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September 2, 2021

Fantasy: Projections for Labour Day Weekend

Photo: The Canadian Press

Something feels off having Mark’s Labour Day Weekend come this early on in the CFL season, but the rivalries are all there to be enjoyed. So do your research throughout the week, get ready for a long weekend filled with Canadian football at its finest and enjoy all the goodness from CFL Fantasy.

PLAY CFL FANTASY
» Set your lineup for Mark’s Labour Day Weekend!
» Start vs. Sit: A full offering for the long weekend
» Weekly Predictor: Betting on Edmonton

Despite his team’s struggles, Vernon Adams Jr. is still finding the end zone and running the ball well. He remains an interesting Fantasy option this holiday weekend (Photo: Edmonton Elks)

QUARTERBACK
Vernon Adams Jr., MTL – $11,871
Cody Fajardo, SSK – $13,076
Dave Evans, HAM – $10,030

Punt Single:
Jake Maier, CGY – $7,000

The projection is there, and I’ll try to justify it in a minute, but it’s certainly difficult to consider paying up to nearly $12,000 for Adams while he’s completing just 52 per cent of his passes for just 6.8 yards per attempt. It’s more difficult yet once you factor in that poor efficiency is only compounded by Montreal running a league-low 57.2 per cent called passing plays. There’s plenty of reasons to look elsewhere at quarterback on Mark’s Labour Day Weekend.

However, there’s still a lot to like about Adams’ spot and potential versus Ottawa on Friday night. The REDBLACKS are allowing a league-high 61.3 offensive plays a game to their opponents along with the third-highest rate of yards per pass attempt (8.6). When you extrapolate his league-high rate of passing TDs per attempt and his seven carries a game as a rusher, there are reasons to believe Montreal’s talent-laden offence is going to figure things out. If Adams can eventually settle in and just take what defences are giving him, the improvement should come.

Following his annual corndog festivities following a win at the Regina Exhibition, Cody Fajardo and the Riders roll their undefeated record into the Labour Day Classic versus Winnipeg at Mosaic Stadium on Sunday. Fajardo’s fantasy rates as a passer have never been higher, and his role as the Riders’ de facto red zone running back give him as solid a floor and as high a ceiling as any player in CFL Fantasy.

The Riders’ offence has actually been pretty average in terms of yardage and scoring rates to this point, despite averaging a league-high 28.7 points per game thus far. Despite their fierce reputation, the opposing Bombers’ defence is allowing the second-most plays per game to opposing offences (59.3), the second-most yards per carry (5.59), and the most rushing TDs in the league this season (four). It may be a game in which Fajardo’s greatest assets are his legs and not his arm.

The Ticats had a fairly convincing win on the scoreboard versus the Als in Week 4, but the offence still feels broken. Dave Evans completed just 12 of 22 passes for 183 yards – good for 8.27 yards per attempt. Those rates aren’t terrible but running just 42 offensive plays versus a defence that generally allows in the mid-50s is troubling. Add to that a mere seven combined targets for the Tiger-Cats’ most dangerous receivers – Brandon Banks and Jaelon Acklin – and there’s still a lot of work to do to fix this Hamilton offence that was the most fearsome in the league in 2019.

Their date with the Argos on Monday doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence either, as the revamped defence is allowing just 6.93 yards per pass attempt to opposing QBs this season. If Hamilton can’t find a way to shore up their pass protection, which has allowed a league-high 13 sacks through three games, it could be another day of struggle in Steeltown.

Those looking through the bargain bin for a quarterback will probably find themselves staring straight at Jake Maier. Coming in near half the salary of Fajardo and still nearly 50 per cent cheaper than many starting QBs, Maier is an option for salary relief purposes. Despite the Stamps’ early-season struggles on offence, Maier has thrown for over 300 yards in both starts and averaged just over 12 Fantasy points in the process. The matchup with Edmonton will bring his stiffest test to date, as the Elks defence has allowed a league-low 45.3 plays per game to opposing offences along with just 6.31 yards per pass attempt. Anything can happen on a Labour Day Weekend, but the odds are stacked against Maier this week in a game with the lowest game total on the slate at just 42.5 points.


