Fantasy, Reality

If you’re a fantasy football player, this past weekend might have been a busy one for you.

For die-hard players, Labor Day weekend is typically the ideal time to draft because the NFL season gets underway the following Thursday night.

That final weekend is typically the best time to draft because it becomes advantageous to the players who have been paying attention to the news and notes of the preseason and training camp, learning who is hurt, who is moving up the depth chart and who might not even make the team.

For example, halfway through training camp the Jacksonville Jaguars parted ways with star running back Leonard Fournette.

Fournette was expected to be the team’s lead back and continue the rushing yard and touchdown production of past years, albeit at a slightly decreased rate due to expectation of the team’s quality of play to be down this season.

In a football sense, the move probably makes sense for a team rebuilding that wasn’t planning on giving Fournette an expensive new contract next year when he reached free agency.

Now the Jaguars have the opportunity to evaluate the other running backs they have under contract and develop a plan for how they want to reconstruct their roster in coming years as they try to get back into contention.

The fall for the Jaguars has come rapidly. The team was playing the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game just three seasons ago.

Fournette’s fortunes in reality improved as he went on to sign with the now Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, that lands him second on his new team’s depth chart behind Bucs’ running back Ronald Jones to start the year.

However, in the realm of fantasy football, that means players who drafted before Fournette changed teams and may have taken him with one of their early-round picks likely overpaid to have him on their rosters this season.

In the latest news for the NFL’s Washington football team, the team without a mascot this season, veteran running back Adrian Peterson was also released Friday.

That move hurts fantasy players less as Peterson was likely only being drafted in the later rounds, despite reportedly taking many of the first-team repetitions in training camp.

Up until Peterson was released, it was unclear whether he or rookie Antonio Gibson would be the team’s featured back at the top of the depth chart in the early weeks, though expectations were Gibson would overtake him as the season moved along.

Those armed with the news of Peterson’s release going into this weekend, or even still between now and Thursday’s start of the season, likely moved Gibson up on their list of players to draft in a savvy play.

Personally, I expect Peterson to still find a spot to play this year at age 35. He’s stated in the past he’d like to play for the Dallas Cowboys before his career ended and he could be an upgrade over the Cowboys’ current backup Tony Pollard. Peterson just wouldn’t have a crack at the starting job there, barring an injury to star Ezekiel Elliot.

With no preseason games, it’s been harder for fantasy players to evaluate new players they haven’t seen before outside of maybe in college games. However, it hasn’t stopped Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire from being an automatic first-round pick in every draft I’ve participated in so far.

Edwards-Helaire is vaunted for what he can do as a pass-catching back just as much as what he can do in the ground game. Despite being a rookie, Edwards-Helaire is expected by many to be the lead back with backups Darrel Williams and DeAndre Washington seeing very limited involvement.

In a normal year, that might not have been the case as the Chiefs would likely still have the services of Super Bowl hero Damien Williams to split the workload with Edwards-Helaire. It was Williams who scored the final two touchdowns of the championship game to both give the Chiefs the lead and put the game out of reach.

Williams opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns about COVID-19.