Fantasy: Divisional Semi-Final projections

Just like postseason football tends to change things for coaches and players, adding urgency, desperation and aggression to the mix, the postseason brings changes for CFL Fantasy as well, with a smaller player pool to draw from and a smaller Fantasy roster to fill out. CFL Fantasy players need only one player at each position in the postseason but have just a $30K budget to work within. Every decision is just a little more important in the postseason version of CFL Fantasy contests.

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It hasn’t been a great statistical season for Bo Levi Mitchell, but the idea of him and Reggie Begelton teeing up a big day in the playoffs is a tempting one (Larry McDougal/CFL.ca)

QUARTERBACK

Jeremiah Masoli, HAM – $10,311
Cody Fajardo, SSK – $9,719
Trevor Harris, MTL – $8,316
Bo Levi Mitchell, CGY – $7,520

There’s a four-point variance between first and fourth in the quarterback projections, but the salaries flow accordingly, making them all similar values. This week, the best offences face tougher defensive matchups and the better defensive matchups are somewhat less enticing due to the quarterbacks drawing them. Throughout the projections this week, I’ll be referencing stats through Week 15 of the season, as Week 16 brought a lot of noisy data from backup players and resting stars. All four offences also get a somewhat equal downgrade in pace due to the four defences being in the top-five in the league in terms of plays allowed per game.

Jeremiah Masoli had a tremendous second half of the 2021 season and hopefully silenced his doubters for a while. Unfortunately, he draws an Alouettes’ defence that allowed just 51 plays per game to opposing offences through Week 15. The Ticats were one of the lowest-paced offences to begin with (53.4), so that downgrade may limit their opportunities significantly on Sunday. Montreal allowed league average rates of yards (7.93) and TDs per attempt through the air this season as well, so there’s nothing that screams “high-efficiency matchup” here either. Masoli is a fine play on Sunday versus Montreal, but there are reasons to doubt his upside as a $10K play.

Cody Fajardo isn’t much less expensive than Masoli and he comes with even more caveats. This season, the Riders were the second-worst passing offence in the CFL, behind only Ottawa, in averaging just 7.33 yards per attempt and 14 total scores through the air. The Stampeders allowed the second-fewest passing TDs and third-fewest passing yards per attempt to opposing QBs, so the matchup is as tough as it gets outside of Winnipeg.

Much of Fajardo’s value is predicated on his rushing abilities and the likelihood that he runs with reckless abandon in the playoff atmosphere at Mosaic Stadium because the math doesn’t line up for it to be a great passing day for the Green and White.

Trevor Harris has shown the ability to pass for 300-plus yards and multiple scores in his time in the CFL, but he has yet to do that for the Alouettes during his tenure there. He does have eight touchdowns to just two interceptions, though and given that two of his starts came against Winnipeg, that is pretty impressive. Montreal projects for the most passing TDs per attempt this week, given their unnatural scoring efficiency through the air this season, but the fact Harris couldn’t get over 300 yards even versus Ottawa is a reason for some concern. The Ticats allowed a below-average rate of yards per pass attempt (7.72) as well as the third-lowest rate of passing TDs per attempt, though, so the going may be tough this weekend in Hamilton.

Bo Levi Mitchell has been a winning quarterback in the CFL for a long time, but this season was likely, statistically, his worst. He was the 11th-ranked passer in the league this season among players with at least 75 attempts. That’s pretty rough in a league with only nine teams. He also had a career-low 7.9 yards per pass attempt and an ugly 10:13 TD to INT ratio this season. The return of Reggie Begelton may be some of what he needs to get right and the Riders present the juiciest matchup of any defence in the CFL playoffs. Still, it’s difficult to get excited to play Mitchell, given he has just one game over 15 fantasy points in 2021.


