If things in the NFL continue as they're going, but we do get a full 2011 season, a lot of players (read: most of them) aren't going to be physically and mentally prepared to take the field. Think how poorly holdouts usually do, in terms of injuries and poor performances. Of course, with all the players holding out, the starters are taking equal risks, so what's the fantasy impact?
I submit that #2's, the unsung back-ups and third down specialists, are going to have a banner season. A lot of first and second round fantasy players are likely to bust, paving the way for capable bench warmers to have breakout fantasy seasons. Is it ironic that players like Brady, Manning, and Brees who are figureheading the lawsuit also have the most to lose if their offensive lines don't get significant practice time in a coached environment? Once the money is agreed on, those franchise guys are going to step onto the field, but what are they getting themselves into? This season threatens to bring on more injuries than ever before, as unprepared players try to play a full season with virtually no practice (as it stands, the chances of a settlement before June appears unlikely).
What this means is that players who get to ride the bench for a month or two will have a physical (and probably psychological) advantage. When their numbers are called, they'll be much more ready to play than the starters will have been.
What I think this will mean (if things aren't settled soon):
* Players already considered injury risks should be avoided even more, and will fall in good drafts.
* Handcuffs become more important than ever.
* Talented #2's rise in value over lower-end starters.
* Starters who have proven tough get an edge over higher stat guys who are more injury prone.
* This isn't the year to gamble on rookie starters, who may not have the dominant support that their teammates would have provided with a full off-season of practice.
I'm sure people will think of more ways in which fantasy players will be impacted, but I foresee us having to think risk/reward with almost every draft pick.