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Week 6

Last Week’s Question

In last week’s column, I asked readers to evaluate 12 trades that, according to other readers, had been proposed (though not necessarily approved) in fantasy leagues around the world. Although there were some very strange trades in the list, those who wrote in were surprisingly consistent with each other in their evaluations of these offers. I’ll get to the statistical consensus a bit later, but I want to begin with the responses from readers who went above and beyond what was asked of them—and explained why they ranked the trade offers as they did. I’ll start with Gary’s response partly because it is so thorough and articulate—and partly because his evaluation of the proposal to trade Chad Johnson and Lamont Jordan for Vince Young may surprise you. Gary writes:
It doesn’t really matter in my opinion where a player is drafted, but how he is producing and how people perceive he will produce in the future. So you may want to get both teams’ reasons for making the trade. With that said I am basing my evaluations on how players are performing to date, the information you provided, the scoring system for my league, and what I think the players will do in the future/based on past performance and injury status/expectation.


1. Tiki Barber for Torry Holt (14-team redrafter) Acceptable - This is a pretty fair trade all around. Tiki is the main runner on a Giants team that likes to run; Torry is the main WR on a team known to throw. Torry is having a better year to date (ranked #2 currently in our league), but Tiki has had success in the past, so there is no reason to doubt he will bounce back with a strong performance from here on out. This trade should go through, no problem.

2. Jason Witten for Rod Smith (8-team redrafter) Acceptable - both players are scoring similar points in my league, and it isn’t a keeper league, and both rank about the same area as far as players for their position (about the middle). I would allow this trade to go through.

3. Larry Fitzgerald (2nd-round selection) for Frank Gore (6th-round selection) – (10-team keeper) Acceptable - This is a pretty fair trade, especially considering this is a keeper league. Both are your stars on up-and-coming teams. Gore is having a good season to date, and Fitzgerald has had a decent season but underperformed in my opinion to date. I would allow this to go through.

4. Larry Fitzgerald for Deuce McAllister (8-team redrafter) Acceptable - These two players are close as far as points go; they are also close as far as importance to their teams. In an 8-team redraft league, there are going to be several Free Agents available to these people. So with that said, there is little if any reason to expect collusion. This trade goes through.

5. Willie Parker for Laveranues Coles (12-team redrafter) Acceptable - both players are scoring about the same points in my league, with Coles ranking higher at WR than Parker at RB. But Coles also has the recent injury to consider, so I say fair trade. This one is right on the border to Lopsided but Acceptable

6. 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) Acceptable - Remember Alexander has a broken foot, and no one knows how long he will be out. I believe that trading 2 middle-aged players (both of whom may soon be on the down side of their careers) for one who is injured and close to heading to the downside of his career and a younger player with potential is a fair trade. The key here is this is a keeper league, and it is still too early to be giving up on your team, so no collusion seems to be involved here. I would want to look at both rosters though before making a final decision on this trade.

Lopsided but Acceptable

7. Jamal Lewis and Benjamin Watson for Terrell Owens (8-team redrafter) Lopsided but Acceptable – T.O is on the down slope of his career as indicated by his recent injury history and his past indiscretions. T.O.’s talent is overrated, but he’s still very capable of high productivity when he is healthy. Jamal is on his last leg, and Watson is a talented TE with upside written all over him. Taking all that into consideration and that this is an 8-team redrafter, I would want to see what this league’s starting requirements are, but most likely would allow this trade to go through as I see no collusion.

8. Shaun Alexander and Willie Parker for Larry Johnson and Warrick Dunn (10-team redrafter) Lopsided but Acceptable - Remember Alexander has a broken foot and we aren’t sure how long he will be out. On paper this looks fair: Alexander for Johnson and Parker for Dunn. But Johnson is A) healthy B) having a better year to date but C) probably plays for a worse team (team with new coach and in transition). Dunn and Parker though are about even, so I would question why this trade is being made but probably would allow it though depending on how long I thought Alexander was going to be out (if he is out for more than 2 or 3 games, then I wouldn’t allow it, which at this time doesn’t look to be the case).

9. Shaun Alexander for Larry Fitzgerald (12-team redrafter) Lopsided Acceptable - Remember Alexander has a broken foot, and we don’t know how long he will be out. This is also a 12-team redraft with Alexander underperforming this year so far, but based on past performance, he should improve. Fitzgerald is young still but in his 3rd year with lots of upside. I would probably let this trade go through depending on how long I thought Alexander was going to be out.