Hamilton has gotten production out of its run game this season, but it’s been with a rotating cast of talented characters. If he gets the opportunity, Don Jackson could shine this weekend for the hometown crowd (Geoff Robins/CFL.ca)

RUNNING BACK

William Stanback, MTL – $8,236
Don Jackson, HAM – $6,996
Ka’Deem Carey, CGY – $7,785
William Powell, SSK – $8,380

Given the quality of Stanback’s play this season, it’s pretty glaring that he projects for just over 12 fantasy points this week. He averaged a whopping 6.1 yards per carry on his way to the league rushing title with 1,176 yards on the ground in just 12 games. However, his role as a receiver was almost non-existent and he got in the end zone just three times. If a player doesn’t catch passes or score touchdowns in PPR scoring systems, they’re pretty tough to get excited about. If Stanback were $6K, he’d be an option for his reliable floor. As an $8K option, though, he’s pretty difficult to justify spending nearly a third of the salary cap on. The fact that Hamilton allowed a league-low 4.22 yards per carry this season only dampens Stanback’s pricy appeal.

On the other side of the field, the Ticats provide a very different problem than the Montreal one at RB. Stanback may not score TDs or catch passes – Hamilton RBs did more of both – but it’s impossible to know who will receive touches in the Ticats’ backfield on a given week, even once the depth chart is posted.

Hamilton generally dresses four RBs and two of them receive carries and targets on a given week, along with a handful of carries for receivers. If Jackson and Sean Thomas-Erlington are both active this week, they are likely the two backs in the rotation, but that’s still far from a certainty, as Bennett and Irons have each had active weeks as well in 2021. In his last three active games, Jackson averaged 13 carries and 3.3 targets, which would be a solid workload in this spot. If he keeps up that role, he’s the top RB on the slate, by a ways. Hamilton RBs always carry the risk of being surprise no-shows, though, so fantasy players select Jackson at their own risk.

Carey took the lions’ share of the carries and targets out of the Calgary backfield down the stretch, despite the early season split with Ante Milanovic-Litre. The matchup with the Riders is pretty, as they allowed just 4.46 yards per carry through Week 15. Carey showed he could be successful versus Saskatchewan, though, as he averaged 83 rushing yards per game against the Green and White in three games this season. If Carey gets in the endzone, he could be the top play at the position this week, and he projects for 0.57 TDs in the matchup. Road underdog running backs are rarely great selections, but with limited options available, Carey is in the mix.

On the other hand, William Powell is pretty impossible to justify with a salary over $8K. Powell averaged just 4.4 yards per carry in 2021 – 14th among running backs with at least 35 carries. Fajardo taking just about every carry inside of the five-yard line also hurts his value, as he had just three TDs on the ground this season. His role as a receiver is really what keeps his fantasy value alive at this point, as he had multiple receptions in all but one game. Calgary allowed a league-average rate of yards per attempt (5.04) through Week 15 but allowed just six total TDs on the ground. Powell is probably only an option for the most diehard of the Riders’ fan base.


Begelton’s one big game with the Stamps could be enough to convince fantasy players that he can do it again in the playoffs (Geoff Robins/CFL.ca)

RECEIVER
Reggie Begelton, CGY – $9,255
Eugene Lewis, MTL – $10,200
Brandon Banks, HAM – $6,688
Kamar Jorden, CGY – $7,745
Jake Wieneke, MTL – $8,250
Shaq Evans, SSK – $5,479
Duke Williams, SSK – $8,781
Tim White, HAM – $6,422

Punt Single(s):

Reggie White Jr., MTL – $2,981
Kian Schaffer-Baker, SSK – $3,936

In his only full game of action this season, Begelton turned 11 targets into 27 fantasy points. It’s only one game, but it’s quite apparent that he did not lose a step during his CFL hiatus. His matchup with Saskatchewan only adds to his appeal, as the Riders allowed the second-most yards per target (8.73) and third-most TDs per target to opposing receivers through Week 15. It’s a lot to spend on one player with a $30K salary cap, but there’s no better player in a better matchup than Begelton in the Division Semi-Finals. Bageltown is indeed again open for business.

His teammate, Kamar Jorden, comes in at a significant discount, but he carries a lot more risk as his target share has varied wildly throughout the season. Jorden had two games over 12 targets but also had five games with five or fewer targets, including three with just three looks. That kind of inconsistency is tough to spend nearly $8K on, even if his talent level is as good or better than anyone in the league. The rest of the Stampeders’ receiving corps is pretty overpriced given the target share that Begelton is expected to soak up.

