Nothing says “Week 2 of the CFL season” like overreacting to noisy stats from Week 1 of the CFL season.
“Edmonton will allow more than 42 plays per game and 71 passing yards to their opposition this season.” This is not the second coming of the Steel Curtain defence.
“The Lions will run more than 17 per cent of the time in 2021.” A 30-point deficit impacts the game plan. I’d say the Edmonton Elks won’t be able to run 68 plays a game and settle for short FGs every time, but I’ll get to that later.
The lesson is Week 1 always brings some statistical anomalies into the mix and it’s the job of fantasy players to sort through what is noise and what’s actionable.
Unfortunately for Fantasy players, the high-flying Alouettes’ offence had a bye in the opening week of the 2021 CFL season. However, the wait is over and Adams and co. head to Edmonton to open their season on Saturday evening.
In 2019 the Als were third in the league in yards per pass attempt (8.6) and fell just one passing score short of second in the CFL (29). All this success came despite losing starting receivers like DeVier Posey and B.J. Cunningham for a full season worth of games. A healthy Montreal passing attack is as good as any in the league. The biggest question may be whether the Als can keep Adams upright, as Edmonton registered five sacks in Week 1 after leading the league with 56 in 2019. Adams’ scrambling abilities may be a boon for the Als’ offence and Fantasy players this week.
Jeremiah Masoli and the Ticats’ offence came bursting out of the gates in Week 1 with over 100 yards through the air and a passing TD in the first quarter. Unfortunately, the offence struggled for the remaining three quarters, and Masoli’s night was capped with two late-game interceptions. On the bright side, his arm looked strong and he showed no fear in testing his injured legs with seven rush attempts for 26 yards.
This week’s matchup with the Riders’ defence should provide him with a little more room to throw deep, as the Riders allowed a league-high three receptions of 30-plus yards in Week 1 and have a lot of questions to answer on defence.
Playing in a prevent shell with a 30-point lead is supposed to prevent those deep balls, not increase them. In 2019 Hamilton averaged 8.9 yards per pass attempt. In Week 1 of 2021, they got just 5.9 yards per attempt. My money is on the truth being closer to 8.9 in Week 2.
The Elks’ high-powered offence was expected to blow out Ottawa in Week 1. They ran a league-high 68 plays for 423 yards from scrimmage but failed to convert that production into touchdowns. That could just be an aberration.
There’s so much talent on the Edmonton offence that it’s hard to imagine they could fail regularly. However, in 2018, Harris’s last season in Ottawa with Jaime Elizondo, the REDBLACKS led the league with 1,101 plays from scrimmage. Still, they scored just 42 touchdowns – only two more than the second-lowest total of 40 shared by BC, Saskatchewan, and Toronto. That season Ottawa attempted the second-most FGs of 39 yards or fewer, including 11 FGs from inside the 20-yard line.
This week’s matchup with a Montreal defence that allowed a league-high 316.1 passing yards per game and created a league-low 27 sacks in 2019 is an opportunity to get things right. It’s too early to panic, but there is some history of the Harris/Elizondo offence stalling in the red zone and that makes the situation worth watching.
Toronto changed a lot of their offensive personnel over the past 20 months, but the one change that most folks expected most didn’t happen. McBeth was the starting QB for the Argos in Week 1 and he passed for 354 yards and a pair of TDs against Calgary. Pricing really hasn’t adjusted at all for his second-straight start, leaving him the second cheapest starting QB, despite the air raid attack Toronto employs. The matchup with Winnipeg will likely be significantly tougher, but even in 2019 McBeth averaged 365 yards and three passing TDs a game against a much stronger Winnipeg defence.
The other cheap QB for Week 2 is another salary that hasn’t adjusted for an increased role as Nathan Rourke is expected to start at QB for the Lions while carrying a minimum salary. His first half in Week 1 was a struggle, but he showed great poise and arm talent in relief of Michael Reilly in the late stages of the game versus the Riders. The Lions’ improved receiving corps featuring additions like Dominique Rhymes and Lucky Whitehead alongside a healthy Durant makes for an opportunity to attack a questionable Calgary secondary with a rock bottom salary at QB. Both Rourke and McBeth will likely be very highly used in Week 2, but it’s difficult to justify spending north of $10,000 with options like them available.
Brady Oliveira, WPG – $4,500
If you feel like Denny Carter (@CDCarter) did on Twitter on Tuesday, “having a panic attack as I make a CFL lineup without James wilder,” the answer to calm your nerves may be William Stanback.
Stanback was one of the most dangerous weapons at RB in the CFL in 2018 and 2019 and it appears he should have the workload in the Montreal backfield to himself following the departure of veteran Jeremiah Johnson. The Edmonton rush defence allowed a league-high 5.4 yards per carry in 2019 and are debatably a weaker unit versus the ground game to start 2021. Going on the road as +3.5 point dogs isn’t an ideal game script for Stanback, but his talent and opportunity are too much to ignore in a Montreal offence that scored the second-most rushing TDs (21) in 2019.
