- Beyond the Headlines
- Cfl & Covid-19
Every season, the first few weeks bring about some unexpected results. Most pundits picked the Elks and Stampeders to kick off 2021 with 2-0 starts, yet here we are with both those teams sitting at 0-2 for the first time since 1966.
That same Elks’ offence has only a single garbage time TD to show for their efforts while bolting Mike Jones to sixth in the league in air yards (145) and leaving Greg Ellingson to languish with just 80 yards on 10 targets in two games.
Meanwhile, in Calgary, Bo Levi Mitchell leads the league with five interceptions and is now out for the foreseeable future with a broken leg. It’s amazing to think that both teams’ season series could determine the first overall draft pick in 2022 rather than first place in the West in 2021.
Michael O’Connor, CGY – $5,000
Through two games, Cody Fajardo has yet to crack 230 passing yards in a game, but his league-leading five TDs along with 92 yards rushing more than make up for it. The Riders’ offence has compiled over 336 yards per game and is averaging a league-high 31.5 points per outing. A salary near $12,ooo is an awful lot to pay for any QB not named Flutie, but the matchup with Ottawa makes him hard to ignore.
It’s true that the REDBLACKS didn’t allow a single TD in their opening game, but it’s only later become known that the Elks may actually be allergic to the grass in the end zone. Ottawa allowed 423 yards of net offence in that game on 68 offensive plays while compiling just 94 total yards of their own on just 42 offensive plays.
It’s only one game, but the Riders have shown a strong ability to keep opposing offences off the field and control the clock while capitalizing on possessions of their own. The loss of Shaq Evans to the six-game injured list hurts, but all signs point to another 30-plus point game for the Riders as -11.5 point favourites on Saturday night.
Vernon Adams Jr. had a solid but unspectacular debut versus the Elks in Week 2, posting 211 yards passing with two TDs and an additional 29 yards rushing. Despite the struggles of the Elks’ offence, the defence has looked strong and was a good test for Adams and the high-powered Montreal offence. The other Alberta defence has been significantly less impressive, as the Stampeders have allowed a league-high 9.94 yards per pass attempt to opposing QBs along with the most plays of 30-plus yards (three) so far in 2021.
It’s a small sample size, to be sure, but it’s been a long time since the Calgary defence was something other than the toughest matchup in the league. If Adams gets an appropriate bump in passing yardage this week, he’s a contender for the best play at the position at a slight discount to the clear front runner, Fajardo.
I cannot remember a young season that presented this many question marks regarding starting quarterbacks as the first three weeks of the 2021 campaign has.
BC, Calgary, Hamilton and Toronto will all have played at least two different quarterbacks by the time Week 3 is finished. McLeod Bethel-Thompson had a difficult outing versus the Bombers in Week 2 and was replaced late in the game by Nick Arbuckle. Arbuckle may not have set the scoreboard ablaze, but the offence did seem to move more fluidly with him under centre.
Both QBs took some first-team reps this week in practice, but it would seem to make sense to give Arbuckle his first start this week, given he was anticipated to start the season in that role and McBeth struggled mightily in the same matchup a week ago.
While 2021 stats should start to inform decisions more and more in weeks to come, this was still an offence that led the league in pass attempts (661) and pass TDs (30) in 2019, and $8,000 is far too cheap for a player in that role despite the matchup with Winnipeg.
Michael O’Connor is indeed bigger and stronger than Bo Levi Mitchell, but to have him described as “a young Ricky Ray” with only 25 pass attempts in the league seems a little much. O’Connor takes over an offence that has scored only one offensive TD thus far, and that now faces an Alouettes’ defence that registered four sacks and two forced turnovers in their opener versus Edmonton.
The salary is the main attraction of O’Connor in his debut for the Stamps as a $5,000 tag comes in less than half the cost of most of the other options at the position. Given how difficult young players are to project, he’s clearly a gamble but his Week 3 projection makes him the top value at quarterback.
