- Beyond the Headlines
- Cfl & Covid-19
The return matchups following Mark’s Labour Day Weekend are always some of the trickiest to project of the entire CFL season. Having just watched three of these identical games a week ago, it can be difficult not to let recency bias skew a person’s judgment. It’s important to remember in building lineups that one game is just one game and it’s much more important to keep a larger sample size in mind when making lineup decisions from week to week in CFL Fantasy.
Dominique Davis, OTT – $6,265
As my friend Jon always says, “CFL Fantasy is just better when you can just jam M.R.” When Michael Reilly arrived in BC, things changed a bit, as it appeared the team forgot they needed to keep him upright for him to weave his magic. This year, the Lions’ protection is moderately improved and he has his strongest cast of pass-catchers since they involved names like Walker, Zylstra, Mitchell, and Bowman in Edmonton.
The BC passing game leads the league in terms of yards per attempt (8.92) and it now faces an Ottawa defence that is allowing a league-high 9.28 yards per attempt to opposing passers. The TDs haven’t been plentiful through the air yet this season for Reilly, but his scores have still been rolling in given that he serves as the team’s de facto goal-line back and has scored on the ground in three straight games. Reilly is probably the safest QB play on the slate.
Cody Fajardo, on the other hand, is much less safe. It’s impossible to deny his upside – as high as any player on the slate given his dual-threat abilities – but coming off his worst game as a Saskatchewan Roughrider, there’s reason to be hesitant to spend near $13,000 for his salary. On a season-high 39 pass attempts versus Winnipeg in Week 5, Fajardo had a season-low 211 passing yards and 3 INTs, along with a season-low 21 rushing yards.
As I mentioned last week, if Fajardo and the Riders’ offence were going to find success against the Bombers, it would be on the ground as they allow a league-low 6.5 yards per pass attempt but a league-high 5.5 yards per rush attempt so far in 2021. Powell looked slow and anemic in the backfield, leading to long 2nd downs, which left Fajardo throwing seven-yard outs on the run when they needed nine yards to keep a drive going. If there is no threat of run success from either Fajardo or the Riders backfield, it’s likely to be another long outing for No. 7.
Dane Evans hasn’t looked amazing in any action yet this season, averaging just 7.4 yards per pass attempt while having yet to crack 250 yards in either start. He’s been serviceable, though, in throwing multiple TDs in back-to-back weeks and getting the gears of the formerly high-powered machine of the Ticats offence grinding again. It’s hard to imagine that this unit reaches its potential again until it finds a way to get Brandon Banks contributing again, but we can deal with that later.
The Argos defence is a significantly improved unit from their 2018 and 2019 struggles and now allow just 7.27 yards per pass attempt – down almost two full yards per attempt from the previous season (8.98). Evans is a fair play in Week 6, but he lacks the upside of other similarly priced QBs and lacks any rushing ability with just six carries for 34 yards this season.
Going into Week 5, the Elks had the second-worst odds on the books to win the Grey Cup this season, ahead of only the Ottawa REDBLACKS. They led the league in passing yards, rushing yards and yards allowed on defence but hadn’t found a way to consistently get the ball in the end zone to win football games. That all changed versus the Stampeders on Labour Day, as Trevor Harris threw for 398 yards and four TDs versus a Calgary defence that allows a league-high 8.98 yards per pass attempt in 2021.
Some of that can be explained with regression to the mean, as teams that move the ball as well as Edmonton can’t be kept out of the end zone forever. Some are also likely explained by a little push from COVID to start four American receivers, including Tolliver and Edwards, who both scored TDs. Harris’ price has risen significantly, but he’s well worth consideration again this week despite a projection still hindered by early struggles in 2021.
The Ottawa offence has been bad in 2021 — historically bad. Going into Week 5, they averaged just 10.7 offensive points and 188.7 yards of total offence per game. The first quarter versus Montreal started no better, but Dominique Davis injected some life into the group when he entered the game and threw for 291 yards and two TDs while adding another 38 yards and a TD on the ground.
It may well be that in the Als’ blowout game’s script that they were content to sit back and just let Davis play out the string. It may be that life gets significantly more difficult for Davis this week versus a Lions’ defence that has allowed a league-low four total TDs so far this season. However, at nearly half the salary of all other starting QBs on the slate, Davis is well worth considering, given his dual-threat abilities and the salary relief he provides.
