CFL 2021 Preview: East Division

CFL 2021 Preview: East 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, beginning with the four Eastern Division clubs:

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

2019 record:

15-3, 1st in East Division 

Head coach:

Orlondo Steinauer (2nd season) 

Key Additions:

Byron Marshall, RB (free agent)

Kahlil Lewis, WR (free agent)

DeVier Posey, WR (last with Montreal Alouettes) 

Notable Departures:

Luke Tasker, WR (released)

Cameron Marshall, RB (released)

Tyrell Sutton, RB (retirement) 

Fantasy-relevant Holdovers:

Jeremiah Masoli, QB

Maleek Irons, RB

Jaelon Acklin, WR

Bralon Addison, WR

Brandon Banks, SB

Jalin Marshall, WR

Marcus Tucker, SB 

2021 fantasy outlook: The Ti-Cats will look to carry over their 2019 momentum with the majority of their key players from that squad. Jeremiah Masoli, Jaelon Ackin, Bralon Addison and Brandon Banks will once again form the core of the team's potent air attack. How quickly Masoli gets back into a groove will be key, as he last saw competitive game action in Week 7 of the 2019 season due to a torn ACL. The continuity in his pass catchers should certainly help in that regard, while new arrivals Khalil Lewis and DeVier Posey should make for excellent reinforcements. Hamilton will hope Maleek Irons can handle lead-back duties effectively, but former Washington Football Team back Byron Marshall and Don Jackson are around to help shoulder the load in case he isn't up to the task.  

Montreal Alouettes

2019 record:

10-8, second in East Division

Head coach:

Khari Jones (2nd season)

Key Additions:

Naaman Roosevelt, WR (last with Saskatchewan Roughriders)

Rashad Ross, WR (free agent) 

Notable Departures:

Jeremiah Johnson, RB (retired)

DeVier Posey, WR (to Hamilton Tiger-Cats) 

Fantasy-relevant Holdovers:

Vernon Adams, QB

B.J. Cunningham, SB

Quan Bray, WR

Eugene Lewis, WR

William Stanback, RB

Jake Wieneke, SB 

2021 fantasy outlook: The Alouettes made some nice strides back in 2019 thanks in large part to the play of QB Vernon Adams, who compiled 3,942 passing yards, 394 rushing yards and 36 total touchdowns (24 passing, 12 rushing) across 16 games. Adams returns after attempting to pursue NFL opportunities last summer, and he's joined by a strong group of incumbent teammates that includes RB William Stanback (1,587 combined rushing yards in 2018 and 2019) and pass catchers Eugene Lewis, Quan Bray and Jake Wieneke. Of the trio, Lewis could ultimately have the highest fantasy ceiling, considering his 72-1,133-5 line in 2019 and established rapport with Adams. Veteran Naaman Roosevelt, a two-time 1,000-yard receiver in Saskatchewan, should make for an excellent addition to the pass-catching corps (UPDATE: Roosevelt was released on Monday, July 26)

Toronto Argonauts

2019 record:

4-14, 3rd place in East Division 

Head coach:

Ryan Dinwiddie (1st season) 

Key Additions:

Kendall Wright, WR (free agent)

Martavis Bryant, WR (free agent)

D.J. Foster, RB (free agent)

Ricky Collins, SB (last with Edmonton Elks)

John White, RB (last with BC Lions)

Nick Arbuckle, QB (last with Ottawa Redblacks)

Eric Rogers, SB (via trade with Calgary Stampeders)

Juwan Brescacin, WR (last with Calgary Stampeders) 

Notable Departures:

James Wilder, RB (retired, subsequently signed with Elks)

Chris Rainey, RB/KR/PR (to BC Lions)

Derel Walker, WR (to Edmonton Eskimos)

S.J. Green, WR (released)

Armanti Edwards, WR (to Edmonton Elks) 

Fantasy-relevant Holdovers:

McLeod Bethel-Thompson, QB

DaVaris Daniels, WR

Rodney Smith, WR 

2021 fantasy outlook: No team racked up as many offseason additions on offense as the Argos, and the list is loaded with both ex-NFL and homegrown CFL talent. However, it's looking like the excess of personnel moves was a good idea, as it's currently uncertain if Wright and Bryant will suit up for the team due to the fact they've failed to show up for camp. If they're ultimately booted off the roster, the likes of Ricky Colins, Eric Rogers, DaVaris Daniels and Rodney Smith still make up a formidable pass-catching group. John White, Karlos Williams and former Baltimore Raven Kenneth Dixon could form an effective three-headed backfield, although it could be one that may be avoidable for fantasy purposes. At quarterback, McLeod Bethel-Thompson should have the edge over newcomer Nick Arbuckle, considering his past experience and the fact he racked up 4,184 total yards and 27 total touchdowns back in 2019. 

Ottawa Redblacks

2019 record:

3-15, 4th place in East Division

Head coach:

Paul LaPolice (1st  season) 

Key Additions:

Matt Nichols, QB (last with Toronto Argonauts) 

Notable Departures:

Dominique Rhymes, WR (to BC Lions)

Caleb Holley, WR (to BC Lions)

Brad Sinopoli, SB (retired)

John Crockett, RB (released) 

Fantasy-relevant Holdovers:

Dominique Davis, QB

R.J. Harris, SB

Jerminic Smith,WR 

2021 fantasy outlook: The Redblacks' abysmal 2019 record reflected their quality of play, but two years later, it seems like they're poised to once again finish with the league's worst mark. Matt Nichols is certainly a notable offseason addition, but with a highly inexperienced pass-catching corps to work with, the veteran signal-caller, who was part of Winnipeg's 2019 Grey Cup team, will likely have an uphill battle to come anywhere close to the type of numbers he'd put up in past seasons. Ottawa allowed their top receiver from last season, Dominique Rhymes, to depart to the BC Lions, leaving Jerminic Smith and slotback R.J. Harris as his most dependable pass catchers. Both players should see a robust allotment of targets, but they're likely to also get plenty of defensive attention due to what could be a pedestrian rushing attack set to be spearheaded by journeymen Brendan Gillanders and Timothy Flanders

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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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