Week 1. Everyone begins 0-0 and for the fanbase of each team, hope springs eternal that their squad will hoist the Gray Cup on a cold Sunday night in Regina 25 weeks from now.
CFL Fantasy users are also awash with fresh optimism, as every player is a fantasy star, a sleeper or a bust. That’s why we’re here to offer Gray Expectations, a look at which players to go after, who’s a sleeper and the stacks to load up or to avoid, so let’s do this.
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Vernon Adams Jr., Montreal, $ 12,405 salary – Sure, he had a rough pre-season, but the Most Outstanding Player hype is real. Adams gets a Calgary secondary that’s not as good as it was in years past and he does have a track record of producing big numbers against the Stamps.
Nathan Rourke, BC, $ 7,250 – Get in where you fit in with Rourke, who’s not going to be a bargain play all season. Edmonton improved its defense, yet Rourke looks like a Vernon Adams Jr. in training. The bet here is that Rourke produces majors both passing and on the ground and who wouldn’t take that from their starting pivot?
Cody Fajardo, Saskatchewan, $ 11,811 – The one pivot I’ve most looked forward to watching this season, we’ll quickly find out if the Riders are truly committed to stretching defenses with the deep ball. With this being an All or Nothing season for the Roughriders, take the over on Fajardo throwing at least five passes or better than 20 yards in depth.
Zach Collaros, Winnipeg, $ 9,118 – If you’re starting Collaros, you’re counting more on touchdowns than yardage. Ottawa allowed a league-high 23 touchdowns passes last season, and I can see Collaros getting multiple majors from inside the red zone in what should be an average night at Investors for the Troy Aikman of the CFL.
Dane Evans, Hamilton, $ 7,553 – Watch how life feels better for Evans once he starts targeting Bralon Addison. Watch how Papi White and his speed become more of a reason why Evans will give the Ed Gainey-less Riders secondary fits.
And Then There’s…
Jeremiah Masoli, Ottawa, $ 11,811 – If you read the Start vs Sit this week (and of course you did), you’ll remember that I liked the REDBLACKS offense as an option as the season goes on. There’s no reason to spend on Masoli and a cast of new faces opening against the Blue Bombers defense on the road.
Bo Levi Mitchell, Stampeders, $ 8,520 – I want to believe in Mitchell, really I do. The vibe is leaning towards modest numbers against the Als, as Week 1 is going to be more about how Calgary’s offense is where Ka’Deem Carey is now the centerpiece.
Taylor Cornelius, Elks, $ 5,138 – I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Cornelius flirts with 270 yards with a couple of majors in a game that has “track meet” written all over it.
Ka’Deem Carey, Stampeders, $ 8,785 – I think this is going to become Carey’s team and the Stampeders will be better for it. If they’re intent on winning the West, giving Carey 20-25 touches will go a long way toward it.
James Butler, Lions, $ 6,835 – The strong finish to 2021 carries over into Week 1. With the Elks challenged by the Lions’ wideouts, Butler will have plenty of running lanes on a defense that allowed nearly six yards per tote last season.
William Stanback, Alouettes, $ 8,236 – I think we’re going to see a different Stanback on Thursday. The Als will run plays to utilize his speed, so expect a lot of East-West with him that allows his athleticism to get into the open field frequently.
James Wilder, Jr., Elks – Similar to Stanback, Wilder should see more touches that allow him to let his imposing size and knack for 20-yard rushes keep Calgary’s defense off-balance.
Don Jackson, Tiger-Cats, $ 6,996 – If you’re a Hamilton fan, you want Jackson healthy. If he’s getting 15-18 carries per week, that’s going to make the Ticats’ lethal offense.
And Then There’s…
Jamal Morrow, Roughriders, $ 4,500 – Excellent bargain play, even if he’s facing a tough Hamilton run defense. I’m betting he gives fantasy users more points from receiving than running.
William Powell, REDBLACKS, $ 8,320 – Running Powell against the Blue Bombers’ run defense is like running into shark-infested waters in beef-scented swimming trunks: there’s no happy ending.
