Deal Or No Deal
By Jeff Tefertiller
June 7th, 2010

The process of negotiating trades is one of the most enjoyable and exciting parts of fantasy football. There are several key aspects needed to work out a deal that are helpful for both parties. The following are keys to getting a deal done that helps both teams and one that lays the foundation for future transactions between the two teams.

Honest Depth/Strength Analyses

Many are quick to discover their own team's weaknesses, but vastly overrate their own team's strong suits. Be honest about what you have... because any potential trading partner should be able to quickly identify your team's strengths and needs. It does not matter if you took the guy in the 2nd round of last year's rookie draft or if he led you to the championship two seasons ago ... if the player is not worth your expected value to anyone else right now, you will not receive what you are seeking in a deal. Likewise, you must try to see the other team's roster with an unbiased eye as best as you can. If someone has an unnatural fondness or attachment for a certain player, which exceeds his value (and we are all guilty of that at times), then you can use that info to make a deal that is best for you. Or even better, send that favored player to the other owner for more than he is truly worth! On this same note, there are many times where the other owner values one of his players less than you do. This, too, makes for an easy trade. One of the most difficult things to do is to find out how the other owners in the league value their own players. Most will not say if they do not value their own players. There is no reason to disclose this information.

Win-Win Situations

Contrary to popular belief, the best deal is not one in which one completely rips off a fellow owner; this sort of "success" only serves to make it very difficult for you to make a trade with that owner (and often with the rest of the league) in the future. No, the best deal is one in which both sides come out of the deal feeling they are better off than before. Obviously none of us can see the future with much accuracy, and sometimes a seemingly even deal at the time eventually ends up lopsided. But the deal must be proposed such that it could be perceived to be helpful to both sides at the time of the trade. I have seen deals proposed which help one team and "does not hurt" the other team; these will never fly. Give them something they need, and they will be willing to part with something of value for your squad. This sounds obvious, but it is often overlooked.

To Stud Or Not To Stud?

No, this is not an animal husbandry section. The question for many teams is whether or not to trade for that stud player, or more painfully to trade away that stud. These are two distinct situations, which when coupled together often make for very solid complementary trading partners. Some teams have an embarrassment of riches in depth, but have no elite player in their lineup that they can start with confidence every week. While the team is good enough to do well, lineup decisions are difficult and could miss the best scorer of the week. The other kind of team is the one which has one or two great players, but absolutely no supporting cast or depth. This team can often do well week to week, but suffers greatly if there is an injury, bye week, or poor game by the stud player.

These two teams can each succeed in a trade that helps both squads. A team with a weak starting lineup anchored by a stud or two is often better off trading the stud for 2-3 players that are “startable” every week. For example, is the lineup better off with a RB tandem of Adrian Peterson and Clinton Portis, or with Ryan Mathews and Cedric Benson? Trading the stud RB for two decent, but still solid backs, could really help the overall lineup. Now look at the other side of the trade. Let's say that the other guy had Cedric Benson, Ryan Mathews, and Michael Turner. He can trade two of them for Peterson and Portis and now his starting lineup is better, too, with Peterson and Turner. Trading FOR a stud and trading AWAY a stud can both work, so do not be closed-minded to the deal. Most fantasy players think the winner of a trade is the one who walks away with the best player. Many times this is true, but is not guaranteed.

Win Now

This is for keeper leagues and dynasty leagues. It is my belief that too many fantasy owners look to the future when they have a golden opportunity to win now. A look at the NFL or any professional sport tells one that the only teams making trades for the future are teams that are wa-a-ay out of contention. Teams that are in contention make deals for now - whatever it takes. Just win it this year and worry about next year...NEXT YEAR! If you are in a 10-team dynasty league for ten years and win one championship, you have succeeded in matching the odds. But if you haven't won yet and seek only to amass draft choices and young talent at the expense of your proven stars, then tomorrow may never come. Do you think Jerry Jones regrets mortgaging the late 90s and early 00s for his three Super Bowl titles? I do not think so either. If you know what you are doing in this game, you can mortgage the future and still buy it back later with other deals!

Cardinal Rules

Finally, there are two cardinal rules which I ALWAYS consider when making trades. Yet, I constantly see other owners missing these simple dogmas when they make trade proposals. If fantasy owners would realize these two truisms, I think that there will be more and better trading in fantasy leagues everywhere and therefore more enjoyment from the game:

What Will He Do vs What Has He Done

So many fantasy owners look at what the player has done thus far in the season (and even in a career) instead of what he will do for the remainder of the season. The goal in any trade is to peer into that crystal ball and make your best guess as to which players will score more for the remainder of the season (or career)...and then target them in a trade. This is a variation of the classical stock broker theory, that also applies to fantasy football, which says "Buy low, sell high". Get the players that will perform better than their current perceived value and trade away players that you guess will not perform up to current statistical totals. Obviously, no one can see perfectly into the future, but whatever your guess is - you MUST make THAT the basis of your dealing.

Does This Make MY Team Better?

This is the big one, in my mind. Potential trading partners are constantly saying, "But, YOU get more talent in this trade," or "This makes YOUR team better." Well...DUH! I would not make the trade offer if I thought it HURT my team! The other owner in this case is not worried if it actually is in his best interest to make the deal, but is more worried about my squad. The simple overriding rule I have in making a deal is this: does this make MY team better? If I have depth and give away more talent than I get, but I fill a glaring hole in my lineup then I pull the trigger. Who cares if it helps the other guy, too? I only look at the other guy's team so I can figure out what he needs, and then offer him enough to entice him into helping ME! Make YOUR OWN team better, period. This is the only thing that you can control. I often will make offers which appear to help the other team more than they help me, simply because I can afford to give up more for one player if he fills a critical need. This does presuppose that I have wisely drafted or otherwise acquired some strength or depth previously, however.

Put thought into making deals that can really benefit your squad, especially as the fantasy season approaches. Look at your expectations for the season, using any of several cheatsheets and the Footballguys.com Player Rankings as a guide. And remember to make the deals in which your lineup is better after the deal than before, even if the other guys' is also better too. In fact, making those sorts of deals can pay dividends well into the future by greasing the wheels for another blockbuster trade down the road with that same team.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to tefertiller@footballguys.com or post in the "wannabee" thread pinned in the Assistant Coach Forum for any trade questions you may have.