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Q&A - What are some guidelines for trading next season’s draft picks as part of this season’s trades?
Week 9

Last Week’s Question:

Can a team’s emotion eclipse an individual player’s talent?

Last week’s column featured a question from Bryce, who has begun to lose faith in Miles Austin and the other Cowboy skill players because he worries that the Cowboy organization may not make much of an effort for the remainder of what has been a very disappointing season for them. Bryce’s assumption appears to be that less talented players on competitive teams are more desirable than more talented players on teams that appear to be “phoning it in” for the final weeks of the season. A reader named Dave shares Bryce’s assumption:

Bryce is right about Dallas. I gave up on them weeks ago and started making trade offers on Romo well before his injury. I ruled out in advance any offer that included another Cowboy as part of a trade package for Romo (Miles Austin, Felix Jones, etc.). If you look at the lineups of the teams in our fantasy Super Bowl each year, you see a lot of players from teams that go to the playoffs. It isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but the players on the most competitive teams in the NFL are usually the players on the most competitive teams in fantasy leagues. If you have a player on a team that has quit, you have to cut the player whether you think he has quit or not.

I expected to hear from numerous readers who shared Dave’s opinion, but he was the only reader who stepped up to support Bryce’s assumption. The others who wrote in were overwhelmingly skeptical of that assumption. Len makes a powerful argument:

When a preseason favorite (like the Vikings this season) gets off to a horrible start, you start to hear about how the team has given up. It’s an explanation that people resort to when they can’t put their finger on the problem.

I don’t buy it. Owners and coaches may give up. Fans may give up. But players don’t give up. They have too much at stake. I can’t believe any QB in the league would let an offensive lineman get away with “punching the clock” on Sundays. I can’t see why an o-lineman would do anything less than his best each week—if only out of a sense of self-preservation. Have you looked at the defensive tackles in the NFL? Imagine one of them rushing you. Imagine that you have made up your mind in advance only to make a half-hearted attempt to block because your team is losing and you are oh so very sad about it. Dude is gonna put a hurting on you if you decide not to take that block very seriously.

For the years when the Ravens struggled on offense, do you think Ray Lewis let anyone on that defense get away with “phoning it in”?

When teams lose in the NFL, fans hold the ownership accountable. The ownership holds the coaches accountable. And the coaches hold the players accountable. Players that don’t do a good job get cut before the players around them get hurt. It doesn’t sound like Bryce has lost faith in Miles Austin, but in the players around him. There are plenty of talented athletes willing to step in for those players as soon as any coach or scout can pinpoint which ones aren’t making an effort.

I just can’t buy into this notion of “giving up.” These guys play for their livelihoods each and every Sunday. Even if a team loses 4 or 5 games in a row and goes through practice one week without any enthusiasm, that doesn’t mean they throw in the towel on Sundays. When the ball snaps, instincts and training take over. [Any player whose instinct might be] to quit on his team would never have made it to the NFL to begin with.

Len covered almost all the points of the various readers who were skeptical of Bryce’s assumption, but Hector put the finishing touch on the argument by approaching it from a fantasy gamesmanship perspective:

It may sound like a good idea to give up on teams that seem to have given up, but that is really just one more way to introduce a poorly defined variable into the fantasy mix. Lots of people had high hopes for the 49ers before the season started. They haven’t lived up to expectations, but that doesn’t mean I have to leave Frank Gore on my bench.

Even if Gore looks uninspired for two or three weeks in a row (which hasn’t happened yet, as I think Bryce should note), the week I sit him for being a quitter is bound to be the week that San Fran’s opponent gives the team some great bulletin board material that lights a fire under Gore’s butt.

I can’t be worrying about categories that I don’t really understand. I have a hard enough time making decisions about categories that I genuinely grasp. Would I rather start my second-best receiver against the 10th-ranked pass defense in the league or my third-best receiver against the 30th-ranked pass defense in the league? I know who my second-best receiver is. I know which team has the 30th-ranked pass defense. I have numbers to tell me which is which. This is a question I can ask and collect data on and perhaps have a really good answer for by the end of the season.

[But once we start to try factor in things] like a team’s emotional intensity, there is no way for any of us to know what we are talking about. Even if I assume that the Cowboys are moping more than the 49ers right now, I don’t know how to quantify mopiness or how to specify what mope-threshold has to be crossed before I bench one of my starters. It’s an interesting question—just like the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin used to be interesting to some people. It’s just not a useful question to be wondering about.

