Written by Tal Malachovsky
Fantasy football is about to start, but this is not going to be a normal season for the NFL. As expected, Covid-19 is having a major effect on sports. The NFL has an advantage in some ways to consider how to handle the season while watching as other sports are starting or have recently started. These other sports will give us insight into the challenges, and different ways to handle the NFL games, and season. How will the fantasy community handle this strange year?
The world has gone mad. Usually, there are 4 preseason games. This year, originally, there were supposed to be 2 games, but now, it seems, there will be NO preseason games at all. So, the first real game will be played September 10th between the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead stadium. Not seeing preseason games makes it more difficult to draft rookies, and players on new squads without watching how they integrate with their new teams, not to mention new or shifted coaching, and other situational changes, like the raiders moving to a new city. Research is more paramount now than ever before.
The NFL Players Association have agreed to start training camps. Players will have a week from the official signing of the agreement to decide on playing this season or to opt-out. High risk players can earn $350,000 and have an accrued NFL season added, and those without risk who opt out can earn $150,000. There are a few dozen players opting out of this season. Damien Williams, who is a fantasy relevant player, has opted out on July 29th, which should bolster rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s value in fantasy drafts. He’s already being drafted in the first two rounds of 12 person redraft leagues. I digress. As this seven day window closes, we will see how many fantasy relevant players opt-out, and how this affects their respective teams, ergo fantasy football. The non-fantasy relevant players matter too, but more for the teams, and how they function, not for the actual fantasy draft. Also noteworthy, for some reason, the patriots have the most players who have opted out, thus far.
This is not going to be a normal season.
Covid-19 is altering how the NFL functions, like it has for every other major sport. Basketball just started July 30th, but they have zero positive tests in over two weeks of testing. Although, Baseball began July 23rd, a week ago, and there are already issues, like the Florida Marlins with 20 players testing positive for the virus. Baseball is having big issues keeping players safe from Covid-19. While those players are healthy people, and the majority should get through this unscathed, they will not be playing for some time. They contracted this virus, which is going to limit their play for at least one game, most likely more. This has made it difficult from a fantasy baseball perspective to manage a team. Add to that, the Baseball season has been shortened to just 60 games, where it’s usually 162 games. Every game really matters. Holding teams or even multiple individuals on a team out of games has huge implications for sports, especially for us fantasy sports fans. Also, the NHL is starting August 1st, tomorrow. The good news is that with all these sports starting ahead of the NFL, we’ll get a glimpse of how the Fantasy football season/NFL season will play out. It seems the best way for these NFL teams to operate is in some sort of what they’re calling a bubble. I don’t like the terminology, but if the NFL plays a whole season they can call it a China bubble for all I care.
The bottom line for us fantasy football people is, how will our leagues handle the possibility that players may not play on a weekly basis, or that whole teams may be completely affected, which could affect your player, held out or not? There is a higher probability that whole teams may be affected than just individual players. In football the close proximity of players, along with their sweat and spittle that gets flung around may make this a more difficult season than we are anticipating. I am discussing all these questions with my leagues mates, and we have not come to any conclusions on the main questions, yet; How many Covid-19/IR spots should we have, 2 or 5? How many games have to be played, if the season is cut short, in order to declare a winner, and what will be the criteria to determine who that winner is? Refunds, under a certain amount of games, will be issued, but what is the threshold of games that need to be played, over 6, over 2? Will we just use team record and some other point scale to determine who wins after say 6 or 8 weeks of played games? I don’t know. As a fantasy analyst of sorts, and the commissioner of my league, I would like the justification for whichever numbers we choose.
What are your thoughts?