You are 0-2 and are already starting to freak out about missing the playoffs. You are impatiently waiting for your early round picks like Matt Forte, Steve Slaton, LaDainian Tomlinson and Pierre Thomas to produce. It’s time to relax, take a deep breath, think through your options, and make an informed decision on what to do next.
Option 1 – Sell Your Studs
The problem with this is that it’s the antithesis of how all good business deals work. Ask any personal finance advisor and the key to personal wealth is buy low and sell high. With this approach you risk doing the exact opposite. If you are winless, your studs have likely underperformed the first few weeks and their value is lower than what you paid for them. Should you put them up on the trading block while they still have some value?
I’ve seen this work only a few times in my fantasy football career. Last year someone pulled off a Week 2 Tomlinson for Michael Turner trade. Most of us thought the guy selling L.T. was crazy at the time, but we all hailed him as a genius by mid-season. However, most of the time selling your stud off at a rock bottom price is the quickest way to screw your team. What would have happened if you had sold Chris Johnson after Week 1? Drew Brees had a rough start last year, but went on to set a few records.
You should only consider putting your studs on the block in two scenarios. The first situation is if your team has so many holes that two second-tier players can regularly outproduce your stud and a reserve/spot starter. The second is if you honestly believe that the player you are waiting on is not going to turn it around. Certainly no one can predict the future and whether your player will or will not return to form, but if you believe they are going to turn it around, I’d recommend keeping your player.
Option 2 – Package Your Upside Players
You have guys on your roster that have a good chance of breaking out at some point this season. It’s Week 3 and we’ve already seen a couple step up. Darren Sproles was a great fill in for L.T. last week and LeSean McCoy and Felix Jones are primed for breakout weeks due to injuries. Still, for every breakout candidate there are countless others waiting for their chance to step into the spotlight such as Donald Brown, Beanie Wells or Jonathan Stewart.
Is it really worth mortgaging off your future for a chance to win now? The Redskins do it year after year and it really hasn’t seemed to help them. The difference with fantasy football though is that there is a finite window of time, typically 13 or 14 weeks, to make the playoffs. The Redskins, on the other hand, have perpetually sacrificed their future by trading off draft picks and young talent to fill their roster with fading stars that make them competitive enough to fight for a playoff spot, but never seriously a threat to win a Super Bowl.
Unless you are in a keeper league, we have to look at this from a different angle. Let’s say half the teams in your league make the playoffs and you need to be at least one game above .500 to have a chance to make the playoffs. At 0-2 you have to win seven of the next 11 games, or 63 percent, to make the playoffs. Even if your team was stacked, 7-4 is not any easy accomplishment. If you are in a league that only sends four teams to the playoffs, the odds are even further stacked against you. To have a shot at the playoffs, you likely need to be two or three games above .500. In that scenario you need to win 70-80 percent of your remainder regular season games. Even if your sleeper players bust out by Week 5, it will be too late.
At 0-2 it’s time to seriously start thinking about sending off these players for proven commodities. You aren’t likely to get any studs, unless you offer one of your studs in the package. However it’s possible that you to pick up an aging vet that is about to be unseated (Jamal Lewis) or a two-week spot starter (Fred Jackson). You may feel like you are getting the short end of the stick by trading an upside player for someone with nothing but downside, but at 0-2 your options are running thin.
Option 3 – Work the Waiver Wire
This method is tried and true and is often how championships are won. Last year, lucky fantasy players that trolled through the waiver wire were able to find gems like Pierre Thomas and Tashard Choice to power them through the playoffs. This year we’ve already seen Mike Bell be an extremely serviceable waiver wire pickup.
Working the waiver wire is essential to every fantasy football championship, and one should not hesitate to gut your roster for guys that are putting up numbers. The only problem that you are faced with is you like the guys on your team. The ideal case would be for you to package some of your players that you are considering dropping in a two-for-one trade to make room on your roster to pick up someone off the waiver wire without dropping a player. However we have to realize that people generally fill their team with players that they like, and won’t always bite on two-for-ones that don’t immediately help their team. Even if you think Donnie Avery and Jonathan Stewart for Cedric Benson is a fair trade, the player you are offering them to may not think so.
Value is certainly in the eye of the beholder. This might hurt you on your two-for-one deal, but having this knowledge can also help you make cuts to your team. Last week I regretfully dropped James Davis to pick up Earl Bennett (stupid move, Johnny Knox would have been a much better pickup). I was sure that in a 12-team league where you can start up to four RBs,
Option 4- Wait and Hold
People tend to like this path because the risk one takes is self-contained in the sense that your only risk is the player you decide to keep continues to not produce. You don’t have to beat yourself up when the player you traded away finally goes off for 150 yards and two touchdowns the week after you trade him, while the guy you traded for gets injured the very same week. The problem with this is that it offers a false sense of reality. If you don’t proactively put your studs on the trading block, you’ll never know what you would have been offered for him.
Let’s say you currently own Matt Forte and you believe he is going to return to his 2008 form at some point this season. You could continue to hold on to him thinking that the only risk that you are bearing is that he continues to have a bad season. This is the typical fantasy player’s thought process. Alternatively, you could put him on the trading block. In turn, you might be offered a host of players from different teams such as Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson or Steven Jackson in exchange for Forte. Now the risk that you bear is more complex than Matt Forte continuing to have a bad season. What you are actually risking is the upside of the guys offered to you.
While you may decide to keep your stud after all trade proposals have been made to you, it’s a much better strategy to put your guys on the block than just waiting for your players to return to form. Who knows, maybe someone overvalues the stud you’ve begun to despise and makes an offer that you can’t refuse.
Option 5- Put Your Team in the Clearance Section
The way this tactic goes is you dump your best players to another team for pennies on the dollar in exchange for political capital. You can redeem the capital at a later point for things such as fantasy players for next season, favors at work (approvals, extended timelines …), or personal favors (watch my dog, let me borrow your boat …). I’ve even heard of a guy selling his team off to another member in exchange for the cash equivalent of the league dues he paid. Yes, this tactic is morally wrong and participating parties should be punished by forcing them to watch Rachael Ray instead of the NFL for the remainder of the season. However stuff like this happens in real life all the time. Think of
Putting your team on clearance is a good strategy, in theory. However, in reality you likely will be caught in the act, a storm of irate e-mails objecting the trade will be sent amongst your league members and your trade will be rejected by the league vote or the commissioner. However, here is the beauty of this tactic. You come out on top as you get to keep your guys, but still have built up good favor in the eyes of your colleague. Simple psychology and life experience tells us that the notion and intent of a good deed is often enough to force someone to reciprocate at a later point in time as long as the non-fulfillment of it was out of one’s control.
It should be noted that this tactic could get you kicked out of the league and will assuredly result in the other members of the league hating your guts for years to come. But hey, maybe it’s worth it to you to get your proposal at work approved.
So there you have it. You have five strategies at your disposal to revolutionize your team. OK, so maybe you decide to keep your team exactly the same way it is. At least you’ve taken the time to think through your options. I hope that you are able to get some rest knowing that even the act of doing nothing is a conscious decision that you’ve made to manage your fantasy football team.