How to Win Every Fantasy Football Trade

By Ari Gilberg

It was November 7, 2013, the last day before the trade deadline and the league was in an uproar. Accusations of collusion, cheating, and just general debauchery filled the message boards. I had just completed the latest of three abundantly clear one-sided trades in a four-week span, with each one becoming more and more ridiculous than the last.

In just three moves I (team name “All Hail Megatron” in the picture below) managed to trade for Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, and Adrian Peterson – each finished the season within the top-10 at their respective positions, according to Yahoo Sports – and the highest-scoring player I had given up in any of those three trades was wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who had a successful year, but was still widely considered just a WR2 at the time.

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Many “experts” constantly preach that the draft is the most important aspect of fantasy football, with most of the emphasis on the first few rounds. The belief is if you miss on one of your first three or four draft picks you can basically kiss your chance at a championship goodbye. “You can’t win your fantasy league in the first few rounds of your draft, but you can definitely lose it,” is how the saying goes (and EVERYONE preaches it, seriously just check Google).

Now, what if I told you that’s complete and utter B.S.? What if I told you that you could still acquire a star player after the draft?

Well, if you flopped during the draft, and are in need of some serious assistance, today’s your lucky day because I’m going to explain the intricacies of trading.

Let me first clear up a widely believed misconception, a trade is never fair – there is always a winner and a loser. While it’s possible both parties could theoretically benefit from a trade (even in this scenario one party still benefits more than the other) most trades typically end up helping one party while at the expense of the other.

This is why learning how to master the art of trading is so important, not only do you improve your own team, but you have the ability to weaken your competitors’ as well.

Here are the five things you need to keep in mind when trading in order for you to always come out on top:

1. Buy Low: Fantasy Football is a not just a game of who can score the most points, but a game of finding the best value. Trading is almost like shopping, you’re trying to find the best deal possible. You don’t want to buy those brand new pair of jeans for $80 – no, of course not. You want to buy the ones that are almost identical but are on sale and are ½ off. It’s the same thing with trading. Most owners have short-term memories, a “Well, what have you done for me lately?” mentality. Capitalize on that, and trade for star players who are off to slow starts, but are most likely going to bounce back and get out of their early-season slumps.

Players to buy low on this season: DeMarco Murray, Andrew Luck, Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy, and Lamar Miller.

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2. Sell High: While this may seem pretty self explanatory, selling high is a concept that many owners still can’t seem to fathom. It’s the problem many gamblers have too – you just don’t know when to walk away when you’re on a hot streak. However, more often than not, that unheard of free agent you just picked up, who’s been on a hot streak lately, will quickly disappear back into fantasy irrelevance. For every Odell Beckham Jr.’s there are 5-10 Mike James’ (who scored more than 20 points filling in for an injured Doug Martin back in 2013 the week before I sold high on him in my trade to acquire A.J. Green). There’s also the proven veteran who has seemingly turned back the clock, but will quickly return to his old age (circa Steve Smith Sr. last season). Don’t be fooled by either of these cases, and take advantage of a gullible fantasy owner who’s blinded by players’ recent production.

Players to sell high on this season: Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith Sr., Chris Johnson, Dion Lewis, Travis Benjamin, and Devonta Freeman

3. Don’t Chase Points: In other words, don’t be the gullible owner you’re attempting to take advantage of above. Chasing points, targeting a player who’s been scoring at an unusually-high level recently, is a guilty pleasure you can partake in when it comes to the waiver wire – where the only player you risk losing is someone at the tail-end of your bench. However, chasing points is one of the cardinal sins when it comes to trading. For the exact opposite reason why you want to target a player when he’s in a slump, you never want to target a player when he’s in the middle of a hot streak – his value would be at an all-time high. For example, ask yourself what’s more likely to happen? Larry Fitzgerald keeps up his torrid pace to start of the season – 333 yards receiving and five touchdowns – or Fitzgerald, who is 32 years old and hasn’t reached 1,000 yards receiving since 2011, comes back down to Earth?

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4. Send a “Starter Offer” First: Trading with an owner is very similar to haggling – you’re both trying to get the best deal possible for yourself. Thus, similar to haggling, always start off with an outrageous offer that obviously favors you. I call this a “starter offer.” Now, will your starter offer get accepted? Probably not, but that’s not the point. By sending a starter offer first, it makes all your later offers look that much better by comparison. A 2004 Jeep Liberty is okay, it’s not going to have women chasing down the street for you, but it gets you from Point A to Point B in a reasonable manner. However, park that Jeep next to a 1984 Station Wagon, and that Jeep Liberty now suddenly has the same aura as a 2014 Porsche.

5. Know Your Fellow League Owners…and Manipulate The **** Out of Them: Trading isn’t just dealing with numbers and football statistics, there’s also a large social aspect to it as well. How? Well, if you’re abiding by basic trading guidelines, you’re also communicating with the person you’re attempting to trade with. By talking to him, you have the opportunity to manipulate him. The easiest, and most common, way to do this is by emphasizing some stats while leaving out others. For example, if you’re attempting to trade for Andrew Luck you should exaggerate the fact he’s currently the 21st highest-scoring quarterback this season – behind the likes of Blake Bortles, Jameis Winston, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Of course, you’d want to leave out the small fact that Luck finished as the second-highest scoring player in all of fantasy football last season, according to ESPN.

* All facts and figures are taken from ESPN and Yahoo Sports. All fantasy football statistics are based on ESPN fantasy football default scoring.


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