Last Week’s Question
In last week’s column, I
opened two different cans of worms concerning trading in fantasy
football leagues. I had an abstract question from Vince (who wants
to know whether its ever acceptable for owners to trade future draft
picks along with players in the middle of a fantasy season) and
a concrete question from JB (who wants feedback about a particular
trade involving Steven Jackson and Derrick Mason).
I warned readers
that trade discussions often become shrill and emotional before
they even have a chance to get started. I was pleased that the
vast majority of responses I received were even-handed and coolly
reasoned. I was also something between delighted and overwhelmed
to have received so many different insights from so many different
fantasy players/commissioners. After eliminating all answers that
repeated the content of previous answers, I was still left with
15 full pages of remarks from readers.
That’s more than I will be able to tackle in one column,
so I will be extending this discussion of trades into next week’s
column. If you have anything to say about trading that isn’t
covered below, I’ll be happy to consider including your
comments next week, but please bear in mind that there simply
won’t be room for me to include everyone’s remarks.
I’ll start with responses to Vince’s question about
future draft picks. Joe was the reader who shared Vince’s
anxiety most intensely:
If I were commissioner, I would not allow the trade involving
future draft picks. Even if the two swore on their lives that
they were returning next year, there is no guarantee that other
owners will always return, so it would be creating a precedent
that could easily lead to future problems. It's simply a bad
precedent all around because it encourages teams that are doing
badly this year to trade all their best players for future considerations.
I would tell [the two owners that if they really want the league
to allow the trading of draft picks in addition to players,]
they need to bring it up before all the owners for a vote before
the next season.
Joe makes a fair point; and he isn’t alone. Matthew wrote
in to express his reservations as well:
This issue has come up in our league in the past. I
had the same issues as [Vince], so we just said it was not allowed.
I can understand why some commissioners would prohibit this
kind of trade. The practice of trading draft picks could lead to
what certain fantasy players might perceive as an extended form
of reciprocated collusion. “Since my team is off to a horrible
start this season,” one owner might think to himself, “I’ll
simply unload my best player(s) to my buddy for top draft picks
next year.” The collusion could be explicit and calculated—with
both owners agreeing to share this year’s pot with the team
built out of great players and next year’s pot with the team
built out of fabulous draft picks. But the more insidious problem
is that the owners don’t have to consciously decide to do
anything amiss. If I give you my best players this year for your
top draft picks next year, the effect could be the same as collusion
even if that isn’t our purpose.
Although concerns such as this one carry some weight, they can
be countered somewhat effectively by arguments that other owners
can do the same thing. And for what it’s worth, most of
the FFers who wrote in did not share Joe’s or Matthew’s
fears about potential abuses of these kinds of trades.
Most of the readers who wrote in had no problem with the idea
of trading future draft picks, and the single most common response
I received concerning Vince’s problems was along the lines
of what John had to say:
Any league that wants to allow the trading of next year's draft
picks should implement a simple rule to ensure that the team(s)
giving up draft picks return the following year: Any team giving
up any of next year's draft picks must pay next year's entry fee
now, before the trade is finalized. If they don't return to the
league, they forfeit that deposit. Problem solved.
It does seem like a simple enough solution for Vince’s
problem, and it leads nicely into a similar suggestion from Bruce
(whose league has already implemented a rule to cover just this
Our leagues have a simple rule with respect to trading
future picks. Both owners involved in the trade have to prepay
for the year in question. If an owner doesn’t come back,
then the team is paid for and it’s easy to get any fantasy
junkie to take over a free team, regardless of how bad it is or
how many picks it’s missing.
My guess is that John’s solution would be adequate—i.e.
that it’s enough to have the owner of the team who is giving
up the draft pick pay in advance. The owner of the team who is getting
the draft pick already has an incentive to return, so I’m
not entirely sure why Bruce’s league makes both owners pay.
Nevertheless, I’m enough of a pragmatist to say that Bruce’s
recommendation is probably worth considering if only because he
claims that it is a rule that has been used effectively by his league.
Cheaters have to sense that other people can cheat too—and
they might not want to pony up a season’s entry fee a year
in advance if they fear that another couple of players in the league
could out-cheat them with a trade involving even more and better
picks in next year’s draft next week.
This creates a small issue of accounting for the treasurer, but
I simply keep a spreadsheet that I distribute on a weekly basis
to keep everyone abreast of finances.
