Welcome to a new (and abbreviated) season of TSN CFL Fantasy play, a game that has been more than 20 months overdue, yet very, very (and we do mean very) welcomed. From the warmth of a summer night in Toronto to the bone-chilling cold that will usher in a Grey Cup champion in Hamilton, countless players will tap into their inner general manager and attempt to put together a winning lineup on a weekly basis.
So, how to successfully make the most of the $40,000 salary cap?
While it would be easy to say “start Cody Fajardo on a weekly basis,” not everyone is willing to pay the $10,695 required to play the reigning West Division Outstanding Player. With dual-threat pivots becoming the rage, expect to ante up for the likes of Fajardo, Hamilton’s Jeremiah Masoli ($10,318), Montreal’s Vernon Adams Jr. ($10,169) and Michael Reilly (BC, $9,234), each of whom can enhance a Fantasy lineup with either their arm and/or legs.
Don’t dismiss the duo of tried and true gunslingers. While Trevor Harris (Edmonton, $9,805) and Bo Levi Mitchell (Calgary, $9,566) won’t win many games with their running ability, both can torch opposing secondaries on any given week.
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 that 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.
Caring is pairing
Simple but effective, the pairing of quarterback and favourite target can take your scoring off the charts. Ask any fantasy player how productive the combination of Masoli and Brandon Banks ($14,000) have been in both 2018 and 2019. If Banks is too rich for your lineup, pairing up with Braylon Addison ($9,167) will still give you a productive pass-catch combo for a Hamilton team looking to hoist the Grey Cup on their home field.
If a deep investment in Hamilton’s passing game provides an uncomfortable feeling, there are other pairings with the potential to be effective. Keep an eye out on new Toronto quarterback Nick Arbuckle ($8,082), who will get the chance to fire away with former Calgary teammates Eric Rogers ($8,294) and DaVaris Daniels ($5,332).
Be willing to gamble
A $40,000 salary assures 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.
The running back position will present the most risk this season, beyond Winnipeg’s Andrew Harris ($9,179). BC’s Shaq Cooper comes into the season with a modest $5,428 price tag, while Calgary back Kadeem Carey ($5,124) will have the potential to be a bargain in the early portion of the season.
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.
Information is your friend
There’s no excuse for not being informed. The CFL.ca website is the mothership 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 pain that comes when finding out a member of your starting lineup is in street clothes.
Winning is a beautiful thing (ask any Blue Bombers fan). 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 was injured on the first series of the night. Yes, neither scenario is wanted and a low scoring week can hurt. In a 14-game season, the margin for early mistakes is smaller than usual.
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 be an exciting ride, so buckle up and enjoy it.