Johnny Augustine / Brady Oliveira, Blue Bombers, $ 4,349 / $ 4,165 – Something tells me this will be a timeshare to open the season until one of the other breaks out and takes RB1 in Winnipeg for keeps.
Sean Thomas Erlington, Tiger-Cats, $ 5,647 – He’s going to be involved in the Hamilton offense in some way, shape or form.
Duke Williams, Roughriders, $ 9,826 – Anything less than 10-12 targets on Saturday is a letdown. Saskatchewan did not pay Williams to be a decoy.
Jake Wieneke, Alouettes, $ 8,250 – Jake From Montreal averaged a major once every five catches in his first two seasons. Who wouldn’t want to play with those percentages, especially with Vernon Adams throwing to him?
Lucky Whitehead, Lions, $ 9,190 – With Nathan Rourke’s bargain (for now) salary, why not pair them up?
Bryan Burnham, Lions, $ 9,708 – With Nathan Rourke’s bargain (for now) salary, why not pair them up?
Eugene Lewis, Alouettes, $ 11,225 – He’s not coming cheap, but I’d strongly suggest building a lineup around Lewis when you know he’s getting a deep shot or two in his direction.
Bralon Addison, Tiger-Cats, $ 10,818 – Addison isn’t going to stretch a defense, but he’s going to thrive with intermediate targets from Dane Evans.
Kenny Lawler, Elks, $ 9,802 – Edmonton-BC has slugfest written all over it, and you know Edmonton is going to target Lawler all night. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lawler gets over 15 targets.
Kamar Jorden, Stampeders, $ 9,745 – Jorden ranked among league leaders in receptions over 20 yards in depth. Montreal can’t contain both him and Reggie Begelton.
Reggie Begleton, Stampeders, $ 11,255 – That’s a lot of long green to invest in Begelton, yet if you believe in Bo Levi Mitchell, there’s pairing potential here.
Greg Ellingson, Blue Bombers, $ 8,222 – He and Zach Collaros know each other well, so say hello to Winnipeg’s new WR1.
Jaelon Acklin, REDBLACKS, $ 6,842 – In that selfish fantasy fan way, you may want this game out of hand because that means Acklin will see a bushel of targets from fellow Ticats expat Jeremiah Masoli.
And Then There’s…
Nic Demski, Blue Bombers, $ 6,571
Steven Dunbar, Jr., Tiger-Cats, $ 5,562
Shaq Evans, Roughriders, – $ 5,479
Tim White, Tiger-Cats, $ 6,422
Keon Hatcher, Lions, $ 3,150 – Sleeper potential awaits.
Dominique Rhymes, Lions – $ 6,841
Derel Walker, Elks, $ 5,798
Luther No People, Stampeders, $ 2,543 – Worth the low-end, high-reward gamble
Reggie White, Jr., Alouettes – $ 2,981
Kian Schaffer-Baker, Roughriders, $ 3,336
Darvin Adams, REDBLACKS, $ 5,200
Hergy Mayala, Alouettes, $ 4,040
Richard Sindani, Stampeders. $ 3,801
Papi White, Tiger-Cats, $ 2,500
Winnipeg, $ 4,431 – Sure layup of Week 1
Saskatchewan, $ 3,261
BC, $ 3,200 – They could force Wheel O ‘Pivots if they get on Edmonton early
Montreal, $ 3,200Calgary, $ 3,200
Stack ‘Em and Rack’ Em
BC – Rourke ($ 7,250), Whitehead ($ 9,190), Hatcher ($ 3,190)
Pairing this trio still leaves you with $ 20,330 to work with. You can replace Whitehead with Burnham ($ 9,708) and keep nearly half of your $ 40,000 to build a team.
Hamilton – Evans ($ 7,553), Tim White ($ 6,422), Dunbar ($ 5,562)
This trio of Ticats costs just $ 19,537. Not bad for a pivot with Gray Cup experience, an East Division All-Star and a receiver who has 70-catch upside.
Calgary – Mitchell ($ 8,520), Jorden ($ 9,745), Sindani ($ 3,801)
This one is tricky, yet it has some upside. How much faith you have in Jalen Philpot ($ 2,500) takes this from $ 22,066 to $ 20,765.