Fantasy Football in the Time of Corona originally posted on our Patreon page on June 5. We’ve pulled it out from behind the paywall on Draft Weekend Eve to give leagues some tangible solutions to this headache we will deal with all season long.
There is a lot of national uncertainty swirling right now. Protests piggybacked on coronavirus and the United States is in a state of upheaval. The NBA and NFL have bubbled up and are proceeding well through the uncertain times. MLB has put their head down and has decided they will just do whatever, no matter what happens. If you watched Hard Knocks, you saw at least two NFL teams say they don’t want to be MLB. Still, football is happening. That means that fantasy football is happening!
NFL players will catch the virus or be in danger of catching the virus. How do we handle this? How do we handle the fact that a player might suddenly, out of nowhere, come down with COVID-19, and we have to adjust our lineups accordingly? Please note that this is not meant to belittle the pandemic or its effects on the population, it’s just something we have to wrestle with sooner rather than later. I’m choosing sooner. Here are five ways we can adjust our 2020 fantasy football leagues to account for the pandemic.
Implement Team QB Roster Spots
Imagine that it’s Monday morning, and your quarterback is set to go on Monday Night Football, but everyone else has played. Suddenly, you get a push notification that your QB might have coronavirus, and will not play on MNF. What happens if your provider of choice roster locks your team at kick-off? You’re out of luck, out of resources. You have to take a zero or drop your starting QB to pick up his backup.
[infomercial voice] There has to be a better way?!
Team Quarterbacks. This roster construction technique insulates you from the vagaries of COVID at the one position that most easily has people step in and take nearly the same number of touches. The way Team QB works is that instead of drafting Josh Allen or Deshaun Watson, you draft Bills QB and Texans QB.
This way, whoever plays quarterback for the team gets you fantasy points. It works cleaner at QB than any other position because generally, a QB doesn’t get phased out of the rotation mid-game, or get random fluky TDs (like tight ends do). This is a bulwark against late COVID-19 benching that would rarely change the outcome of contests without COVID-19.
Expand Your Rosters, and Expand Your Backups
There is no reason to have fewer than 8 bench spots this year, given that a player every week has good odds of randomly missing games with coronavirus. For example, five people tested positive for COVID-19 on the Alabama football team just this week. As such, even “onesie” positions where we don’t normally have backups, like QB and TE, should have backups. If you can’t get your league to stomach option one, this is a workaround to make sure you don’t get screwed at QB.
I really want two of the TEs going in the TE12 to TE16 range, so I may be biased towards this resolution for my own selfish gains.
Abolish Bench Locking
I mostly play on Yahoo! and your player’s roster spot does not “lock” for the week until their kickoff, and only if they get fantasy points for your team. Players who stay on your bench are clean cut fodder until rosters lock for Tuesday waivers. Some people hate this default rule, but it should become the rule, at least for 2020. This way you can cut a down-roster player to keep your week competitive.
You don’t want to lose because a player caught coronavirus, but even worse: what if the guy you hate in your league wins a week because of coronavirus? Ditch locking benches and you’re on your way to making sure people don’t complain about losing because of COVID-19.
Enable Sunday Add-Drops
In some FAAB and Waiver leagues, you cannot acquire a player on Sunday morning. For coronavirus purposes, this should get lifted in all leagues. Purists will get mad, but this is the only season where every single player’s availability status is literally unknown going into Sunday contests. It’s an unusual time, and those whiners will just have to deal with Sunday morning acquisitions being possible.
Designated Flex Backup
This is probably the easiest thing to implement from the player’s perspective and the biggest headache from the commissioner perspective. Every Saturday, a universal backup is declared. If a player on your roster misses that week’s games, then the backup steps in seamlessly. The commissioner will have to make the change, but it’s the most one-to-one way to do this with the least changes to the weekly roster and rules.
BONUS: This one probably won’t work because it would require the cooperation of the NFL and the Fantasy Football platforms, but the coronavirus-stricken player never locks, even after their game has passed. Right now, if an injured player is on an active roster spot, you just eat a big fat zero. But, if the player misses the game due to COVID-19, you can get a respite from this and swap the player out with a bench player who has not yet played. This would take a lot of work from the NFL and the fantasy platforms, so I doubt this is the solution. However, I believe the five solutions, mixed-and-matched, can work for nearly every league.