10. Chad Johnson and LaMont Jordan for Vince Young (12-team keeper; hold any 4 players) Lopsided but Acceptable – This one may surprise some. This is a 12-team keeper league so high value on RB due to lack of good backs, but Lamont has 6 years under his belt, plays for a bad team currently and has had one good game coming off a bye week. He also has performed well in the past for the Raiders, but the new coach and new system seem to be affecting him this year. Vince Young is an up-and-coming QB with very high expectations, and Chad is a top WR for a high-powered offense. I would want to see who each team has on their rosters and want to know why they want to make this trade but wouldn’t deny this trade based on just the factors I see here. I would allow this trade with trepidation.

Dangerously Lopsided

11. Kevin Jones and Michael Jenkins for Santana Moss (10-team redrafter) Dangerously lopsided – Santana Moss has one good game this year and suddenly is worth two players? Come on now, Kevin Jones is a having a breakout year so far, and there is no reason to expect anything different from him. Michael Jenkins is a starting WR for Hot-lanta and is expected to be a prime performer in the WR core for Vick. Yes, Santana had a good year last year, but he has under performed until recently this year. I don’t see those types of performances from him much and don’t expect many more from him this year since Washington is a running team. I would definitely look at declining this trade unless the two owners could convince me that this trade is fair for both sides. Remember, this is only a 10 team league so RB hold a bit more value then prime WR, even in a redraft league.

12. Antonio Gates and Marques Colston for Ahman Green (12-team redrafter) Dangerously Lopsided - Considering Green’s mileage, age, and his recent injury history, I can see no reason to allow this trade to go through. Colston is a hot young WR with potential, and Gates is one of the top TEs. Definitely would turn this trade down; end of discussion.
I hope readers will be able to benefit even more from Gary’s reasoning than his actual rankings, though some may be put off by his decision concerning the trade he ranks 12th. Even Mike Krueger (who manages the FFToday website) couldn’t resist the urge to tell me this week that the Chad Johnson and Lamont Jordan for Vince Young trade proposal was one of the most outrageous. He was shocked (as many of you will doubtless be) to learn that that trade was not only proposed, but accepted and approved in a league in which in an insufficient number of owners voted to block it. Of the readers who responded to my question, Gary wasn’t the only one who seemed to think that a valid justification could be made for that trade. Whether you agree with him or not, you have to admire his ability to explain the logic behind his evaluation of all twelve trades.

Jeff’s rankings (although less exhaustive in their commentary), were more representative of the responses I received this week. Note that he begins, just as Gary did, with the Barber-for-Holt trade as the most balanced:

1) Tiki Barber for Torry Holt (14-team redrafter): Comment: Holt's consistency vs. Barber's upside.

2) Jason Witten for Rod Smith (8-team redrafter): Two borderline starters.

3) Shaun Alexander and Willie Parker for Larry Johnson and Warrick Dunn (10-team redrafter): Each has a question mark.

4) Larry Fitzgerald (2nd-round selection) for FrankGore (6th-round selection) – (10-team keeper): Gore was undervalued in draft; rookie QB might affect Fitz.

Lopsided, but Acceptable

5) Jamal Lewis and Benjamin Watson for Terrell Owens (8-team redrafter): TO is hard to value, so deal is OK (I prefer the TO side).

6) Shaun Alexander for Larry Fitzgerald (12-team redrafter): Alexander’s injury makes this OK (I prefer the Alexander side).

7) Larry Fitzgerald for Deuce McAllister (8-team redrafter): A RB hungry team might make this deal for a RB - Deuce is playing above his draft position (I prefer the Fitz side).

8) Kevin Jones and Michael Jenkins for Santana Moss(10-team redrafter): A lot depends on Kevin Jones' performance. Some will view this as more balanced than me - I don't like Moss' inconsistency.

9) Willie Parker for Laveranues Coles (12-team redrafter): Getting pretty lopsided here in favor of FWP, but probably OK.

Dangerously Lopsided

10) Antonio Gates and Marques Colston for Ahman Green (12-team redrafter): Too much for a washed-up RB.

11) 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): Must be a panicking Alexander owner.