In his 2021 debut, Andrew Harris‘ 86 rushing yards and a touchdown gave him the top running back performance of Week 4 (Jason Halstead/CFL.ca)

RUNNING BACK
Andrew Harris, WPG – $10,401
James Wilder, EDM – $8,057
William Stanback, MTL – $7,680
William Powell, SSK – $8,286

Punt Single:
Justin Davis, OTT – $3,500
D.J. Foster, TOR – $3,500

In an unexpected turn of events, Andrew Harris started at running back for the Bombers despite not having practiced in full this season. His return wasn’t earth-shattering, but it was undoubtedly the best running back performance of Week 4, in compiling 86 total yards and a TD for a total of 16.6 Fantasy points. Outside of their opener, the Winnipeg offence really struggled to get any traction on the ground without Harris on the field, so it’s difficult to put too much stock in their team rates.

Their offence also returned to their more run-heavy 2019 ways, with Zach Collaros going from averaging 34 pass attempts a game through three weeks to having just 25 in Week 4. The going for Harris should be much more challenging versus the Riders than it was versus Calgary. The Green and White have allowed just 3.92 yards per carry so far in 2021. Harris’s involvement in the game is script-independent, but he’ll have to score at least one TD on Sunday in Regina to pay off his $10,000-plus salary.

James Wilder’s workload is similarly game script independent as he leads the league in carries (52), rushing yards (301), and targets for RBs (18). If Edmonton can figure out how to consistently get the ball over the goal line instead of through the uprights, Wilder could be unstoppable. The opposing Stampeders have allowed above average yards per rush and per target along with a league-high 7 TDs. The opportunity is there for the taking with Wilder on Monday.

William Stanback was expected to have a similar offensive role to Harris and Wilder coming into the season but to this point he has had just seven targets as a receiver and caught only one of them. A 14 per cent catch rate as a check-down option isn’t going to cut it and it may explain some of the reasons that Adams has eschewed check-downs this season in favour of forcing the ball downfield. Stanback has a 71 per cent catch rate for his career, but he’ll have to regain his quarterback’s confidence if he’s going to excel as a dual-threat player again.

On the surface, a matchup with the struggling REDBLACKS seems like a boon, but they’re allowing just 4.65 yards per carry thus far and have given up just three total touchdowns to this point. Stanback users will have to count on 100 rushing yards plus a touchdown or expect his receiving role to reignite if he’s going to pay off his near $8,000 tag.

As was mentioned earlier with Fajardo, the Bombers’ defence has allowed the second-most yards per carry (5.59) and the most rushing TDs in the league this season (four). This all works in Powell’s favour going into the Labour Day Classic in Regina. Unfortunately, his 3.8 yards per carry average so far in 2021 is the worst amongst starting running backs this year. He has struggled to get leverage between the tackles and seems to lack enough burst to get around the edges.

Losing red zone carries to Fajardo doesn’t help his Fantasy prospects either. His job is likely safe so long as the Riders keep winning as he’s an accomplished pass protector but at some point, younger legs like Jamal Morrow’s loom if he doesn’t regain some of his previous speed. Nearly $9,000 is a lot to spend for a player in his position.

The REDBLACKS’ offence continues to struggle, averaging just 48.3 plays and 12.7 points per game thus far. It’s unlikely any running back will ever excel in that scenario. Justin Davis is priced near the minimum at just $3,500 and should get double-digit carries and a handful of targets versus a Montreal defence that has allowed the third-highest rate of yards per carry in 2021 (5.41), the most yards per target (nine), and a league-high seven TDs to this point. It’s extremely unlikely that Ottawa tops even 20 points in the game given their implied team total of 18.5 on the books, but even 50 total yards accompanied by a few receptions would make him a fine value at this salary.


Eric Rogers and the Argos have plenty of talent to flex against the Ticats this weekend (Jason Halstead/CFL.ca)

RECEIVER
Brandon Banks, HAM – $13,466
Eugene Lewis, MTL – $7,401
Jake Wieneke, MTL – $7,018
Kenny Lawler, WPG – $7,877
Kyran Moore, SSK – $9,391
Jaelon Acklin, HAM – $5,615
B.J. Cunningham, MTL – $6,338
Kamar Jorden, CGY – $9,499
Josh Huff, CGY – $5,039
Eric Rogers, TOR – $8,836

Punt Single(s):
Steven Dunbar, HAM – $2,500
Paul McRoberts, SSK – $2,500
Ryan Davis, OTT – $2,500

Brandon Banks had just four targets in Hamilton’s Week 4 win over the Als. To this point, he has just 112 yards on 24 targets in 2021, which is a pretty inauspicious follow-up to his MOP season in 2021. The Ticats’ offensive line woes have almost completely eliminated his deep ball abilities from their offence and he has yet to turn any of his swing pass opportunities into a big play. He’s clearly not a bad player, and his rates can’t possibly be ratcheted down enough to reflect his current situation, but for the time being, Banks is unusable in CFL Fantasy contests at his five-digit salary.

