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Intentionally Overloaded At QB

Something about trading must have been in the air at the end of July. Although I was not in direct contact with Craig Englander or Antonio D’Arcangelis (two of my colleagues at FFToday), all three of us ruminated about trading within days of each other.

Englander’s piece, entitled “Sun Tzu and the Art of Trade Negotiation” appeared on July 28th. My article “Going Against the Grain,” which featured the question of a reader who wondered whether it would be insane to take quarterbacks in the first two rounds of a draft with the idea of trading one later, appeared on July 31st. D’Arcangelis’ “Drafting to Deal” appeared on August 1st.

I received several insightful responses from readers to the question of whether there is any justification for going QB/QB in rounds 1 and 2 with the idea of trading, but I would like to begin by examining how we might apply the observations of Englander and D’Arcangelis to the question.

My favorite paragraph from “Sun Tzu and the Art of Trade Negotiation” reads:

If you have played fantasy football long enough, you have likely come across that rare breed of manager who can think three, four or sometimes five steps ahead. You will often see this manager throw out blue chip players like LT2 or Adrian Peterson or Steven Jackson or Brian Westbrook, not because he is looking at the trade he is about to make, but because he is looking two to three trades ahead, at which time he will end up with a pairing of two blue chip players in that same category. His mastery is so proficient that he is brokering deals between other teams in order to get a player he covets onto a team with whom he can make a trade.

Englander goes on to observe that “most of us will likely never reach this level of mastery,” a sentiment with which I agree, but if I understand his larger point correctly, then his position would appear to be that there are perhaps a few gifted FFers who could profit from taking QBs with their first two picks.

My own spin on this point would be that the person who goes QB/QB in rounds 1 and 2 is less likely to be the sort of “master” Englander has in mind than he is to be the trading partner of such a master later in the season. If I have both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, it is nifty to be able to trade one or the other of them for the Ryan Grant of 2008 in Week 8, but the cost associated with this sort of maneuver is that I tied up a roster spot for the first half of the season with an elite QB who sat on my bench.

In my opinion, one of the attributes we can almost certainly ascribe to the masterful broker described by Englander is patience. Patience appears to me to be a luxury that a person who burns his first two picks on Brady and Manning won’t have. He will be looking to make up ground on wideouts and RBs before the draft is over. And it’s difficult for me to imagine trading partners who will be receptive to the idea of giving up blue chip talent at other positions for a quarterback at the end of a draft.

As for myself, I usually wait until late in a draft before thinking about QBs. In the draft I participated in last night, for instance, I didn’t bother with quarterbacks until rounds 10 and 11, when I picked up Matt Schaub and Jake Delhomme. Time will tell whether I should have moved earlier on a Carson Palmer or Drew Brees, but I thought it was more important to focus on the other skill positions. I assured myself as I drafted both Schaub and Delhomme that they will be “fine, solid, serviceable” players—that whatever ground I lose at QB will be made up with the talent I have elsewhere. And the most important truth of the matter is that even if I am wrong about both my QBs, it will take me several weeks to change my mind. If there was a guy in my league who had drafted both Manning and Brady, and if both Schaub and Delhomme stink through week 4, then I might consider giving up Joseph Addai or Larry Fitzgerald or Steve Smith or Antonio Gates for one of his stellar QBs. But at that point the season will be 25% over, and it seems unlikely that a person who has tied up the top two of his fourteen precious roster slots with Brady and Manning will still be in contention.

With all of this in mind, I think the most productive application of Englander’s argument to my reader’s question is that the FFer who goes QB/QB in rounds 1 and 2 is less likely to be the sort of masterful broker Englander describers than to be someone who is trying to convince himself that he is such a master.

