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August 04, 2020

How to do more preparation for your fantasy league than the NFL will do for COVID-19

A look at five ways to save your fantasy football league during COVID-19

NFL Fantasy football
112619ChristianMcCaffrey Chuck Cook/USA TODAY Sports

Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.

Imagine if this tweet came out on a Sunday morning during football season:

Gardner Minshew may not be the most important player for fantasy football reasons, but he may as well be anyone. With the NFL deciding against using a bubble to keep its players from contracting coronavirus, there will be a new element to contend with for fantasy owners in 2020.

In addition to players missing games and returning more frequently (even with the violence and frequent injuries that comprise an NFL season), there is also the threat of an outbreak cancelling a game, multiple games, or god forbid the entire season.

Whether you are the commissioner of your league or just a participant worried about putting safeguards in place to make sure it's worth doing this year, we have a few tips that could help.

Extra IR spot

This is probably a no-brainer. Adding an extra slot for a team to keep an injured player mimics what the NFL is actually doing. Having a player test positive and having a spot to toss him — which will open up a roster spot to pick up a free agent with — will allow team owners to avoid the dreaded '0' for a starting role. All leagues should consider adding multiple IR spots for 2020. Making one COVID-19 specific is also an option, but it will require a commish to pay very close attention, as that information may not be readily available due to HIPAA laws.

FAAB

Hand-in-hand with adding roster and IR spots goes what is sure to be a wild free agent wire from week to week. There is a pretty good chance a well-informed fantasy owner will be staring at his free agent options even more this season, and making sure there is an equitable way to award well-prepared owners can be a good way to help determine your league's winner. A free agent auction acquisition budget (FAAB) essentially allows each person to bid on free agents each week from a $100 budget. The important aspect of the FAAB system is it avoids a free-for-all should a big name go on the COVID list. If you don't have this system yet, add it — it's a click away and will be really helpful with so many roster changes expected to be made.

Handcuffs

It's never been more important to have backup plans — both for NFL teams and for fantasy owners. Okay, so maybe drafting, say, Carolina's Reggie Bonnafon in your draft later this August is a stretch (he is Christian McCaffery's backup). But, as the season goes along, adding him to an open roster spot could be an opportunistic move for McCaffery owners. Identifying and keeping an eye on the players slated to back up your stars is a key practice in fantasy and is even more important in 2020. We are seeing it happen in realtime in MLB — players will test positive, players will unexpectedly miss games. "Next man up" will be the catch phrase of the NFL this season.

High score of the week

From strategies to league format, it's important to adapt as a commissioner. If you are playing in a money league that pays out the winner at the end of the season, perhaps it's a good idea to add a little incentive for your team owners to hustle, pay attention and enjoy fantasy in 2020 under the threat of a season being cancelled. Having a small percentage of your pot of money pay out for the high score of the week is a good way to make everyone care and have some skin in the game. Paying the owner of the team that scores the most points each week $5, $20, or whatever works for your league can go a long way toward keeping your friends invested. This is why Venmo exists. 

Division winners

This is another way to make your league worth it if things fall apart and the NFL doesn't finish its season. Pay some portion of your pot to the winners of the two divisions (assuming you have divisions in your league) at the end of the league while returning the unused portion. 

Here's an example of how you can divvy things up in a 12-team league with everyone paying $50 to the pot:

 Payout
HSOTW$150 ($10 per week)
Division winners$200 ($100 each)
League champ$250


Obviously if you play for more or for less money you can adjust accordingly, but using the above method can assure that every week matters even if there is no champion. (It also happens to be a great safeguard against fantasy participants losing interest if their team is going to miss the playoffs.) If the season doesn't get finished, return the non-high score paying entry fee money at the end of the abbreviated season divided evenly.

One other thought for league owners is adding some kind of payout deadline. If the NFL makes it past, say, your league's trade deadline then division winners get paid. The same idea can be used for keepers locking in as well.


Follow Evan on Twitter: @evan_macy

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