I am going to start this preview with the Saskatchewan Roughriders because I like train wrecks. Last season as the Riders lost game after game I told my friends who are Riders fans that they will get better and that coach and General Manager Chris Jones knew what he was doing. He would have a good offseason and they would head into training camp this year looking like a team that is going to make the playoffs. I was wrong. For the second year in a row, they are heading into training camp without their first-round draft choice and they have not signed any significant free agents to improve their team. Unless you count head case Duron Carter and he is just as likely to do more harm than good. Right now, they look like a team on track to open their new stadium with a repeat of last year.
We know that the starting QB for the Riders this season could very well be 34-year-old Vince Young which is a name most of you recognize but has yet to take a snap in the Canadian football league. If you think well he is an elite athlete and has more NFL experience than any other starter in the NFL so he’ll be fine if he is the starter you’re WRONG. Name me another former NFL quarterback that has made the transition from American football to Canadian football after taking multiple years off from football and is in the second half of his pro football career. Heck, find me an NFL player that has managed to have success in the CFL after playing the first half of his career in the NFL. Look up Chad Johnson’s CFL stats for instance. I don’t think he is going to be the opening day starter but he could be. Their other option is CFL veteran 38-year-old Kevin Glenn. Last season Kevin Glenn played in Montreal and it didn’t go well.
The Riders won’t be strong at running back this year. The question is who is going to start. We’ll probably have to wait to find out until opening day. Then there is the issue of is it worth it to worry about the RB position with this team for DFS because they are likely going to be playing from behind a lot this season.
The Riders do have two elite talents at this position. The underrated and understated Naaman Roosevelt and the overstated Duron Carter who I mentioned in my introduction. They also have Rob Bragg who could get some points in the Draftkings PPR format and have signed Bakari Grant from Calgary. However, that is going to depend on their QB play this season which as I said earlier I don’t have much faith in.
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Given the Riders lack of offseason improvements, the Eskimos made even fewer moves and fired GM Kavis Reed who lead them to a Grey Cup win in 2015. There was no clear reasons as to why. They playe in the Eastern Division final last season after qualifying to cross over into the Eastern Division playoffs last year. The most likely reason has to do with media relations as the Esks were the only team not to participate in the live microphone broadcasts that all the other teams in the CFL took part in. Anyways, not much else is changed in Edmonton.
Mike Reilly goes into training camp as the #1 on the depth chart with no competition for the starting job. The 2016 passing yard leader and all-star will be able to spend his time getting ready for week one and will definitely be playable on Draftkings from the start of the season.
John White will start at RB for the Esks and will be a top option most of the season. He should have a similar year to last year with 800+ rushing yards and 50 catches.
This is where the most change will be for the Esks as they have lost one of their top two receivers, Derel Walker to the Bucs in the NFL. The most likely replacement is Vidal Hazelton who comes over from Toronto. I really like this guy and the way he plays. He gets an upgrade with offense and QB assuming Rielly stays healthy all season. Look for him to be a good sleeper as the season starts. The Esks also have the Adarius Bowman he only had 1700 yards receiving and 120 catches and more than half a TD a game last year.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
I was wrong about the Bombers last season. Even though coach Mike O’Shea looked to be one loss away from being fired last July. Early on they struggled to score in the red zone. They made a change at QB and they managed to finish 3rd in the west, leading to optimism in a fanbase that has not won a Grey Cup since 1990.
Matt Nichols is the guy who took over for Drew Willy last season and surprised me at least as he had not looked like a CFL starting quarterback in his career up to that point. He took an offense that was struggling to score in the red zone and got the team to start scoring in the red zone.
Andrew Harris, he is the most dynamic back in the game and he does it all! He is getting older and the last two seasons it had been noticeable that as the season went on that he has worn down. The Bombers have Tim Flanders on board for a full season and he is likely going to get a few more carries than he did last year. If you can fit Harris into a cash lineup you should, most weeks.
There is not a lot to be excited about here. The Bombers have Westen Dressler who looked great last season. The problem is that he wasn’t able to stay healthy due to concussion issues. We’ll know more about what he is going to be like at the start of the season once we see him play in two pre-season games. Darvin Adams is the other guy to watch this pre-season as an injury cut his season short as well but reports out of training camp are that Adams is looking good so far.
British Columbia Lions
The Lions are my hometown team and my favorite sports team during my childhood, so there might be some bias in my articles but I will do my best to be objective. As soon as I was old enough to buy tickets and drive the 70 kms to Vancouver I bought season tickets and I continue to do that all these years later. The Lions made great improvements last year with the return of the all-time most winningest coach in the CFL to their sideline. Wally Buono has always been an inventive coach and I’m sure this year will be no different as the Lions lost half of their starters on defense and spent a lot of their free agent money on offense.
Jonathan Jennings will be the starter for the second year. He is young, he is good, he is athletic, he can beat you on the ground and he can beat you through the air. He will lead one of the most balanced attacks in the CFL, they will win lots of games. There have been rumors that Jennings may get some offers from the NFL when his current contract is over. Time will tell if the Lions will be able to work out a contract extension with Jennings before that.
Last year the Lions had a unique approach at running back they had two different players start at running back depending on health and match up. However this year Jeremiah Johnson will be the every game back with the Lions after signing a contract extension in the offseason. The Lions have made a couple of changes to their offensive line this season and it might take some time for the running game to get going this season.
In order to compete with Calgary this season, the Lions went out and signed one of the most exciting players in the league last year away from the Grey Cup Champs, Chris Williams. This gave the Lions 3 of the top 6 receivers in reception yards from last year. Williams is returning from knee surgery last season but reports of his recovery say he look explosive. He will add to an already great group of WRs. Emmanuel Arceneaux and Bryan Burnham are returning to the Lions this season. Arceneaux is the type of player that will have multiple two-TD games this year. Burnham is the position guy. This is a very strong group and I am excited to watch them. I am also curious to see how the ball gets spread around throughout this great group.
The Stamps are the best team in the league and the deepest team in the league and will head into the season as the favorite to win the Grey Cup in 2017. They will have the motivation too as they were upset in the Grey Cup last year by Ottawa.
Bo Levi Mitchell, he threw for 5300 yards and lead the league in TD passes last season. With the weapons, he has on offense this season he will likely repeat that feat this year. He will probably start the season as the most expensive QB on Draftkings and if he doesn’t he will be a must play.
Jerome Messam lead the league in rushing yards last season and with the Stamps expecting to be leading in most of their games this year he should have another 1000+ yard season. Jerome has bounced around the league during his CFL career but seems to have found a home in Calgary for now.
Given all the yards that Bo threw for last season, you have to scroll all the way down to 9 on the receiver’s list from last season to find a player with a Stamps logo next to his name. Marquay McDaniel was the Stamps leading pass catcher in 2016. This was to due to injuries and the fact that Calgary does a good job of spreading the passes around to their receivers. Kamar Jorden looks to take a step forward in his career with an opportunity to start this season. DaVaris Daniels was the breakout Stamp last year. Really they don’t have one lead guy as they are more of a committee and a great on at that.