Banks being 20th in the league in air yards per game and fifth on his own team in that category is quite astonishing. The Tiger-Cats’ matchup with the Argos doesn’t help anything either, as they have allowed a paltry 6.93 yards per target this season despite allowing a league-high five TDs through the air. Players like Acklin and Dunbar are much more reasonable options in the matchup, given their salaries. They’re fourth and fifth in the league, respectively, in terms of air yards per game (89/82).

The Als’ passing attack has not been nearly as successful as many prognosticators anticipated going into this 2021 campaign. Adams’ struggles have already been noted, leading to some volatile results for Montreal receivers. Lewis (25-81) and Cunningham (22-91) lead the team in targets and air yards per game but have only one receiving TD between them. Wieneke and Bray, on the other hand, have scored four TDs thus far have a much lower usage rate with just 20 targets on 67 air yards per game and 15 targets for 43 air yards per game, respectively.

All the metrics point to Lewis and Cunningham being the best plays, but all the points so far have gone to Wieneke and Bray. Wieneke’s target share has been up in 2021 over his 2019 rookie season, so he’s in play even at $7,000, but Bray is a lot tougher to justify as he’s essentially TD dependant. The REDBLACKS are allowing a well above average 8.6 yards per target to opposing receivers but have managed to keep the ball out of the end zone for the most part. On the other hand, Montreal has one of the lower yards per target rates in the league in 2021 but has the highest receiving TD rate so far. One of those rates is likely to break on Friday in Ottawa.

Many expected Kenny Lawler‘s role in the Winnipeg offence to shrink to previous rates when Darvin Adams returned to the lineup. Adams has garnered just five targets a game since his return, while Lawler continues to see upwards of eight a game in that span. Lawler also continues to lead the league in air yards per game with 98. His salary is getting up there near $8,000 though and he’s no longer the value he once was. The Bombers went a little more rush-heavy on Andrew Harris‘s return as well, which may limit his opportunities going forwards.

The Riders’ defence has been relatively average versus the pass so far in 2021, but their league-leading 14 sacks may force the ball out of Collaros’ hand quicker than Lawler’s deep ball capacities would like. Adams is similarly built for the deep ball, but his $6,000 salary makes him slightly more attractive.

The Riders receiving corps took a much more spread-out approach with Shaq Evans out of the lineup, as nine different players had at least one reception and six had three or more. Kyran Moore led the team with 11 targets in the game, but the secondary targets were much more evenly distributed. Unfortunately for CFL fantasy players, the vast majority of Moore’s targets were short swing passes that led to just 48 total yards on the day. Saskatchewan didn’t have to do much to beat Ottawa and they seemed quite content to do just that.

On Sunday, their matchup with the Blue Bombers will present a different challenge as they have allowed the second-lowest rates of yards (6.78) and receiving TDs per target this season. Moore may have another busy but inefficient day in Week 5, while the rest of the Riders’ receivers are relative bargains but come with a boom or bust risk attached to them, given the widely spread target shares.

No matter what an offensive scheme is, having a different quarterback under centre always affects target shares for receivers and after two games, that has led to slight bumps for Huff and Ambles. After seeing just over five targets per game in 2019, Huff is now averaging seven per game in 2021 and has one of the more reliable workloads at the receiver position from week-to-week. He’s certainly in play at just $5,000. Kamar Jorden led the team in targets with eight in Week 4 after a couple of quiet outings but has yet to have the kind of breakout game that Fantasy players would hope to see if spending up to $9,000. The Elks’ defence has been mighty stingy versus the pass so far this season, which limits the projections of all Calgary receivers.

The Argos’ passing attack seemed to finally start to click in 2021 with the debut of Nick Arbuckle for the Double Blue. Daniels finally had his breakout game in Week 3, but Collins and Rogers also saw seven or more targets. If the Argos passing attack becomes more condensed with Arbuckle under centre, they will become a much more stacking and fantasy-friendly option. Their matchup this week with the Ticats isn’t that exciting from an efficiency standpoint. Still, Hamilton has allowed a league-high five TD receptions thus far, making all of Daniels, Collins, and Rogers attractive upside plays.