I want to say that Hector has given me food for thought, but I think his point was to give me food for not-thought. Either way, I am grateful to everyone who wrote in.

This Week’s Question:

What are some guidelines for trading next season’s draft picks as part of this season’s trades?

I received a very specific question from Dennis this week, but I would like to make it into a more general question about guidelines for trades during one season that involve draft picks for the upcoming season. Dennis writes:

Can I get your advice on a trade offer. In one of my leagues (keeper league), my cousin & I are looking to improve our WR position. We currently own, Ochocinco, R. Moss, E. Royal, D. Bess, & B. Edwards.

The rest of our roster is as follows:
QBs: Orton & Palmer
RBs: Benson, Mendenhall, L.T., F. Jackson, D. Ward, & T. Hightower

We inquired about TO and just received the following offer:

- You get TO and my 8th pick for next year's draft;
- I get your 4th round pick next year plus one of your QBs.

I was wondering if you could share your thoughts on whether this is a good deal for us or not.

Any readers who want to respond to Dennis’ specific question are welcome to do so. I will try to include the best response for Dennis in next week’s column.

But I am more interested in hearing from commissioners who have instituted special rules in their leagues for the trading of draft picks. I have heard from numerous readers in the past about trading draft picks for the upcoming season. I have even seen some very complicated trades that involved conditional draft picks based on the performance of the traded players. Certain commissioners have told me that they forbid the trading of draft picks because the risks for abuse and collusion are simply too high.

Does your league allow the trading of draft picks for the upcoming season? Have you run into trouble as a consequence of trades such as the one Dennis details? Do you police the trading of draft picks in a way that has prevented any suspicion of collusion? I look forward to hearing from commissioners of any leagues in which draft picks are traded.

Last Man Standing Picks (Courtesy of Mark Den Adel)

Last week was tough. The bad news is that I went 1-2, but the good news is that I cannot be wrong about the Cowboys again this season—since I have now picked them in each of my three slots. They lost every time I picked them, so good luck to anyone who decides to go put their faith in Dallas going forward.

1) Minnesota over Arizona
The Vikings are my favorite team, and it hasn’t been fun watching their train wreck of a season. Fortunately, the schedule is getting easier for Minnesota—starting this week against Arizona. Although the Vikings defense couldn’t stop the Patriots when it needed to last week, I think their pass defense will come up big this week—thanks in part to Arizona’s revolving door policy at the QB position. Arizona’s 30th-ranked pass defense has been bad all year, but it will look particularly bad in the raucous Metrodome. I'm sure the Vikings noticed what LeGarrette Blount did to the Cards last week, so Adrian Peterson should get plenty of chances to abuse the Cardinals on the ground when the Vikes need a break from abusing them through the air.

2) Atlanta over Tampa Bay
I keep wondering how Tampa Bay wins. Is it the defense, the offense, the special teams, the coaching? It doesn’t appear to be any of those things. Maybe it is just plain magic, but I expect the magic to run out against a Falcons team that looks like one of the best in the NFC. Atlanta’s rush defense is very stout (6th overall), so I don’t expect a repeat performance from Blount. But Tampa’s 30th-ranked rush defense could easily make Michael Turner the top fantasy running back of Week 9 .

3) Green Bay over Dallas
Since Dallas disappointed me 3 times when I picked them, I have no choice but to start picking against them. Dallas is 26th against the pass, and the passing game is all Green Bay has. Expect Rodgers to put up 300 yards with a couple of TDs. As you saw last week in the shutout vs. the Jets, Green Bay’s defenders have come back strong from their injuries and should have little trouble containing a Dallas offense that is in disarray.

Upset – Indianapolis over Philadelphia
We rarely see the Colts as an underdog and Peyton Manning only loses as an underdog to Bill Belichick. I will therefore take Indy over Philly. I understand why the Eagles are favored. They are coming off a bye against a team that played a hard-hitting divisional Sunday night game and has some banged up players. Moreover, the Eagles are a team with a track record of performing well when given an extra week to prepare for their opponent—but those opponents have not usually been as disciplined and talented as Manning and the Colts.

For responses to this week's fantasy question please email me.