This article is part of our DraftKings CFL series.
After its 2020 season fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CFL is finally back on the field beginning Thursday night for a 14-game regular season that will be followed by a full playoff slate and the traditional Grey Cup championship game. The early weeks of the season should be a particularly interesting experiment in how well teams navigate the uncharted waters of having lost an entire season together. Teams with above-average continuity from 2019 will likely have the early advantage, and fittingly, that helps inform many of our Week 1 suggestions.
DraftKings CFL Plays - Week 1
Cody Fajardo, SSK vs. BC ($10,400): Fajardo's breakout 2019 season saw him explode for 4,913 total yards, and 28 total TDs. The even higher expectations for him in 2021 have him sporting the slate's highest salary right from the jump, but Fajardo could well prove to be worthy of that designation. He averaged a solid 22 DK points per game overall in '19, including 23.2 in his nine home contests. BC expects to have an improved D-line this season, but Fajardo's dual-threat ability and his impressive array of pass catchers that he's highly familiar with should give him a very secure fantasy floor in the home contest.
Trevor Harris, EDM vs. OTT ($9,400): Harris eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark during his first season in Edmonton in 2019 while throwing 16 touchdowns over 13 games, but he should be primed for a much smoother season in 2021. The 35-year-old has had a chance to amply prepare for the new season and has gained an outstanding weapon in Derel Walker, who makes his return to the Eskimos after a one-year tenure in Toronto. Adding Walker to a pass-catching mix that already includes Tevaun Smith, fellow new arrival Armati Edwards and Greg Ellingson gives Harris plenty of upside, and he already averaged 303.7 passing yards per home contest in '19. The opposing Redblacks could also certainly boost Harris' fantasy prospects, as their secondary helped generate near-bottom-of-the-barrel metrics in several pass-defense categories back in 2019.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson, TOR at CGY ($7,500): Bethel-Thompson is arguably a poor man's Collaros, with the 33-year-old having compiled 4,024 passing yards and a 26:13 TD:INT back in 2019, with another 160 rushing yards and a running score thrown in for good measure. The veteran appears likely to draw a start in Week 1 for Nick Arbuckle, who he battled throughout training camp and who is dealing with a hamstring injury that limited his reps in Monday's practice. Assuming MBT is under center for Saturday's opener, his dual-threat prowess and a re-stocked group of pass catchers that includes the explosive Eric Rogers, DaVaris Daniels and Ricky Collins makes him a potentially rewarding tournament value play.
ALSO CONSIDER: Bo Levi Mitchell, CGY vs. TOR ($9,500)
James Wilder, Jr., EDM vs. OTT ($8,200): MBT's former teammate Wilder has been on quite the career rollercoaster over the last year-plus, opting to retire when the 2020 season was still in limbo and then ditching those plans to join the Elks earlier this year. The versatile power back should certainly have fresh legs with which to bowl over defenders after resting his body last season, and he could well be primed for a workhorse role in Week 1 against the suspect Redblacks defense. Wilder appeared to be a bit of a victim of the Argonauts' team woes the longer he stayed there, but with a much more talented cast around him in Edmonton and a passing attack that will keep defenses honest, he should be able to exploit an Ottawa defense that yielded the second-most rush yards per game (116.9) and most rushing TDs (27) the last time they set foot on the field.
Ka'Deem Carey, CGY vs. TOR ($7,100): Carey was impressive during his eight-game CFL debut stint back in 2019, averaging 5.6 yards per tote on his way to 422 rushing yards and two touchdowns while adding a 15-134-1 line through the air. Looking ahead to the new season, the former NFL draft pick should have a clear path to workhorse-type volume with no established competition for carries and a quarterback in Bo Levi Mitchell that won't vulture too much from him on the ground. Carey will look to exploit an Argos team that had significant issues stopping the run during the last CFL season, allowing a league-high 118.6 rushing yards per contest and the second-most rushing TDs (22).
Maleek Irons, HAM at WPG ($4,700): Irons could ultimately offer excellent value if he ends up getting the lion's share of carries in Week 1, although he'll split at least some work with Sean Thomas-Erlington even if Don Jackson (hip) sits out. Irons produced 267 total yards and a rushing touchdown as a rookie in 2019, and he proved to be a relatively reliable receiver in the small sample with 10 receptions (on 17 targets) during that 11-game sample. The Blue Bombers did have one of the league's stingiest rush defenses in 2019 and return the majority of their front seven, but again, this play is more about a salary that may not match the opportunity Irons could see.
Shaq Evans, SSK vs. BC ($9,000): The Ti-Cats' Bralon Addison ($9,700) would have been my call here had he not been in legitimate danger of missing Thursday's opener with a knee injury, so I'll instead recommend one of Fajardo's talented battery mates. Evans makes for a nice consolation choice after breaking out in 2019 with a 72-1,334-5 line over 18 games. The previously established chemistry with Fajardo certainly gives the duo a leg up after so much time off, and Evans gets a crack at some of the same Lions secondary members he scorched for an 8-158-1 line back in Week 6 in 2019. Evans saw at least nine targets in half his games back in '19, and his involvement could be even higher in Year 2 of working with Fajardo.
Derel Walker, EDM vs. OTT ($8,500): Walker's aforementioned return to Edmonton brings sky-high expectations with it, considering the prolific numbers the veteran speedster put up during some of his prior seasons there. Those were accomplished with Mike Reilly as his battery mate, but Trevor Harris certainly isn't a shabby alternative by any means. The duo reportedly built rapport at a brisk pace during camp, and Saturday night's opener against the Redblacks should give Walker plenty of opportunity to get downfield for some of the chunk plays he's proven so adept at during his stellar career, especially considering Ottawa allowed passer efficiency ratings well north of 100.0 in the 10-to-19-yard and 20-yard-plus passing windows back in '19.
Dominique Rhymes, BC at SSK ($7,400): Speaking of the Redblacks, the talented Rhymes was able to escape Ottawa to BC, where he'll have a chance to become Mike Reilly's most trusted weapon in the coming season. The Murray State product broke out in '19 with a 65-1,056-5 line in 17 games and slots in as the de facto No. 1 wideout coming into the season. The Roughriders were one of the CFL's toughest pass defenses back in '19, but they yielded 24 completions of greater than 30 yards and gave up 346 passing yards to Reilly in Week 6 of the campaign.
Hergy Mayala, CGY vs. TOR ($5,900): The speedy Mayala made quite the impression late in his rookie 2019 campaign, finishing with a 38-562-5 line with a pair of 100-yard efforts from Week 17 on. He now enters the new season having had a chance to develop further chemistry with quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell (groin) and will tangle with an Argos defense that gave up 307.8 passing yards per game, a 72.2 percent completion rate, a co-CFL-high 9.0 yards per attempt, 29 completions of over 30 yards and the most passing touchdowns (36) back in 2019.
Edmonton Elks vs. Ottawa Redblacks ($3,600):
While the Elks are very unlikely to sport the league's most dominant defense over the course of the season, they're an excellent value option in Week 1 due to the matchup. Edmonton will face a Redblacks team that could well be one of the league's worst again in 2021 after mustering a 3-15 mark two years ago. Edmonton also co-led the CFL in sacks (56) two years ago and forced the most 2-and-outs (102), and they averaged an impressive 9.4 DK points per home game. Ottawa does have the experienced Matt Nichols at quarterback, but he's not a particularly effective downfield passer and will work with a receiving corps that may prove to be among the league's thinnest, along with an unproven backfield duo of Brendan Gillanders and Timothy Flanders.