The Art of Fantasy Football Trading

Michael WhooleySenior Writer IOctober 17, 2009

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 11:  Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at LP Field on October 11, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Colts defeated the Titans 31-9.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Quote of the Week

“Never forget to overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

Week 5 is in the books and, like most fantasy football owners, you’re evaluating your roster on a week to week basis. This is another battle in my crusade to put you in charge of your fantasy team. If you’ve identified a weakness you don’t think can be adequately fixed via the waiver wire, you need to make a trade. Let’s take a look at some things you need to remember when trying to make a deal in your fantasy league.

1. Identify your ideal trading partner and trade your strength to fix your weakness

This sounds really fundamental, but I see mistakes made each season. It does your team no good to improve positions where you’re already strong. Ideally, the perfect trade is giving up as little of your strength as possible to fix as big a weakness as possible. You should be trading strength or depth at one position to improve your weakness or lack of depth at another position. So if your team is strong at RB but weak at WR, your ideal trading partner is strong at WR but weak at RB. I know this seems very basic, but keep in mind that you can only start so many players at each position each week. Trading to improve a position that is already deep and strong accomplishes absolutely nothing. Once you’ve identified your ideal trading partner…

2. Communication is everything

If you play in an online league and don’t personally know your competition, email the owner to open the lines of communication. If you’re in a league where you know the other owners, a phone call is best but an email or text is fine too. Don’t just spring a trade offer on someone through your league management software. Not only are you catching the other owner completely off guard, but you also have done no leg work to see if there’s a player on your team they want or a guy on their own team that’s untouchable. In other words, you’re wasting your time and the other owner’s time and, in the process, killing the chances of getting a deal done. Not only does this legwork save you time and the inevitable slew of counteroffers, but it can also give you an inside look at your opponent’s thinking about his team, your team, and possibly the entire fantasy football league. Needless to say, you can gather very important information to use to your advantage at a later date. If you implement this correctly, you’ll have a verbal agreement in place for your deals and actually proposing and accepting the trade at your league website will just be a formality.

3. Don’t insult the other owner’s intelligence with your trade offer

There’s an owner in every league who violates this rule year in and year out. I’m sure there’s an owner like this in your league and I sincerely hope you’re not that owner. This is the guy who sends out trade proposals to every team in the league hoping that some idiot accidentally clicks ACCEPT instead of DENY. He’s the d-bag who proposes you give him Peyton Manning for Adrian Peterson…the Chicago Bears version. Earlier in the year, I had an owner in one of my test leagues offer me (completely out of the blue of course) Chris Chambers for Ray Rice. Seriously? Naturally, I countered with a trade requesting his best WR for Rice in an attempt to mess with him. It worked. The guy obviously denied my counteroffer and I won’t even consider trading with him the rest of the year. If you’ve identified your ideal trade partner and opened a channel of communication, you won’t be the annoying owner everyone hates. You won’t be alienating or irritating possible trading partners and you’ll be able to improve your team by reaching a reasonably fair deal that strengthens your team more than your trading partner’s.

4. More often than not, nobody wins in a blockbuster

Making a 2 for 2 or 3 for 3 deal involving stud players rarely benefits either team. Is your team so bad that you need to resort to this? Were you owned that much by your competition on draft day? Unless your team is completely hopeless, most of your deals should be 1 for 1, 2 for 2, or 2 for 1 and consist of a stud player and a marginal starter/bench player. Trades should be effective and functional, not flashy. Save the blockbusters for fantasy baseball where they liven up the grind of a 162 game season.

5. Keep schedules in mind when trading

This sounds so basic, but it’s important enough to mention. Has the player you’re trading for already had his bye week or are you losing a game in this deal? What is his schedule for the remainder of the season? What is his schedule in weeks 14-16 (fantasy playoffs)? If two players are very close in value in a trade, stuff like this should swing things one way or the other. Don’t underestimate the importance of future matchups. When you trade for a player, you’re investing in his future performance, not his past performance.

