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by: Chris Rito
Editor's Note: Below you will find more a good portion of the more than 4,000 total words in this special article. If you'd like to read the entire piece, please click HERE to order our 2012 Pre-Season Draft Guide.
“Draft Day” is often the highlight of the fantasy football season. While the draft atmosphere is the best, the place where champions often are made is in hammering out a big deal either in the "offseason" (I hate that word) or during the season. After many years of playing this game, I have accumulated a series of tips – a “philosophy of trading,” if you will – that I think can help you initiate the trade, wade through the details and broker a productive deal... possibly taking you from the realm of the “also-ran” to the level of “champion.” And if nothing else, I think that following this seemingly simple list of suggestions can make your fantasy football season a lot more fun. And ain't that the point? As I said, many of these suggestions seem simple, but it is often the attention to the simple things that can make the biggest difference.
Never pass up a chance to talk trade
This is NOT to be confused with The Bucket List quote about "Never pass up a bathroom, and never trust a fart." LOL If someone comes to you with a trade offer, they are obviously interested in improving their team or in something you have. But which is it? The savvy owner will see through a trade request to get to the real burning question in the heart of the other owner. If someone comes to you and says “I’ll trade you Mark Sanchez and LeGarrette Blount for Kenny Britt” does that mean that they are sour on Blount's time share or have great faith in Doug Martin? That they believe in Tebowmania? That they need help at WR? That they like tall receivers with poor off-the-field records and a tendency towards season-ending injuries?
I often also find it advantageous to approach trading partners in general terms, letting them know what you are looking for without letting them know who you are looking for. “I am looking to upgrade at RB#2” or “I’d like to move some WR depth for a better backup QB” You can see what they want without making any concrete offers, and often can end up getting a better player than you might otherwise get. Sometimes asking for a particular player can scare off a potential trader, as they feel that you know something they don’t. Basically, human nature tells us that “if someone else has something, or wants something…then its value just went up in my mind.”
Know your rules
This is the key to good drafting as well as to making good trades. By “knowing your rules,” what I mean is that one can best take advantage of your situation by shrewdly analyzing the relative merits of any particular player within the confines of your league’s specific scoring rules. Knowing which players have value in your scoring system which exceeds their perceived or their NFL value can help you get a desirable player while giving up less than he is really worth. For example, in leagues where you MUST start four WRs, the value of the top WRs is elevated somewhat. Likewise, the trade value (and his value to you) of that third All-Pro RB on your roster is very different if your league starts one RB weekly versus his value if you are allowed to start three RBs each week. Does your league rewards pass catching RBs, either with 1 point per reception, or double points for receiving yards or scores? Then NFL backups like Dexter McCluster may be much more valuable in your FFL than anyone in your league realizes. Likewise, unheralded WRs like the 2011 "Nates" (Burleson and Washington) each caught about 75 passes -- and I was able to obtain each of them in separate leagues last year for less than they were really worth!
On the other end of the spectrum you need to know which players are overvalued based on their actual skill set, and realize that they are prime trade bait to send away in order to get a player you truly can use. Does your league penalize for interceptions? Then based on recent history, you will want to trade away Philip Rivers. Even though most people will fall in love with his yardage and TDs, he has averaged 17 INTs for the last two years (20 thrown in 2011) and is ranked much higher in scoring systems that do not penalize for INTs. Perhaps you can trade him for a guy that puts up similar fantasy numbers, but is not believed to be as good; Tony Romo and Matt Ryan are both perceived as lesser fantasy QBs, but each outpointed Rivers in such systems in 2011 because of the interceptions.
Make an accurate assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses
It is often quite easy to see where your own team could stand a little improvement. However, the difficulty that most owners have is in realistically assessing one’s own strengths ; most every owner vastly overrates their own team’s assets , often never recovering from the love affair which started at the draft back in August ! But you must be brutally honest with yourself about what you really have on your roster, because any potential trading partner will be equally brutal when your roster gets evaluated for trading fodder. One has to deal from one's own strength, as well as from your trade partner’s perceived strength of the guys on your roster.
Don't ever assume that you have to get equal "draft day" value for a player, that has been sucking heavily and weighing down your lineup for the last 7 weeks. If you see that a guy has been underperforming his draft position - believe me, your potential trade partners know this too! You cannot expect to get back value on his 2011 or 2010 performance, or to get rewarded for making a draft pick that looks like a bust in week 7. Understand this fact, folks – if there is no reason to currently value a particular player on your roster, then you will not be able to get diddly-poo (apologies to Jim Mora, Sr.) for him in a trade. It’s really that simple. Don’t get too enamored with a player’s on your roster and his value for any reason except his actual fantasy performance in 2012.
And like the first trade tip above, this rule also has a flip side: if there is an owner in your league that is exhibiting this same sort of unnatural fondness for a particular player on your team and is overvaluing him from a fantasy perspective…. then you have a potential trading partner that may give you a little more for your man than another team would. We are all guilty now and again of hanging onto a favorite player for one year too long – I embarrassingly paid way too much money for Peyton Manning in a salary cap league in 2011 and also drafted him in several others, for example – but to be a good trader, you must know when to walk away from those sorts of guys when they simply aren’t doing it anymore. This rule also reflects the old adage of “know thy enemy,” because knowing which owners in your league have a weird and unnatural fondness for FORMER Minnesota Vikings, former Wisconsin Badgers, or guys named Johnson (yes, we have one of each of those in my local league)...well that sort of knowledge can only help you in looking to make a beneficial deal down the road
"To stud" or "not to stud"?
Many fantasy owners work under the premise that having the best single player will bring the title, so they have to always get the best player in a trade. Think about this...does the team with the #1 draft pick always win your league? It has rarely happened in my redraft leagues. Most people do not believe me but...you can make a great trade and improve your team’s chances of winning it all by actually trading away a super stud! There are two complementary situations that occur in most every league, and these situations allow a chance for a really big trade that helps both teams. Sometimes there is a team with a couple of A-1 fantasy studs, but that team is only one rogue patellar tendon away from a catastrophic season due to tragically poor roster depth. On the other side, there are teams that often have a great depth of quality fantasy starters, but that lack a true superstar or “hammer” in their lineup. These teams can each do well by working together, and it is really helpful to know which of these two teams you are.
Those teams with just a few superstars and a generally weak roster can often better serve themselves by trading away one of their “1 st -rounder” types for multiple solid players that they can still start every week. It is obviously possible to make a productive trade by snaring a stud scorer, but it is also possible to succeed by actually giving one away; this latter possibility is one that most FFLers would never consider, but they should. I have won using both philosophies, so it is important to never close the book on a potential package trade just because they ask for your best single player in return. I will cover this concept more in my two "Golden Rules" later.
As mentioned atop this release, if you like to read the entire article, please click HERE to order our 2012 Pre-Season Draft Guide.