The increase in players entering the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols might leave you with questions about how this could impact your fantasy football team as we enter the first week of the playoffs for ESPN standard leagues. We’ll try to answer what we can for you here.
How does a player’s status impact his projection and ranking on ESPN.com?
We use our best judgment. The vast majority of players who have been added to the COVID-19 list on Monday through Friday preceding a Sunday game have gone on to miss that game, with a few notable exceptions. Our approach has been to remove those players from our rankings and to zero out their projections, barring a report that suggests otherwise. For players who have been on the list longer, we are more optimistic of their chances to clear protocols and play. That is the case right now with Darrell Henderson Jr. and Myles Gaskin, for example, but as with any medical situation, this is only our best guess and not an indication of inside knowledge of the situation. — Mike Clay
So when will I know for sure if a player will play or not?
The current rules state that in order to play on Sunday, a player must be activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list by Saturday at 4 p.m. ET. For games on Thursday, Saturday (there are two this week) or Monday, the deadline is 4 p.m. the same day. If this rule changes, we will update it here as well. However, as we saw last week with the Rams ahead of their Monday night game, a player can be added to the reserve/COVID19 list at any time. — Stephania Bell
What advice can you give me to prepare?
I often stress that, during the fantasy playoffs especially, one should maximize every roster spot. That doesn’t mean simply filling every spot with an active player, but rather, in the current COVID-19 environment, making sure every spot is utilized in a way that maximizes your ability to make lineup decisions at every game-block lock time.
Here’s how: As the Sunday 1 p.m. ET games approach and you lock in your initial lineup, if any player relegated to your bench serves minimal future purpose, cut that player and either leave his roster spot blank or add someone at the same position at a corresponding game start time or later to any players you have in 4 p.m. or night games.
That way, you’ll be able to either add an emergency plug-in (thanks to the empty bench spot) or slot in that pickup if your player unexpectedly lands on the COVID-19 list. This is most critical if you have players in the Sunday or Monday night games — David Montgomery, Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson most notably, this week — as the later the game, the more time for unexpected outcomes, so grabbing understudies for those three is so much more important in advance than doing so for, say, Nick Chubb in the Saturday afternoon game.
Think it can’t happen? Think again: In a home league of mine this past week, one manager had Tyler Higbee in his lineup with an outside chance at winning a critical matchup. Unfortunately, that league doesn’t allow post-Sunday-at-1 add/drops, which is simply a bad-luck outcome, but in an ESPN league without any bench spots — as was the case for that team — you’d be pressed to cut Higbee himself to field his replacement. That’s a no-go if you roster, say, Montgomery or Cook. (Note: Make sure you are familiar with your league’s specific rules regarding when and how you can add players and adapt the above to your specific conditions.)
Which brings us to our final piece of advice: Always avail yourself of the opportunity to put your last-playing player of the week in your flex spot, maximizing your ability to move in replacements as late news breaks. That way, if Montgomery is your flex rather than your running back, you can choose from a RB, WR or TE as his replacement if there’s bad news, rather than from among only running backs if he was slotted there. –-Tristan H. Cockcroft
What happens if a game is postponed or canceled?
When and if a game gets played is entirely up to the NFL. We saw several games rescheduled last season, and during the summer, the NFL indicated games could be forfeited due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
A forfeited game will be treated like a bye week. Players will obviously not accrue points, but nor will they lock at the originally scheduled game time, allowing you to bench or drop those players as per your league rules.
Should a game be rescheduled to a Tuesday, we will extend the scoring period for that week to account for it. This will also delay the waiver process by one day. Note that should your league use multiple-day waiver periods, this could create a situation where it overlaps with the Thursday night game of the following week. Players in that game would be locked and would not be able to be used as conditional drops for waiver purposes.
Remember that custom league managers have access to certain roster editing tools and can also adjust scoring for any matchup, allowing your league to deal with specific situations how it sees fit.