With three-quarters of the NFL regular season in the books, many fans may have deleted the lockout that almost ruined the season from their memory banks.
Fantasy football owners have not forgotten about the lockout, though. Our memories are longer than Shane Lechler’s punts. And because of the season-long ramifications from the lockout, every fantasy team in the world was affected in one way or another throughout the season.
Here are the four reasons the NFL lockout resulted in a crazy fantasy football season:
Making Chris Johnson’s Holdout 10 Times Worse
You always hope that when a star player holds out during training camp and eventually reports a few weeks late that he will be in shape and ready to go by the start of the season. You pray he has not been spending his free time scarfing down donuts and playing video games.
So when Tennessee’s top tailback hemmed and hawed until he received his multi-millions right before the season’s start, some fantasy owners might have been uneasy, but most assumed Johnson had the wherewithal to work out while his contract was ironed out. He was probably taken in the first round of 90 percent of fantasy drafts because of this assumption.
Unfortunately, Johnson did not have the same sprinter speed that had made him the most dangerous long-play threat in the NFL and fantasy football. In Tennessee’s opening eight games, Johnson ran more like a tortoise than a cheetah, breaking the 100-yard-barrier just once in two months while averaging a paltry 2.8 yards per carry. He obviously did not do sit-ups in his driveway when he had nothing better to do, ala Terrell Owens.
If there was no lockout, Tennessee and Johnson would have had more time to negotiate his contract, and the chances of everything being settled earlier would have increased.
Johnson has finally gotten his legs under him and has rushed for 486 yards over his last four games, saving his season and fantasy worth. But this down-the-stretch burst might be too little, too late for Johnson owners whose teams lost lots of early games when Johnson ran like James Mungro.
Injuries, Injuries, INJURIES
More time to get in shape would have undoubtedly kept more players from suffering season-ending or multiple-week injuries. Muscle strains, groin pulls and Achilles tears ran rampant among players during training camps and the first month of the campaign.
The early-season injuries to major-skilled position players are the ones that stand out the most as many of them could have been the result of having less time to get into game shape. You have to wonder if Houston’s Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, Cleveland’s Peyton Hillis, Dallas’ Miles Austin, Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles, San Francisco’s Braylon Edwards, St. Louis’ Steven Jackson, Baltimore’s Lee Evans, Tennessee’s Kenny Britt and Washington’s Tim Hightower might be still on the field if they had a couple more months or weeks or workouts under their belts.
The biggest lockout casualty might have been longtime fantasy football demigod Peyton Manning. Things could have gone a lot differently for he and his neck if he were able to work with Indianapolis’ therapists and doctors during the lockout.
Players on New Teams Struggling
After the lockout ended, NFL teams had a limited amount of time to sign free agents and stock their rosters. So if a player changed teams, he had a shortened space to learn his new plays, new system and mesh with new teammates.
Chad Ochocinco has had major problems learning New England’s playbook all season long. Maybe having the summer to study, it would have helped him surpass Deion Branch as a starter. Several other running backs and receivers who switched uniforms likely also started slow for the same reason.
Quarterbacks starting for different teams like Arizona’s Kevin Kolb, Minnesota’s Donovan McNabb and Seattle’s Tarvaris Jackson all suffered from being out of sync or just plain playing poorly. There might have been a huge difference in each of their performances if they were able to practice with their teams during the period they were locked out.
Fantasy Magazines Unable to Print Up-to-Date Projections and Cheat Sheets
Fantasy football magazines are not printed as quickly as weekly mags like Sports Illustrated or The National Enquirer. It normally takes a couple months to put a fantasy magazine together, and is it manufactured during the offseason when all of the player transactions take place.
But because of the lockout, no player movement happened during the offseason. It all took place at the last minute within a window shorter than LaRod Stephens-Howling. And since free-agent signings and trades did not occur until training camp kicked off, fantasy publications either failed to have the updated information that fantasy owners needed, such as where certain players were playing, or many fantasy publications decided not to publish a preview issue at all.
This forced fantasy owners to do most of their draft research online. Thank goodness for the millions of fantasy websites out there, but most people would still prefer to have a fantasy magazine as a primary or secondary source.
Some fantasy owners do their best draft preparation in the bathroom, and it's a whole lot easier reading a magazine while you are on the toilet than a laptop.