This article is part of our Team Previews series.Hamilton Tiger-Cats
2017 record: 6-12
Head coach: June Jones
Jeremiah Masoli, QB
2017: 3,177 passing yards, 15 passing TD, 5 INT, 446 rushing yards, 4 rushing TD
Alex Green, RB
2017: 447 rushing yards, 5 rushing TD, 8 receptions, 47 receiving yards
Luke Tasker, WR
2017: 104 receptions, 1,167 receiving yards, 7 receiving TD
Brandon Banks, WR
2017: 67 receptions, 1,011 receiving yards, 8 receiving TD, 624 KR yards, 385 PR yards, 1 PR TD
Jalen Saunders, WR
2017: 76 receptions, 1,170 receiving yards, 4 receiving TD
Johnny Manziel, QB
Mark Chapman, WR (drafted in first round)
Zach Collaros, QB
2017: 1,767 passing yards, 8 passing TD, 7 INT
Ross Scheuerman, RB
2017: 145 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 9 receptions, 74 receiving yards
All eyes – even many that normally don't follow the CFL – are on the Tiger-Cats quarterback battle, as Johnny Manziel will compete against incumbent Jeremiah Masoli for the starting job. Those unfamiliar with the league, and Masoli in particular, might incorrectly assume that Manziel, despite his past NFL struggles, is a lock to win. However, that would be a misguided assumption, as Masoli demonstrated vast improvement in the latter portion of last season and finished with a career-high 3,177 passing yards and a 15:5 TD:INT over 12 games. Furthermore, he demonstrated plenty of mobility by amassing another 446 yards and four scores on the ground.
Masoli appeared to have an uncontested path to the starting job after the trade of Zach Collaros to the Roughriders, but Manziel's arrival changes that, as Manziel possesses the skill set to thrive in Jones' high-octane attack. The Tiger-Cats also inked Vernon Adams, Jr. in the offseason with the intention that he'd serve as Masoli's backup, so Hamilton has three guys on the roster who could start.
Utlimately, whoever lines up under center should at his disposal have the talented Terrence Toliver, who had 1,036 yards and nine touchdowns in 2016 but missed nearly all of last season after tearing his ACL in the first game.
The Final Word: It looks like Masoli's job to lose, and if he can come close to the proficiency he displayed in Jones' system late last season, it will be difficult for Manziel or Adams to unseat him. Masoli could certainly rack up plenty of numbers through both the air and ground if he remains entrenched atop of the depth chart, but he is going to have to play well to hold onto his spot.
Alex Green stepped in nicely after C.J. Gable was traded last season, compiling 447 rushing yards and five touchdowns over six games while averaging an impressive 5.7 yards per tote. Green should see the bulk of work again this season, but it bears noting that Jones' system rarely affords running backs an abundance of opportunity. NFL veteran Storm Johnson, Sean Thomas Erlington and Mercer Timmis are behind Green on the depth chart, but they don't appear to be much of a threat for the starter's job.
The Final Word: Green appears to have a firm grip on the top spot and should be able to hold onto it. However, his overall rushing opportunities could certainly be limited by Jones' desire to move the ball through the air.
In the absence of Terrence Toliver last season, Jalen Saunders and Luke Tasker produced a pair of 1,100-yard tallies, and Brandon Banks stepped up with career highs in receptions (67), receiving yards (1,011) and touchdowns (8). A year later, all are back, and all look like contributors. Saunders provided a speed dimension last season by racking up 1,170 yards on an average of 15.4 yards per catch. Tasker, meanwhile, flashed some of the CFL's most consistent route running and hands while setting new bests with 104 receptions, 1,167 yards and seven receiving scores.
Given Jones' aggressive passing philosophy, this is a group that should provide plenty of value from a fantasy perspective. Holdovers Shamawd Chambers and Damarr Aultman should fight for positioning in the lower portion of the depth chart.
The Final Word: Saunders and Tasker appear to be sure fantasy bets, and Toliver – despite his upside – is at least something of question mark coming off his lengthy absence. There are also some rumblings that he may not be the ideal fit for Jones' system, as Jones coach prefers smaller, quicker receivers. However, the 6-5 Toliver is still in position to make a mark, particularly near the goal line.
Brandon Banks had another solid season as a returner, but he spent more time on offense during the latter half of the season and relinquished some return opportunities. As a result, he finished with his lowest punt return and kickoff return yardage since his rookie campaign in 2013. It's not clear how often he will return this season, but if he is used more on offense again, the trio of DeMarr Aultman, Willie Quinn, and Jalen Saunders would likely get involved in his place.
The Tiger-Cats nabbed Lirim Hajrullahu from the champion Argonauts during the offseason, and he should have ample scoring opportunities thanks to his offense. He racked up a career-high 177 points last season in Toronto, and he could be headed for a similar output on a team whose offense should move the ball down the field in sizable chunks when it's clicking.