DJ Foster, TOR – $3,500
Timothy Flanders, OTT – $4,275
Running backs have been a weird position group so far this season for CFL Fantasy purposes. Rushing TDs per attempt are down 25 per cent so far in 2021 from 2019 levels. Players like Harris and Wilder that rack up yards don’t often get in the end zone. Five of the top seven rushing TD leaders in 2021 are quarterbacks. Players like the Ticats’ STE that catch passes don’t get many yards or scores. Runners like Carey that score TDs don’t catch many passes or rack up a ton of yards. As such, it always feels like a stretch paying up at RB this season.
Andrew Harris had a fine game in Regina on Sunday, rushing for 95 yards and a total of 14.2 Fantasy points, but a salary over $10,000 demands a lot more than just 14 fantasy points to make it worthwhile. Unlike in previous seasons with Matt Nichols at QB, Collaros tends not to panic and check the ball down to his RB in the passing game as much and as such, Bombers’ backs have just eight receptions on the year. Harris averaged five receptions a game in 2019. In PPR scoring, that’s a loss of probably 5-6 points per game in terms of receptions and yards.
If Harris is going to be worth $10K without that receiving work, he’ll have to get in the end zone every game. Despite the blowout loss, the Riders’ defence still allows pretty average rates of yards and TDs per attempt and isn’t really a matchup Fantasy players should look to exploit.
James Wilder leads the league in rushing yards (366), receptions by RBs (17), and receiving yards by RBs (121), but still has just one TD to show for his efforts in 2021. Despite that, Wilder is the most reliable RB in CFL Fantasy with an $8,000 salary in Week 6 versus Calgary. The Stamps allow above average rates of rushing yards and TDs per attempt and the Elks’ offence should provide him plenty of opportunities as they project for the second-most scrimmage plays this week (58). Wilder is as consistent as they come and if the scores start to roll in eventually, he’ll be a pretty unstoppable CFL Fantasy force.
The debut of Don Jackson in Week 5 ended STE’s monopoly on the Hamilton RB duties as Jackson had four carries versus Toronto, compared to STE’s five. STE was still the main target in the Ticats’ passing attack with three targets, which helps to buoy some of his remaining Fantasy value. It’s hard to justify spending close to $6,000 for a part-time back, however, especially versus a Toronto defence that allows the fewest yards per carry (4.03) in the CFL this season.
If players are looking for cheaper options yet to fill out RB slots in their lineups, there are a couple of other players worth considering. D.J. Foster’s sophomore performance wasn’t nearly as electric as his debut. Still, he did flash some of the receiving ability that made him a huge threat at Arizona State while compiling 10.2 Fantasy points, which is a pretty solid return for a $3,000 salary.
How the work will be split between him and John White will be a big guess from week-to-week in Toronto, but it seems Foster is here to stay in some capacity. The other cheap RB in Week 6 will likely get the backfield to himself in Ottawa, with Justin Davis having yet to practice this week, but Tim Flanders averaged just 5.1 Fantasy points per game as the REDBLACKS’ RB earlier this season. He’ll have the full workload if he starts; it’s just hard to say if it’s worth much.
Bryan Burnham, BC – $10,743
Lucky Whitehead, BC – $8,025
Kryan Moore, SSK – $9,790
Kamar Jorden, CGY – $9,078
Derel Walker, EDM – $7,472
Kenny Lawler, WPG – $7,910
Jaelon Acklin, HAM – $5,748
Greg Ellingson, EDM – $8,789
Josh Huff, CGY – $5,918
The REDBLACKS had given up more than their fair share of yardage going into Week 5, but versus the Alouettes, the end zone floodgates opened wide, as they gave up 51 points on four passing TDs. This week, the Lions get another shot to crack the REDBLACKS’ defence that they torched for 400 offensive yards in Week 4.
Burnham and Whitehead both have big play potential and with both Rhymes and Durant potentially lost to injury in Week 6, they are both likely to see a bump in target share as well. The Lions’ receivers average a league-high 8.92 yards per target and face the most generous secondary in the league. Burnham is fourth in the league in air yards per game (82), while Whitehead is fourth in RACR efficiency – converting air yards into receiving yards. At least one of these two receivers should be in every lineup this week.
In 2019, the Hamilton passing attack was the most predictable and compressed of any in the league. Every week, the passing attack ran through just 2-3 receivers. It was reliable to build through. In 2021, 11 different players already have receptions for the team in just four games and they have had a different leading receiver in three of four contests – none of them being Brandon Banks, whom the Ticats ruled out of this week’s game with a rib injury. In the meantime, both Tim White and Steven Dunbar are fine options worthy of consideration at minimum salaries versus Toronto.
The loss of Shaq Evans has been a big blow to the Riders’ offence, as they appear to be sorely missing a consistent deep threat in his absence. His loss has been a boon to Kyran Moore’s workload, though, as he has averaged 9.5 targets per game over the past two weeks without Evans in the lineup. In PPR scoring, that workload makes him one of the most consistent options around, but his lack of yardage or scores resulting from those targets makes a near $10,000 price tag difficult to justify.
