Every season, owners walk away from their respective fantasy draft days loving their teams, or hating them and trying to find a way to talk themselves into loving the roster they somehow inexplicably ended up with. The euphoria of that magical day when everything fell into place and pick after pick rolled effortlessly off the tongue eventually wears off and the reality of the season sets in. What the hell happened to Peyton Hillis? First it’s strep throat, then hamstring issues, teammates doubting his commitment and finally, CIA aspirations? To quote the late Vince Lombardi, “What the hell is going on out there?” This is not that feel good, overachieving running back that was snaked away in the fifth round as the bell cow back to solidify the running back position on our fantasy roster, while we feasted on an elite quarterback and top end wide receivers early in the draft. So now it’s time for the second most exhilarating aspect of fantasy football to begin – the art of working a trade. Ah yes, the timeless act of trying to get another owner to share your vision that there needs to be some shaking up of their roster as well. Sure, the waiver wire is also an option, but, come on, you don’t get to barter with the waiver process, and, depending on your league constitution it may only run once a week and then it’s over. No, the real drama and excitement lies in the trade market and all the glorious manifestations that lie within. Of course each league has its own distinctive roster of owners, ebb and flow of trading, or lack thereof. Figuring out just how to get each owner interested in a trade and then working the details out can be almost as much fun as fantasy draft day.
Let’s be honest here – there are some owners who just do not like to trade no matter how juicy the offer that is floated to them appears. They live in that fear bubble where they are so positive that if someone is even offering them a deal it is only to fleece them. Another owner merely showing interest in one of their players only serves to reinforce their belief that they are being conned, even if the player being offered is equal to or even considered a better fantasy option. This owner will sit on two No. 1 quarterbacks all season long, forsaking any chance to bolster other, weaker positions on their roster, frozen by the thought of being ‘taken’ in a deal. We all know who those owners are in our leagues and have written them off as possible trade partners. Don’t get me wrong – I will still include them in my mass email announcing that I am looking to move players, mostly because I like to envision just how quickly they will delete the message so as to not even have to look at it. I know it’s petty, but hey, a man needs his enthusiasms. Therein also lies my affinity for the trading process, the joy I get out of it and why I try and make at least a few trades in all my leagues every season. It is a fun, exciting facet of this wonderful world of fantasy football and enhances my enjoyment of the game tenfold. That being said, never would I make a trade just for the sake of making one, and I can honestly say that I really do ultimately want both teams involved to benefit. Ideally my team would benefit a bit more, but if that isn’t the case then I am OK with that as well because I know I carefully examined the pros and cons of the deal before agreeing to it and then let whatever happens unfold.
That leads us into the actual art of the trade. The dance, if you will, is finding the common ground that you and another owner can share in hopes of improving each of your rosters. We all have our own personal style of drafting our fantasy teams, and that nearly always carries over into our philosophy of approaching trades as well. A general rule of thumb that I follow is to stand pat with the team I drafted through Week 3 of the regular season, barring any season-ending injuries suffered in Weeks 1 or 2. By the end of Week 3, a general sense of how a fantasy team is stacking up from position to position has taken shape and strengths and weaknesses on the roster are revealed. Once a picture has been formed of which positions need some tweaking, we can set in motion the task of addressing the situation. The waiver wire is always an option, especially when a major injury has left you with a player on your roster that is absolutely without value heading forward and a replacement at the position is needed. As far as going ahead and dropping a player who has simply underperformed as to expectation, it is a good idea to go ahead and get the trade wheels rolling before dropping him outright. That player could be the throw in name that makes or breaks a deal. If not, then the option to simply drop the player remains. Ultimately, it is purely and simply about gathering the players that will make your roster as powerful as possible heading down the stretch and into the fantasy playoffs. Inside of this will be the consideration of strength of schedule for the weeks of the playoffs, history of players’ performance late in seasons and an understanding of just what the NFL team that the player you’d like to acquire or trade has to play for moving into the later part of the season.
