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Week 5

Last Week’s Question

In last week’s column, I promised readers a survey of the responses I received concerning the attitudes of FFers when they propose or adopt a trade. I also solicited feedback concerning actual trades that had been proposed in actual fantasy leagues around the world, whether the trades were ultimately accepted/approved or not. I’ll start this week’s column by discussing the attitudes of active fantasy traders. Then I’ll invite readers to help me make sense of the information I received concerning actual proposed trades.

Scott’s insightful analysis of fantasy football is an excellent place to start:
Like everything in life, there are two kinds of fantasy football owners - those that see trading as a way of trying to "pull a fast one" on a fellow owner, and those that at least try to trade fairly. I couldn't agree more that a majority of fantasy owners fall into the former category, and only trade if they feel like they will be the clear (and present) "winner" in the trade.

That being said, it seems to me that the best approach to trading is "laissez faire/caveat emptor." If you constantly try to pull off the "Rex Grossman for Donovan McNabb" trade, you lose credibility, and other owners won't trade with you based solely on the perception that you are trying to screw them, even if the trade might be objectively fair. On the other hand, if another owner has a glaring hole in his roster, and you can fill it without crippling your own team, it only makes sense that you should try to maximize your value. It's a delicate line.

In my experience, 90% of trade offers are of the "my high name recognition but crappy/underperforming player for your emerging quasi stud" variety. Owners want to get rid of their trash, and never want to sacrifice their depth. When you try to counteroffer one of these trades with something that is remotely fair, the other owner almost always loses interest. In my leagues, there are two or three other owners that understand the concept of offering value for value, and those are the guys you end up doing business with. And dealing with those guys is what makes trading fun. I don't consider a fantasy season very fun unless I can execute at least one good trade. In my experience, the same guys who trade fairly are usually the guys at the top of the standings, while the idiots looking for a "win" end up with the same crappy team they drafted, and never improve.
Something about this question brought out long, thoughtful responses from readers, such as this one from Tom:
Personally, I will only consider trades when they mutually benefit both parties. They need to be true "win-win" solutions. Perhaps my attitude is different because I am the league commissioner -- and it would be improper for me to take advantage of a less-experienced team owner. After all, per our league rules, I am supposed to veto any trades that are inequitable. But the reality is that even as a newbie to fantasy football, the win-win concept was always how I approached trades.

I suspect that people's attitudes regarding trading fantasy players reflect their values and their general approach to life. I've noted several "personality types" when it comes to trading:

"Shy" - These owners keep to themselves. They never initiate trade offers, and they quickly turn down any that come their way.

"Shyster" - These are the guys who offer Lamont Jordan and the Steeler Defense for Larry Johnson.

"Hot and Cold" - These owners always seek to acquire last week's hot player and want to dump any player who has 1-2 sub-par weeks.

"Can't Say No" - Some owners will accept just about any offer.

"Win-Win" - Owners who trade in a way that benefits both owners.

One last thought, I've been in league where there was not a single trade all year. How boring! Trading needs to be encouraged. It spices things up.
I received a similarly thoughtful answer from Chad (who also provides us with insights into various trading personalities):
I think trade success in general depends on the type of league, the personalities of the owners, and player value. I've found that the biggest obstacle is opposing views on a player's value. For example, if an owner was trying to pluck one of my sleepers that I viewed favorably, they might low-ball with a mediocre veteran. The veteran is far less valuable, in my eyes, than someone I've done my homework on and am relatively sure will have a breakout year. Personalities are a big factor as well: some owners only offer trades that are relatively close in the "fairness" category.

In a new dynasty league, I've recently experienced owners feeling each other out, so to speak, by offering ridiculously lopsided offers in an effort to test out those they don't know well and to determine who might be the "weaker" member. Once you learn who the chumps are/are not, trade offers become much more thought out and equitable. One owner type I've encountered that is particularly interesting is the "trade whore". This is the person that HAS to make a transaction or 5 happen because he is anxious and impatient, especially for the season to start. This owner will often make a bad decision for the sake of consummating a deal quickly. If this owner comes to you two weeks before the season starts, keep playing along until you get something you like because the "trade whore" won't quit until he/she gets his/her fix.

