This article is part of our Team Previews series.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
2017 record: 12-6, lost to Eskimos in Western semifinal
Head coach: Mike O'Shea
Matt Nichols, QB
2017: 4,472 passing yards, 28 passing TD, 8 INT, 188 rushing yards, 2 rushing TD
Andrew Harris, RB
2017: 1,035 rushing yards, 6 rushing TD, 105 receptions, 857 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Darvin Adams, WR
2017: 76 receptions, 1,120 receiving yards, 7 receiving TD
Weston Dressler, WR
2017: 51 receptions, 691 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD, 67 rushing yards
Adarius Bowman, SB (from Eskimos)
2017: 45 receptions, 534 receiving yards, 5 receiving TD
Nic Demski, WR (from Roughriders)
2017: 19 receptions, 222 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Kienan LaFrance, RB (from Roughriders)
2017: 273 rushing yards, 2 rushing TD, 14 receptions, 123 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Rashaun Simonise, WR (drafted in second round)
2017: 58 receptions, 608 receiving yards, 7 receiving TD
2017: 28 receptions, 170 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Matt Nichols posted a slew of career bests in 2017, including completions (411), passing yardage (4,472) and touchdowns (28). He also led the CFL in QB efficiency rating (103.8) and completion percentage (71.0) on his way to six 300-yard passing efforts in 17 starts. He then fought through a broken ring finger on his throwing hand and a calf injury to rack up 334 passing yards and three touchdowns in a playoff loss to Edmonton that ended the Blue Bombers' impressive season. When it was all said and done, his overall efforts garnered him the Most Outstanding Player award on the team for the second straight season.
As stellar as last year's campaign was, Nichols could be primed for even bigger numbers in 2018. Winnipeg brass did an excellent job of adding to the team's pass-catching depth with the additions of Adarius Bowman and Nic Demski, and also added the capable Kienan LaFrance as another potential outlet option out of the backfield. The trio of additions truly gives Nichols an embarrassment of riches when dropping back, considering the receiving prowess of incumbents such as running back Andrew Harris and receivers Darwin Adams and Weston Dressler.
The Final Word: Nichols has a firm grasp on the starting job and unquestionably possesses the talent to maximize the abundance of pass-catching ability he's surrounded with. Another top-tier season is certainly within reach, and the veteran could well reach the 5,000-yard mark for the first time in his career if he can remain healthy.
Extending explosive dual threat Andrew Harris was an offseason priority, and the Blue Bombers made sure to address that piece of business by inking the talented back through the 2020 campaign. The 31-year-old thus returns as the leader of the Winnipeg backfield after compiling a combined 1,722 scrimmage yards (1,035 rushing yards and career-high 857 receiving yards) in 2017. Fellow vet Timothy Flanders re-upped this offseason as well and should once again spell Harris on occasion while also offering a pass-catching dimension. He will have LaFrance to compete with this season, as the 27-year-old will look to build on a career-best 273 rushing yards he mustered last season with the Roughriders.
The Final Word: Harris is the unquestioned alpha back of the group, and his ability to contribute through both the ground and air should once again render him one of the most coveted fantasy backs in the CFL for both season-long and daily formats. LaFrance and Flanders are solid complementary options, but neither should threaten Harris' standing or steal too many touches as long as the latter remains healthy. The additions of Bowman and Demski to the pass-catching group could lead to Harris' targets taking a bit of a hit in the coming season, though.
The Blue Bombers' offensive huddle might often sound like a used car lot this coming season, considering the number of sales pitches Nichols is likely to be subjected to from a deep and talented receiving corps. The best of the bunch appears to be the explosive Darwin Adams, who led the team with 1,120 receiving yards -- a career-best figure – in 2017. He established new high-water marks in receptions (76) and touchdown receptions (seven) as well, and did it all despite seeing his season curtailed in Week 17 due to a shoulder injury.
Veteran Clarence Denmark was released in a cost-cutting move, but enter the talented Bowman, who will undoubtedly be looking to put a surprisingly mediocre 2017 firmly in the rearview mirror and prove he's not finished at age 32. The ultra-reliable Weston Dressler also returns, as does promising Ryan Lankford, who also showed plenty in the return game. Other intriguing candidates that could round the depth chart include Demski and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Donteea Dye, who flashed some downfield upside in his pair of NFL campaigns.
The Final Word: Adams is back to full health and should reestablish himself as Nichols' top option in the receiver corps, and Dressler figures to play a prominent role as well. Look out for a motivated Bowman to also offer some sneaky value while absorbing some of the 87 targets – third most on the team – that Denmark saw in 2017. Demski or Lankford could also take another step forward and settle in as the fourth option in the passing game.
Last season's top two returners are back on board, and both Kevin Fogg (775 punt return yards, 1 TD) and Ryan Lankford (1,223 kick return yards, 1 TD) figure to fill their respective roles once again. Each is also capable of filling in at the other return position and did so at times last season, adding to their fantasy value in formats that count return yards and/or touchdowns.
Justin Medlock was re-signed this offseason after drilling 80.0 percent of his whopping 70 field-goal attempts, including six of greater than 50 yards. He also was a stellar 48-for-49 on point-after tries and elicited six singles on his 86 kickoffs. Medlock pulled double duty as the punter last season, and his leg is clearly to built to sustain a massive workload. He should once again be a regular source of scoring at the position this season.