The style I prefer to employ when looking to initiate a trade is what I like to call “the trolling technique,” and it works pretty much the same way the term is used when fishing. For the record I am not a fisherman by any means, but the term happens to fit so I go with it. After determining what position or type of player that I feel my team could use to be an improved unit and having determined which players I am willing to part with, I send out the mass league email stating that I am looking for running backs/wide receivers or whatever position it happens to be. Also included in the email will be the statement of what positions I am willing to trade players from and a simple request that the other owners look at my roster and make what they feel are ‘fair’ offers. Now, I will already have a list of players from the other teams in my league that will be favorable options to actually trade for, but will not bring actual names to the table until later on in the negotiation stages. The reason for the early vagueness is to get the immediate idea of just what owners are interested in making deals. I look a how soon do they reply, what names are they tossing out initially, and are they on the list I’ve already developed beforehand? This style of mass inquiry is also very effective when you are joining a new, established league where you don’t know your fellow owners very well, as you may have joined a league through a message board and participated in an online draft without much chat room activity. Every league looking to fill a spot or two will claim that it is a ‘very active’ league in their messages and this is a quick way to really put that to the test. Sadly, in a couple of my longest-tenured leagues, when I send out these trade emails I am able to predict the owners that will respond pretty accurately. Either way, once the replies begin to roll in, the real fun of trading gets underway. As mentioned earlier, it’s favorable to have a list of numerous players that you are willing to acquire that can fill the need you’ve identified on your team, and unless you are absolutely dead set on getting an Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, be flexible in the bartering process. Besides, if you are looking to land one of those white whales, you are destined to overpay, pure and simply. Instead, have two or three guys in mind that you have placed similar values on and begin negotiating from that standpoint. Tunnel vision when looking to make a deal can kill off any chances of stumbling upon a favorable trade that evolves out of a few back-and-forth offer sessions. Once the actual names begin to spring up in the trade talks, be sure to always offer up a player of less value than the one you are actually willing to part with, keeping the illusion of sacrifice in play when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the actual deal.
It is within the interaction of discussing actual names involved in your potential trades that the personal philosophies of each individual owner come into play. There are the owners who will always open with ridiculous offers that you both know are horribly one-sided and you would be a fool to accept. That is OK. It is a starting point and opens up the door for a counter offer that you feel is fair and reasonable. But if he/she responds with another outrageously lopsided offer it is time to move on and waste no more time. However, keep that owner in the loop so that now when negotiating with another owner, we can let it be known that we are also accepting offers from rivals and will decide which trade benefits us most. Should that owner do some homework and want to see if we are bluffing, we do have an ongoing communication opened up with someone and the sense of urgency to get a deal done is still in the space. Personally, I prefer to deal with the owners that are willing to break down each player they are offering in the deal, why they feel that player could help my squad and also break down the players they hope to get in exchange from my team. Some owners will of course upsell their own players to a ridiculous extent and try to downplay the players they are asking for from my team. That is to be expected and adds the element of humor to the trade process that I enjoy. Now it’s my turn to reply with my breakdown of the particular players, why I think they’ll benefit both our squads. I try to be as objective as I can. Some owners are really caught up in the actual season-to-date points scored by the players and how closely they match up. My personal preference in dealing does not entail having to come out of each trade with a certain number of points already scored because that doesn’t help a team moving forward, which is all that concerns me. Keeping as many owners in play during the negotiating process is also a very beneficial strategy. If you are talking to a particular owner, you can assume that others are as well. Should it come up during your back and forth exchanges that Owner A is also talking with Owner C about a particular player, get in touch with Owner C and see about acquiring that player yourself and look to pull off a “whip around deal” with Owner A. Just be prepared to get stuck holding that player if Owner A gets cold feet and changes his/her mind, so do not leave your team vulnerable by acquiring someone you think, but do not for certain know that you can turn around and deal immediately. Don’t be that owner who gets hoodwinked by the old, “If you get so and so from this owner, I’ll give you such and such for him.” Verbal agreements are just that, agreements and not actual accepted trades. Be bold, be adventurous in your pursuit of the players you covet but do not be reckless.
