I have often been accused of trading for the sake of trading and
of this I stand justly accused. While this may work for me, it may
not work for everyone. But if you are reading this, you are an experienced
owner looking for additional pointers of which you may not have
thought out loud, or you are a novice looking to dip your feet into
the water. In either event, whether you are in a dynasty league,
a re-draft, a limited keeper league or otherwise, these philosophies
should prove at least remotely helpful.
The Art of Trading is much like the Art of War. In following
just a few of Sun Tzu’s principles, any fantasy manager
may reap a real joy of playing the game.
“IF YOU KNOW THE ENEMY AND KNOW YOURSELF,
YOU NEED NOT FEAR THE RESULT OF A HUNDRED BATTLES.” ~ Sun
If you are in the right type of league, most of your “enemies”
are already your friends, friends of friends, or other people
with whom you are sufficiently well acquainted. Long gone is the
moniker “rotisserie league” which connoted a tight
group of friends who got together. It has since been replaced
by the impersonal invention of Al Gore called “the Internet.”
Modern technology has dispensed with human contact and many fantasy
leagues are now comprised of autonomous individuals who may know
only a couple of other people in their respective leagues.
Getting to know the people in your league will serve as the most
lethal weapon in your trading arsenal. The more often you converse
with other team managers, the better read you have on how they
value players. In the Internet age, we rely far too much on sending
a trade offer, often joined by a one sentence quip on how the
trade would help the other team. That trade offer is then rejected
by a simple push of a button, from which we learn nothing. Live
communication is the most effective means in which we may ascertain
whether the complexion of other managers is that of a risk taker,
conservative, or even fearful of their own shadow.
Identifying another manager’s predispositions will assist
you in determining how to approach him or her with a trade offer.
For simplification, I identify only three basic groups which encompass
a wide range of different philosophies.
- Risk Takers: This is the rarest
of breed, of which I would estimate you will find no more than
ten percent (10%) of these people in your leagues. This manager
is not averse to trading away a top 10 running back for two
players who are nursing injuries. This manager will part with
Larry Johnson in exchange for Brandon Jacobs and Andre Johnson,
hoping that their team is solid enough to weather the injuries
and anticipating a great surge of talent to pick from during
the playoffs. With this type of manager there is no reason to
negotiate or explain the strengths of the trade. He is generally
savvy and will immediately recognize the value of the trade
(assuming he didn’t make the offer in the first place).
There is no need to go fishing with this guy - just throw out
your best offer.
- Risk Averse: On the other end
of the spectrum is the skeptic who is so fearful of his own
shadow that it does not matter what you offer. You will always
meet with rejection from this manager and you will never receive
a counter-offer. I often refer to this type of manager as the
Slim Pickens of fantasy football. He is the guy who will sit
on a top of an atomic bomb as it is being released from an airplane’s
bomb bay and ride it down to his impending doom. The most prevailing
example of this behavior in recent fantasy history would be
the Shaun Alexander managers who never entertained a single
trade offer, despite his foot injury, his age and his loss of
offensive line. Do not waste your breath coming up with trade
offers. Just realize that those players are in the dreaded “untouchable”
class and move on.
- Conservative: The most prevalent
type of manager is the conservative manager. This manager is
open to trading, but generally needs to be approached, for he
will only consider trading on his own when pushed by factors
such as injuries, bye weeks and continuous losing. Ultimately,
if and when this manager makes an offer, in all likelihood the
offer will be unrealistic. When everything is going well for
this manager, he will most likely pull the trigger only when
he obtains a decisive advantage in the trade. Nevertheless,
he will be receptive to acceptable offers. It must be remembered
that this class is a generalization for which there is no hard
and fast rule.
However, he will not transact in the same manner as the risk
taker. No matter what your best offer may be, this manager’s
mindset requires him to haggle for more. It is imperative
that before approaching this manager, you determine the parameters
of just how high you will go before making your initial offer.
