TORONTO — Through the Argos’ struggles early in 2019, the most confusing part may have been the lack of involvement from receiver Derel Walker.
One of the league’s top free agent signings over the winter, Walker was targeted just 13 times in the first three games, while the Argo offence sputtered on the way to an 0-3 start.
That changed in Week 5, as Walker doubled his targets on the season, setting a career-high with 188 receiving yards and two touchdowns — though the Argos dropped a fourth straight contest to the Bombers to open the season.
Widely considered one of the CFL’s elite players, is Walker’s breakout a sign of things to come for Toronto? That was the question on this week’s CFL Fantasy Podcast presented by LeoVegas.
“We talked a lot about Toronto’s offensive struggles early on,” said Pat Steinberg. “They did not use their most talented playmakers in the first few weeks. Was it a game plan thing? Was it something else we’re missing?
“Maybe James Franklin just wasn’t as comfortable with Derel Walker as McLeod Bethel-Thompson was,” he added. “This one’s a head scratcher, it’s so confusing to me, that’s why I don’t know if I’m ready to declare Walker is back as being a top Fantasy target because I don’t know what the Argos as an offence are thinking right now.”
You can hear more from Steinberg along with co-hosts Jeff Krever and Hannah Nordman as Episode 34 gets you ready for Week 6 in TSN CFL Fantasy presented by LeoVegas:
For Krever, Walker’s breakout likely came as a result of a philosophical shift for the Argos’ offence, one that prioritized getting Walker the ball.
“There was an obvious shift in the game plan with Jacques Chapdelaine to get the ball in Walker’s hands,” said Krever. “There comes a point where, if you’re Jacques Chapdelaine and you have one of the highest-paid non quarterbacks in the CFL, you’re saying ‘hey, we’ve got to get this guy the ball’.”
Walker came to the Argos with more than 4,200 receiving yards in four seasons with the Eskimos, catching passes from former Most Outstanding Player Mike Reilly.
He was expected to be among the league’s leading receivers this season, but just hasn’t gotten the opportunity. Even after his 13 targets on Friday, Walker’s 6.5 targets per game fall well short of his career average (8.8).
“The guy you’re marketing your whole team around — Derel Walker had his own bobblehead in the Argos’ home opener — you’re telling me you’ve targeted him 13 times the first three games of the season and he’s barely done anything?
“I just think there was a sudden urgency where Jacques and McLeod and Derel, they put their heads together and said ‘how can we make this happen? Because we have arguably the best receiver in the CFL. If we’re going to lose football games, we’re going to lose while trying to get that guy the ball. We’re going to throw it to him, we’re going to give him a chance to make plays, and we’re going to go down swinging here’.”
After a slow start, Walker’s career game helped him catch up to his usual output. He is now on pace for 1,472 receiving yards and nine touchdowns this season.
Fantasy analysis right to your inbox. Get advice on who to start, who to sit and more!