12) Chad Johnson and LaMont Jordan for Vince Young (12-team keeper; hold any 4 players): Crazy trade. If the trade were only Jordan for Young or only Johnson for Young, it would still be the most lopsided of all 12.

P.S. In a 10 team keeper, I just dealt Addai for Bulger. One league member cried "foul!" I actually think Addai is better for a keeper (keep 4) - but my team is loaded with LT, LJ, Smith, Holt plus Maroney, Norwood and F. Taylor. My QB's were C-Pepper & Warner. Trading partner had PManning already, but had to start Droughns at RB. The "foul" call was really because I am crushing the league (4th season - I plan to propose a re-draft after this season).
Before we go any further, I want to remind readers that since scoring systems and personnel shortages vary so drastically from league to league, we should expect to see different readers evaluating them in different ways. I simply couldn’t have provided all of the information that everyone would have needed to make a thorough assessment of all 12 trades. (Realistically, few readers would have been willing to wade through such a morass of data on their way to arriving at conclusions that have no direct bearing on their own leagues.) Accordingly, when we see significant deviations from one set of rankings to the next, it makes little sense to assume that those writing in are simply pulling their rankings out of thin air. More likely, they are looking at the trades through whatever lenses are appropriate to their leagues, which explains why a reader like Juan can contend that the most balanced trade of the dozen is the one that Gary ranked 8th (in the lopsided but acceptable category). Juan also provided explanations for his rankings:
Balanced: Features players on a similar level statistically and/or in reputation.

1.) Alexander and Parker for LJ and Dunn: Stud and good player for Stud and good player.

2.) Barber for Holt: Both very good players. Probably fill needs on respective rosters.

3.) Fitz for Gore: Fitz might be the bigger name. But in a keeper league, Gore has value as an emerging RB.

4.) Witten for Rod Smith: Both fill-in players.

5.) Fitz for McCallister: Questionable. Fitz is a more reliable name. But in a redraft league, McCallister is getting it done this year, and that’s what matters. I still almost ranked this as lopsided, though, because it is an 8-team league. You would think better RB options were available.

Lopsided: Features a player with much better stats and/or a higher reputation than they are getting in return.

6.) K. Jones and Jenkins for S. Moss: A really bad week to try and get Moss. Jenkins is completely useless, and Jones has been good for exactly one game in the last two years.

7.) Gates and Colston for A. Green: Even in a 12-team league where RBs are thin, that’s too much to give for an old RB who is always hurt.

8.) Parker for Coles: In a 12-team league, Parker has way more value than Coles.

Rips: Usually involves getting a stud for average players, or a good player for next to nothing.

9.) Lewis and Watson for Owens: This is clearly a buy-low on Owens. If he had in fact committed suicide, this might be approvable. Maybe. Even then, I think he could go for 1400yrds and 10 TDs.

10.) Muhammed and Dunn for Alexander and Evans: Need someone much more reliable than Muhammed to make this work. He and Evans are a push. Has the whole world forgotten how many TDs Alexander has AVERAGED the last 5 years. Dunn for Alexander? Come on!

11.) Alexander for Fitzgerald: Again, this is a 12-team league! This is Shaun freakin’ Alexander!! If he doesn’t play until Week 10, he still outscores Fitzgerald!!! This isn’t even close!!!!