The Alouettes’ receivers were among the most efficient in the league, averaging 8.3 yards per target and a league-high rate of TDs per target, despite dealing with multiple changes at quarterback. Eugene Lewis sat out their Week 16 game with Ottawa due to injury, but it was reported he could have played if they felt he was needed. Based on their efficiency, the Als’ receivers project for the most TDs per target this week, but getting there will be the issue, as Hamilton allowed just 7.34 yards per target.

Lewis is the most consistently targeted option in the Als’ receiving corps with 8.1 targets per game, and he certainly could have won the receiving yards title this year if he had played in Week 16. A salary over $10K is tough to justify in the matchup, and it’s unlikely players will go his route over Begelton’s. Hence, he’s probably the contrarian pivot at WR as opposed to the clear top option.

His running mate, Jake Wieneke, continues to score touchdowns, but his target share has dropped sharply since Trevor Harris took over at QB, making his over $8K salary a tough spend. Their newest mate, Reggie White Jr., may be among the best values on the slate, however, as he has seen five targets or more in three of five games since entering the starting lineup and is still priced just over the minimum salary.

After being priced over $10K for much of the 2021 season, Banks’ salary has finally come down to a justifiable level where he’s a real option this week in just the $6K range. Banks is clearly not the same kind of option he was during his MOP season as his targets, yards per target, and TDs per target are all markedly lower than in his 2019 campaign. However, he’s averaged 7.5 targets per game for 62.75 yards, along with two TDs in his past four games. That’s not eye-popping production, but it’s certainly very usable for a receiver priced around $6K in an above-average matchup for this slate.

White and Dunbar are also fine options given their salaries in the matchup, but Banks being priced in their vicinity is pretty difficult to ignore. If players are already spending up for Masoli, double stacking him with two of these three players is likely the play.

The Riders’ passing attack may have been the biggest disappointment of the CFL season. After leading the league in receiving yards in 2019, they had the second-fewest receiving yards in 2021, behind only Ottawa. They also had the second-fewest scores through the air (14), also behind only Ottawa.

Duke Williams had a massive Week 15 outing with eight receptions for 146 yards and a TD, which breathes some hope into their beleaguered unit. Still, he’s priced fully near $9K and faces a Calgary secondary that allowed below average rates of yards and TDs per target despite a tough start to the season. With an injury potentially hindering his efficiency, he’s a tough spend this week. His teammate Schaffer-Baker is much more affordable and likely won’t draw the quality of coverage that Williams and Evans will, so he’s a fine salary relief option around $3K.


DEFENCE

Saskatchewan Roughriders – $3,500
Hamilton Tiger-Cats – $3,200
Montreal Alouettes – $3,000
Calgary Stampeders – $2,800

Each of the defences is priced similarly this week, and each has its strengths and weaknesses from a fantasy perspective. Calgary is the cheapest but averaged the fewest points per game by a large margin versus the other three options. However, they did average eight points per game over their final four contests and were a much more usable unit in the second half of the season than the first. Their season totals don’t reflect it, but they may be as good as any of the four options.

Saskatchewan was second in the league in sacks (47) and forced turnovers (34) but face a Calgary defence that allowed 20 sacks this season. If Mitchell continues his turnover-prone ways, the Riders have the best potential for a defensive score on the slate. The Alouettes led the league in sacks (49) and face a Hamilton offence that allowed the second-most sacks this season (40). Still, Hamilton gave up a league-low 20 turnovers in 2021, which likely limits Montreal’s scoring upside.

The Ticats, on the other hand, were right around league averages in the sack and turnover departments and face a Montreal defence that allowed right around the same. In a season that saw significant declines in scoring, it’s likely wise to roster a defence and just select the one that fits the salary remaining in the lineup, given none of them jump off the page as obvious options.

STACKS

Jeremiah Masoli > Brandon Banks, Tim White/Steven Dunbar

If Masoli is going to pay off his $10K salary, it’s likely at least two of these moderately priced receiver options have solid games as well. Banks is the most targeted of the group, but either White or Dunbar could make a case for WR2 on any given week.

Trevor Harris > Eugene Lewis, Reggie White Jr.

Lewis is a difficult spent to justify over $10K, but the aggregate salary of him and White is nearly the same as any two of the Hamilton trio. With Harris coming in priced below Masoli, it’s actually a cheaper three-player stack overall.