As I stated earlier, I really do just want to help my team as much as I can through a deal and do not approach trading as a chance to try and pull a fast one on another owner. I do not offer players that I know to be hurt, facing suspension or that I have just learned are set to lose playing time, and we all know there are owners out there who will try these tactics. Keeping up-to-date on all the latest moves around the league is imperative for owners, and my schedule allows me to do just that, but I’m not about scheming to take advantage of owners whose lives may not afford them the time I have to scour the internet or television for news. While I have a certain standard that I hold myself to when attempting to make a deal, I am not foolish enough to believe that every other owner is as chivalrous as I am. So know your leaguemates and negotiate accordingly, especially as the deal really begins to take shape. Obviously every league has a weekly trade deadline, and use that to your advantage when trying to play owners against each other. Let each owner know that you want to get this deal done by such and such time and you’ll weed out the owner who likes to sit on the fence and deal with the owner who is ready to get something accomplished. Be intentional about getting the deal done, and if the owner you are in talks with is dragging their feet, make sure you have another deal in the works with another owner. Above all else, be prepared to accept that a deal may not actually get done in the time frame you have set aside and do not rush the process and accept a lesser deal just to get the trade done. Inside of that, get on the phone after the initial back-and-forth email exchange if it’s necessary to hammer out the final details of the deal. If both owners are sincere in their motives to get a deal done it can be wrapped up in a couple of minutes and both owners are happy. OK, having agreed upon a transaction that both parties feel is fair and has the potential to improve both lineups, go ahead and put it through whatever process your particular league requires for approval. Working out a fair deal is imperative not only in the interest of both owners from a competitive standpoint but can be vital in getting the deal green lit by the league in a timely fashion. There may be a league vote mandate, or the opportunity for owners to dispute the trade you’ve agreed upon. If it is indeed a fair deal, this process will play out very quickly and effortlessly. If you’re trying to slide a shady deal past your leaguemates, they will call you on it and now there is negativity in the space of the entire league. Don’t be that owner. Sometimes, the best deals are the ones that do not get done and the player you had hoped to acquire gets hurt, the player you were looking to deal blows up and carries your team to a title. If the deal can’t be done in that week’s time allotted for trades, maybe there was a reason for that. Be prepared to sit with that player for the time being and revisit moving him the next week. Or don’t, you get to powerfully choose. Obviously, I am not re-inventing the wheel here and have just offered up some of the tactics that I enjoy implementing when trying to get a deal done. You are reading fantasy football information in May, so that in and of itself speaks to the commitment you already have to the wonderful world of fantasy football. A personal philosophy of trading is undoubtedly already something you have established and it may or may not jibe with mine, which is fine. Inside of this article are just some techniques you may want to try on and see if they fit.
Above all else, have fun with the trade process. After all, isn’t that the main reason we all love fantasy football? Because it is fun and allows us the chance to explore the NFL, the greatest league in the world, from a completely different angle. Let’s be honest – draft preparation and then the actual draft is the most enjoyable facet of fantasy football. During the season, picking a starting lineup and then lamenting the fact you left someone on the bench who outscored your starter is inevitable. In-season trading is the closest thing to draft prepping that is available to owners. Formulating a plan to acquire a player and then making it happen gets the creative juices flowing fantasy wise again. If your league allows trading, why would you not utilize it as an available tool in the process of developing a championship caliber team? There are few things as frustrating as being in a league that allows trading and then having owners who just will not get involved. It gets old and stale pretty quickly, doesn’t it? Be the owner who revitalizes your leagues by tossing out trade offers and energizing your fellow leaguemates.