12.) Chad Johnson and Lamont Jordan for Vince Young: This might be the worst trade offer I have ever heard. In any sport. In any year. Not even if Vince Young was throwing to Jerry Rice and you got double the points for starting a QB in Tennessee . If I was playing Madden and got this approved, I would feel guilty.
Some leagues have players vote to approve or veto trades; some simply have a very early trading deadline that they rely on to prevent collusion. My sense from readers, however, is that the majority of leagues leave the vetoing or approving of trades to a commissioner. Brian wrote in from that perspective, and other commissioners (with similar duties) may find his response particularly helpful:
I have been commissioner of our league for 10 years, and . . . I have never vetoed a trade. I feel my role as commissioner is not to make sure every trade is fair value for value because that is putting my own values and opinions on the players involved. Instead, my role is simply to prevent cheating, which I have never felt like has taken place in our league. There have been a handful of trades which left me wondering why an owner would want to make a trade. On these occasions, I called up the trading parties, and their answers always satisfied me(even if I disagreed with their logic). Also, I have learned over the years that the peanut gallery who makes the most noise when they think a trade is lopsided is often wrong. You can never tell who will eventually get the better end of the deal, and often times the team you think gets the better deal initially ends up losing out or breaking even. That being said, I only thought 2 of the 12 trades on your list were dangerously lopsided (Muhammed & Dunn for Alexander & Evans and Johnson & Jordan for V. Young).
Brian wasn’t the only commissioner who felt he needed to write in to defend a laissez-faire attitude, as John echoes his attitude nicely: “I am an owner and league commissioner that enjoys trades, so I tend to give the benefit of the doubt and lean more toward “balanced” in most cases.” In case you think John is just paying lip service to the laissez-faire attitude, consider how close his evaluation of the Vince Young trade came to Gary’s:
Chad Johnson and Lamont Jordan for Vince Young – In any re-draft league, I would call this Dangerously Lopsided. But in the case of a keeper league, it REALLY depends on the scoring system. In a traditional system, I would call this Dangerously Lopsided in favor of the team acquiring the RB and WR. But in the league I am in, because of the scoring system, top-tier QBs can be much more valuable than a No. 1 WR or a second-tier starting RB. In a keeper league with a scoring system similar to ours, I would give a big advantage to the team getting the WR and RB this season, but Vince may prove to be the better acquisition over the long-term, thus putting the trade into the “Balanced” category.
George’s assessment of the Young trade was far more consistent with the vast majority of responses: “Come on! No one is this stupid, are they?”

As I indicated before, the evaluations of these trades were all over the place. It would be absurd to expect unanimity, but there was something approaching consensus on a few trades, as most readers thought of the Barber-for-Holt trade as very balanced and the Gates-and-Colston-for-Green trade as lopsided. However, opinions were split as to whether the Ahman Green trade was simply “Lopsided but Acceptable” or “Dangerously Lopsided.” Assessments of the Coles-for-Parker trade were overwhelmingly negative, though many readers pointed out that they could imagine scenarios in which a team desperate enough for a WR might pull the trigger on this one.

The trade that seemed to be the wildcard was Jamal Lewis and Benjamin Watson for Terrell Owens. It was seen by some as extremely balanced, others as extremely lopsided, and others as lopsided but acceptable (though opinions varied as to which side was getting the better end of the deal). Clearly, Owens’ upside, when coupled with his disappointing productivity thus far, leaves owners reaching very different conclusions about his value. To my mind, the fact that assessments of this trade were so different should go a long way towards reminding all of us that when we evaluate trades as “fair” or “unfair,” we run the risk of taking our own opinions or instincts too seriously. Or maybe it only shows that Owens is every bit as controversial in fantasy circles as he is in the NFL!

This Week’s Question

A reader named Colin contacted me this week about the idea of using defenses defensively. His question speaks for itself, and rather than slanting responses a certain way by indicating my own thoughts here, I’ll submit it to readers just as I received it:
Would you mind asking your readers to weigh in on my league’s idea for making fantasy defenses serve an actual defensive purpose? If fantasy football teaches us anything, it’s that weak defenses make for strong performances by opposing offenses. There are defenses out there that consistently make opposing quarterbacks look like clowns. There are defenses that make marginal running backs look like stars. So why is it that no matter how good my fantasy defense is, its productivity has no effect on my fantasy opponent’s offensive score? Almost every fantasy league I know of treats defenses as if they are just another offensive skill player. You add points for what the defense does just like you add points for what the tight end does.

That makes no sense.

Wouldn’t it be more in keeping with the NFL if we adjusted offensive scores in response to defensive productivity? My league is trying out this sort of model this year. We play in a head-to-head league (obviously this wouldn’t work in a points-only league), and we don’t actually add points to any fantasy team’s score based on what that team’s defense does, but we use defensive ranking to adjust the offensive scores of opponents. We wait until all the games have been played and the rankings for the defenses have come in. Then we adjust the offensive scores according to the following formula:

If you have a top-5 defense for the week, 20% of your opponent’s offensive score is deducted. If you have a bottom-5 defense for the week, your opponent’s offensive score receives a 20% bonus. If your defense ranks 6-10, 10% of your opponent’s offensive score is deducted. If your defense is ranked 10th-worst to 6th-worst, your opponent receives a 10% bonus. All other defenses are ignored. So if you start a defense that finishes near the middle of the pack, your opponent’s score is unmodified, but his defense may affect your final score.

