June 3, 2022

Fantasy: Survival guide for a winning roster in 2022

Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca

Rejoice in the reality that we will have a full 22-week CFL schedule this season. Opportunities for success are further enhanced by new rules changes (we’re most intrigued by having two pivots on the field at the same time) that will increase scoring. After all — with apologies to the Winnipeg defence — who doesn’t love a lot of offence?

Another season ushers in CFL fantasy football, where new faces will emerge as must-start options as Father Time walks down those who have been fantasy mainstays over the past few years. With the regular season approaching, the one question all fantasy users are wondering is:

How to successfully make the most of the $40,000 salary cap?

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Pivot Wisely

A healthy Vernon Adams Jr. will light up the opposing secondary most weeks. He enters the regular season as the one quarterback who can carry a fantasy team, yet at $12,405, he’s going to eat up more than a quarter of your cap. Adams is money well spent and will be capable of flirting with 30 fantasy points per game every time he hits the field.

Dual threats are your best play at the position, which means Saskatchewan Roughrider’s Cody Fajardo ($11,219), Ottawa REDBLACKS’ Jeremiah Masoli ($11,811) and BC Lions’ potential breakout star Nathan Rourke ($7,250) are not only solid plays, but also less expensive than Adams Jr., providing more flexibility toward building a winning roster.

However, don’t get too fixated on playing the same quarterback each week. Sure, there’s going to be that pivot who sports an extended hot hand, but blindly pressing your luck will eventually get you burned. Be patient and crunch the numbers in order to find the quarterback who has the ideal matchup each week. It’s not rocket science, yet assumption can (and will) leave you looking up at the rest of your league mates if you squander the most important position in the game.

Jaelon Acklin makes a sideline touchdown catch against the Argos in his REDBLACKS debut (The Canadian Press)

Caring is Pairing

Simple but effective, the pairing of quarterback and favorite target can take your scoring off the charts. Roughriders fans can’t wait to see how the pairing of Fajardo and Duke Williams ($9,826) deliver over the course of a full season, while Bo Levi Mitchell ($8,520) gets an entire campaign to target Reggie Begelton ($11,255) 10-15 times a game.

The off-season brought us new pairings that can deliver for fantasy users. Look out for Ottawa’s pairing of Masoli and fellow ex-Ticat and REDBLACKS newcomer Jaelon Acklin ($6,842), while whoever wins the quarterback battle in Edmonton will get to fire the ball downfield to All-Star wideout Kenny Lawler ($9,802).

Be Willing to Gamble

A $40,000 salary assures that you can’t put together an all-star team, so Fantasy players must accept the reality of going off the grid in order to find a gem or two that can carry their team over the top.

This season could be the changing of the guard at running back, where Saskatchewan’s Jamal Morrow ($4,500) is positioned to become a fantasy darling with his all-purpose skills. In BC, the Lions are looking at James Butler ($6.835) to build upon the strong finish he had at the end of the 2021 season. With Andrew Harris no longer the workhorse in Winnipeg, the time may have arrived for Brady Oliveira ($4,349) to become the Blue Bombers’ primary ground producer.

Finding sleepers is great, but don’t overdo it. You will need an elite player or two, so whistling in the dark across the board will leave Fantasy players feeling foolish (and the focus of ribbing from fellow league members). Maximize the salary cap because it’s not like the $2,800 left over is going to wind up in your bank account.

Brady Oliveira finished the 2021 season with 429 rushing  yards and two touchdowns (The Canadian Press)

Information is Your Friend

There’s no excuse for not being informed. The CFL.ca website is the mother ship of breaking news and there are a host of reliable sources on Twitter who are deserving of must-follow status. The player cards will be improved this season and the wealth of statistical information is stronger than ever.

Being informed can be the difference between being able to make the last minute adjustment to a lineup or experiencing the groan that comes when finding out a member of your starting lineup is in street clothes.

Have Fun

Winning is a beautiful thing (just ask the Blue Bombers). The goal is to outscore the pack, but remember that this is a game. The world won’t end if the quarterback you started threw three interceptions or the highest-salaried player on your roster left the game after the first series of the night.

Veteran Fantasy players will continue to enjoy the process, yet it’s also a great way for a CFL novice to be introduced to the game while also learning about the league’s top stars. Every week will surely be exciting, so buckle up and enjoy the ride that will conclude in Saskatchewan in late November.

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