COVID-19’s Impact on the Redraft Fantasy Season
It’s that time of year again, as the redraft season of fantasy football is fast approaching. While the month of August is the real #redraftszn, June and July allow for fantasy owners to craft their draft strategy to prepare for the upcoming season.
For many, the highlight of their fantasy year is the fantasy draft day, itself. Fantasy football players have identified boom/bust candidates, prepared their tiered rankings, and began trash talking their opponents. This year, however, we have another element that we need to consider when planning our redraft draft day strategy–COVID-19’s impact on the redraft fantasy season.
The most difficult element of this year’s draft prep is the offseason program. We really don’t know what we are going to get out of the NFL product this year. Players might be more rusty than normal, players who shifted teams might take longer to adjust, rookies will take longer to progress and adjust to the NFL pace of play, and the sheer number of COVID-19 player cases will change each day. While the NFL has released their testing protocols, many of which involve the locker rooms and inner workings that most fans do not see, we do need to keep in consideration the idea that some of our studs will not be there to play.
With the recent news that there was a COVID-19 outbreak amongst some Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans players, most notably, Cowboys star RB Ezekiel Elliott, it needs to be considered how COVID-19 is going to impact the locker rooms of NFL franchises, and more importantly, for us at least, our fantasy line-ups.
When thinking about COVID-19’s impact on the redraft fantasy season, there are a couple of things that we need to keep in mind. With shorter benches (generally 5-6 spots) and more turn-over at positions, and with no focus on the long-term, there is just no real reason to draft a handcuff unless a situation arises that warrants it (ala Tony Pollard last year during the Zeke holdout and Alexander Mattison with the reported holdout of Dalvin Cook). While handcuffs most certainly come into play later in the season, it is almost unheard of to draft one outside of the situations above.
With COVID-19, and a possibility of multiple players being out for weeks at a time if they show symptoms or test positive, we might need to rethink the way we view the top-end running backs and their handcuffs early in the draft season. Am I recommending taking Tony Pollard in the fifth round of a redraft league? Simply put, no. What I am recommending however is to take your valuable handcuffs for your stud running backs in the later rounds where you would normally take a flyer on a boom-or-bust guy.
The players that I would consider drafting a handcuff for in redraft leagues are generally going to be your Tier 1 players if you are using a tier based ranking system. If you are not using tier based rankings, I strongly suggest you shift to those, as no draft will ever go exactly how your ADP or rankings cheat sheets will list them. Once you get into Tier 2/3, handcuffing is no longer necessary, especially with the shallow benches in redraft leagues.
This leaves only a handful of backs that would warrant a COVID-19 handcuff on draft day–Saquon Barkley and Dion Lewis, Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray (normally drafted with stand-alone value), Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, and Christian McCaffrey and Reggie Bonnafon. The only handcuff I see an issue with drafting is Bonnafon, as he is unproven whereas the others have a track record of success.
The final thing to consider in relation to COVID-19’s impact on the redraft fantasy season is if players who have already tested positive for COVID-19 should get a bump UP in their rankings. While it may seem a little unusual taking a player like Zeke over McCaffrey or Barkley with the 1.01, if you are a risk-averse owner you might go this route to ensure your stud RB will be available having already gone through the recovery of COVID-19.
Although we cannot predict injuries, this is oddly something that is in our control as fantasy owners for those players who have already tested positive and have recovered (note: the CDC has wavered about whether people who tested positive can get COVID-19 a second time. Leave me alone, I’m not a doctor).
No analyst knows for sure what is going to happen with the NFL, COVID-19, the fantasy season, or the testing protocols, but if you are one of those people who have a higher-end running back who also has a proven handcuff, it might be worth a flier to pick up that handcuff just to be on the safe side in the later rounds. We have all experienced the late-season pain of somebody entering more FAAB or claiming a higher waiver priority for a player that we should have already had handcuffed earlier in the season. The only thing that has shifted now is that that pain might strike as early as draft day.
If you are still hesitant to draft a handcuff on draft day, trust me, I get it. At the very least, do yourself a favor and draft for consistency and safety with at lease some later round picks over boom/bust prospects, as you never know when you will need to have a fill-in for one of your studs.
Be prepared, do your research, and read the news. We are living in wild times. Who would have thought a pandemic would need to be accounted for with fantasy football!
Make sure to check out more awesome content at RotoHeat.com, and be on the lookout for the FREE RotoHeat redraft tool kit from our very own Rob Sullivan coming soon. It is packed with valuable tools to help you plan for and dominate your redraft league drafts!