.4

RECEIVERS

Name Postion Salary Team Opp Projection Points Per Dollar Rush Carries Recieving Targets Punt Returns Kick Returns
Brandon BANKS WR $12,721.00 HAM SSK 22.4 1.76 0.14 8.9
Greg ELLINGSON WR $6,718.00 EDM MTL 17.48 2.6 0.06 8.9
Luke TASKER WR $8,886.00 HAM SSK 17.45 1.96 0 7.1
DaVaris DANIELS WR $7,164.00 EDM MTL 16.83 2.35 0.1 7.5
Reginald BEGELTON WR $4,582.00 CGY OTT 16.83 3.67 0 7.5
Bryan BURNHAM WR $6,165.00 BC WPG 16.68 2.71 0.06 8.8
Brad SINOPOLI WR $6,921.00 OTT CGY 14.82 2.14 0 9.3
Lucky WHITEHEAD WR $2,500.00 WPG BC 14.17 5.67 0.1 4.9 4 3
Eric ROGERS WR $6,286.00 CGY OTT 14.12 2.25 0 7
Darvin ADAMS WR $7,176.00 WPG BC 13.5 1.88 0 6.47
Bralon ADDISON WR $3,762.00 HAM SSK 12.94 3.44 0 6.2
RJ HARRIS WR $4,176.00 OTT CGY 12.93 3.1 0.07 7.5
Markeith AMBLES WR $4,396.00 CGY OTT 12.83 2.92 0 6.8
Ricky COLLINS WR $3,190.00 EDM MTL 12.64 3.96 0.06 7.1
Duron CARTER WR $3,028.00 BC WPG 12.14 4.01 0.09 7.5
Chris MATTHEWS WR $3,500.00 WPG BC 11.36 3.25 0 5.8
Eugene LEWIS WR $5,835.00 MTL EDM 10.92 1.87 0.28 4.9
Kenny STAFFORD WR $4,009.00 EDM MTL 9.99 2.49 0 5.8
DeVier POSEY WR $5,790.00 MTL EDM 9.62 1.66 0 6.3
Juwan BRESCACIN WR $3,301.00 CGY OTT 9.62 2.91 0 4.8
BJ CUNNINGHAM WR $4,927.00 MTL EDM 9.36 1.9 0.2 6.1
Drew WOLITARSKY WR $4,352.00 WPG BC 9.2 2.11 0 4.1
Natey ADJEI WR $2,500.00 EDM MTL 8.87 3.55 0 4.3
Naaman ROOSEVELT WR $5,689.00 SSK HAM 8.86 1.56 0.08 6.38
Dominique RHYMES WR $3,337.00 OTT CGY 8.69 2.6 0 5.9
Lemar DURANT WR $2,999.00 BC WPG 8.42 2.81 0.07 5.5
Mike JONES WR $5,360.00 HAM SSK 8.36 1.56 0.06 4.1
Josh CROCKETT WR $2,500.00 HAM SSK 8.35 3.34 0 4.1
Nic DEMSKI WR $4,811.00 WPG BC 8.08 1.68 0.1 4.94
Michael KLUKAS WR $2,500.00 CGY OTT 7.92 3.17 0 4.3
Shaquille JOHNSON WR $2,620.00 BC WPG 7.75 2.96 0 5.3
Kyran MOORE WR $4,350.00 SSK HAM 7.74 1.78 0.4 5
KD CANNON WR $2,500.00 SSK HAM 7.39 2.95 0 4.1
Shaq EVANS WR $4,148.00 SSK HAM 6.76 1.63 0.12 5.29
Caleb HOLLEY WR $2,500.00 OTT CGY 6.56 2.62 0 6.3
Seth COATE WR $2,500.00 OTT CGY 5.64 2.26 0 4.8
Ryan LANKFORD WR $3,839.00 OTT CGY 5.4 1.41 0.1 0 4 3
Jevon COTTOY WR $2,500.00 BC WPG 5.27 2.11 0 4.1
Cory WATSON WR $3,284.00 SSK HAM 5.03 1.53 0.06 3.24
Malcolm CARTER WR $2,500.00 MTL EDM 1.98 0.79 0 1.7
Richard SINDANI WR $2,500.00 CGY OTT 1.61 0.64 0 1.1