Corona Virus Impact to Fantasy Football

by Shamin Shah – June 17, 2020 – 8 minute read

With Coronavirus impacting over the entire sporting world, there is a very high likelihood that sporting events are not going to be the same in a very long time. As the fantasy football world starts getting ready for the upcoming season, let’s take a look at all the potential impacts it will have. 

  1. Teams will not get much time to practice. As teams are surely meeting remotely with each other and going over playbooks and schemes, it is not the same as practicing together. This is going to naturally impact players in new teams and people coming back from injury. Let’s first take a look at a few key players in new teams.

Tom Brady & Rob Gronkowski: While these two all stars are joining a new scheme and brand new personnel, they are veterans that have been around in a long time. This may be hard to predict but I do envision Brady relying on shorter throws to his TEs, along with Godwin in the slot before he gets comfortable enough to throw it deeper to his deep threat WRs such as Evans. This is also going to be heavily dependent on how his Oline and RBs do, along with his defense. If he is needed to, he will start throwing it deep, but I believe the short passes will be their game plan going into the season. As for Gronk, look for him to ease into things, as I believe he will be very TD dependent in a timeshare with a few other solid TEs.

Philip Rivers: A lot of the things I said about Brady may apply to Rivers. Look for Rivers to target his RBs early and often, giving Mack and rookie Jordan WIlkins a slight bump. With TY Hilton being a veteran who has been around and been effective  with a number of QBs, look for him to get targets early and often as well. 

Ben Rothlesberger: It is going to be nearly impossible to predict what will happen with the Steelers offense this year. However, the more rest Big Beg gets, the better it will be. He is the clear cut #1 QB who has been with the team his whole career, has a great rapport with his players, and is never afraid to make the big throws. On the other hand, the Steelers have a top rated defense and a sound running game if he gets going. It can go either way here.

Tyrod Taylor: While you likely aren’t drafting Tyrod Taylor unless you are in a 2 QB league, his pass catchers will definitely see an impact. While with the Bills, Taylor didn’t use his RBs as receivers much, which is something he will have to do for the Chargers to be successful this year. Look for Keenan Allen to be a safety net for Taylor, and for him to run a fair amount until he gets comfortable throwing to Austin Ekeler and Mike Williams.

Todd Gurley: I don’t necessarily think this situation will impact Gurley much. He has the backfield to himself and is a bruising RB that expects to get a ton of goal line opportunities. Infact, this may give him more time to get his knee stronger and handle that workload that will be expected of him

David Johnson: I believe not practicing will make it very hard for DJ to hit the ground running, no pun intended. He looked slow and sluggish last year while his running mate Drake looked explosive and ran away with the job. DJ is a lot more effective as a pass catcher and would need time to play in O’Brien’s offense to learn those routes.

Melvin Gordon: This is another back who may need some time on his team. Sure he gets goal line opportunities, but he is backed up by a very capable RB in Philip Lindsay who has played his whole career in Denver and been effective, and I don’t anticipate the Broncos having much scoring. It will take time for Gordon to establish as the clear cut #1, and I am not sure if he even does that throughout the season.

Deandre Hopkins: Hopkins has played with some really bad Quarterbacks in his days in Houston, and continued to be one of the top 5 at his position throughout. A second year player like Murray will not be afraid to get him going early and often as his talent is unquestionable.

Stefon Diggs: Rapure with Allen is going to be a key to Diggs success. Given that the Bills are a run first team who relies on their defense and the legs of Allen, it will take time for Diggs to be entrenched in this offense. Look for Allen to rely more on safe throws to his slew of slot receivers. Diggs will be very dependent on big plays that won’t come very often to start the season.

Brandin Cooks: Cooks is essentially the replacement to Hopkins in Houston. However, we won’t see nearly as many targets. Watson likely will put his trust in Fuller and a veteran like Cobb early.

