CFL 2021 Preview: West Division

CFL 2021 Preview: West Division

This article is part of our DraftKings CFL series.

After an idle 2020 that was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CFL returns for a 14-game regular season in 2021. All nine teams have made it through to the other side and will be set to once again engage in the CFL's unique, fast-paced and exciting style of play. 

Rotowire will preview each team's key fantasy-relevant moves and offer an outlook for the upcoming season. You can find our look at the four East Division clubs here. We wrap up our 2021 season preview with a breakdown of the five West Division clubs below:

Saskatchewan Roughriders

2019 record:

13-5 1st in West Division

Head coach:

Craig Dickenson (2nd season) 

Key Additions:

Sammie Coates, WR (free agent)

Ricardo Louis, WR (free agent)

Notable Departures:

Marcus Thigpen, RB/KR/PR (released)

Emmanuel Arceneaux, WR (released)

Fantasy-relevant Holdovers:

Cody Fajardo, QB

William Powell, RB

Shaq Evans, WR

Kyran Moore, SB 

Overall fantasy outlook: Cody Fajardo's breakout 2019 season made Zach Collaros expendable, with the former putting up 4,913 total yards and racking up 28 total touchdowns (18 passing, eight rushing). The 29-year-old will be set up to continue that success in 2021, considering his year of experience and the fact he'll have key holdovers Shaq Evans (72-1,334-5) and Kyran Moore (78-996-6) to throw to once again. The duo's familiarity and successful track record with Fajardo should lock in fantasy-friendly roles for both, while new arrivals Sammie Coates and Ricardo Louis both bring valuable NFL experience. In the backfield, veteran William Powell is coming off an excellent 2019 debut campaign in Saskatchewan during which he compiled a career-high 12 rushing touchdowns, and he should once again be set for unquestioned primary back duties.

Calgary Stampeders

2019 record:

12-6, 2nd in West Division 

Head coach:

Dave Dickenson (5th season)

Key Additions:

Ryan Grant, WR (free agent)

Notable Departures:

Reggie Begelton, WR (released)

Terry Williams, RB (to Edmonton Elks)

Don Jackson, RB (to Hamilton Tiger-Cats)

Eric Rogers, WR (to Toronto Argonauts)

Josh Huff, WR (opt-out of contract)

Fantasy-relevant Holdovers:

Bo Levi Mitchell, QB

Ka'Deem Carey, RB

Markeith Ambles, WR

Hergy Mayala, WR

Kamar Jorden, SB

Overall fantasy outlook: Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell played just 11 games in 2019 and had a forgettable three-interception performance in a semifinal-round loss to the Blue Bombers. Nevertheless, the veteran has unquestioned fantasy credentials and a strong track record that includes a Grey Cup title and a pair of 5,000-yard seasons. However, Mitchell lost some key pass-catching weapons since he last saw the field, as Reggie Begelton (102-1,444-10 in '19) is now with the NFL's Green Bay Packers and Eric Rogers (85-1,080-10) was traded for the Argos. That leaves him with Markeith Ambles and Hergy Mayala, who combined for a relatively modest 73 catches back in '19, as his top two wideouts. There are potentially explosive complementary assets in the form of Kamar Jorden and Ryan Grant, the latter who'll be making his CFL debut after recording 123 receptions across six NFL seasons from 2014-19. Meanwhile, Jorden could be one of the fantasy sleepers and great comeback stories of the 2021 campaign. The now-32-year-old hasn't seen competitive regular-season action since 2018, when he'd recorded a career-high 55 receptions and 944 receiving yards – along with a career-best-tying six touchdowns – before going down in Week 12 against Edmonton with an ACL injury that was once thought to be potentially career-ending. Jorden memorably returned for Calgary's semifinal-round loss to Winnipeg in November 2019 and is now reportedly back to full strength. 

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

2019 record:

11-7, third in West Division 

Head coach:

Mike O'Shea (7th season) 

Key Additions:

Cameron Meredith, WR (free agent)

Notable Departures:

Matt Nichols, QB (released)

Chris Streveler, QB (released)

Fantasy-relevant Holdovers:

