Fantasy Football: Impact of Nick Fairley’s heart condition

The success of the New Orleans Saints defense depends on the heart of a Saint: Nick Fairley’s.

New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Nick Fairley plays his heart out, but now has a cardiac condition that may force him to retire. Health, of course, is way more important than football so our thoughts and prayers are with Fairley. We don’t know what the diagnosis is but he’s been playing in the NFL for the past six years with cardiomegaly (commonly referred to as an “enlarged heart”).

In fact, many athletes, including four-time Super Bowl champion Jesse Sapolu, have developed enlarged hearts with slightly thicker muscle walls and lower heart function as a result of their active lifestyle.

So, while heart disease isn’t a diagnosis that anyone wants to hear, it isn’t always life- or career-threatening. Hopefully, this will be the case for Fairley, who recently sought a third opinion on a new or worsening pre-existing heart condition. Given that Fairley is a vital part of the Saints defense,  let’s discuss what this means for fantasy football leagues.

If He Plays 

If Nick Fairley’s condition requires treatment and monitoring while allowing him to continue playing, that would be great for the New Orleans Saints defense. It’d be naive to say that if he plays, he’ll be as good or even better than he was last season in which he recorded 43 tackles and 6.5 sacks (both career highs). His heart condition will likely decrease the number of snaps he takes and fewer snaps means lower numbers. It’s a direct relationship.

Although Fairley’s snaps may decrease, causing a dip in stats, his impact won’t. The ratio between the number of snaps he had and his individual stats last year should remain more or less the same this season. However, while that ratio should be the same, in an IDP fantasy league, straight, hard numbers matter, not percentages or fractions. Select a starter who’s not injured, will be utilized often, and rack up those points. It’s that simple.

Predicting the impact of Nick Fairley’s health on the performance of the Saints defense as a whole isn’t as simple. However, given that he was a bright spot that boosted the team’s pass-rush and  run defense (and lit Cameron Jordan’s journey to Pro Bowl redemption), consider this analogy.

Think of Fairley (and each Saint) as a 50-watt lightbulb and the field as a room. The lightbulb’s number of watts doesn’t change as time goes on; the light just doesn’t shine as brightly with usage. So if the Saints use Fairley less to try prevent him from burning outs sooner rather than later, they’ll have to rely on the other defensive players to shine when he isn’t on the field. Fairley will put the same effort into the game and shine on each snap as he’s done before; the Saints just need to find an alternative for when he’s off the field.

If He Doesn’t Play

If Fairley’s condition warrants him to stop playing football, the Saints would have a big gap to fill on defense, particularly in their pass-rush. He’s near Pro Bowl form and an asset to the team. So if Fairley doesn’t play, the Saints will need to find replacements to light up the field.

This is clearly the less favorable outcome of the situation. The Saints defense needs to go back to being a top-ranked unit and should’ve already began moving. Yet, it hasn’t and time is running out. Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. Keyword: Sometimes.

It is important to note that Fairley could step away from football for a year or so for treatment or monitoring and then return upon improvement, depending on the diagnosis. It’s an unlikely and improbable scenario but a possibility nonetheless.

It’s evident that Nick Fairley is a vital part of the Saints defense. One might even go so far as to say that the interior defensive lineman is the heart of the team’s defense. So, if Fairley plays, expect him to ball out and help your fantasy football team. If he doesn’t, the Saints may skip a few beats but will find their rhythm again, as will Nick Fairley.

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