For this week’s edition of the Paydirt Gold Lab Notes, the focus will be on steps fantasy managers can take to navigate what could be a continually changing personnel situation around the league due to the COVID-19 positive tests in Tennessee, New England, Kansas City, and New Orleans.
Whether these situations cause postponements or cancellations or even a temporary pause to the season, any fantasy manager is going to need quality roster depth now more than ever. This is not a time for keeping project players on the roster, so anyone who doesn’t have a relatively clear path to scoring fantasy points should be dropped and replaced by players who do have that path.
At the running back position, this can include players such as:
Adrian Peterson, Detroit Lions (rostered in 50.8 percent of ESPN leagues)
Peterson ranks 17th in rush attempts and 13th in rushing yards and is easily the lead back or bell cow on the Lions roster and yet he’s rostered in only just over half of ESPN leagues. He won’t be a starter in most weeks because of the lack of touchdowns and breakaway ability but having someone with this carry volume on a fantasy football bench could be invaluable in avoiding a COVID-19-related goose egg in points.
Jordan Howard (42.3)/Matt Breida (34.3), Miami Dolphins
Myles Gaskin currently has the lead back role in the Dolphins backfield, but it’s worth noting that Breida was the only qualifying back last season to post a double-digit mark in GBYPA. Howard won’t have that breakaway upside, but he does lead the Dolphins in rushing touchdowns and has 35 career rushing touchdowns and thus has a solid path to posting points on a smaller carry workload.
Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints (54.6)
It should go without saying that we all hope that no other Saints players test positive for COVID-19 and hope that Mike Burton suffers no effects from this disease.
Having noted that, fantasy managers should keep an eye on Murray as a potential impact player, as he already has nearly as many carries as Alvin Kamara (30, to Kamara’s 31) and has a history of putting up solid rush TD totals (six or more rushing scores in five straight seasons coming into the 2020 campaign).
Devonta Freeman, New York Giants (56.7)
Yes, last week stunk for Freeman and the Giants rush game is the worst in the NFL right now, but Big Blue did not bring Freeman in just to be one part of a committee approach. Dion Lewis is best suited to be a pass catcher and if the Giants thought Wayne Gallman was the answer, they wouldn’t have signed Freeman. The carries will be there sooner rather than later and in this current environment that’s a huge plus that makes worth stashing Freeman on the bench.
LeSean McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5.7)
With Leonard Fournette not practicing all week and potentially being out for more than just this game, the door is starting to open for McCoy to get a lot more work in this offense. Having a true pass catching threat out of the backfield is something that Tom Brady likely would like to have in the lineup more often than he has so far this year, so that also leans in McCoy’s favor. McCoy is the lowest rated running back on this group because of the presence of Fournette, but fantasy managers in deep leagues will want to roster him.
I am also strongly suggesting that fantasy managers get ahead of the curve in terms of D/STs. The pickings at D/ST are very slim this year in general and will get even worse due to bye weeks and potential COVID-19 cancellations, so stocking up on a second quality D/ST (even one with largely spot start value due to schedule) can be a huge plus.
Suggested defenses along these lines include:
Arizona (faces the Jets in Week 5)
Dallas (faces the Giants in Week 5 and Washington in Week 7)
LA Chargers (faces New Orleans in Week 5, New York Jets in Week 6, and Miami in Week 7)
LA Rams (face Washington in Week 5)
New York Giants (faces Washington in Week 6)
Last but not least, be sure to have a backup plan in place at kicker if you have Harrison Butker on any teams. The odds look good right now that the Patriots-Chiefs game will take place on Monday or Tuesday, but it might still be canceled. It may just be best to take Butker out of the lineup and start a solid kicker in his place so that your team gets some points, but if your league has a COVID-19 replacement rule in place that allows for bench players to be filled in for starters in the event of a last minute game cancellation, then you also have to be sure to have someone on the bench to be available to take Butker’s place.