Trading Tutorial: Your One-Stop Guide To Successful Trade Negotiations

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2009

HOUSTON - AUGUST 22:  Running back Steve Slaton #20 of the Houston Texans is tackled by Chris Reis #39, Tracy Porter #22 and Roman Harper #41 of the New Orleans Saints on August 22, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

They say the first step in making a recovery from addiction is to admit you have a problem.

Well, I am a trade-aholic. I get a rush every time a trade is accepted by both parties. I’ve completed all kinds of trades in the past, with mixed results. I have learned a lot of life lessons from the world of trading in fantasy sports, and since the season is finally here—and everyone will be looking for a competitive edge, I felt it was a good time to share some pointers.


Trade Rule No. 1: Always look to improve your team.

Seems simple enough, but then again, it can be really easy to forget if someone dangles one of your favorite players in front of you. If you feel that your team needs a boost at running back, then don’t reach on a trade to improve a different position. Don’t simply pull the trigger on a deal because you’re bored or because your favorite player is involved—your team’s final score each week is the only thing that really matters.


Trade Rule No. 2: Know your other league owners.

This is much easier if you are in a league with people you know outside of fantasy sports or if you have a live draft. You know the type—the Buffalo Bills fan who wears his new Terrell Owens jersey to the draft. Taking note of this could be a crucial move on your part—because there is a good chance the same guy will overpay for Owens in a trade at some point during the season.

I live in central PA, and never mind getting a few Steelers or Eagles on my respective teams, because there are at least one or two diehard Pittsburgh or Philadelphia fans in each of my leagues.

It also pays to know what other teams in your league lack. For example, in one league, I drafted Jason Witten and was excited to be set at the tight end position. However, after the draft, I noticed that no one had drafted John Carlson. Knowing he was in store for a solid season, I picked him up. After that, my first line of business was to find the other teams in the league who were really hurting at tight end, and to plan some offers with Witten (since he has the bigger perceived value) that would help me improve at other skills positions.

In another league, I was forced to do an autopick draft. I found a slew of receivers with upside on my team, but you only need so much depth. Starters are the only ones who count in actual game time. I started shopping receivers.


Trade Rule No. 3: Water’s wet, the sky’s blue and studs typically produce.

Did you notice which players struggled in week one?

Steve Slaton, Michael Turner, Matt Forte and others were extremely disappointing and many fantasy football owners are quick to panic. It happens every year—certain guys are slow out of the gate, and their respective fantasy owners break out in a cold sweat. Suddenly that first, second or third-round pick doesn’t seem as rock-solid as before. This isn’t something that will happen overnight, but as we get into week two, three and four, you may find one or two owners in your league willing to pull the trigger on one of their draft studs who is slacking at the on the field.

On the flip side, if you are the guy who owns Slaton, Turner, Forte or other week one underachievers, it is important to remember the mantra that studs will typically produce (eventually). You wouldn’t go out and spend $30,000 on a new car, only to sell it a week or two later for $20,000 or less just because the engine light stayed on an extra couple seconds when you started the car last.

Slaton, Turner, Forte and company represent stock that has taken a nose-dive, but should bounce back in a reasonably short amount of time. You don’t want to give away stock when it is lowest in value. The goal is to get top dollar for your investment. Selling low doesn’t allow you to do that.


Trade Rule No. 4: The other guy is looking to improve his team, too.

It may be hard to avoid throwing out some one-sided trades to league mates, but remember that the other guy is trying to improve, too. Throw too many one-sided deals at the other owners in your league, and they may soon look at you as the trade dude who’s calling wolf. They may never look at one of your trade proposals seriously, regardless of what you are offering.

I know this rule well, because I used to be this guy—the one who tried to wear down league owners with a barrage of trades that may not have been totally equal on both sides. Ask yourself the following before offering a deal: “If I was the other owner, would I really accept this deal?”


Trade Rule No. 5: Time is on your side.