A different John speaks for a fair number of readers by drawing
a distinction between keeper and redrafter leagues:
For me, the answer to the first question depends largely
on whether or not you are in a keeper league. If so, I have no
problem with trading future draft picks. A new manager who takes
over a team in a keeper league is implicitly agreeing to accept
whatever roster mistakes the previous manager might have made.
If the player acquired was good enough to command a high draft
pick, he's probably still going to be on the roster and thus part
of the core of players from which the new manager can form his/her
own team. I'm less inclined to saddle a new manager in a non-keeper
league with the loss of a draft choice for a deal that carries
no benefit for him/her.
John makes a lot of sense here, but redrafter leagues that would
really like to allow for the trading of future draft picks can
probably make peace with a solution along the lines of Bruce’s
suggestion or perhaps a modification of one of the suggestions
below. Chris thinks that something along the following lines might
If an owner trades away a future draft pick, and then does not
return to the league next year, the league agrees that the NEW
owner only receives a minor penalty. For example, Vince trades
away next year's 4th round pick and then doesn't return the following
year. The new owner does have to forefeit his position in the
round, but perhaps we give him the last pick of the 4th round
(instead of say the 5th pick where he would have been drafting).
Or, we agree that he forefeits the 4th round pick, but gets two
5th round picks instead. If you gave me one of these options,
then as a new owner I wouldn't mind losing the pick, but I'm never
joining the league knowing I'm getting one less pick than my rivals.
Obviously, some leagues have more “draw” than
others. I’ve heard from commissioners of leagues with waiting
lists and from FFers who tell me that they are simply biding their
time in the leagues they are involved in now until there is an opening
in the league that they really want to join. In such leagues, new
owners might be willing to accept a minor penalty along Chris’
lines, but my guess is that this solution would only work in extremely
attractive leagues. I think I speak for most FFers when I say that
I wouldn’t consider paying full price to join a redrafter
league in which I had to accept the slightest penalty for a decision
made by the owner who preceded me in the league. However, in leagues
with steep entry fees, I might consider a discount (as Matthew suggests):
One possible solution is to get a monetary deposit from
the team giving up the draft pick next year. Not sure how much
really. . . maybe half or so. Then if the team comes back, they
owner gets a credit toward his season. If he does not come back,
the new incoming team gets a discount that year. It would make
it more palatable for the new team. If half off is not enough,
it could be raised, but 50% of the fee to give up a draft pick
is not bad.
I hope these suggestions for how to handle the trading of future draft picks
are helpful, but I caution readers (and particularly commissioners)
to think carefully about whether to allow these sorts of trades
in redrafter leagues. This response from a third reader named
John does a great job of explaining both what is tantalizing and
what is unsettling about this sort of trade:
I am a commish in several leagues, so I will try and
answer this from my perspective. I do not like the idea of trading
draft picks, although I think it does make the ownership of a
Fantasy Team much more real, and turns you into a General Manager,
not just a drafter who picks a starting lineup each week.
The owners is some leagues will trade draft picks in good faith;
owners in other leagues might abuse the option (as Dan’s
league apparently discovered):
We had a "future draft pick" trade come up
last year, and I was initially OK with it (I'm the commissioner)
as long as the team trading its pick turned in its fee for the
next year at the same time. That way, if they left, someone else
could take over the team for free, which ought to cover the fact
that they'd be short a draft pick or two. However, there was a
lot of backlash from other owners based on the idea that a team
could mortgage its future to win now. The league as a whole wanted
a level playing field in each year, and I came to agree with this
But don’t shy away from this option just because you think
it can never work. Larry wrote in on behalf of a league that has
allowed the trading off future draft picks for more than 2 decades—apparently
with no negative results:
I've been commish of our currently 12-team league, which
has waxed to 14 and waned to 10 over the 20+ years we've been
playing. It occurred to me years ago that I could guarantee any
trades with serious implications for the future wouldn't impact
those seasons by requiring the participants to pay for next year
right now. That way, whether or not either of them remains in
the league is immaterial. We can get a replacement who will agree
to keep the constrained circumstances because someone else is
paying for his season. This has occurred 3 times in roughly 40
playing seasons (between both our NFL and MLB leagues.) We've
got a core of 6 who have been in the whole time, and 3 who have
more than 15 years with us, and another in for more than a decade.
