Don’t look now, but the fantasy football regular season is almost over. I know, I know, it sneaks up on me every year as well. In most standard leagues the playoffs begin Week 14, leaving just 3 more weeks for owners to gear up for a playoff push or, hopefully, a deep playoff run. It is here, when the waiver wires are normally pretty bare, when trades are the best and most important way to improve your team. After all, it is easy to look at your roster and find what holes have to have filled, what players need replacing due to injury, or who is trending downwards and could be improved upon, and find the player on another team that can fix it. Simple enough right?
However, year after year, I hear people complain that they can’t get a trade done for one reason or another. This can happen for many reasons, but fortunately many of them can be avoided or even fixed if you play your cards right. It may just be a simple tweak in approaching a fellow owner or phrasing the trade that could be the difference between landing that player that could put you over the top. With this in mind, here are some tips to keep in mind when proposing a fantasy football trade that could help get it done.
1) Know your team
Know Thyself. Referenced often by the Greek philosopher Plato, this maxim holds true in fantasy football as well. Sure we all know our team, all those countless hours staring at your roster every day have to pay off sometime, but how well do you really know your team? Before you ever propose a trade, a thorough examination of your own roster must occur first. Every owner knows where his team is strong and where his team is weak, but dig deeper. Who is hot, who is cold, who is trending upwards, who is trending down, etc. Researching your own team is more important than researching anyone else’s, for if you can’t convince someone to want your players then it makes no difference who you want in return. This research needs to be more than just how many yards they have gained or how many TD’s they have scored. Instead research who has a favorable matchup? How many touches/targets a player is getting? How could injuries from teammates effect their production? The answers to these questions can act as bricks that can be used to build a trade up from nothing. Every house needs a strong foundation and deep knowledge of your own team is where all trades are built from.
2) Know your league
With the playoff picture getting clearer and clearer with 3 weeks to play, the potential trade partners around your league have different motivations to trade. Understanding those motivations are critical to completing a trade. Take this trade proposal as an example:
Player 1 trades Stefon Diggs, Jeremy Hill, and Melvin Gordon
Player2 trades Randall Cobb, Antonio Andrews
Here we have an example of Player 1 trying to trade depth for the better player in Cobb. On face value, this isn’t a bad trade for either side, but an understanding of who you are proposing the trade to is pivotal. Let’s say Player 1 is on the fringe of making the playoffs at 6-5 while Player 2 is sitting comfortably in first or second place at 8-3. If this were the case, Player 1 is probably out of luck, as Player 2 (or anyone leading comfortably for that matter) is far less likely to trade a stud for a complement of pieces which could threaten a deep playoff run if they don’t perform.
However if we take the same proposed trade and instead Player 2 is on the fringe of the playoffs at 5-6, then this is a deal that might be able to get done. While Cobb is a better wideout then Diggs is, Hill is a step up from Andrews, and Gordon, while disappointing on the year, is the cherry on the cake to getting the deal done. Two-for-one or three-for- one package deals aren’t going to work most of the time if an owner is set with his lineup and comfortable at the top of the standings, but prying a stud away from a player who has holes to fill can be done with a package deal.
3) Desperation can be your friend
Whether you are fighting for a playoff spot or getting your team ready for a title run, one of the easiest ways to make a trade happen is to look for a desperate owner. Like that lonely cute blonde chick sitting at the end of the bar alone, the lonely desperate fantasy owner can be approached easier. This desperation can be caused by many things, like injuries or bye weeks, and can be exploited for your own gain. Did someone just lose their starting running back to injury? Well then they may be more open-minded about trading a player that they previously refused to move to fill their new hole. Is someone fighting for a playoff spot and needs to win this week? Well he may be convinced to move someone on his team with a bad matchup for someone on yours with a good matchup this week. It doesn’t matter if the person they are trading you is better than the one you are trading them if a loss this week hurts their chances of making the playoffs. Desperation is an ugly smell, but one smart fantasy owners should run to if they get a whiff.
