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Wed Aug 5th 2020

COVID Contingencies

What to do in case of a shortened or canceled season

In my favorite league, The Die Hard League, we finalized (almost) all of our contingency plans in case the NFL season is cut short or canceled. Every league is different, so I am not suggesting this is what your league should do, but I did want to share what we've adopted after a few weeks of dialogue and debate. It took some time, but we found an agreement.

The Diehards are experienced and hyperactive owners, so I was willing to engage in a dialogue in this league as the commissioner. It's certainly not the most fun thing to do. For the other leagues where I am a commissioner, I plan on just stating that these are the rules for those leagues unless I get considerable disagreement.

That being said, here are some of the rules we set up as contingency plans for this year.

If the season ends any time after week eight, we're counting it as a complete season.  All-play records will determine payouts and the rookie draft order.  Tiebreakers will be, in this order, head-to-head, total points, and optimum points.

  • We felt like week eight gave us enough data points to award a champion and determine draft order. It's more than half the regular season and half the entire season, including the playoff. While some teams may have had an easier or tougher schedule since they did not play every team head to head and some teams may have had more or fewer players on bye weeks, we still thought there was enough of a sample size to call it a complete season.
  • We debated the best record with tiebreakers and total points or optimum points but ultimately felt like all-play records were the fairest way to determine the best and worst teams. I know all-play is new to some dynasty owners, so let me explain if it is new to you. You play every team every week, so in this 12 team league every week, you get an 11 game record - wins for the teams your would have beat and losses for the teams you would have lost to that week. A few dynasty leagues I play in use some variation of all-play records to determine playoff spots. It rewards good high-scoring teams that are unlucky in head-to-head match-ups. Playing 11 all-play games every week makes it unlikely that we'd have a tie after eight weeks (88 games), but we added the traditional tiebreakers of head-to-head, total points, and optimum points just in case.

If the season ends between weeks six and eight, we will not give payouts but will assign the rookie draft order determined by the all-play records, and tiebreakers would be the same.

  • We decided not to crown a champion or give payouts if the season is cut this short, but we did believe, given the all-play records (66-77 games played), that we could determine rookie draft order even if the season ended after six of seven weeks. The rookie draft order is the most challenging part of this equation and the most crucial part because some rebuilding teams planned to have poor seasons and accumulate rookie draft picks. Simultaneously, some teams have a short window to win and are watching their team get older in an incomplete season. It's not fair to anyone if the season ends this early, but we decided weeks six and seven were enough to decide rookie draft order at least.

If the season ends before week six, we will work together to provide an equitable way to find a solution.

  • On this point, we essentially decided to wait and see. There is no money on the line, but the rookie draft order is incredibly important. In this league, we make a lot of trades. One team has four first-round draft picks next year, and two other teams have two first-round picks. It was just too hard, at this time, to decide on how to determine the rookie draft order if the season ends before week six, so we decided to wait. It helps that these are all competitive but equally honest guys that want what is best for the league. We want to wait and see what the NFL does, and what other dynasty leagues do if this worst-case scenario plays out.
  • We batted around ideas like valuing teams based on a trade calculator, but that often does not entirely account for team build and strategy. We talked about using league history as a partial factor in determining draft order. We even talked about giving our league's rosters to another dynasty analyst and having them rank our teams one to twelve. None of these ideas seemed fair or complete, so we decided to wait and pray that it does not come to this.

God willing, we have a full NFL season! That's what we want. If so, the above rules do not apply at all. Even if there is an entire season, we decided on the following changes this year, given the impact of COVID.

Roster sizes will remain the same, but we will allow unlimited IR spots for players who have COVID or opt-out of the season.

  • We batted around the idea of adding roster spots. It's a 12 team, 27-man roster league, so 324 players are on rosters. We enjoyed our waiver wire and FAAB money and wanted to keep the waiver wire a little active. We decided the roster management could be solved by giving unlimited IR spots to players with COVID or players who opt-out for the season. Our platform, Fleaflicker, already made allowances for doing so and designated players accordingly. The tricky spot will be monitoring rosters throughout the season to be sure owners promote their players off IR after they have been cleared to practice and play again. This league will be good about that, but the other leagues of which I am the commissioner may need some reminders.

We will move our roster cut date to after week four since there are few practice reports and no preseason games.

  • This decision is one of the first things we decided after the NFL announced they were not playing preseason games. We had our rookie draft in May and now have 32 man rosters, which we usually cut back to 27 the week before the season starts. We all are excited about the rookies and young prospects and enjoy seeing them play in the preseason before deciding to drop them or drop older players on our rosters. We wanted to give every team a chance to see if their players and see how NFL rosters shake out before making owners cut five players, especially since this year we're likely not even to hear many training camp reports.

We will not reverse any trades made during this off-season or this season.

  • We decided that we all know the risks we're taking by making trades this season. We may not have the fairest rookie draft order if the season ends early. A team may make a trade for a playoff run just before the season ends. We decided its a risk we're all willing to take. Besides that, finding a way to reverse a trade or change a trade seemed nearly impossible.

We will submit substitute line-ups via GroupMe for players that play on Sunday and Monday nights in case there is a late word of a starter being declared inactive after testing positive for COVID.

  • We don't know how often testing will occur during the season and who it will make for the last-second roster changes, but we agreed that every owner has to pay attention and respond as quickly as possible to the news during the noon and afternoon games. We had more concern about the single night games on Sunday and Monday night if you did not have someone to replace a player on your roster when they test positive Sunday night or Monday night. We're not sure how the NFL is going to report COVID cases, but if a player is cleared to play all day Sunday and then not cleared to play (because of COVID, not injury), we're going to make an exception to rosters by allowing a "substitute" player to fill in for the player with COVID. 
  • There was not an easy way to do this. We agreed that it only applies to those who were not testing positive until Sunday or Monday night. So owners who have Sunday and Monday night players can post who their substitutes would be for those positions should a player in their starting line up test positive after the Sunday afternoon games have been played. Hopefully, this will not happen often, and owners will be cool if they win or lose a game because of substitutions in the line-up. They have to be now because it is what we decided.

I'd love to hear from you. What rules changes are you making to your leagues? What do you like or not like about what the Diehard League decided? Let's figure this out together!

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