The Bombers are the stingiest pass defence in the league, allowing just 6.5 yards per target to opposing receivers. With Moore being so heavily targeted, it also limits the upside of other Riders’ receivers who don’t get enough work to be viable in Week 6.
After a slow start, Kamar Jorden had nine receptions for 123 yards in Week 5 and has quietly moved to third in the league in receiving yards behind only Kenny Lawler and his teammate Josh Huff. Huff, Jorden and Ambles are in the top-five in the league in terms of targets and receiving yardage, but only Jorden and Ambles are priced like it. Huff is still priced at only $5K despite leading the league in targets and yardage and should be a staple in all lineups this week.
The matchup with Edmonton isn’t great, as they allow the second-fewest yards per target this season (6.65), but what Calgary will likely lack in efficiency, they can make up for in volume as they had 46 pass attempts in Week 5. Whether it’s Mitchell or Maier under centre this week is yet to be determined.
The Elks’ passing attack finally showed some of their potential in Week 5 with nearly 400 yards through the air along with four TDs. A matchup versus a Stampeders’ secondary that has allowed a league-high 8.98 yards per target and 10 plays of 30-plus yards this season will tend to do that for an opposing offence.
It wasn’t the usual suspects, Walker and Ellingson, that did most of the damage, though. In their first starts for the team, both Edwards and Tolliver had four-plus receptions and a TD. Mike Jones also continued his unexpected 2021 breakout campaign with 107 yards and a TD on five targets. COVID restrictions were somewhat to blame for this adjusted lineup in the receiving corps, but it’s hard to imagine they’ll want to change this winning formula. All five Edmonton receivers are worthy targets in Week 6 at their salaries.
The one other as yet unmentioned bargain option at receiver this week is the REDBLACKS’ Ryan Davis. He has quietly led his team in targets this season (25) and now faces the prospect of having all of Dedmon, Behar, and Klukas lost to injury, as only Behar has practised in any capacity this week. Ryan Davis could very well see an uptick in targets this week and at minimum he could be an interesting option, given most players will hone in on the Hamilton or Edmonton punt plays.
BC Lions – $3,200
Hamilton Tiger-Cats – $3,391
Despite averaging eight points per game this season and getting a matchup with the league’s worst offence, the Lions are a minimum-priced option at defence this week and well worth looking at. They lead the league in interceptions to this point (seven), and Dominique Davis averaged nearly 1.5 INTs per game in 2019 while adding two more in his appearance last week versus Montreal. Ottawa has also allowed the second-most sacks this season (15), so there should be plenty of opportunities for scoring for the BC defence.
The Tiger-Cats’ unit also flashed high-scoring abilities in Week 5 with three sacks, two INTs, and a TD versus Toronto. The Argos are likely to right the ship a bit this week, but the ceiling play is still there for a Hamilton defence that seems to be finding its way again after a rocky start to the season.
It’s impossible to fit all three of these salaries in one lineup, but neither receiver is likely to be a bad choice versus the REDBLACKS. With the punt options available at RB and WR, though, this double stack can fit in a lineup without a defence.
With the salaries at a minimum on both Tolliver and Edwards, there are a lot of interesting ways to build around the Elks’ passing attack. It’s unlikely both Ellingson and Walker can pay off their tags in the same game, but either one paired with one or both of Tolliver/Edwards could be a winning double or triple stack. Going with the cheap double stack of Tolliver/Edwards could allow exposure to Lions’ receivers. Going more off the board yet in a stack with Wilder and one or two Elks’ bargain receivers is also an interesting option.
If players are looking for an interesting game stack, the Davis duo, along with a BC receiver/running back, is pretty intriguing. This game has the second-highest O/U on the slate, and the values on both Davis’ provide the salary relief needed to fit one or both of the Lions’ receivers. Building this route leaves enough salary left over for one of the top RBs on the slate.
WEEK 6 PROJECTIONS
|Name||Postion||Salary||Team||Opp||Projection||Points Per Dollar||Pass Attempts||Rush Carries||Recieving Targets||Punt Returns||Kick Returns|
|Bo Levi MITCHELL||QB||$10,152.00||CGY||EDM||17.19||1.69||36.1||0.5|
|Sean THOMAS ERLINGTON||RB||$5,689.00||HAM||TOR||13.7||2.41||7.5||4.5|
|Kurleigh GITTENS JR.||WR||$2,500.00||TOR||HAM||6.03||2.41||3.8|