One of the reasons why Bill Belichick is arguably the greatest head coach of all time is because of the level of preparation he brings into each and every game. He watches endless film, studies his opponents’ tendencies, and accounts for any possible situation he might find himself in during a game. The importance of preparation in fantasy football is no different; you must plan ahead for matchups, bye weeks, and streaming defenses week to week. But now with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to surge into mid-July, fantasy owners may need to prepare for something they never have before: the possibility of the NFL season not starting on time.
Week 1 is scheduled to kick off on Thursday, Sept. 10 between the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs, and Texans star JJ Watt voiced his concerns via Twitter on Thursday, saying the league has failed to communicate to the players about basic information like players’ salaries, how frequently they’ll be tested and even how many preseason games they’re going to play. With so many questions still unanswered and teams scheduled to report to training camp in just a couple weeks, it leaves me believing that the NFL season will not start on time. With this a very real possibility, I think it’s important that fantasy owners plan accordingly. If the season does in fact get delayed, here are five players who could actually benefit from a later start to the 2020 season.
1. Tom Brady
Let me start off by saying, it’s still weird to see Tom Brady in a Buccaneers jersey, but that’s 2020 in a nutshell for you. I initially thought the pandemic would work against Brady because he’s been on the same team with the same head coach for the last 20 years, so being in a new environment with a limited offseason may spell chemistry issues right out of the gate for Tampa Bay. Any extra time off that allows him to create a rapport with his new teammates would be beneficial for the Buccaneers. I still think Brady will be a top-10 fantasy quarterback and I still think the Bucs will be Super Bowl contenders regardless, but getting some extra time to learn a new playbook wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the soon-to-be 43-year old quarterback. For what it’s worth, Brady’s winning percentage in September is lower than any other month he’s played at least 10 regular-season games in, so if there was a time to miss any games, it would be in September.
2. Deshaun Watson
Have you seen the Texans’ first four games this season? In case you haven’t they are BRUTAL. After opening the season against the defending champs, Deshaun Watson will have to go up against the Ravens, Steelers, and Vikings. That’s Chris Jones, Calais Campbell, TJ Watt and Danielle Hunter chasing after you for a month straight with a below-average offensive line. All of Houston’s first four opponents had top-7 scoring defenses a year ago, and three of them ranked in the top-10 of coverage defenses last season as well. And if that wasn’t enough, they play the Titans and Packers in two of their next three games and both of those teams made it to their respective conference championship games last season. It’s honestly such a ridiculous stretch for Watson and the DeAndre Hopkins-less Texans that I wouldn’t be surprised if they were under .500 going into their Week 8 bye. If the season gets delayed, Deshaun Watson may be dodging a bullet considering his schedule to open the year.
3. Daniel Jones
Danny Dimes is another quarterback who has a difficult schedule to start out. His first four games come against the Steelers, Bears, 49ers and Rams. His first three opponents boast top-8 scoring defenses from last season, the Rams being the only exception. But then again, they have Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey so they’re not a cakewalk. The Rams did, however, rank 8th in coverage defense last season, while the Steelers and 49ers are also top-5. It could be tough sledding for the Giants if the season begins on time, but if it doesn’t and New York misses some of those tough matchups to start out, Daniel Jones could be building an even bigger case to breakout in 2020.
4. Sony Michel
ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported in June that Sony Michel was recovering from offseason foot surgery that he underwent in May. Reiss hinted that it was possible Michel starts the season on the PUP list, so any extra time to get back to 100% that doesn’t mean giving up snaps to someone else would be welcomed by the former Georgia standout. Michel failed to build off a promising rookie campaign last year, averaging just 3.7 YPC. The Panthers ran the second-heaviest run offense in the NFL during Cam Newton’s MVP season, so it’s possible New England tries to replicate that approach with Newton in 2020. If they do, Michel could be a direct beneficiary as he has been New England’s leading rusher over the last two years. Any missed time could vault second-year back Damien Harris to the top of the depth chart, so a delayed start could actually be a blessing in disguise for Sony Michel.
5. Deebo Samuel
Deebo Samuel is another player attempting to come back after recent surgery. Samuel broke his foot and underwent a subsequent procedure in June, and his initial timeline was 12-16 weeks. 12 weeks would mean he could return for Week 1. 16 weeks could mean he misses up to a month of the season. Any extra time to rehab and get back into shape for the South Carolina product would certainly help, especially if he didn’t have to miss any games. Samuel is a young star who emerged in the second half of last season, averaging over 16 fantasy points per game in his last eight contests. He was expected to take on a larger role with San Francisco in 2020, especially after the departure of Emmanuel Sanders. If he has additional time to get ready he could be a top breakout candidate in 2020.