With these managers, make a “credible” but unacceptable
offer to get the negotiations started. If they express interest
but reject the offer, there is no need to wait for them to
counter with their own offer - you may be waiting far too
long. Instead, manipulate the terms upwards in their favor.
Depending on the manager, you may have to think in two or
three step trade processes to reach your ultimate goal. An
example of this philosophy occurred in the 2006 season. I
was deep at running back and I wanted to add a third stud
wide receiver to my roster. I focused on Randy Moss (with
the Oakland Raiders), who was putting up solid but not Moss-like
mid-season numbers (270 yards and 2 touchdowns in his prior
three games). Knowing that the other manager was looking towards
next year and that he was eyeing keepers only, I was willing
to trade away Laurence Maroney (100 yards and 0 touchdowns
over the same period) to get Randy Moss.
Had I offered this manager Maroney for Moss at the outset,
he would have flatly rejected and attempted to squeeze me
for more. Although I knew that Maroney was going to be the
ultimate trading piece for Moss, I had to appear reluctant
to get there. Accordingly, while I do not remember the specifics,
my first offers involved two for one deals with my number
three running back and my number three receiver. The other
manager expressed he was not in love with Moss and that he
was reluctant to make a 2 for 1 deal. I then made it appear
that I was not that interested in Moss and switched gears
to one of his better players for Maroney. Once he expressed
interest in Maroney the final piece of the puzzle fell into
place and the trade was done.
Live communication remains the primary tool for eliciting trades.
It tends to discourage those from responding in anything but a
courteous manner. Often, the Internet disguises tone of voice.
How many times have we made an offer to which we received the
response: “I would love to get some of that crack you are
smoking.” This time worn response besides creating antagonism
virtually shuts the door on further offers. While your offer may
have been more than fair, do not lose sight of a cardinal rule
of negotiation management: Fantasy Managers generally have man-crushes
on the players they have selected. Another manager contacting
them to obtain that player only fortifies this unhealthy obsession.
The first step in breaking down this barrier is communication.
Starting off the communication with I want to make a trade immediately
puts the other manager on guard and they become highly cautious.
As obvious as this may seem, just talk football with the other
managers. Talk about the players on your team, their team and
even other teams. The longer people talk, the more they spill.
Ask a detective, real life interrogations do not move as quickly
as they do on television. It is all about wearing the suspect
down. As they get tired or more comfortable, they talk more. In
this case, when your opponent finally puts his guard down, he
will confide in you what excites him about certain players and
what he perceives to be the true weakness on his own team. Such
information is far more valuable than who you believe to be the
best players or what you believe to be the other team’s
By way of example, last year I made a post draft day trade which
was highly criticized. The trade was this: Frank Gore to me for
Maurice Jones Drew and the Chargers defense. This trade transpired
because I had often spoke with the other manager and learned of
that manager’s fear of Gore’s hand injury, lack of
offense around him and that the manager felt pressured into obtaining
Gore despite a lack of excitement. The other manager also recognized
a glaring weakness in their fantasy squad’s defense. It
was clear that the other manager agreed with me that MJD was undervalued
(again, there is no accounting for my inability to accurately
assess talent). Accordingly, while this trade appeared lopsided
when made, the value was in the fact that both managers addressed
their weaknesses and their perceived fears, and as such, while
the rest of the league griped about the trade, both managers recognized
a sense of trade satisfaction. Neither manager looked back with
regret on the trade at any time during the season.
“THE GENERAL WHO WINS THE BATTLE MAKES MANY
CALCULATIONS IN HIS TEMPLE BEFORE THE BATTLE IS FOUGHT. THE GENERAL
WHO LOSES MAKES BUT FEW CALCULATIONS BEFOREHAND.” ~ Sun
This factor cannot be over stressed. 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.