As far as whether an owner wins or loses, it depends on the format: in a redraft setup, its not a big deal to fleece some guy out of his best player(s) because it’s only a short term proposition, so long as you don't plan on trading with that person next year (be careful because you might develop a reputation). In a keeper format, the health of the league might be jeopardized if the trade is too one-sided, which is where a commissioner comes in.

In leagues I care about, my approach is to broach the subject with a marginal (but plausible) trade offer that I can build from if I get any interest back. If the response is well reasoned and positive, I know something can likely be worked out to the satisfaction of both sides. If not, well... forget it and move on. Note to the newbs, if you don't like a trade offer, don't respond with an insult. Make a reasoned response and keep it civil ('I don't want to because player X is over-hyped' would be acceptable as opposed to 'what are you, an idiot?') because you might need to swing a trade later and, if you are a jerk, you just lost a possible partner.

A trade can be a win-win solution, a win-lose, or a lose-lose solution. If you make a trade and have to ask if you "won or lost," you are either so clueless that you should not be making trades or probably made a bad deal and lost. A successful owner will not make a trade that they do not believe has some benefit for their team, essentially making it a better group than when they began. You might not always be right, but if you don't think you made a good choice when you hit that authorize button, you shouldn't have done it.

This is my main strategy: work the combinations, and keep talking until you get something you like. Don't be afraid to walk away if it’s not going anywhere. Never make your best offer the first time. Guess that is pretty simple.
What astonished me most about the response to my question was that although so many readers wrote in with an analysis of various “trading personalities,” I was able to find four relatively lengthy responses with so little overlap. Consider what Jeffrey added to the discussion of Tom and Chad:
In order to have other owners want to trade with you, the trade offers you put out must be win-win. In my league we have a group of owners who either want to decisively win their trade or consistently over-value the players they are offering. Generally, these are the same owners that criticize other team owners for "not getting enough", and try to squash trades.

There is another group of owners who try to offer a player the other team might need. Generally, this involves bench players that fill a need and start on the recipient's team. It turns out that these owners make trades and the other owners don't (and wonder why).

When I need a player, I scan the league rosters. First I look for players I could easonably get to fill my need. Usually, they are not starters on those teams. Then I look for which teams a player on my team will fill a need. The teams that make trades tend to be more successful than the other group largely because of depth (surprise?).
Mike’s response is the fourth that fits into this mold:
I would assume that most trades are heavily based on needs. Bye-weeks, injury fill-ins,etc. I look at any offers openly and my league's owners are all local, so discussing over the phone works also. If I can see an upgrade to my team, I'll consider the offer, my decisions are based on my depth at position and bye-week fill-ins.

My league has that one owner that always has his team on the trading block and haspulled off multi-player and 3-way trades over the years. Those are the owners you have to watch out for and scrutinize. He can talk up any middle-tier player as if he was a 1st round draft (e.g. Matt Jones for Chad Johnson). A lot of his trades depend on who's hot and who's struggling. The buy low theory for a top tier player versus a hot streaky player.
My thanks to everyone who responded to my question, and particularly to those who took the time to write such in-depth responses.

This Week’s Question

I received more responses than I could count when I asked for people to write in with trades that had actually been proposed in their leagues this year. When I posed the question, I had the idea of asking readers to rank the trades from most balanced to most lopsided, but I don’t think many readers would be willing to rank as many trades as I have to choose from, so I have instead selected 12 trades that I think of as representative of the responses I receive.

My objective is to compile a ranking of trades (based on the responses of readers) that commissioners can use to calibrate their own sense of what seasoned FFers consider fair.