The salary relief Wilder presents over Stanback is worth taking note of, but if players are running out Rourke at QB, they can play whoever they want elsewhere. Wilder had a wild workload to start the 2021 campaign with 15 carries and a whopping 12 targets in the passing game. Coach Elizondo loves quicks and check-downs and Wilder may be one of the greatest beneficiaries of that system in 2021. Even without scoring a TD, Wilder scored 25.1 fantasy points in Week 1 and now gets to face an Alouettes defence that allowed the second-highest rates of yards per carry (5.38) and rushing TDs per carry in 2019. Wilder is pretty impossible to ignore in Week 2.
When William Powell scored his first TD of the season early in the first quarter in Week 1, it appeared he would be set to grind out the clock and have a huge start to the season. However, he amassed just 12 carries at 3.6 yards per carry and wound up with just 13.5 Fantasy points despite his team putting 33 on the scoreboard.
The Week 2 matchup looks significantly more difficult versus a Ticats’ defence that is largely unchanged from its dominant 2019 campaign. They allowed the fewest points (19.1) and third-fewest rushing yards per game (95) of any team in the league. A salary near $8,000 is a tough spend this week.
In the absence of Andrew Harris, I mused that it would likely be a timeshare in the Bombers backfield between Brady Oliveira and Johnny Augustine. That was not the case as Oliveira had all 22 carries by Winnipeg RBs in Week 1, along with two targets as a receiver. Andrew Harris still hasn’t returned to practice, making Oliveira a solid option for salary relief again in Week 2.
The Argos’ overhauled defence allowed just 4.2 yards per carry to Calgary in Week 1 – down from the 5.2 yards per carry they allowed in 2019 – so the going may be a bit more difficult for Oliveira. However, if he does indeed own all the work in the Bombers’ ground control offence again this week, he’s a worthy play.
Brandon Banks, HAM – $14,000
Derel Walker, EDM – $7,341
Kamar Jorden, CGY – $9,904
Jaelon Acklin, HAM – $5,005
Eugene Lewis, MTL – $7,783
Greg Ellingson, EDM – $7,499
Bryan Burnham, BC – $10,655
Kenny Lawler, WPG – $5,721
Eric Rogers, TOR – $8,268
Kyran Moore, SSK – $7,449
Brandon Banks got his usual double-digit targets per game in Week 1 but was unable to convert those looks into a score. In the absence of running mates DaVier Posey and Bralon Addison, though, Jaelon Acklin was the main beneficiary of an increased role, jumping from his average of 4.4 targets per game in 2019 to 11 targets in his first game of 2021. It’s hard to project a weekly 250 per cent increase in a player’s workload from one game, but it’s certainly a noteworthy number given Addison and Posey’s residence on the six-game injured list. The Riders gave up a lot of yardage in chunks to the BC passing attack in week one, including a 75-yard TD to Whitehead, so Acklin is nearly impossible to ignore at this price.
In his return to the Green and Gold, Derel Walker picked up right where he left off with 10 targets for eight receptions and 98 yards in his first game back. Those 98 yards, though, involved a lot of YAC as he had an aDOT (average depth of target) of just 5.6 yards which was 30th among receivers in Week 1.
Greg Ellingson got a few more downfield looks with an aDOT of 8.6, but he garnered only five targets, and most of those were late in the 4th quarter. Wilder’s gain was at the expense of several expensive receivers in the Edmonton receiving corps. It’s hard to believe the targets can be this short or sparse all season for Walker, Ellingson and Edwards, but that is somewhat how the Elizondo offensive scheme works. The Montreal pass defence should provide an opportunity for a bounce-back performance for Walker and Ellingson, though and at the very least minimum-salaried Shai Ross is a salary relief option.
It was almost like Kamar Jorden hadn’t had nearly three years off. It wasn’t a heavy workload, but Jorden caught all five of his targets and parlayed them into 85 yards and a TD with a 12.2-yard aDOT. Overall, Calgary was true to their press in spreading the targets out widely, including a league-high nine different receivers in their passing attack. Jorden won’t catch 100 per cent of his targets this season, so $9,000 is a lofty salary for only five targets per game. Josh Huff comes in at nearly half the salary and had twice the targets in Week 1. That is likely to even out over time, but it makes Huff an interesting salary relief option versus BC.
The Montreal receiving corps is as dangerous as any in the league. The combination of Eugene Lewis, B.J. Cunningham, Quan Bray and the unheralded Jake Wieneke will be a headache for secondaries all season. The issue for Fantasy players will be deciphering who will lead the team in targets on any given week.