6. Don’t demean other owners if it’s obvious you benefited more from a trade

This is a corollary to not insulting other owners’ intelligence. If you benefit from a trade either by performance or an injury, keep it to yourself. There’s absolutely nothing to be gained from gloating about it. Publicly patting yourself on the back pretty much guarantees that owner will not trade with you anytime in the future.

7. Be strategic and clever to get players you want

If you play in a league where you know the other owners, you should have an incredible amount of information at your disposal. You need to know the players and teams your competition likes and dislikes. My auction league will be celebrating its 10th season next year. For the vast majority of the league, I know what players and teams they covet and which ones they don’t. Let me give you an example. In that league, I knew my QB situation was rough coming out of the auction. I waited too long and decided to stock up on RBs and WRs and also grab an elite TE. The QBs also went for much more money than I expected. I left the auction with Jake Delhomme and JaMarcus Russell. Pathetic, I know, but at the time I thought both had some upside and, given the rest of my team, would be serviceable enough for me to still dominate. Anyway, after Delhomme’s Week 1 debacle, I knew I had to make a deal. There was one team in the league who had a lot of depth at QB, but most importantly, had a QB (Jay Cutler) I knew I could trade to another team to get the QB I really wanted (Carson Palmer). So I traded Darren McFadden for Cutler (after his Week 1 debacle). The very next day, the guy who I know loves Cutler and has Palmer texts me asking if I wanted to make a deal. Now, I’m well aware that Cutler may score more points than Palmer this season, but that’s not the point. I essentially traded McFadden for Palmer. I was strong at RB and weak at QB. I found my ideal trading partner who was strong at QB and weak at RB and made the deal. I then used my knowledge of my competition to get the QB I wanted but didn’t land at the auction. So, be strategic and clever to get the players you want or need.

Keep these seven rules in mind while you’re making trades in your fantasy football league. Not only will you come out ahead in your deals, you’ll be able to make trades when you need to because other owners will respect you and the way you do business.

Matt’s Mailbag

Hi Matt - Big fan of yours and the rest of the Bruno Boys. Thanks for all the Fantasy Football 101 stuff. Very few websites offer valuable information like this. Anyway, I do have a quick question. What is the most common mistake you see fantasy owners make each season? I know it’s a loaded question, but I’m just curious. Kinda want to make sure I’m not doing it! Thanks again for all your help and insight and please keep up the great work! - (Tom in Denver,CO)

Hi Tom... Thanks for the kind words. You keep reading and I’ll keep writing. Wow, you’re right, that is a loaded question. I think the biggest mistake I see each season is fantasy football owners benching their stud players because he has a tough matchup and a guy on their bench supposedly has a weak matchup. I actually wrote a 10 Commandments of Fantasy Football article for The Huddle seven or eight years ago and Never Bench Your Studs was commandment number six if I recall correctly. I may have to write another 10 Commandments article given how much things have changed since then. There are quite a few players you just can’t bench because they’re just so talented, it really doesn’t matter who they’re playing. Guys like that are going to find a way to produce and despite a tough matchup, will almost always outperform a lesser player with an easier matchup.

- Matt

Got a question for Matt’s Mailbag? Email him at Who knows? Your question may make next week’s mailbag!

Well, that’s it for this week. Since everyone always asks, I’ll just tell you that my team is now 5-0 in the Bruno Boys Staff League. Big matchup this week against Larry, who’s got the second best record at 4-1. As expected, Ziza is in the league cellar at 1-4, though he did get his first win by beating Cavigs this past week. Ziza is looking to extend his winning streak to two against Kyle this week. There’s also a matchup of the Bruno Boys co-owners as Cavigs and Whooley square off with their stock options on the line. Only kidding, I think? Speaking of Ziza, he and I will be hosting a Fantasy Football Live Q&A on Saturday. Stay tuned for more information because you’re not going to want to miss it. It will definitely be a fun and lively discussion. Best of luck this week and I hope you’re able to stop by the Live Q&A on Saturday!