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Fantasy Football: How to COVID-Proof Your Team & League

With the NFL season powering on in the midst of a pandemic, Dr. Roto shares his advice to ensure that COVID-19 doesn't wreak havoc on your fantasy league or teams.
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Unlike any year in my lifetime, 2020 has brought numerous challenges for our country. Normally these challenges do not intersect directly with the sports world, but in the COVID-19 pandemic, it certainly has. Fantasy football managers have to not only worry about their teams, but also wonder about whether the NFL season will take place. While I cannot control the pandemic or its potential outbreak on the NFL this season, I can offer some COVID-19 strategies for both leagues and its participants. Hopefully, you can use some of these to ensure the best fantasy football season possible.

League Recommendations

Have COVID-19 IR spots available

Many leagues (including the ones I play in) normally do not have injured reserved spots available. However, due to COVID, players might be placed on the IR/designated to return list at any time. Therefore, leagues should add a few COVID-19 IR spots to their rosters. This will ensure that fantasy football managers will not be put at a competitive disadvantage because their rosters might have fewer players active for the week's game than other rosters in the league.

Expand Rosters

Most leagues have a certain number of roster spots available, typically 16 or 20. This year, I think it might behoove leagues to add two rosters spots in case of COVID and other various injuries. Teams are not playing any preseason games, and I expect to see more soft tissue type injuries than ever before. Having an extra two spots might help league managers deal with roster issues.

Figure out the prize structure in case the season ends early

There is a distinct chance that the season does not finish in Week 17, so leagues should have a contingency plan for the prize pool. Many high stakes leagues are giving a full refund if the NFL does not make it to Week 8. Make sure your league agrees on the prize structure as this issue can cause a disaster amongst fantasy managers.

Team kickers

Since most leagues do not want to have two kicker spots, many leagues have been using the team kicker position. This way, if your kicker is out with COVID, you don’t have to waste a free agent or waiver selection on another kicker. Even better, this might be the year to get rid of kickers as a position like we did in my home league.

Late waiver claims

Because COVID can strike any day and at any time, leagues should consider adding a late waiver claim period. I know that the FFWC has added a Sunday 11 AM waiver period, which makes perfect sense. Without a doubt, there must be a Saturday waiver period this season. If your league doesn’t have a weekend waiver claim time, I would either talk to your league commissioner or consider quitting ASAP, at least if there's money on the line. If you're playing for fun, it'll be more fun if the league has a flexible set-up.

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Recommendations for Fantasy Managers

If all things equal, choose the player with the later bye week

I hope that the NFL regular season goes for the full 17 weeks, but if I am honest, I think there is a chance that does not happen. One of my recommendations to fantasy managers is to draft players who have later BYE weeks. If you draft Lions QB Matthew Stafford (Week 5 bye) or Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (Week 6 bye) and the season shuts down after eight weeks, you lost a week from a vital player on your team. Therefore, it's critical to either a) draft a player with a later bye week, or b) make sure that if you draft a player with an early bye week, you back him up with a player who has a later bye week.

Secure your backups

More than ever before, fantasy football managers must make sure that they plan ahead. What if your starter contracts COVID the night before the game? You need to make sure that you have backups who are ready to step in and perform. If I draft Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott, I will do my best to add RB Tony Pollard later. That said, there is no need to follow this strategy for marginal backups.

Make sure to have roster depth

I was in a draft recently where one of the fantasy managers drafted only one quarterback and one tight end. While this style of drafting has its advantages, during COVID times, it could be an unmitigated disaster. Please make sure to leave your drafts with at least two quarterbacks and two tight ends. I might even argue that this is the one season to have three tight ends if truly desperate at the end of the draft.