Emmanuel Sanders: I am not worried about Sanders not being able to start strong in NO. He is arguably playing with the best QB he has ever had, and he has come into roles and thrived right away in the past. Look for him to get going early and often as the clear cut #2 in a high scoring NO offense.

Hayden Hurst: Replacing the year Austin Hooper just had will be no easy task for Hurst. However, look for the Falcons to try to get him going early and often. Hurst is not a blocking TE just like Hooper so Falcons will try to use him the same way.

Austin Hooper: Hooper is going into the Browns camp in a timeshare. He will not be given the opportunity in training camp to prove he should be the starter, and that will hurt him in the beginning of the season.

  1. Rookies may take a bit longer to ease into their roles

Coaches will need more time than usual to trust their rookies. In RB timeshares, the rookie will need to prove himself before capturing that starting role. As for WRs, QBs may trust their veterans early in the season. Here are some impacts to rookies that i can potentially see due to COVID

Clyde Edwards-Helaire: This is one of the toughest rookies to figure out. I believe Damien Williams will get first crack at the starting role, given his play in the playoffs and superbowl last year. THe over-hype train for CEH will take some time to get going.

D’Andre Swift: Similar story here. The Lions have a solid RB who has been there for a while now. Look for Kerryon Johnson to get the rock early and let the Lions easy into Swift’s role.

Jonathan Taylor: I believe this is going to depend on how well Taylor catches the ball out of the backfield (see Philip Rivers above). If he can make some big plays early, he may take over that role from Mack, but Mack is not going away anytime soon.

Cam Akers: Stay away from this backfield as we have no idea how McVay is going to split three guys up. Barring injury to others, I don’t see Cam Akers getting off to a good start to the season

Ke’Shawn Vaughn: THis is the only rookie who I think can get a starting role early. Ronald Jones hasn’t been very effective as TBs running back and has had the chance to take over the #1 role many times. With defenses keying in on the pass catchers, look for Vaughn to start strong along with a whole slew of new offensive players. 

Jerry Jeudy: Building rapport with a young QB takes time. Lock will rely on trusted options and a solid defense. Slow your role on Jeudy making a big impact early.

Henry Ruggs III: Oakland has needed a solid WR for a while now. Ruggs will get opportunities early, but there is a major question mark around whether Carr will be effective. This can go either way.

Justin Jefferson: The Vikings badly needed a replacement for Diggs. Cousins isn’t afraid to sling it, and Jefferson is a big body on a good offense. However, Cook will get the ball a lot, and Thielan isn’t going anywhere. It will take a while for Jefferson to get going.

  1. There may be players who get COVID during the season

I hate to say this, but I believe it is inevitable that players get COVID. As it stands now, this would mean that they would need to quarantine for at least 2 weeks. While it is impossible to know who this will impact, you can prepare your team accordingly. If you are willing to wait on QBs and TEs, draft a quality backup just in case. If you are doing an auction draft, maybe lean towards having a deeper team rather than a top heavy team. Most importantly, keep an eye on the news and how the NFL plans to handle these situations before your drafts.

In addition, propose 1 or 2 IR spots in your league because of the pandemic. COVID is an unfair virus that can infect anyone, and no team should suffer because of this but it will happen. Minimize that pain by allowing teams to have players on the IR slot rather than using up a precious bench spot.

  1. Little to no fans in the stands

There are many teams in the NFL that feed off their crowd and play much better at home because of it. While we dont know exactly how this is going to pan out, it is worth noting that this can impact fantasy football. 

Teams that play much better at home compared to the road according to the teams scoring margin last year: 

Ravens, Bills, Vikings, 49ers, Cardinals, Packers, Chiefs, Broncos

Teams who had the lowest difference in scoring margin last year:

Giants, Redskins, Saints, Browns, Panthers, Eagles, Chargers, Jets

Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean these teams are great or bad at home, it just means the teams with the lowest difference didn’t change their scoring margin much between home and road averages.

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