D’Arcangelis seems to speak directly to my reader’s question with “Drafting to Deal,” but he stresses in that article that he tends to “target rookie RBs, backup RBs stuck behind guys with mileage, and occasionally . . . a QB with promise.” Almost as if he has my reader’s question in mind, he writes:

I’m not advocating taking Tom Brady and Peyton Manning with your first two picks in a 12-team, 1-starting-QB league. I’m talking about drafting five RBs in a 12-team league that starts two and not jumping off a bridge afterwards because you didn’t sufficiently back up your TE or your WRs.

Although D’Arcangelis can see drafting an extra QB in the middle/late rounds as tradebait, he suggests that RBs are the players to focus on if you are drafting with the idea of making a trade. The contested RB situations in Seattle and Miami this year (and Denver forever and always) appear to me to be ripe for this sort of exploitation.

If I’ve misrepresented the ideas of either of my colleagues at FFToday, it’s probably because I’ve skipped over some of the nuances of Englander’s and D’Arcangelis’ arguments in the interest of time. They are writers, and writers are forever qualifying their positions with “maybe” and “except” and “if.”

The readers who responded to my query were more blunt than anyone on the staff at FFToday. Todd, for instance, was very clear about where he stands on the question:

I do not like the idea of drafting players only to trade them, the main reason being that one is not guaranteed that a trade will happen. If one gets stuck with Manning on his bench, those are dead points. In order to trade Manning to someone, you are going to want fair, or better, value in return. Realistically speaking, FF owners tend to place more value on RBs and WRs, than they do QBs. Right? I think it would be tough to move an elite QB and get acceptable value in return.

A reader named Michael wrote in to explain that he watched someone try the QB/QB strategy the year Michael Vick entered the league (with Vick being this FFer’s second-round choice). Although the details are sketchy in Michael’s mind, he recalls the year being a disaster for the Vick owner—and regrets only that he did not stay with the league long enough to see the owner try out a kicker/kicker approach.

A number of other readers wrote in to criticize various aspects of the QB/QB strategy, but David’s detailed response included virtually all of their criticisms:

What's wrong with draftings two QBs early, with the intent of trading one later to a team with a QB injury? Well, several things.

1. The only way this would even begin to make sense is if you traded one of your QBs for a pick that was made before you could draft him. Otherwise, you would just take that player you were trading for in the first place.

2. That means this gamble requires you to use a second or third round pick on a bench position in the hopes of trading it for a 1st round pick. You're hurting your depth at every other position.

3. Here's what has to happen for this gamble to pay off:

First, an opposing team's starting QB has to get injured/benched/have a terrible season.

Second, their backup QB has to fail to do a good job. How likely is that? The number of teams in the league is probably a factor. A 14-team league may have a shortage of good #2 QBs, while a ten-team league will have more. The flip side to this is that you're hurting yourself even more in a 14-team league at RB, WR, etc.

Third, both of your QBs have to perform like first round draft picks, and there’s no guarantee that they will, even if their names are Brady and Manning. Otherwise you either won't get the first-round value you're looking for, or you'll be giving up first round value to get it.

Fourth, you still might not get the value that you want because owners notoriously overvalue their own players.

Fifth, even if all the pieces fall into place, it still has to happen early enough in the season for you to get the value from it. If your blockbuster trade doesn't happen until week 8, it might not be worth it. And if it happens after your league's trade deadline, you're really screwed.

The overwhelming consensus, in other words, appears to be that going QB/QB is simply too risky an approach for most owners to be willing to consider it. That does not mean that it will always and invariably fail, but I can say that I do not ever expect to experience its repercussions firsthand. If anyone has a success story based on the QB/QB approach, I’ll be happy to share it in this forum. And if you want to try it out this season, be my guest. I dare you. Go ahead, I double dog dare you.

As I promised back in June, I would like to have a thorough discussion of the ways to handle conditional trades in fantasy football at the beginning of the season. I received some great feedback on the subject earlier this summer, but I invite those of you who are just rejoining the FFToday community to review “Conditional Trades in Fantasy Football” and share your thoughts with me by the morning of Wednesday, September 3rd.