Brady Oliveira, WPG – $4,500
The Riders’ offence has averaged a league-high 31.5 points per game through two weeks and they lead the league in rush yards (242), rush attempts (44), and rush TDs (two). Unfortunately for those who have been using Powell in Fantasy contests, very little of that has been his doing, as he has averaged just 4.4 yards per carry and 13.1 Fantasy points per game.
On the upside, he has seen increased targets in the Jason Maas-led Riders’ offence, up to four per game from 2.8 a year ago. That includes multiple red-zone targets versus Hamilton in Week 2. The rushing ability of Fajardo tends to eat into his opportunities, unfortunately.
The matchup with Ottawa is enticing from both a rushing and receiving standpoint; however, given the Riders have the highest implied team total on the books this week (29) and Powell may be given the ball a lot in the second half of a potential blowout, much as he was rewarded in Week 2 versus the Ticats. All this said, his salary is mighty high for a player whose best game is 13.5 Fantasy points this season.
This season, William Stanback has only played one game, but he looked physically dominant in rushing for 112 yards on 18 carries versus the Elks. Unfortunately, he dropped both targets that came his way in the passing game as he seemed too focused on getting upfield rather than catching the ball. This was part of what led to Jeremiah Johnson getting more work in passing situations in 2019, so hopefully, Stanback can get that issue ironed out.
The matchup with Calgary isn’t overly appealing from a statistical standpoint as they’ve been a middle of the road rush defence in 2021 after being a dominant one in 2019. The interesting part of the matchup is facing a young QB with less than a full game experience who is leading an offence that has struggled to score points. If Montreal can get up big early, Stanback may have a heavy second half workload, much like Powell’s.
The big offseason acquisitions of Lucky Whitehead and Dominique Rhymes have already paid dividends for the Lions’ offence, but no signing received more attention than Shaq Cooper. Cooper looked electric in limited time as the Edmonton starting RB in 2019, and he was expected to provide a spark the Lions’ offence needed to slow opposing pass rushes. Given his return to full practice, he’s expected to get his first start for BC versus his old team this week. The Edmonton rush defence had been leaky for several seasons and they didn’t look much improved in allowing 6.2 yards per carry to Stanback in Week 2 in their first real test of the season.
If Cooper can get even his 5.5 yards per carry career average, it should be a great debut for him. Lions’ RBs have averaged 6.5 targets per game in 2021 as well, only making him more appealing. With a salary under $6,000 he’s one of the best values at the position.
After getting an unbelievable 12 targets as a receiver in Week 1, Wilder saw just one in Week 2, giving him a much less impressive week Fantasy wise. He still managed 85 rush yards on 15 carries, though, which is quite something given the Elks’ offensive woes. It seems his workload as a ball carrier is quite safe, but his projections will be shaky unless his target share levels out.
The Lions appear to offer a league average matchup for opposing RBs, allowing a little over 12 Fantasy points per game to the position so far. They have allowed 3.5 receptions per game to opposing RBs, so hopefully, Wilder works his way back into that part of the Elks’ game plan. If Edmonton can solve their red zone woes, Wilder’s upside is still immense.
After a sparkling debut, Oliveira offered somewhat of a sophomore slump versus Toronto in scoring just 5.2 Fantasy points on 15 total touches. Given their control of possession and the scoreboard, a lot more would usually be expected of the Bombers’ starting running back position.
A salary of just $4,500 still makes him an interesting option in a rematch with the Argos. Still, it’s worth noting the revamped Toronto defence has allowed a league-low 3.67 yards per carry to opposing offences this season. The Argos front seven are not the clear Fantasy matchup to target that they have been in past seasons. With Johnny Augustine healthy and Andrew Harris returning to practice for the first time in three weeks, there’s also the chance Oliveira could be replaced this week.