Most of us will likely never reach this level of mastery and
to emulate this manager could be not only daunting, but destructive
as well. However, other tools do exist for all of us to at least
recognize what may not be directly in front of us when considering
Filling the Void
Recognizing free agent value plays can help you make a trade
offer that looks lopsided in the other owner’s favor, but
through the waiver wire you can balance out. It just takes some
forethought to do. Here’s a hypothetical example. All I
ask is suspend your expectations on the named players and simply
follow the bouncing ball of the concept:
| Team A
|| Avg Fpts/Gm
| Team B
|Maurice Jones Drew
Team A observes on the free agent list, Ted Ginn, Jr. who has
had two straight games where he has put up respectable numbers,
but is not causing peoples’ heads to turn just yet (i.e.
he is averaging 6.0 ppg). Something in his gut says that Ginn
is on the rise and he will be expecting Ginn’s average to
increase 2-3 points as he is rapidly becoming a centerpiece in
the Miami offense. Team A wants to boost his power at running
back and he feels stacked at receiver. The average conventional
trader will look at making an even deal and may make the following
| Team B
||Maurice Jones Drew
On the surface, this deal makes sense. Team A strengthens his running
backs, but loses at wide receiver, while Team B strengthens at wide
receiver and loses at running back. The net point differential is
The problem with this trade offer is that quite often Team B
will see little benefit in the trade and view it as much ado about
nothing. If Team A instead offers Edgerrin James and Greg Jennings
straight up for MJD, Team B may be more inclined to accept such
an offer. Team B would be vastly improving a suspect receiving
corps while imperceptibly weakening his running backs, as he still
has three. Team A, already having a strong receiving corps, strengthens
its running backs and if he has analyzed Ginn’s potential
accurately, he has benefited his team.
| Team A
|Maurice Jones Drew
| Team B
Team A’s belief in Ginn turns out to be accurate and as
suspected has lost little at wide receiver while he gained significantly
at running back. On paper, Team B’s starting five appears
to have downgraded by a point, but in reality Team B has not been
harmed at all, as it still retains Laveranues Coles, greater depth
and vastly greater opportunity. The difference between Coles and
the player he will likely drop to balance out his roster will
be far greater than the 1 ppg loss in his starting five players.
Axiomatic to this line of thinking is keeping an eye on the PUP
list and suspensions. Players like Kevin Jones and Chris Henry
have been known to remain free agents while they are on PUP or
suspension. If your team is capable of tolerating players on reserve,
an eye on the PUP list or suspensions may permit you to pull the
trigger on a trade of your existing players, with the expectation
that you may once again fill the void with a player who has yet
to appear on other teams’ radars.
The RBFTA - (AKA The Reggie Bush Fair Trade
Pay close attention to the managers in your league (mock drafts
are a great way to read how they value players - but be leery
as they will often hold back on some and push others early). Inevitably
you will find at least one or two players who are overvalued by
your standards. You will even utter the following mantra –
“I will never draft fill in the blank.” We
have all uttered these words at one time or another. In fact such
threads run rampant on fantasy football boards. By dismissing
such preconceived notions, you may add yet another weapon to your
arsenal. The most overrated fantasy player of recent history in
my book was Reggie Bush during his rookie year.
Threads ran rampant as to where he should go in a draft and
the common theme was “let some one else grab him early.”
To the average fantasy manager, these seemed to be words of wisdom.
To a trade junkie such words have a sound more akin to the warnings
of Charlie Brown’s teacher. While I valued Bush as a third
round draft pick, I knew several people in my league contemplated
taking him in the first round but opted to wait until the second
round to get him. Having the last selection of the first round
I made Reggie Bush my number one pick (I didn’t even wait
until my next pick on the turn to proudly assert his name).
In so doing, two events occurred: (1) a collective gasp followed
by muttered expletives permeated the air; and (2) the mystique
of Reggie Bush intensified. While I was motivated by a bad draft
position and a dearth of great second round running backs, I was
confident that as the season approached, I would be capable of
unloading Reggie Bush for better players then I would have been
able to select at that position. When you hear that expletive
on draft date, make a mental note from whence it came as your
trade partner has likely just identified himself.
