By Gerry Love – SPM Fantasy Staff
Week 5 of the National Football League Season of COVID is upon us, and the next several weeks are going to be crucial to your team’s fantasy football success – or failure. Bye weeks are starting, we’re getting additional potential “COVID byes” on a weekly basis, and big-name players are dropping like flies with injuries regularly.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve lost players like Saquon Barkley, Michael Thomas, Nick Chubb (three teams), Cam Newton, Kenny Golladay (two teams), Raheem Mostert, Chris Godwin, Jared Cook and Phillip Lindsay to injuries or COVID already, while players like Ben Roethlisberger and Jonnu Smith have had games postponed because of COVID with several other players having the potential for their games to be cancelled this week.
I’ve stressed over and over the importance of checking the waiver wire each week – even during a normal season – to build depth and find potential sleepers who can keep your team in contention when emergencies arise. Obviously, doing that has become even more important this year.
You have to be careful when claiming guys off waivers or bringing in free agents, though, because you don’t want to give up on players too soon and hand a rival owner someone who eventually helps a team win a championship.
The players you should be looking to drop are low-volume guys who aren’t guaranteed touches or targets but may have upside on a given week. Those types of players can fill in for a bye week and sometimes even lift you to a victory, but to adequately fill a hole for several weeks you need a player you can count on to get consistent touches or targets – or at the very least all the goal-line carries for his team.
Sometimes, if you are thin at one position and deep at another you might be forced to make a tough decision and give up a player who gets a lot of touches or targets, but who may average in terms of production, to solidify another position. If you find yourself in that situation, you’re probably better off trying to find a team with a need at that position and attempting to make a trade. High-visibility injured players who you won’t get back for a few weeks also might be worth moving to a strong team in return for a couple of solid players who can help bolster your lineup for the rest of the season.
Before you do anything, look at the standings in your leagues right now. What stands out? I’m guessing you’ll find that there is a lot of parity and very few truly dominant teams.
In my most competitive league, I am the overall scoring leader but am only 2-2. I’ve twice scored over 160 points and lost. Four teams are 3-1, two are 2-2 and four are 1-3. No one is great and no one is terrible.
At 2-2, I probably have the best team. All I care about is getting into the top four so I’m in the playoffs, because at that point if I’m the highest-scoring team, I’m going to have the best odds of winning. There’s no reason to blow up the ship after two unlucky weeks, but my eyes are always open for sleepers on waivers, and because I have a lot of depth, I may be able to trade for a top-tier player who can win me a championship.
In another league I’ve been decimated by injuries, losing Barkley, Godwin, Chubb and Lindsay, but have been fortunate to acquire Mike Davis and James Robinson to keep me in the running. They may prove to be great full-time starters or potential trade pieces once the team is mostly healthy in a few weeks. At 1-3 in that league I’m in third place in my four-team division despite scoring the second-most points. I’ve scored the seventh-most points in the 12-team league. Good waiver moves can keep me in the running, which is key, but I will likely need to make a deal to find my way into the playoffs. The process of figuring that out already has started.
My best record – but not my best team – is 6-2 in a pretty strong league in which I’m tied for first place. We play against an opponent and the league average each week, so that’s why there have been so many games. I’m second in the league in overall points, but it’s a very close race. I’m in a three-way tie for first, with four teams right behind at 5-3 and one at 4-4. So, I have to stay on top of things or that could change in a heartbeat.
This team has DeShaun Watson, who has underachieved to date, at QB. That is encouraging. If he starts playing better, I should be tough to beat. Or, with a new coach coming in and a lot of turmoil in Houston, maybe he never realizes his potential this year. Can I trade him to a team in need of a quarterback for a couple stud players at other positions? This is a bit risky with Drew Brees, who clearly has taken a step back this year, as my backup. Still, Brees is averaging just 1.5 fewer points per game and has been without his best receiver most of the year.
I will probably give this team one more week before considering any major moves to see how the Texans offense runs under a new coach and when Michael Thomas will return, but right now I’m leaning toward moving Watson since I am in need of a solid WR2 or WR3 and a consistent depth RB.
In another league I have a 1-3 record thanks to the absence of Thomas and Mostert for most of the year and have high-scoring Josh Allen at QB. Matthew Stafford is my backup and has been very consistent, scoring between 17 and 28 points each week. If I can get two players who together will combine to outscore Allen by a substantial amount on most weeks in deal for him, it would be worth seriously considering. Perhaps I can move Allen and Thomas for three or four players who aren’t at their level but still can change my season.
I have to do something big to make a playoff push in this league as I’m currently in eighth place and have scored the sixth-most points. A good rule of thumb is that if your total points are below a total that should have your team in the playoff hunt, you need to do more than just find a free-agent sleeper. It’s probably time to shake things up and make a move that can make or break your season.
There are no consolation prizes in fantasy football. Either you’re in or you’re out. If you can get to the playoffs, anything can happen. With four weeks already in the books, it’s a good time to assess your team and figure out which direction you might want to go. If you’ve had injuries and are still in the hunt, hang tight a few more weeks and keep scouring waivers for help. Start planning for trades you might be able to make than can turn you into a championship threat once you are back to full strength.
If you’ve had injuries but have fallen off the pace, at this point waivers probably aren’t going to be much help – but always keep your eyes open as people often drop players they shouldn’t when in a bind. Consider packaging your high-profile players who will be back soon in a deal for consistent players on a top team in your league that has depth to spare and an owner who might think the team is one player away from a championship.
And if it looks like you just had a bad draft and are fading out of the race quickly, check out all the other team rosters and assess their needs to see if you might be able to pick up multiple solid players for each of your top players and try to rebuild your lineup with depth and consistency.
Some of my best seasons have come when I’ve had bad drafts and had to rebuild to find a way into the postseason. Don’t be afraid to move your top guys. If you finish out of the money, who cares if you have DeAndre Hopkins or Alvin Kamara? If moving those guys can help you add consistency and scoring to your lineup and allow you claw your way back into the race, don’t be scared.
It doesn’t matter if you finish eighth or ninth with or without those guys, but at least if you make some moves and it doesn’t work out you know that you gave it your best shot.