Kyran Moore, SSK – $8,382
Bryan Burnham, BC – $11,065
Derel Walker, EDM – $7,231
Darvin Adams, WPG – $6,722
Kenny Lawler, WPG – $6,228
Eugene Lewis, MTL – $7,421
Kamar Jorden, CGY – $10,246
Eric Rogers, TOR – $8,260
Lucky Whitehead, BC – $7,120
BJ Cunningham, MTL – $6,242
Losing Shaq Evans to the six-game injured list is a blow to the Riders’ passing attack, but the deep group of receivers they have didn’t miss a beat versus the Ticats in Week 2. Kyran Moore led Saskatchewan with 16.1 Fantasy points, but the workload is very spread out for the Green and White, with no receiver over five targets in the game and seven different receivers being involved having at least one catch.
Moore’s efficiency and likely increased workload following Evans’ departure makes him the top projected receiver on the slate in a matchup versus Ottawa. Still, his $8,000 salary is tough to justify.
With the workload so spread out, cheaper options like Williams-Lambert or Lenius likely make a lot more sense for Fantasy lineups, as they have very similar target shares to Moore at half or a quarter of the investment. Williams-Lambert in particular is interesting given his shift to Evans’ boundary WR spot in the Riders’ depth chart and his being second on the team – behind Evans – in air yards (82).
Lucky Whitehead’s emergence in the Lions’ offence has taken most of the headlines in the BC receiving corps, but Bryan Burnham has quietly gone about his business in producing a similar stat line but with an extra 3.3 extra yards in aDOT (average depth of target) over Whitehead. Burnham is unfortunately priced way out of consideration with a salary over $11K, making him one of the worst values at the position. Whitehead, however, is very much in consideration at just $7K in this week’s matchup versus the Elks.
This season, Edmonton is allowing just 6.8 yards per target on defence, but much of that is due to Ottawa’s anaemic offence putting up just 71 passing yards in Week 1. On the other hand, the Lions’ offence is averaging a whopping 9.85 yards per target through two games. Durant and Rhymes are less appealing at their salary levels.
What to do with the Edmonton receiving corps is a problem that seems to plague Fantasy players and the Elks’ coaching staff alike. Through two games, no one would have expected Mike Jones leading the team in air yards (145), Armanti Edwards getting three targets a game, and Greg Ellingson being third on the team in targets (10) and air yards (81) to be a winning formula; so far, it hasn’t been.
On the bright side, Edmonton is second in the league in receiving yards – they need to find a way to get their playmakers more involved. Derel Walker is a fine play versus a Lions’ defence that has allowed a league-high three receptions of 30-plus yards to this point. If he’s going to pay off his $7,000 salary, though, a trip to the end zone will likely have to be part of the formula.
Ellingson and Smith are likely priced out of consideration, but players that still believe in the Elks’ passing attack could certainly look at cheaper options like Ross or Jones as part of an Elks double stack with Harris and Walker. It may just be wise to skip this situation altogether until Edmonton proves they can get in the endzone.
Kenny Lawler had 10 targets for 99 receiving yards in Week 2 versus the Argos and has clearly been Zach Collaros’ top target in 2021, with Darvin Adams out with a shoulder injury. However, Adams returned as a full participant in practice in Week 3 and may be in line to return to the lineup this week. If that’s the case, he likely takes back his spot at boundary WR and bumps Lawler back to the slot he was in last season, where he averaged just 4.2 targets per game.
The Bombers are throwing the ball at a much higher rate in 2021 – 60 per cent passing plays versus 50 per cent in 2019 – so there may be more opportunities for both receivers to produce than there has been in the past. The Argos’ defence is much-improved upfront but still seems vulnerable to the pass, having allowed above average rates of completions (73.3 per cent), yards per completion (7.3) and big plays of 30-plus yards (three).
If Adams starts, then both he and Lawler are average options at their very similar salaries. If Adams is held out again, Lawler becomes a great option. Nic Demski missed practice earlier this week and if he’s out, cheaper options like Bailey or McKnight may be interesting.
The Montreal passing attack didn’t put up the yardage most Fantasy players were paying for in Week 2, but two scores through the air were hopeful signs of things to come. B.J. Cunningham had a great game in his return from injury, posting five receptions for 86 yards and a TD. It’s likely to be a week-to-week battle between him and Lewis for the lead in target share.