Zach Collaros, QB

Andrew Harris, RB

Nic Demski, SB

Kenny Lawler, WR

Darvin Adams, WR

Drew Wolitarsky, WR 

Overall fantasy outlook: The defending champions will have familiar faces in many key places, even as two recent signal-callers that brought varying degrees of success to the franchise, Matt Nichols and Chris Streveler, are no longer on the roster. Nevertheless, the presence of Zach Collaros, who started a memorable four-game run to a 2019 Grey Cup championship in a Week 20 start against the Stampeders, gives Winnipeg stability under center. Now having had ample time to absorb Winnipeg's playbook and getting all his key pass-catching weapons, including RB Andrew Harris, back in the fold, the veteran quarterback could be ready for a breakout first full season in Winnipeg. Collaros will also be working with former NFL wideout Cameron Meredith, an offseason arrival with excellent size who is fully recovered from a disastrous knee injury suffered in the 2017 preseason. And certainly not to be forgotten is Harris, who is coming off another outstanding season in 2019 during which he flashed his considerable skills as both rusher (1,380 yards) and receiver (70-529-4). The CFL legend should be amply rested and ready to reclaim his typical workhorse role, one that makes him the most coveted fantasy commodity at his position going into the season.

Edmonton Elks

2019 record:

8-10, 4th in West Division 

Head coach:

Jaime Elizondo (1st season)

Key Additions:

Derel Walker, WR (last with Toronto Argonauts)

James Wilder, RB (last with Toronto Argonauts)

Armanti Edwards, WR (last with Toronto Argonauts)

Terry Williams, RB (last with Calgary Stampeders)

Brandon Burks, RB (last with Toronto Argonauts)

Notable Departures:

C.J. Gable, RB (retirement)

Ricky Collins, WR (to Toronto Argonauts)

DaVaris Daniels, WR (to Toronto Argonauts) 

Fantasy-relevant Holdovers:

Trevor Harris, QB

Greg Ellingson, SB

Tevaun Smith, WR

Kenny Stafford, WR

Overall fantasy outlook: The Elks appear to have an excellent chance of bouncing back from a disappointing 2019 finish in the coming season, as the return of franchise stalwart Derel Walker after a year in Toronto and the hiring of bright offensive mind Jaime Elizondo as head coach make Edmonton one of the potential fantasy hotbeds of either division. Not to be overshadowed is the arrival of running back James Wilder, who retired briefly once the 2020 season was wiped out but then signed with the Elks this February. A year off from the rigors of football could be exactly what a bruiser like Wilder needs to thrive again after his rushing yardage declined in each of his three years in Toronto. The 29-year-old should be set up for a rebound with a much better offensive cast around him, and his excellent receiving skills (154 career receptions) could make him one of the top fantasy performers at his position. Holdovers Greg Ellingson and Tevaun Smith make the pass-catching corps even more lethal and once again ensure Trevor Harris' spot as one of the top fantasy assets at quarterback.

British Columbia Lions

2019 record:

5-13, 5th in West Division

Head coach:

Rick Campbell (1st season)

Key Additions:

Shaquille Cooper, RB (last with Edmonton Elks)

Dominique Rhymes, WR (last with Ottawa Redblacks)

Lucky Whitehead, WR (last with Winnipeg Blue Bombers)

Caleb Holley, SB (last with Ottawa Redblacks)

Chris Rainey, RB/KR/PR (last with Toronto Argonauts) 

Notable Departures:

Duron Carter, WR (released)

John White, RB (to Toronto Argonauts)

Brandon Rutley, RB (retirement) 

Fantasy-relevant Holdovers:

Mike Reilly, QB

Lemar Durant, WR

Bryan Burnham, SB

Shaq Johnson, SB

Overall fantasy outlook: The Lions knew they had to get prolific quarterback Mike Reilly more help after a disastrous 2019 season on offense, and they appear to have made an earnest effort to do just that. Management brought in some capable pass-catching weaponry in the from of the underrated Dominique Rhymes, who managed to thrive on an abysmal Ottawa team in 2019, while the speedy duo of Lucky Whitehead and Caleb Holley was imported from the Blue Bombers and Redblacks, respectively. When combined with veteran holdovers Lemar Durant, Bryan Burnham and Shaq Johnson, Reilly now has an impressive, full pass-catching cupboard at his disposal that should help him considerably improve his lackluster 2019 numbers (3,897 yards, 20 TDs, 15 INT). However, the running game is saddled with legitimate questions, as the projected top duo of Jamel Lyles and Shaquille Cooper have just 101 career carries between them.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Juan Carlos Blanco
Winner of the FSWA 2016 Newcomer of the Year Award, Juan Carlos Blanco has been playing fantasy sports for over 20 years and covers NBA, MLB, NFL, CFL and Arena Football for Rotowire.com, including serving as the beat writer for teams in multiple sports. He has previously written for KFFL.com and remains an avid season-long and daily fantasy player in multiple sports as well.
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