Lewis led the team in targets (112), receptions (72), and yardage (1133), but much of this was with Cunningham lost to injury. Bray and Posey each had weeks they led the team in targets, and Wieneke led the team in receiving TDs (8), so Lewis is less than a clear WR1. The spread-out attack may be a bit of an issue for fantasy players, but the matchup with Edmonton is somewhat interesting given they allowed the third-most receiving TDs (25) in 2019. Lewis is a little pricey, near $8,000 but Cunningham and Bray, both priced below $6,000 are pretty interesting.
Bryan Burnham‘s stats didn’t jump off the page in Week 1 as Durant led the team in targets (11) and Whitehead led the team in yardage (136), but a stat line of seven targets for 92 yards and a TD is hard to complain about. It’s unlikely that BC continues to call passing plays at a 71 per cent clip, so targets will likely regress closer to normal in Week 2 versus Calgary. Burnham is a tough spend to justify over $10,000 with a backup QB under centre. His running mates Lamar Durant, Lucky Whitehead, and Dominique Rhymes are all worthy of consideration with salaries under $6,000 though. Rourke doesn’t need to be stacked at his salary, but a double stack of Lions receivers is an option versus a Stampeders’ defence that allowed a league-high 9.6 yards per pass attempt in Week 1.
The Argos’ passing attack that put up those gaudy numbers versus Calgary in their opening game now faces a stiffer Bombers’ defence that looked just fine despite the changes in the secondary. The issue facing Toronto’s receiving options is just how spread out the targets will be.
Rogers is priced far too high, over $8,000 to justify eight targets with an aDOT of 8.1 yards. Daniels is priced more affordably around $5,000 and had the second-highest aDOT in Week 1 at 17.5 yards, but four targets a game will require some long TDs to pay them off. Ricky Collins led the team with eight targets in their first game despite being listed as a reserve on the depth chart.
Maybe the most interesting and low-risk option in the Toronto group of receivers is minimum-priced Daniel Braverman. He garnered five targets in his first pro start and has the deep ball talent to turn his opportunities into big plays, as evidenced by a stat line of 108 receptions for 1,367 yards and 13 TDs in his junior season at Western Michigan.
The Winnipeg and Saskatchewan offences are a little bit lower volume in the passing game and as such wind up being less appealing for fantasy purposes. Both Kyran Moore and Shaq Evans are priced out of consideration versus Hamilton, but Jordan Williams-Lambert may be a value option if he continues to get seven targets a game out of the slot.
For Winnipeg, Collaros keeps winning football games, but he has yet to crack the 300-yard mark in any of his starts. Kenny Lawler is an interesting option as Winnipeg’s WR1 if Adams remains out, especially priced near only $5,000. His eight targets for 114 air yards left him second in the league in that stat on opening weekend and are worth targeting for fantasy purposes versus Toronto.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers – $4,199
Edmonton Elks – $3,670
Toronto Argonauts – $3,200
With all the salary relief that Rourke offers at QB, it’s quite possible to fit in any defensive unit fantasy players might be interested in Week 2. There are no glaring weaknesses to exploit like the Elks had versus Ottawa in Week 1. With five sacks in their first game, the Elks’ defence has some big-play appeal versus a Montreal defence that yielded sacks at an above-average rate in 2019.
The Argos’ retooled unit has some appeal after forcing three turnovers versus Calgary, given their matchup with a Winnipeg offence that turned the ball over at an above-average rate in 2019 as well. Conversely, the Bombers’ defence looked like it still carried its dominant form from 2019 in their opening game and may be worth looking at versus Toronto.
Nathan Rourke > two of Lemar Durant/Lucky Whitehead/Dominique Rhymes
Generally, when stacking a passing offence, Fantasy players look for a cheap second receiver to round out a double stack. This week, players have the luxury of a minimum-priced QB to stack two-star level receivers with. Going anywhere else at QB this week is probably a mistake as the values the Lions’ passing game presents will be unmatched, allowing fantasy players to slot whatever players they want into the rest of their lineup.
WEEK 2 PROJECTIONS
|Name||Postion||Salary||Team||Opp||Projection||Points Per Dollar||Pass Attempts||Rush Carries||Recieving Targets||Punt Returns||Kick Returns||Pass Rate||Rush Rate||Rec Rate|
|Vernon ADAMS JR||QB||$10,686||MTL||EDM||24.68||2.31||29.4||5.7||0.51||1.52||4.55|
|Bo Levi MITCHELL||QB||$9,958.00||CGY||BC||19.48||1.96||34.5||0.6||0.53||0.44||0|
|Sean THOMAS ERLINGTON||RB||$5,325.00||HAM||SSK||15.97||3||10.8||4.2||0||0.72||1.88|
|Ricky COLLINS JR||WR||$6,233.00||TOR||WPG||8.5||1.36||4.9||0||0||1.77|
|Kurleigh GITTENS JR.||WR||$2,500.00||TOR||WPG||3.64||1.46||2.2||0||0||1.69|
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