Cunningham’s salary makes him a more appealing option, while Lewis is still a fine play. The supporting cast like Bray and Wieneke may have lesser appeal, given their significantly smaller target share. The matchup with Calgary is appealing, though, given they’ve allowed a league-high 9.94 yards per target to opposing receivers along with the most plays of 30-plus yards (three) so far in 2021. The potential downside is if Montreal scores on the ground early and then chooses to grind out the clock with Stanback versus an inexperienced QB for Calgary.
What to do with Kamar Jorden is a real challenge. His physical skills are still clearly there, but the Stamps have only got him six targets a game to start the season and he now must deal with a young and inexperienced QB in O’Connor throwing him the ball.
With this being the case, a $10,o00 spend for Fantasy players isn’t justifiable. The offence was already struggling to score TDs and the injury to Mitchell won’t help that. Cheaper options like Huff or Ambles may be fine as stacking options if Fantasy players are rolling the dice with O’Connor, but otherwise, this whole Stampeders’ receiving corps is probably worth passing on for the time being.
The other Stampeders’ offence looks like it may finally get a chance at a reunion this week in Toronto’s rematch with Winnipeg. If Arbuckle starts, there are reasons for hope that all of Eric Rogers, DaVaris Daniels and Juwan Brescacin can produce against a Bombers’ defence that hasn’t given up much through the air this season.
Arbuckle’s mobility may provide the extra time needed to find open targets that McBeth’s pocket passer style doesn’t create. Rogers hasn’t been able to have a breakthrough Fantasy game yet, despite seeing eight targets a game, so his $8,000 tag is pricy.
Daniels is second in the league in air yards (201) but has just three receptions for 40 yards to show for it. Brescacin just hasn’t seen a consistent workload in Toronto yet, and Collins seemed to disappear once moved out to the field WR spot in Week 2. Braverman is probably the most reliable, though unheralded, option in the Argos’ receiving corps at this point. His salary of just $2,500 makes him a great value pairing with Arbuckle to build around with more expensive RBs.
Saskatchewan Roughriders – $5,450
Montreal Alouettes – $3,228
BC Lions – $3,200
The Riders are a very pricy defensive unit, but they lead the league in sacks (eight) and forced turnovers (eight) and now face a REDBLACKS’ offence that managed just 127 total yards of offence on 42 plays in Week 1.
It’s hard to deny the appeal of that matchup, even for those who often don’t roster a defence.
Cheaper options include the Alouettes defence’ that looked very solid in their opener versus Edmonton in creating four sacks and two turnovers. They now face the young Michael O’Connor led Stampeders’ offence that has only one offensive TD to show for their efforts in 2021 with Mitchell under centre. Montreal’s defence could have a field day on their way to an Alberta sweep.
Speaking of Alberta sweeps, the Lions will attempt to do just that when they meet the Elks on Thursday night. Edmonton’s struggles to score are well noted, and the Lions’ defence since halftime of Week 1, creating four sacks and six forced turnovers. At bare minimum salary, they are worth a look for Fantasy purposes as well.
The story with both of these stacks is a cheap WR option with a solid target share. The Riders’ stack is quite a bit more expensive, but they draw a significantly more enticing matchup.
William Stanback > Montreal Defence
Shaq Cooper > BC Defence
With the possibility that both Montreal and BC could find themselves playing from ahead versus offences that struggle to score TDs, rostering a stud RB along with their defence leans into positive correlations in expected game scripts.
WEEK 3 PROJECTIONS
|Name||Postion||Salary||Team||Opp||Projection||Points Per Dollar||Pass Attempts||Rush Carries||Recieving Targets||Punt Returns||Kick Returns|
|Ricky COLLINS JR||WR||$6,636.00||TOR||WPG||9.84||1.48||5.5|
|Kurleigh GITTENS JR.||WR||$2,500.00||TOR||WPG||2.46||0.99||1.5|