COVID Contingency Plans: Commissioner Perspective

By Blair Pierroz

We are officially less than two months away from the start of the NFL season! Hopefully…

As every commercial and email I received during the past four months have been more than happy to remind me, “We are in uncertain times…” Unfortunately, this sentiment has grown to include the start of the NFL season. Preseason may end up canceled to go along with, at best, a shortened training camp. Right now, the NFL is reluctant to adopt the “bubble” strategy other sports are employing. These choices may mean the season is at even more risk than other leagues. 

I hope it doesn’t come to this, but it is prudent to start working out contingency plans with your dynasty fantasy football leagues. It is better to have a plan you do not need to use than end up stranded down the road. This can be a difficult subject to approach, as most owners will enter discussions with at least some bias to choose a route that most benefits them. When rules have to be changed, fairness should be the top priority, but that is often easier said than done. Should your league decide to put a plan in place for future drafts, here are a few suggestions to get the conversation started. 

First, I suggest ripping the band-aid and starting as soon as possible. You do not want to be stuck trying to resolve a canceled season after its cancellation. This will make compromise more difficult as teams will already have their mind made up about what they want to do. If there are still options on the table about what the outcome will be, teams will be more willing to negotiate. 

Second, try to have more than one plan ready to go. As we saw with the NBA, the season could end at any moment. The more ideas you have, the more prepared you are for different outcomes. Early planning also will promote compromise, as there are more avenues for teams to get what they want. 

Third, make sure as many teams approve as possible. This is a tough situation; don’t compound negative feelings by leaving some teams unhappy with the final results. There is not one fair outcome. Understand this going in, and satisfy as many people as possible.

I suggest breaking the cancellation into a few plans based on the number of games played. My league decided to have three plans: 0-4 games played, 5-7 games played, and 8 or more games. Feel free to adjust as you see fit, but the more outcomes you are prepared for, the better.

0-4 Games Played 

We decided that not enough of the season transpired to determine anything. I have four suggestions for this scenario. 

  1. No champion crowned, and the rookie draft will become an auction. All picks would push back one year, so a team that is rebuilding and has several first-round selections would need to wait one year to use those. 2021 picks would become 2022 picks, and a domino effect would occur from there. The order to nominate players for the auction would be random and a snake. Some strategy and gamesmanship would occur fairly early into the first round. This situation is less than ideal, but would at least introduce some parity and strategy to the process.
  2. No champion crowned, and the rookie draft will become a lottery. All picks would push back one year, so a team that is rebuilding and has multiple first-round picks would need to wait one year to use those. 2021 picks would become 2022 picks, and a domino effect would occur from there. The lottery is binding, and each team has a full set of picks. A snake draft would most likely be most fair in this scenario.
  3. No champion crowned, and the rookie draft will become a lottery. Picks would not push back, and the draft would commence as usual. If you own another team’s first-round pick and they win the lottery, you get the 1.01. This can cause problems if that team was a contender and traded the pick with the idea that it would be late and had no shot at being the 1.01.
  4. A simulation for the season is run (using Madden, projected points, or some other mechanism), and everyone agrees the simulation is binding. A champion is declared, and standings determine pick order. The simulation completely replaces the season, and 2021 picks up as usual (hopefully).

This is the worst-case scenario obviously, as not only do we not have a season, but the results are the least fair. I prefer the first option, but that is a matter to discuss with your league.

5-7 Games Played

In my league, we award an extra victory to teams that score above the median each week and an additional loss to those below. In this scenario, my league would have 10-14 “games” to determine rankings. If your league does not use this scoring, I suggest it, but I also suggest adjusting your plan accordingly. 

  1. No champion declared from the results, but enough games have occurred to influence draft order somewhat. Teams would break into three tiers (possibly 3-3-4 for ten teams or 4-4-4 for 12 teams) based on standings. Within each tier, there would be a lottery to determine the draft order, and the draft would commence as usual. If you are the team with the worst record, you are guaranteed a top pick, but not THE top pick. You could also possibly choose to push picks back a year, as I mentioned in the previous scenario.
  2. Again a tiered order is determined, but this time to nominate players for the auction format. It would occur the same as the 0-4 games-played scenario with picks pushed back one year. Each team would have the same budget as before.

Again, not perfect, but at least an attempt to level the playing field. Fantasy is a game of luck in some cases, so incorporating luck isn’t the worst solution. Mitigating that luck as much as possible would be ideal, though. I believe these two solutions do that the best.

8 or More Games Played

In this scenario, the league declares a champion. Should the season end before the playoffs, regular season standings would determine the champion. The draft order would also derive from standings, and picks would not need to push back a year. This would be the closest to a typical season as possible. I remind you, though, that my league would have at least 16 games to determine our results, so feel free to make this tier at ten or more games, or whatever number your league agrees is fair.

Hopefully, you find these scenarios helpful and at least a place to start conversations. The more games that can happen, the less drastic measures need to be taken. And hopefully, the season goes off without a hitch, and we all just wasted our time on this exercise. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Blair Pierroz – Dynasty/Strategy
Ride or Dynasty
Twitter: @BlairPierroz