Bo Levi Mitchell > Reggie Begelton

There are 10 games of evidence that Mitchell is a bad fantasy option at QB regardless of the salary relief he presents. There is one game of evidence that he could be the best value at the position on the slate, and that one game is with Reggie Begelton in the lineup. Begelton will be in the lineup on Sunday, so he’s got 10/1 odds of being a good play.


DIVISIONAL SEMI-FINAL WEEK PROJECTIONS

Name Postion Salary Team Opp Projection Points Per Dollar Pass Attempts Rush Carries Recieving Targets Punt Returns Kick Returns
Jeremiah MASOLI QB $10,311.00 HAM MTL 18.32 1.78 29.9 3.4
Cody FAJARDO QB $9,719.00 SSK CGY 17.34 1.78 31.7 6
Trevor HARRIS QB $8,316.00 MTL HAM 15.1 1.82 28.9 2.4
Bo Levi MITCHELL QB $7,520.00 CGY SSK 14.76 1.96 33.8 0.4
Matt SHILTZ QB $8,886.00 MTL HAM 1.93 0.22 2
Jake MAIER QB $5,000.00 CGY SSK 1.75 0.35 1.8
Dane EVANS QB $7,553.00 HAM MTL 1.26 0.17 2
William STANBACK RB $8,236.00 MTL HAM 12.97 1.57 17.7 2.2
Don JACKSON RB $6,996.00 HAM MTL 12.33 1.76 10.2 2
Ka’Deem CAREY RB $7,785.00 CGY SSK 12.07 1.55 12.1 3
William POWELL RB $8,380.00 SSK CGY 10.88 1.3 12.6 3.7
Jamal MORROW RB $2,786.00 SSK CGY 5.66 2.03 5 3
Martese JACKSON RB $2,748.00 MTL HAM 4.54 1.65 5 3
Sean THOMAS ERLINGTON RB $5,647.00 HAM MTL 3.48 0.62 1 1.6
Kienan LAFRANCE RB $2,500.00 SSK CGY 2.47 0.99 1.2 1.2
Jeshrun ANTWI RB $2,500.00 MTL HAM 1.84 0.74 3.3 0.4
Reggie BEGELTON WR $9,255.00 CGY SSK 17.62 1.9 8.3
Eugene LEWIS WR $10,200.00 MTL HAM 15.74 1.54 7.9
Brandon BANKS WR $6,688.00 HAM MTL 15.5 2.32 0.8 7 2 1
Kamar JORDEN WR $7,745.00 CGY SSK 15 1.94 6.8
Jake WIENEKE WR $8,250.00 MTL HAM 13.76 1.67 6.2
Shaq EVANS WR $5,479.00 SSK CGY 12.35 2.25 6.9
D’haquille WILLIAMS WR $8,781.00 SSK CGY 12.18 1.39 6.5
Tim WHITE WR $6,422.00 HAM MTL 11.79 1.84 0.9 5.8
Steven DUNBAR WR $5,562.00 HAM MTL 10.85 1.95 5.3
Reggie WHITE JR. WR $2,981.00 MTL HAM 10.47 3.51 5.8
Jaelon ACKLIN WR $6,036.00 HAM MTL 10.28 1.7 0.1 5.2
Markeith AMBLES WR $6,036.00 CGY SSK 10.11 1.67 5.9
Kian SCHAFFER-BAKER WR $3,936.00 SSK CGY 9.27 2.35 0.1 5.3
Quan BRAY WR $5,623.00 MTL HAM 8.24 1.47 4.8
Brayden LENIUS WR $3,829.00 SSK CGY 7.09 1.85 3.8
David UNGERER WR $2,500.00 HAM MTL 6.67 2.67 2.4 3 1
Ricardo LOUIS WR $2,824.00 SSK CGY 6.02 2.13 4.3
Hergy MAYALA WR $4,040.00 CGY SSK 6 1.49 3.9
Shawn BANE WR $2,500.00 CGY SSK 5.95 2.38 5 3
Richard SINDANI WR $3,801.00 CGY SSK 5.34 1.41 3.1
Kaion JULIEN-GRANT WR $2,500.00 MTL HAM 2.1 0.84 1.6
Colton HUNCHAK WR $2,532.00 CGY SSK 1.69 0.67 1
Tyler TERNOWSKI WR $2,500.00 HAM MTL 1.54 0.62 0.6

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