Players are not the only thing to target in your trade arsenal.
If you are a few weeks ahead of the game, you may be able to offer
a trade that would otherwise be difficult to consummate simply
because your trade partner has looked ahead (at your urging or
on his own) at his week six bye nightmare and his inter-division
rivalry game. This is not the place to take advantage, since most
managers do not react well to extortion. Rather it is the time
to offer a well thought out and fair trade which gets them through
their bye week without destroying their team.
“FOR THEM TO PERCEIVE THE ADVANTAGE OF DEFEATING
THE ENEMY, THEY MUST ALSO HAVE THEIR REWARDS.” ~ Sun Tzu
Although it should go without stating, unfortunately, I have
seen the converse all too often. The only way you should be the
winner on all sides of a trade is when the unexpected happens
to the players involved in the trade. It is imperative that you
give value to get value. This is not to state that you may expect
something your opponent does not (i.e. Ryan Grant’s success).
The best trades tend to be the ones which you wish you could take
back right before it is accepted.
If you are established as a fair trader you gain an additional,
often undetected advantage. Others in the league will often come
to you before they make a trade and ask for your opinion. This
reputation you have earned allows you to step in and offer a better
deal or otherwise hang back and offer a deal of your own when
there trade offer is rejected
This brings me to the most difficult subject for a fantasy football
manager to get their arms around. CURB YOUR EGO! When you pull
off a trade, no matter how crafty you were in getting it accomplished,
no matter how much you believe you got the better end, act as
magnanimous as you are able. If the other person walks away from
the trade with the belief that he or she prevailed, you have won
the greatest battle. You have a satisfied trading partner who
will gladly deal with you again. Two months later, you’ll
be at much greater ease when you are in the championship game
and sitting in the catbird’s seat with Steve Smith, Marques
Colston and Randy Moss to choose from, while your opponent is
putting up his best 9-man roster, worrying about several factors
now out of his control.
Never concern yourself with the fact that you are making other
teams strong. Let the rest of your league whine and moan. If you
are making your team stronger that should be all that matters.
Get your team to the play-offs before worrying about winning them.
“AS WATER RETAINS NO CONSTANT SHAPE, SO IN
WARFARE THERE ARE NO CONSTANT CONDITIONS. HE WHO CAN MODIFY HIS
TACTICS IN RELATION TO HIS OPPONENT AND THEREBY SUCCEED IN WINNING,
MAY BE CALLED A HEAVEN-BORN CAPTAIN.” ~ Sun Tzu ~
No player should be deemed “untouchable” on yours
or anyone else’s roster. When you can declare that you are
willing to trade LaDanian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders, Priest Holmes
or Marshall Faulk during their prime, you have truly eclipsed
the horizon of the Art of Trading and you have reached fantasy
football satori. Do not mistake this as an endorsement of trading
Steven Jackson for Aaron Stecker and Wes Welker, but keep in mind
where your stud is playing during the play-offs. Thirty mph winds,
snow flurries, tough defenses or even locked in play-off positions
may each derail your winning season. I cannot even begin to count
the number of eggs laid by fantasy studs at the all important
When you are not professing man-love for any one player, your
horizons open wide.
“HE WILL WIN WHO KNOWS WHEN TO FIGHT AND
WHEN NOT TO FIGHT. HE WILL WIN WHO KNOWS HOW TO HANDLE BOTH SUPERIOR
AND INFERIOR FORCES. HE WILL WIN WHOSE ARMY IS ANIMATED BY THE
SAME SPIRIT THROUGHOUT ALL ITS RANKS. HE WILL WIN WHO, PREPARED
HIMSELF, WAITS TO TAKE THE ENEMY UNPREPARED” ~ Sun Tzu ~
Determine your strengths; analyze your weaknesses; and most important
listen to what other managers perceive to be their own. When you
learn how to make those around you stronger, you will be able
to actively engage in trading and experience the one true joy
of fantasy football, which is lodged only underneath winning it