Most of us have become accustomed to playing fantasy football in precedented times. But in case you haven't heard, we're currently living in unprecedented times. While completing a season of fake football isn't high on the list of national priorities, it's still a worthwhile diversion -- and likely the reason you clicked the link that led you to this article.
Let's face it, there's nowhere to turn without seeing some piece of COVID-19 news. The NFL is no exception. The league faces myriad challenges as it attempts to play something akin to a "normal" season in the midst of a global pandemic. The early returns, however, are promising.
Nonetheless, the league -- and nearly everyone associated with it -- expects that there will be some players and coaches who test positive for the coronavirus as teams begin to travel and face off against live opponents. Those positive tests will undoubtedly have a trickle down effect to fantasy football. So how should fantasy managers prepare and adjust for a season that projects to be unlike any other in the NFL's century-long existence? I'll offer a few tips to help guide you through the 2020 season.
Expand the rosters
The NFL and its teams have put strict protocols in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Ideally, the systems related to testing, contact tracing and isolating can thwart any major outbreaks. Nonetheless, the virus is extremely contagious and it only takes one person testing positive for it to spread through a locker room. It would not be a surprise if multiple players on a team were forced to miss time as they quarantined while in recovery.
NFL teams will need to look deeper to fill their active rosters -- and so will fantasy teams. Because we can't predict who might contract COVID-19 at any given point, your fantasy squad could have multiple players at key positions miss time. So could several of your opponents. That could make the weekly waiver wire scramble even more difficult than normal. With an expanded roster, savvy drafting, and a little luck, you can hopefully avoid any major fantasy headaches.
Add reserve spots
You may have noticed that the NFL has a lot of lists. There's IR, the PUP, the NFI, Commissioner's Exempt ... and so on. This year, there's also a new list in the bunch -- the COVID-19 list. We saw a number of players added to this list at the beginning of camp and there will likely be more before the season ends.
If real football has a COVID-19 list, your fantasy league should have something similar. Many fantasy managers are already familiar with injured reserve spots on their fantasy roster. For the uninitiated, those are spots that allow you to retain an injured player that you'd like to keep while simultaneously allowing you to add a free agent from the waiver wire.
Your league may already have some form of a reserve roster spot. If so, this might be the year to consider adding more. If your league doesn't have them, suggest instituting them to your commissioner. (Side note: NFL-managed leagues will all have three Reserve slots per roster.)
Wait on a draft
When you should hold your draft has been a widely disputed topic in fantasy circles for years. Diehards like selecting their players earlier in an effort to get the best bargains on deep sleepers and rookies. Others tend to prefer waiting until closer to the start of the season in order to evaluate depth charts as well as minimizing the risk of injury in practice or preseason games.
In 2020, it might be wise for most fantasy enthusiasts to wait until we get near kickoff before drafting their fantasy squads. We have moved past the stage where players can opt-out of the season, which had a definite impact on rosters and the accompanying fantasy draft value of players. That doesn't mean we've seen the last of the COVID-related player moves.
Everyone remains optimistic that the next few weeks won't bring about a surge of infections but it is always a possibility. If key fantasy-relevant players are forced to quarantine, it will impact depth charts and game plans. The longer you can wait to see how things shake out before drafting your team, the better off you'll likely be.
Draft some "insurance"
The idea of drafting insurance for your fantasy roster isn't a new one. For years, fantasy football writers have preached the value of "handcuffing" your top running backs by also selecting their backups. This year, that could be even more important.
With expanded rosters and additional reserve spots, finding replacements for your early-round stars might be very difficult. It will be key to have that contingency plan ready to go if something bad happens. Ideally, you can draft the backup to your own stud running backs. But if it's not possible, don't hesitate to spend a late pick on someone else's insurance policy. That either gives you a potential starting player -- or some leverage in a trade.
Similarly, this might be a year that you consider doubling up on positions you might not normally consider. Most seasons, it makes sense to draft just one quarterback or tight end. In 2020, it may be wise to consider spending a late pick on a second player at each of those positions. Better safe than sorry.
Did I mention that this is going to be an unusual season? Because it will be. But with some advanced planning and a new way of looking at things, you can still be successful in fantasy football. We're all in this together.