What to do with the Elks’ passing attack is the continuing question of 2021. They have run the most plays per game of any offence this season (61) and have averaged the second-most yards per target (8.29) to go along with it. However, they have just two offensive TDs to show for their efforts, which keeps their rates down. The projections for Walker, Ellingson, and company are remarkably low. Still, their matchup with a Stampeders’ defence that has allowed a league-high 8.76 yards per target to opposing receivers is hard to ignore. Calgary has also allowed a league-leading six plays of 30-plus yards this season, giving the Elks’ receivers interesting upside plays similar to the Argos.


DEFENCE

Montreal Alouettes – $3,340

There aren’t a lot of options to love on defence, but there is one standout matchup worth exploiting. The Als’ defence has been a fine Fantasy pick thus far with 11 sacks, five forced turnovers, and a return TD to show for their efforts. A matchup with the struggling REDBLACKS will make any defence’s fantasy prospects pop, and the near-minimum priced Alouettes’ unit is the only real option worth consideration this week.

STACKS
William Stanback > Alouettes Defence

It feels like going back to a dry well for the third week in a row, but if there were ever a game script for a run-heavy, TD-dependent running back to be stacked with an aggressive defence facing an impotent offence, this is the week for it to hit.

Trevor Harris > Derel Walker/Greg Ellingson

It’s nearly impossible to fit both Walker and Ellingson in the same lineup at their salaries, but there’s a good chance that at least one of them has a big game versus the Stampeders’ porous secondary. The group is also unlikely to be heavily used given Edmonton’s struggles this season, giving Fantasy players leverage on their competitors.


