Jacob Siciliano, Online Editor-in-Chief

As much as we love to talk about sleepers, busts and draft strategies we have to address the elephant in the room. This season will be like nothing we have ever seen before. The Preseason has been cancelled, players have come out with Covid-19, and some are choosing to opt out for the season. Covid is going to have a direct impact on fantasy football this year, and managers that are not prepared will be left in the dust.

Draft Handcuffs

As we have seen with Major League Baseball, players are going to contract Covid-19 and will be forced to miss two-three weeks. Due to this fact you need to adjust your draft strategy to draft more handcuffs. If you take a top tier running back like Ezekiel Elliot or Alvin Kamara you need to grab their back ups (Tony Pollard, Latavius Murray). That way if either miss time due to injury or Covid, you still have an RB1. 

When Alvin Kamara missed two weeks last year his handcuff, Latavius Murray, was the RB1 during that stretch, ahead of Christian McCaffrey. Even if you don’t own one of the elite running backs try to grab a few of these top handcuff options like Murray, Pollard or even Kareem Hunt. I personally love Murray and Hunt, not only because they offer top five upside if their starter goes down, but also due to the fact that they have stand alone fantasy value. In 2017 both Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara finished as top five running backs with New Orleans. 

Outside of 2019 when Kamara missed time due to injury the Saints have had a running back finish top five every year since 2014. New Orleans will continue to run the football and it is very possible that Latavius Murray could be way more than just a handcuff. Hunt is a viable flex starter due to the passing work he sees especially in PPR formats. Try to grab a few of these options late, because if you’re able to hit on a late round flier you have a player with league winning potential that cost you nothing.

Stay Away from Rookie Receivers and Players on a New Team                                     

For the first time in football’s history there will be no preseason, instead replaced with just 14 padded practices. This hurts nobody more than rookie receivers and quarterbacks. In the last two years only two rookie receivers, Calvin Ridley and A.J Brown, have managed to crack the top 24 receivers and that was with a full preseason. Now not only do the rookies have to learn a completely new offense, but also have to adjust to NFL level defense with only 14 full practices. 

This is the same reason I’m off of Deandre Hopkins this year. Hopkins was traded to the Cardinals earlier this year and will have second year quarterback Kyler Murray throwing him the ball. Murray is a quarterback on the rise, but he still is a slight downgrade from Deshaun Watson. Talent is definitely not the issue with Hopkins. I just don’t see him returning his ADP of WR3 this season on a new team. While Hopkins is an elite wide receiver, he only has 14 padded practices to build chemistry with Murray. We also have to keep in mind that Kyler Murray hasn’t even broken out yet. Remember how hyped Baker Mayfield was last year? Baker was the fourth quarterback taken last year, and burned everyone who drafted him. QB4 is exactly where Kyler Murray is being drafted this year. He’s going ahead of players like Desaun Watson and Dak Prescott who have already proved they can put up top three numbers. 

Last year there was a ton of hype surrounding Mayfield and Odell Beckam Jr. after Beckham was traded to the Browns. The hype got so high that Beckam was drafted in the top 10 with an ADP of WR3. That is the same ADP that Deandre Hopkins has now. Beckam ended the year outside the top 24 receivers and Baker finished as the 19th quarterback. I am not saying that Kyler Murray and Deandre Hopkins are going to completely bust, but it is possible. Hopkins could easily finish top five, but I just can’t see myself drafting him over Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill, or Devonte Adams. In the first round you want to eliminate unknowns and are looking for safe, secure picks. Both Jones and Adams have consistently produced with the same quarterback their entire career. Barring injury, Hill, Jones, and Adams are a lock to finish in the top 5, while Hopkins still has a few question marks. Many of these rookies and receivers on new teams may look appealing and could potentially breakout, I’m going to hold off until next year to draft them.

Check Players Health Pre-game   

There is nothing more frustrating than realizing that one of your players was scratched last minute due to an injury. This year more than ever expect much more of that due of Covid-19.

 If a player comes to the stadium with an abnormal temperature he will not be allowed to play in the game. This means that checking players’ health pregame is crucial, so you don’t get stuck in a bad spot. This means waking up early on Sunday to check pre-game health reports or paying for a service to optimize your lineup if a player was not able to play last minute. FantasyPros along with other sites offer these types of services.

Ask your Commissioner to add extra IR or bench spots

It’s inevitable that some players will contract covid at some point during the season. If your league is not prepared with extra IR spots or bench slots it will be extremely frustrating to have to stash a player with Covid for two-three weeks. 

 An IR spot allows you to pick up a player while your starter is recovering, so you don’t have a hole in your lineup. Make sure to add them to your league this year more than ever. A Standard ESPN league has six bench spots, but this year I would bump that number up to around nine. Not only will this allow for a deeper league, but will allow you to carry more players in case your starter is scratched due to Covid.

Covid-19 is going to have a huge impact on fantasy football this year and the managers that are able to adapt and adjust are going to thrive, while fantasy managers that can’t will sink. It’s essential to stay on top of Inactive news, following ESPN, Rotoworld, or FantasyPros on twitter or Instagram can help stay on top of inactives.