If someone in your league offered you a deal and you are uncertain as to what to do, perhaps the best rule of thumb is to not rush the decision. Sleep on it. Take some time to look at stats and get feedback from other trusted fantasy owners.

Yes, an owner may be particularly anxious to make a deal and may move on to another owner if you don’t pull the trigger quickly, but then again, if you are that uncertain about the trade, than it may be for the best if things don’t work out. The only timeline that you need to remember is your league’s trade deadline.

Trade Rule No. 6: No player is untradeable.

Luckily, in fantasy sports, we don’t need to deal with egocentric backlashes a la Jay Cutler. If someone offers you a deal for one of your studs, it may be in your best interest to at least consider the deal and look at counter offers. Yes, having Adrian Peterson is great, but if someone offers you a package of really nice players in return—especially ones that plug glaring holes in your starting lineup, than it may be hard to resist.

Typically, the teams with one or two super-studs and a supporting cast of lesser players doesn’t stay as competitive season-long as a team loaded with balanced talent across the board. Yes, Peterson will get you X-number of touchdowns, X-number of yards and a boatload of overall fantasy points, but improving yourself at a number of other positions may be more beneficial to the big picture of your fantasy team.


Trade Rule No. 7: It is OK to counter an offer.

In fact, it is critical in many cases for both sides to reach a true agreement if both sides know exactly what is needed to complete a deal. I know many people who feel that if someone else “low-balls” them on a trade offer, the best course of reaction is to ignore it and never communicate in return—or to offer back a really ridiculous offer.

However, it is obvious that the other owner has an interest in certain guys on your roster. Why not offer something realistic back—targeting the people on his roster that you would really like?

It can’t hurt, and it may actually help lead to a compromise that nets you some really solid talent.


Trade Rule No. 8: Watch the injury reports and transaction lists.

Being one step ahead of your league mates is always a good practice.

If you notice that a certain player is injured, and feel that the injury may not be a season-threatening or overall stat-threatening (like a leg injury on your primary running back), than it may not hurt to throw out an offer for an injured player—especially if you can snag that player for a couple of your bench warmers.

A different example includes position battle injuries. For example, perhaps you see that Kurt Warner, current Cardinals starting quarterback, is struggling majorly and may be fighting an injury. Throwing out a deal for Matt Leinart, who could inherit a QB spot on one of the most potent passing teams in the league, may not be a bad thing.

Another thing to watch is the weekly schedule.

If you see that a certain player has a number of really easy matchups on the horizon, and you can get him cheap enough, it may be worth a shot. One example at the moment is Clinton Portis, who faces the Rams and Lions in weeks two and three, respectively.


Trade Rule No. 9: Evaluate other trades.

Don’t just look at other trades in your league, but go places where people announce their trades and try to get evaluations either before or after the trade. What things seemed to work?

Look for trends that may help you in your own league. I will be evaluating a number of trades throughout the season at—so be sure to keep checking there.

Another resource is the fantasyfootballcafe, which has a thread devoted to trade analysis. Watch not only what trades are offered and which ones seem to work for both sides, but also what others say about the trade.


Trade Rule No. 10: Get trusted feedback on a trade before pulling the trigger.

Again, time is on your side, so take the time to do it right. Identify several people who you respect in fantasy football and ask their advice on certain trades before you complete the deal. Sometimes, it is easy to be blinded by a player bias, and fall into a trap where you are losing more talent in a deal than you’re gaining.

The more people you get feedback from, the better the chances that you’ll get a good feel of whether or not a certain trade is in your best interest.

Once again, feel free to drop me a line at with your trade scenarios. Be sure to include your league's scoring setup, number of teams, etc. Feel free to e-mail me your trade questions questions here, and I’ll share my feedback with you (and if you're OK with it) the rest of the people at as a way for us all to grow as a community and become better traders.

What are your trade suggestions? Disagree with one of my ten trade rules? Have some to add? Some stories to share? Want some feedback on your trade negotiations? Let me know by e-mailing here or visiting


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