I am therefore asking readers to review the following list of trades and to rank them from 1 (most balanced) to 12 (most lopsided). Furthermore, I am requesting that those who respond break the list into three categories:
  • Balanced

  • Lopsided, but acceptable

  • Dangerously lopsided (potentially collusive or a threat to the integrity of the league).
After you review the list of proposed trades below (which are listed alphabetically by the last name of the first player traded), you might generate a list that looks something like this:


1) Trade A
2) Trade B
3) Trade C

Lopsided, But Acceptable

4) Trade D
5) Trade E
6) Trade F
7) Trade G
8) Trade H
9) Trade I
10) Trade J

Dangerously Lopsided

11) Trade K
12) Trade L

Here is your list of actual trades proposed so far in 2006:
  1. Shaun Alexander for Larry Fitzgerald (12-team redrafter)
  2. Shaun Alexander and Willie Parker for Larry Johnson and Warrick Dunn (10-team redrafter)
  3. Tiki Barber for Torry Holt (14-team redrafter)
  4. Larry Fitzgerald (2nd-round selection) for Frank Gore (6th-round selection) – (10-team keeper)
  5. Larry Fitzgerald for Deuce McAllister (8-team redrafter)
  6. Antonio Gates and Marques Colston for Ahman Green (12-team redrafter)
  7. Muhsin Muhammed (7th-round selection) and Warrick Dunn (4th-round selection) for Shaun Alexander (1st-round selection) and Lee Evans (8th-round selection) – (12-team keeper)
  8. Chad Johnson and LaMont Jordan for Vince Young (12-team keeper; hold any 4 players)
  9. Kevin Jones and Michael Jenkins for Santana Moss (10-team redrafter)
  10. Jamal Lewis and Benjamin Watson for Terrell Owens (8-team redrafter)
  11. Willie Parker for Laveranues Coles (12-team redrafter)
  12. Jason Witten for Rod Smith (8-team redrafter)

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matt & Michael)

Matt’s Picks

Trap Game: Detroit at Minnesota – The Viking defense is beatable by an offense that has a balanced attack. And because the Viking offense has not lit up the scoreboard, more pressure is placed on that unit to keep the game close. The Lions desperately want to win their first game of the season. Jon Kitna is playing well, and the Lions have found a wide receiver to play opposite Roy Williams in Mike Furrey while Mike Williams rides the bench. Top that off with the fact that the Lions are comfortable on turf inside and this has the makings for upset. Oh and by the way, this happens to be a divisional rival.

#3: Indianapolis over Tennessee (3-1 Season):
Okay, if you have Indy left in your Survival Pool, now may be a good time to use them. It is official, Vince Young will start for the Titans, and Dwight Freeney and company are licking their chops. As more than an 18 point underdog playing on the road, this game could get ugly fast. Someone some week will lose to Tennessee this season, just don’t look for it to happen this week.

#2: New England over Miami (4-0 Season):
Tom Brady and company convincingly beat the Bengals last week with a power running game and some controlled passing. The Dolphin defense is better at stopping the run than Cincinnati, 94 yards per game versus 144, but they really haven’t played anyone good besides the Steelers. On the other side of the ball, Daunte Culpepper is close to being benched since he still does not have the mobility needed to elude the pass rush allowed by a poor offensive line. While Joey Harrington may not be the Dolphins’ savior, he is used to throwing on the run from his days in Detroit. Look for New England to make a statement in this game and make a serious claim for the AFC East title.

#1: Chicago over Buffalo (3-1 Season):
For a team that won its division last year, Chicago has one of the easiest schedules in the NFC. They still have games left against the Lions, San Francisco, NY Jets, Buccaneers, Packers and Cardinals. Buffalo is not a bad team, as they have shown that they can move the ball, but scoring is a problem for them. And this week the Bears defense, which is ranked 1st in the NFL in points against, could shut them out. If it wasn’t for the new-found offense that the Bears have, this game could have been won 2-0.


Michael’s Picks

3 - (2-2) - Bears over Bills: Chicago is rolling. I can't think of any reason why they shouldn't continue to do so at home this week.

2 - (4-0) - Panthers over Browns: Steve Smith is back, and Carolina is starting to live up to expectations. They should overpower the Browns easily at home.

1 - (4-0) - Colts over Titans: I hope this doesn't take much explanation. The Colts face some stiffer competition the next couple of months, so if you haven't used them, this is a great time to do so.

For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your LMS picks, please email me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football season.

Readers who want to have their fantasy questions answered live, on the air, by Mike Davis are invited to tune into FFEXradio on Friday afternoons at 5:00 p.m. EST. Archived programs are also available.