Anyway, this system makes a lot of sense to us, and we wonder why this sort of thing isn’t more popular?

Last Man Standing (Courtesy of Matt & Michael)

Matt’s Picks

Up until now, it has been relatively easy to pick one game each week. If you had taken my selection of the Bears last week you would have rested easy while all those people who chose Indy sweated it out until the end of the Titans’ upset bid. Every year there are so-called “locks” that just knock many people out, and this year will be no different. While the Titans almost pulled off the impossible on the road, many upsets come when the home team is a big underdog. This week my three picks are road favorites, the ideal formula for a Survival Poll knockout, so pick them with care. With that, let’s jump into my trap game.

Trap Game: Dallas over Houston – What is Matthew smoking? Houston as an upset pick? Dallas almost beats Philadelphia in the last minute, or at least ties it in the last minute until Bledsoe throws a pick that goes the other way for a touchdown. So how can the Texans stay close? Well, first of all, the Texans are playing in Texas and would like nothing more than to beat the Cowboys, not to mention they really want to get their first win this season. Houston is ranked dead last in defense, but there is an intangible here that trumps everything else. Call it a feeling, call it a guess, but this is a game that a lot of people will be picking and may be the death knell of a lot of Survival Poll players.

#3: Cincinnati at Tampa Bay (4-1 Season):
Bruce Gradkowski came out this week and showed that he is definitely an option for the Bucs the rest of the season. In fact, his passer rating of 97.1 is over 50 points better than Chris Simms’ 46.3 before his injury. Combine this quality passing game with a running game from Cadillac Williams, and the Bucs could pull off the victory at home. Remember, Jon Gruden doesn’t ask his QB to win the game for him, just manage it. The Bengals are having a hard time stopping the run, coming off their bye week and lost a blow out to New England the last time they took the field. The one thing going for Marvin Lewis’ team is that he can rely on Rudy Johnson to take advantage of a Bucs rushing defense that ranks 30th in the league. Combine that with 2005’s best passer, Carson Palmer, and the Bengals have the makings of a steady win in Florida.

#2: Chicago at Arizona (5-0 Season):
Does anyone question that the Bears are the best team in the NFL right now? The Bears beat the Bills last week in every facet of the game and probably could have scored even more points than they did. The only thing that they did not do last week was shut the Bills out. This week, the vaunted Bear defense gets to play Matt Leinert who is making his 2nd NFL start. While he has some excellent weapons to throw to, he may have a hard time reading the types of defense that the Bears are in. While this will be an excellent game for him in his progression as an NFL quarterback, don’t look for him to sneak a win in the desert.

#1: San Diego at San Francisco (4-1 Season):
Philip Rivers took control of the game last week as the Steelers’ rushing defense shut down LT. But it was the Chargers’ number one ranked defense that set the tone for last Sunday night’s match up. This week Frank Gore will be hard pressed to deliver for his team and fantasy owners when he goes up against this same defense that yields an average of 66 yards per game rushing. Meanwhile, Ladanian Tomlinson should break out of his one-week slump, easily rushing for 125 to 150 yards against a team that gives up an average of 126 per game.


Michael’s Picks

Whew, we dodged a bullet in Week 5 with Indy winning by 1 against Tennessee to survive in the pool. Let's keep it going. In this week's picks, I would feel safer with the teams I have listed 2nd and 3rd, but I'm going to keep them in the bank as I have yet to use either of them as my top choice. But I don't feel that my top pick is a huge gamble this week either.

3 - (5-0) - San Diego at San Francisco - Phillip Rivers is starting to get the chance to open up the playbook. He may not need to this week, as Tomlinson should have a break out game. The 49er offense won't be able to score enough against the tough Charger defense to keep up.

2 - (5-0) - Chicago over Arizona - Can anyone stop the Bears? Or even keep it close? Not this week. Matt Leinart is going to be a good quarterback, but expect plenty of growing pains against this defense.

1 - (5-0) - Denver over Oakland - How often are you going to feel comfortable using Denver? This is the week. The defense at home should be able to keep the Raiders winless. Raiders' defense should make the Denver offense look the best it has been all season.

Note: Mike will babysitting 45 kids on a field trip next week. Needless to say, his hands will be full. Matt & Mike's LMS picks will be posted for Week 7 and Q&A will return in full Week 8.
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.