Fantasy Football team owners are used to flexibility. Adaptability might be the difference between a good team and a bad one. But let me tell you what, this 2020 Fantasy Football season may very well be the death of me…in fantasy football that is.
Clearly the season on the field in real life has been bonkers as well. And clearly there are bigger things in real life, with larger impacts that are occurring. But fantasy football has often been our escape from the plights of the real world in the past. This year, those plights have made their way into our highly competitive pretend football games, and man is it stressful.
In a typical season fantasy owners are stressing waiver wire deadlines, free agent acquisition budgets and injury plug-n-plays. And this year has not been devoid of those things, Christian McCaffery owners I’m looking right at you! But for most this year, most of that has been secondary concerns. At the end of the day it’s all factored in, but maybe more this year than ever but the level of foolish stress that it has brought to me and to other fantasy players has been through the freaking roof.
Think about what this year has brought with it for fantasy…
At the beginning of the season, if you’re in a respectable league, you were planning out some contingency plans. What happens if a player gets COVID? What happens if a whole game gets delayed? What happens if the season gets cancelled at some point. Just a few of the questions we had to figure out due to these “unprecedented times”.
At the same time, you’re shifting your strategies and hopefully not drafting to early to be hit by some of the big name players that opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns. Devin Funchess, Travis Benjamin and Allen Hurns were just a few fantasy familiar names that opted out of the season and then, in one fell swoop we saw Damien Williams of the Chiefs and one of their main offensive linemen Laurent Duvernay-Tardif also opt out for the season. Worry surrounding the Chiefs swelled and we all learned a bit more about a rookie named Clyde Edwards-Helaire. That worry for the Chiefs would later prove to be foolish as would the high first round draft value of CEH.
Shockingly, we are into week thirteen and a full slate of games has been played, but that doesn’t mean it’s been normal. Remember back in Week 4 when we got our first taste of the chaos as the Steelers and Titans game was first delayed and then moved out of the week completely, delayed until Week 7. Think of the impact there. Raise your hand if you had to figure out what to do that week with a surprise BYE for Ben Roethlisberger…JuJu Smith-Schuster (who at the time we were still hoping would show up)…James Connor…A.J. Brown…or goodness forbid Derek Henry!! This shift caused a mass scramble and rush for the waiver wire and we all became more familiar with players named Rex & Nyheim for maybe the first time.
Oh, but that wasn’t all that happened in Week 4. We also had our first dose of a last minute diagnosis for a fantasy football star when Cam Newton was declared OUT after a positive test for COVID-19. Newton tested positive on a Friday night and the news broke on Saturday morning that he would miss the Patriots long-awaited matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. At the time, Newton’s dual-threat ability under center had him as a fantasy star and through three weeks he was averaging between 25-30 points a week depending on your league. Newton would go on to miss weeks 4 and 5 leaving fantasy owners, especially those with a superflex like myself, to scour the waiver wire for guys like Nick Mullins to fill in. Needless to say, many took an “L” that week.
Coming out of that first Week 4 situation, the NFL acted and upped the seriousness that it was using to handle COVID diagnosis and mainly players exposure to those with a positive diagnosis. As if they weren’t already masks became mandatory, teams were paying close attention to contact tracing and general spacing with players wearing spatial proximity bands that would beep when you got within 6-feet and not only could a player miss time due to contracting COVID-19, but now they could miss time if they had been exposed to someone with the disease. High-risk exposure became a thing that would immediately drop a player from football activities for at least 5-days if their tests came back negative. Matthew Stafford owners, the few and the proud, had to sweat this one out in Week 9 as the Lions had to charter a private jet for Stafford to fly from Detroit to Minnesota alone after being cleared to return after a day 5 negative test.
This was the new normal for a few weeks, it seemed like Mondays became the day that fantasy owners feared the most. It was the most common day that we would see players added to the NFL’s COVID-19 Reserve list after Sunday testing and contact tracing would bring back positive test results. Again fantasy owners had to build contingency plans surrounding players that landed on the list and positional depth on your roster became more important than ever. You almost needed one good backup at each position just in case.
It had already been a pretty crazy week when Week 12 swept in and said “hold my beer”.
It was the Thanksgiving slate of games with a feature game Thursday night between the Steelers and the Ravens, but COVID jumped up and impacted the game. That game was delayed and rescheduled three times only to be played almost a full week later on the following Wednesday afternoon at 2:40pm, missed right around a dozen starters and key contributors for the Ravens alone including quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Steelers were also missing a few including fantasy relevant running back James Connor.
Meanwhile, anybody rostering a Denver Bronco in fantasy football was dealt a nearly fatal blow when THE ENTIRE Broncos quarterback grouping was ruled out from Denver’s game with New Orleans due to high-risk exposure. The Broncos had to elevate practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton to start at quarterback and planned to play a little backyard football to give it their best shot. Hinton finished the day 1-11 passing for 13 yards and 2 interceptions, a performance which no fault of his own completely nerfed the rest of the Broncos offense simultaneously.
And then, almost completely overshadowed by the Steelers, Ravens and Broncos, one of Fantasy Footballs top wide outs Adam Thielen also missed week 12 after COVID exposure caught up to him at the wrong time.
But maybe the biggest impact of the season will be felt this weekend as two teams head into Week 13 on BYE. You see, for most leagues Week 13 is the final week of the Fantasy regular season. So teams that have fought tooth and nail through a weird season, could head into a make or break week without starters like Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Mike Davis and others that helped carry them all season long.
It’s been a weird year in real life, so much so that the weirdness has impacted our fantasy football teams in big ways. Yes the stress levels have been high this year, but if you were to ask me, sprinkling in these variables has kept me even more engaged in something I love this year. I felt like a real GM having to manage my salary cap, monitor the injury reports and take chances on no name players that would become household names. It’s been a pain, but I think that 2020 has really solidified my love for Fantasy Football even more. If you’re not already in some sort of a Dynasty or Empire fantasy league, this season has been a strange little glimpse at some of the fun that those leagues can offer you. You feel like a real GM trading during the offseason and trading for future picks. I encourage you to keep your redraft leagues but sprinkle a long-term option in as well next year.