by James Leonard | Staff Writer
SCRANTON – Coronavirus concerns may have reduced or eliminated fans from the stands at National Football League (NFL) games this fall, but students at the University of Scranton say it hasn’t gotten in the way of fantasy football.
Fantasy football is a game where participants draft teams of actual NFL players at the beginning of the season, then select a team of players they want to start games each week. Team-owners compete against one another, with teams scoring based on how NFL players performed on the field in real life.
The University of Scranton is home to several fantasy football teams around campus. Junior Peter Sims says he is very competitive when it comes to his three separate fantasy teams and often finds himself struggling to keep all of his rosters in check each week.
“I [sometimes] have a hard time remembering what players I have in which league,” Sims said. “Sometimes I’ll be rooting for one player to do good. Meanwhile, I have him benched and am playing against him in my other league. It gets kind of chaotic but it is also really fun at the same time.”
Sims said he is also a fan of trash talking in fantasy football, especially when face to face with other team managers he sees around campus.
“Because we are kind of separated with several of the team owners in our league, trash talking is harder than normal,” Sims said. “Usually I’ll pass someone on campus and would be able to say, ‘Go check the scoreboard!’ or talk down on their team especially if I’m playing them this week. Because we are now distanced some of that is taken away.”
Jon Wieland, manager of the Wieland Dealers in the Mom’s House league on campus, said he doesn’t necessarily talk trash but he does occasionally flaunt his wins to his friends.
“I let the score speak for itself,” Wieland said. “I’m 3-0 and about to be 4-0. I’m at the top of my league and I think everyone can see that I have the best squad.”
When it comes to drafting players, team-owners on campus said they have different ways of putting their teams together. Managers can begin drafting based on players’ point projections for the upcoming year, the players’ track record, whether they are on the manager’s favorite team outside of fantasy or even based solely on personal preference.
Wieland said he used a variety of different strategies to put his team together.
“Ideally I try to base my team on many factors, including the players’ individual stats and whether they are on a particular team,” Wieland said. “This season I was fortunate enough to get Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, who both play for my favorite team, the Cowboys.”
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation in his ankle in this season’s fifth week. Prescott underwent surgery Sunday evening and is expected to miss the remainder of the 2020-2021 season. Wieland said he now needs to figure out the best way to fill Prescott’s roster position on his team.
“I really have no words for this. Dak is my guy in and out of fantasy. It was a huge blow. I have Ben Roethlisberger on my bench, so I guess he will fill in the position for now unless someone on the waiver wire starts putting up good numbers. I am going to keep Dak in my [injured reserve] spot out of solidarity,” Wieland said.
Many NFL games this season are being postponed to counteract COVID-19 concerns within teams. This causes a variety of problems within fantasy leagues, aside from the normal player injuries.
If an NFL team is forced to postpone a game due to COVID-19, many fantasy companies established a bye week setting for any player on the two teams scheduled to play each other, meaning they do not participate as anticipated. If the game is postponed to a different day or time slot during that same week, it still counts for the originally scheduled week of play.
ESPN Fantasy, who is among the top Fantasy Football providers alongside Yahoo and NFL.com, has been recommending a number of precautions to help prevent team managers from panicking when one of their players is unexpectedly sidelined because of COVID-19. Precautions that league managers can take include having larger starting lineups, the ability to play two quarterbacks at once or an extra injured reserve slot for players out because of COVID.
Longtime fantasy manager Kevin Scanlon is currently playing in the COVID-19 Games league on campus and had some words of wisdom for other managers on campus.
“The real key is to always be skeptical of trade offers,” Scanlon said. “No one wants to give up any of their players unless they can get a better one for a cheaper price. Because of that I’d rarely accept or offer any trades throughout the season. Someone is always trying to swindle you.”
Scanlon also recommended not just going by the default rankings of the site or app a league might be using.
“It is crucial to look into your players opposing defenses for that week and also get other perspectives on players and matchups from third party sites,” Scanlon said.
Despite COVID-19 concerns on campus and within the NFL, fantasy football still appears to be a go this season, at least for now. However, attending games in person, according to Sims, is another matter.
“It’s still fun watching the games at home, but not as much as going out somewhere and being surrounded by dozens of fans cheering,” Sims said.
Even with the NFL’s new regulations during COVID-19, Scranton students concur that the camaraderie and competition of fantasy football keeps students coming back.