How Has COVID-19 and Injuries to Key Players Affected Fantasy Football in 2020?

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected virtually every part of life. Fantasy Football is no exception. Fantasy Football is a game in which you act as a manager of a team of individual NFL offensive players and a defense in the NFL. Each week, your team plays against another team in your league, with the scores determined by the statistics of the players in real NFL games. You select players for your team in a draft at the beginning of the season, can trade for players, and can also pick up players that are not already on other Fantasy teams in your league on “waivers” during the season. Fantasy football is very popular. According to the Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association, approximately 45.9 million people aged 18 or over in the United States played Fantasy Football in 2019.  

The game is one of strategy. You have to strategize what you do in drafts, on waivers, trades, and in weekly lineup management. Each week, you set your lineup with the players you think will score the most Fantasy points and give you the best chance to win in that given week. As we have passed the midway point of the 2020 NFL season, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected games all around the league. A few players on each team have tested positive at some point during the season, which caused some games to be postponed. This affected Fantasy Football because Fantasy managers with players in postponed games needed to adjust how they managed their roster for that given week. In week 4, for instance, over twenty Tennessee Titans players tested positive for COVID-19. The virus spread to approximately one third of the players on the team. The NFL postponed the Titans matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, so any players on the Titans or the Steelers would not score any fantasy points in week 4. Titans star running back Derrick Henry, a top five pick in many Fantasy drafts this year, was now unable to play because of the postponement of the game. That left a lot of Henrys’ Fantasy managers in a panic. The same was true for managers with the top-ranked Steelers defense. Fantasy managers had to pick up a player or a defense off of the waivers to fill in for their roster in week 4. 

Most fantasy managers know that having depth at the running back and wide receiver position is important, but not all managers actually value depth. Some Fantasy managers like to trade two or three valuable backup players for a bonafide star at a specific position of need. While you might consider the bonafide starter the right deal to make, this year depth is more important than ever. If a fantasy manager traded multiple players of their depth, who could be valuable starters in a given week for a star player like Derrick Henry, that team most likely felt the loss of not having depth in week 4. 

One of the most important things to have in this fantasy football season are handcuffs. Handcuffs are backup players to the starter players on each NFL team. For example, Carolina Panthers superstar running back Christian McCaffrey has missed most of the season so far due to multiple injuries. McCaffrey was the first overall pick in most fantasy drafts this season so it is a huge loss for fantasy managers who did not have a backup plan. The Panthers backup running back Mike Davis has performed well in McCaffrey’s absence. Fantasy teams that were able to have Davis as a handcuff to McCaffrey should still be in a good position to win, since Mike Davis has been a top 15 running back in all scoring formats this season. Fantasy managers who did not plan ahead and pick Davis up or draft him ahead of time, could be suffering because of it. Handcuffs are also important this season if a player is put on the inactive list due to a positive COVID-19 test. It is well worth it to pick up a handcuff to make sure you have a backup plan in case one of your star players gets hurt or is unavailable to play due to COVID-19. 

As we move to the final stretch of the season, depth is crucial this year for success in Fantasy Football. You never know when a game that your star player is playing in could be postponed, cancelled, or your player will be out of the lineup.