And back when we were 14, a couple of the guys started another
league utilizing our exact rules and format, and it's still thriving
more than ten years later. Can't be all bad.
Last Week’s Question #2
For details concerning the Jackson-for-Mason trade (and details
are always terribly important in trades), please consult
last week’s column. I won’t get into the nuances
of responses to that question until next week, but I know that JB
and his league are waiting to hear what the rest of the world thinks
of the trade, so I’ll provide a few excerpts from reader responses
now as I gear up for next week’s column (in which I’ll
go into greater detail).
JB, you can tell the folks in your league that
the answer to your question is . . . drum roll please . . . opinions
Paul answered unequivocally on the no-veto side: “First
off, the trade should not be vetoed. Everyone is still going on
name value it seems.” John, however, is justifiably skeptical:
I wonder why a team that is willing to trade Steven
Jackson wouldn’t offer him up to the whole league. Make
an announcement, "I have S Jackson on the trading block,
looking for a WR", and see what kind of offers you get. I
bet you could do better than Mason.
Although the specific answers concerning the trade were interesting,
I’d like JB to know right away that most readers were far
more interested in the theoretical questions he posed about trading
than they were in the specific details of his trade. Some readers
didn’t even weigh in on the Jackson-Mason question because
they were so eager to tackle JB’s question about whether vetoes
should come from a set number of owner votes or from a commissioner.
I heard strident voices from both ends of the spectrum on this question.
On the commissioner side of the question, Paul wrote:
Another thing that jumps out at me on this trade; it's a 10-team
league, and only 14 roster spots per team. There HAS to be a bunch
of W/R's out there who are getting close to the points that a
Derrick Mason is getting. Why not just drop T Heap or V Davis
and pick one of them up? Losing your number 1 draft pick for a
D Mason, thats terrible.
One last thing I look at: D Mason may never play again for the
team getting him once Driver comes back, so you are trading S
Jackson for 1 week?
How were things handled before the commish became so
lazy that he lets others do his veto job?
Kent, however, spoke just as powerfully against commissioner vetoes:
Finally you can't let the commissioner be the sole decider
of anything in the league unless he is a non participatory commissioner(which
I doubt there are few of those). How could he be the sole arbitor
of his own trade? or of a trade between teams he is competing
against? Trust your owners, commish!
Because I’ve gone past my usual length, I’ve shortened
the answers I received concerning JB’s questions. The best
thing about the answers I received, however, was that they were
generally thoughtful and supported. I’ll share those thoughtful
and supported qualities next week (along with as many additional
answers as possible).
I’ve been in and out of airports all day—and unable
to connect with Matthew “the LMS guy” Schiff.
Under ordinary circumstances, this would mean that readers are
stuck with the picks of yours truly, but luck is with us, as another
reader (one Paul Moore) sent me his picks this week. Take it away,
Paul . . .
I thought last week could be sneaky difficult. It didn’t
turn out that way. This week is a lot tougher, since this year’s
patsies (MIA and STL) are on bye.
There are only 2 games where Vegas has set the spread by more
than a touchdown. A Monday night division match up and a road
favorite. Both going against the survivor rule: Stick with home
favorites i non-division games (40-13 in 2007). Teams coming off
a bye have an 11-5 record this year (6-2 at home) and this week
we have six teams coming off a bye.
#1. Washington over New York Jets
- (8-0, Used SEA, CHI, BAL, IND, DAL, SDC, WAS, NEP)
The Jets are struggling and now will start a rookie QB. That will
likely spell trouble for the J-E-T-S.
#2. Atlanta over San Francisco -
(6-2 Used IND, DEN, NEP, SDC, TEN, sea, DAL, NYG)
As fate would have it Atlanta is coming off a bye and at home
(double bonus). It helps that San Francisco and Alex Smith are
pathetic on offense.
#3. Tampa Bay over Arizona - (8-0
Used SDC, JAX, PIT, NEP, HOU, GBP, NYG, IND)
Tampa Bay is 3-1 at home. Arizona is having troubles, but Warner
will be back under center after a much needed week off.
Trap Game: Tennessee over Carolina
Carolina is 0-3 at home and 4-0 on road. What’s up with
that? Granted the teams they played on the road have been bad
teams, but how can you be winless at home (losses to HOU, TBB,
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
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.