WEEK 5 PROJECTIONS

Name Postion Salary Team Opp Projection Points Per Dollar Pass Attempts Rush Carries Recieving Targets Punt Returns Kick Returns
Vernon ADAMS QB $11,871 MTL OTT 26.27 2.21 32.1 7
Cody FAJARDO QB $13,076 SSK WPG 24.79 1.9 33.5 7
Dane EVANS QB $10,030 HAM TOR 21.74 2.17 37.3 2
Nick ARBUCKLE QB $9,726.00 TOR HAM 17.41 1.79 36.7 3
Trevor HARRIS QB $9,571.00 EDM CGY 16.73 1.75 35.4 3.7
Zach COLLAROS QB $11,612 WPG SSK 15.3 1.32 32.5 1.5
Jake MAIER QB $7,000.00 CGY EDM 14.05 2.01 33.2 1
Matt NICHOLS QB $6,537.00 OTT MTL 10.16 1.55 32.7 1.5
Andrew HARRIS RB $10,401 WPG SSK 17.82 1.71 14.4 4.3
James WILDER RB $8,057.00 EDM CGY 17.34 2.15 17.6 6
William STANBACK RB $7,680.00 MTL OTT 16.68 2.17 16.1 2.3
Sean THOMAS ERLINGTON RB $6,075.00 HAM TOR 14.43 2.37 8.1 5.2
William POWELL RB $8,286.00 SSK WPG 13.2 1.59 12.9 4
Justin DAVIS RB $3,500.00 OTT MTL 12.83 3.66 11.6 6.5
Ka’Deem CAREY RB $7,652.00 CGY EDM 12.44 1.63 12.1 3.2
John WHITE RB $7,980.00 TOR HAM 10.44 1.31 8.3 4.3
DJ FOSTER RB $3,500.00 TOR HAM 6.68 1.91 6.8 1.5
Marcus MURPHY RB $2,500.00 SSK WPG 6.28 2.51 0.9 0.3 3 3
Terry WILLIAMS RB $3,587.00 EDM CGY 6.12 1.71 1 0.5 4 3
Wes HILLS RB $2,500.00 HAM TOR 3.84 1.54 4 1.2
Jeshrun ANTWI RB $2,500.00 MTL OTT 2.45 0.98 3.3 0.5
Kienan LAFRANCE RB $2,599.00 SSK WPG 1.24 0.48 0.9 0.5
Brandon BANKS WR $13,466 HAM TOR 20.52 1.52 0.7 9.2 0.3
Eugene LEWIS WR $7,401.00 MTL OTT 17.24 2.33 8.3
Jake WIENEKE WR $7,018.00 MTL OTT 15.95 2.27 6.7
Kenny LAWLER WR $7,877.00 WPG SSK 15.84 2.01 0.3 9
Kyran MOORE WR $9,391.00 SSK WPG 15.31 1.63 0.3 7.5 1
Jaelon ACKLIN WR $5,615.00 HAM TOR 15.18 2.7 7.6
BJ CUNNINGHAM WR $6,338.00 MTL OTT 14.83 2.34 7.7
Steven DUNBAR WR $2,500.00 HAM TOR 14.24 5.7 0.5 6.7
Kamar JORDEN WR $9,499.00 CGY EDM 12.37 1.3 5.7
Josh HUFF WR $5,039.00 CGY EDM 12.22 2.43 7
Eric ROGERS WR $8,836.00 TOR HAM 12.03 1.36 8
Derel WALKER WR $7,070.00 EDM CGY 11.49 1.63 7
DaVaris DANIELS WR $6,051.00 TOR HAM 10.96 1.81 7.2
Ricky COLLINS JR WR $7,190.00 TOR HAM 10.89 1.52 7.2
Greg ELLINGSON WR $8,547.00 EDM CGY 10.3 1.21 6.7
Rasheed BAILEY WR $4,453.00 WPG SSK 10.21 2.29 0.5 5.8
Markeith AMBLES WR $6,053.00 CGY EDM 10.18 1.68 6
Quan BRAY WR $6,880.00 MTL OTT 10.12 1.47 5
Tim WHITE WR $2,500.00 HAM TOR 9.72 3.89 0.5 4.7
Paul MCROBERTS WR $2,500.00 SSK WPG 9.34 3.74 0.3 5
Mario ALFORD WR $3,381.00 MTL OTT 9.19 2.72 0.3 4 3
RJ HARRIS WR $5,996.00 OTT MTL 9.01 1.5 6
Darvin ADAMS WR $6,562.00 WPG SSK 8.86 1.35 5
Ryan DAVIS WR $2,500.00 OTT MTL 8.37 3.35 1.8 7.5
Hergy MAYALA WR $5,588.00 CGY EDM 8.19 1.47 5
Tevaun SMITH WR $6,309.00 EDM CGY 8.08 1.28 5.5
Devonte DEDMON WR $4,695.00 OTT MTL 7.88 1.68 1 1 4 3
Brayden LENIUS WR $2,500.00 SSK WPG 7.77 3.11 4
Malik HENRY WR $2,500.00 CGY EDM 7.62 3.05 1.2 4 3
Daniel BRAVERMAN WR $2,500.00 TOR HAM 7.59 3.04 5.2
Kian SCHAFFER-BAKER WR $2,500.00 SSK WPG 7 2.8 3.8
Mike JONES WR $4,029.00 EDM CGY 6.84 1.7 4.4
Kelvin MCKNIGHT WR $2,500.00 WPG SSK 6.77 2.71 5
Shai ROSS WR $2,500.00 EDM CGY 6.58 2.63 4.4
Mitchell PICTON WR $2,500.00 SSK WPG 6.53 2.61 3.7
Jordan WILLIAMS-LAMBERT WR $4,404.00 SSK WPG 6.31 1.43 3.7
Charone PEAKE WR $2,500.00 OTT MTL 5.81 2.32 5
Janarion GRANT WR $2,580.00 WPG SSK 5.21 2.02 0.3 4 3
Nathaniel BEHAR WR $2,500.00 OTT MTL 4.75 1.9 4.4
Drew WOLITARSKY WR $3,508.00 WPG SSK 4.15 1.18 2.8
David UNGERER WR $2,500.00 HAM TOR 3.71 1.48 2.7
Richard SINDANI WR $2,903.00 CGY EDM 2.96 1.02 2.1
Daniel PETERMANN WR $2,500.00 OTT MTL 2.86 1.15 2.3
Llevi NOEL WR $3,503.00 TOR HAM 2.26 0.64 1.5
Kaion JULIEN-GRANT WR $2,500.00 MTL OTT 1.83 0.73 1.3
Terrell JANA WR $2,500.00 SSK WPG 1.68 0.67 1
Colton HUNCHAK WR $2,500.00 CGY EDM 1.61 0.64 1
Kurleigh GITTENS JR. WR $2,500.00 TOR HAM 1.49 0.59 1
Charles NELSON WR $2,500.00 WPG SSK 0.77 0.31 0.6

 

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