How to Play CFL DFS on DraftKings

2016 saw DraftKings and the CFL partner for contests on the daily fantasy site. The contests shrunk as the year went on, due to a genuine lack of interest, but they decided to resign their agreement for the 2017 season. I, for one, couldn’t be more excited. The more sports we have going, the better.

It was also very difficult to play CFL DFS last year. The sport just doesn’t have a ton of traction in the US, and information doesn’t abound like it does in the NFL. I think we’ll see a lot more coverage on it this year from other daily fantasy content providers, because EVERYONE knows that you need to discuss all sports in order to make your mark.

I want to take the time to break down the things that I think are important when creating your CFL DFS lineups. With that said, here we go!

Know How It’s Scored

I think one of the most common misconceptions about CFL DFS was that since it is football, it is scored the same way as the NFL. For the most part, it is the same. There are two main differences between how scoring calculated between the CFL and the NFL. They are:

1. Return Yardage – For every 20 return yards, a player is awarded one fantasy point. This equates to .05 point per yard. This can be a big deal. Chris Rainey put together quite a few bigger games last year just based off success with return yards. Sure, he needed to make some offensive input as well, and had to score on the return, but those numbers can really make a player far more worthwhile. Additionally, a guy like Chris Williams, who dominated early in 2016, was also returning kicks and punts, adding even more value to a valuable player. This can also make stacking these types of players with the D/ST a good idea, just like in the NFL.

2. The Rouge – This is something completely specific to Canadian football, at least in terms of DFS scoring. The rouge, or single, is when the ball is kicked into the end zone, or out of the end zone. The receiving team must get the ball out of their end zone, or they will award the opposing team a single point and get the ball on the 35 yard line. Those points can add up very fast, to the positive or negative, for your D/ST.

The Depth Chart

Depth charts are important in NFL DFS, which is something we’ll reference a lot in case you haven’t noticed already. They show who is likely to see the most action that week. If a guy is #3 on the running back depth chart, in most situations, you can probably avoid him safely in all of your contests. That makes sense, right?

That’s exactly how it is in the CFL – to an extent. Running backs are basically the easiest position to decipher, in my opinion. If a guy is atop his team’s depth chart, and the team (and specifically coaches) showed a heavy reliance on using the guy at the top 90% of the time, he would be the only guy you want to consider on that team. While the CFL is a passing league, there is still a big emphasis on getting the running back position right, because you only have to roster one.

The quarterback portion of the depth chart is also pretty straight forward. The guy on the top of the heap, in most situations, is going to be the guy who is on the field and making the plays. Unlike the NFL, the CFL does have a lot of quarterbacks who come in for goal line packages, specifically to run the ball. This can be frustrating, because just when you think you are going to get an easy six points, the quarterback vulture takes it away. Mike Reilly (the featured picture above) didn’t have that happen a lot, and is someone you can rely on getting those important rushing touchdowns.

The wide receiver position is really the touchy part. Another difference between the NFL and the CFL is the width of the field. Why is this important? Well, it makes the receivers who line up on the outside slightly riskier. Think about it: those receivers are further away from the quarterback, meaning that the quarterback has to throw the ball further to complete a 15 yard pass than they would in the NFL. I know this sounds silly, but the length of the pass isn’t defined by distance from QB to WR, but rather by field position, which is why a 15 yard pass can be a 40 yard pass depending on where the QB is position. Slot backs are preferable in CFL DFS, and you will see them noted as such in the depth charts.

Injuries and Departures

Injuries play a big part in every sport. If you don’t pay attention to them, you will lose your money before the contests even lock. When John White went down at some point last year (he was one of the most expensive backs), that gave Shakir Bell the nod. He was close to minimum price, and he went out and rushed for over 100 yards and a receiving touchdown, which gave him over 30 fantasy points. It’s pretty clear to see that if you played a minimum priced running back, you had the ability to spend up at other positions. If you were able to move up from Chris Getzlaf to Emmanuel Arceneaux that week, you likely won a ton of money.

Departures, especially early in the year, can make a tremendous impact as well. Let’s look at this week and someone who is going to make my short list of picks for tomorrow’s article: Brandon Zylstra. Last year, the Edmonton Eskimos were dominated by questionably the best duo of receivers in the league: Adarius Bowman and Derel Walker. You could play those two and Mike Reilly most weeks in your cash games and make out pretty well. This year, Walker is gone. Bowman was already the league’s leading receiver, so it is highly unlikely that his role is going to increase much more. Who does win out? Zylstra, who now takes Walker’s position as one of the slot backs. Priced at just $4,400 this week, it would not shock me to see him eclipse 20 fantasy points on opening night.

Turn on the TV

I’m a big advocate that in all sports, stats can only take you so far. You have to be watching to see the whole story. Did Bo Levi Mitchell have a down game because things got out of hand early and the team didn’t focus on passing the ball? Certainly, you can’t hold that against Mitchell. As I said with news being less available, was there an injury that is going to impact things the following week that might not get picked up on? Winning at DFS in any sport comes down to finding any advantage you can get over your opponent, and if they are not watching games and you are, you’re one step ahead.

Putting It All Together

The big question know is how to put it all together. For me, and most others, it’s going to be about building around the passing game. It’s not hard to see that this is the focus. Just look at the inflated numbers of both quarterbacks and receivers. Also, I forgot to mention above, but receivers in the CFL can run toward the line prior to the snap. That extra burst gives them a few steps on defenders in some situations, but adds further emphasis that the passing game is the focus of things in the CFL.

With that said, let’s start with the quarterbacks. This is a position I tend to spend up on. To me, it just doesn’t make sense to pass on the dependability. Guys like Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly are typically week in and week out options that can be trusted to put up big numbers. There is just too much risk in cash games not to use one of these guys. I don’t want to go into too many specifics about what I expect this year, because that’s really what this isn’t about. In cash games, pay up for the floor and in tournaments, you can pivot to higher upside, lower floor options.

Running backs are also an asset worth paying up for. You only have to put one running back in your lineup each week, so it’s important to do what you can to get the right option in there. Yes, there will be weeks where injuries force someone into a cheaper position, but for the most part, your Jerome Messam’s and John White’s will be the way to go.

I like to lock in one expensive receiver in my cash games. There are a number of guys with similar floors to choose from, so you’ll have no shortage of options. Early in the year, we can get guys like DaVaris Daniels, the former Notre Dame standout, cheaper than they are likely to end up at the end of the year. For the most part though, getting one of the top tier receivers is going to be worth doing. From there, I will usually use my remaining WR position and both FLEX spots on receivers who have seen steady or increasing target totals in favorable matchups. That led me to a lot of success in 2016.

I hope you enjoyed this. Don’t hesitate to reference this throughout the year. I will have my picks for this weekend up tomorrow. Thanks for reading!