4) It takes two to trade
This is where so many potential trades end before they even begin. Yes, I know you have a hole at your RB2 position that you want to fill, but just because you want to trade for someone to fill it doesn’t mean that it will happen. Fantasy football, like a loving relationship, can’t always be about yourself. If a trade makes perfect sense for you but little to no sense for the other party then the trade isn’t going to happen so don’t waste your time. Understanding the other owner and what he or she wants and needs is the only way for a trade to actually happen. Which brings me to…
5) Know your fellow owner
Whether you have known the person for 30 years or have never met them before, knowing who you are trying to trade with is just as important as the players involved in the trade. In poker you are told to play the man not the cards, and the same goes for trading in fantasy football. Is he a Cincy fan and might be more open to getting a Bengal in the trade? Does he have a certain affinity towards a player or despise them? Was the player on his fantasy team last year that he might be more familiar with? Am I trying to trade for his favorite player? Etc. All of these questions and many more can help you find the right owner to trade with and the right players to target.
6) Strengths and Weaknesses
Another easy way to target a player and propose a trade is by dealing from a position of strength to an owner with a position of weakness. If you have Tyler Eifert and Jordan Reed, both of whom are Top-8 Tight Ends and you really need someone to fill your RB2 spot with the rash of injuries that have plagued running backs this year, then the first step is to look at everyone’s rosters and see if there is anyone who happens to be lacking at tight end and has enough running back depth to trade with. If an owner really needs a Tight End but has no running backs to move then that person probably won’t be a likely trade partner. Meanwhile, if a person has a so-so tight end but has strength in running backs, you will have a better chance of making that move. Letting your trade partner think that he is the one dealing from a position of strength and not you could make him or her more inclined to make the deal in an effort to make their team more complete.
I find that most of my trades are completed using this strategy. Often it is not me targeting a player outright, but instead finding a team with a weakness at a position I am strong at and seeing who else is on his roster I might want. Instead of trying to get a player really badly where you will end up coming off as desperate and over willing and end up paying a steeper price, target an owner who has a glaring need and convince them that the trade benefits them more by fulfilling that need.
7) Call ‘em for Christ’s sake
Of all the advice I could give you in this article, this might be the easiest one to follow and be the most rewarding in the end. I’ll make it simple: Do not text another owner if possible… Call them! Most trades, both in fantasy and in reality, are not completed with texts or emails, but on a phone call or face to face. When two people sit down on the phone or in a room and actually talk it out, it gives you your best chance to complete a trade. Texts or emails can be misleading, phone conversations cannot. What takes 30 seconds to explain when talking to someone will take 5 long paragraphs to email or text. When someone looks at their phone or email it can look like the instigator of the trade is trying to fleece the other, or convince them of a trade they do not want to make, at first glance. It comes off as desperate and no negotiations are won by the desperate party.
Furthermore, trade talks can last days via text while a phone conversation can last 5-10 minutes with far more likelihood of succeeding. Not only can you make your case, answer their questions, calm their concerns, and save time, but it also forces both sides, specifically the other owner, to give you some answer either way. And even if they don’t give you an answer other than the dreaded “Well, let me look at my team tonight and get back to you”, at least you will be able to get a feel for if this trade is actually going to happen. Does a player need to be switched out? Is he higher on a certain player then you? Is he so hesitant that this is a waste of time and need to look elsewhere? All of these questions can be inferred from a phone call, not a text. So just talk like grown adults and hash out the deal.
Sidenote: While you are at it, call your mother as well. She misses you.
8) “No” doesn’t always mean “No” (…in fantasy trades)
So you sent a trade proposal to someone and they said no. For many that is where the trade discussion would end. Wrong. Try and keep the dialogue open. Now I’m not saying be annoying, for annoyance is the silver bullet that kills even the best of trades, but if the person is not answering or is being wishy-washy, then some slight insistence that the conversation continue is a good idea. Just because they happen to shoot you down in the first sentence doesn’t mean a deal cannot be made after some negotiations. I was able to pull off a trade just last week where I received a firm “no” to my initial offer. I countered back and insisted we talk it out and sure enough a day later the deal was done. Don’t let someone off the hook without presenting your case. If afterwards the answer is still no and there isn’t anyone on either team you can swap players in and out for, then it’s time to move on. But until then ignore the initial rejection and give it a chance.
This also applies for when someone offers you a deal you initially want to say no to. Hear them out and if you still don’t like the deal then try and discuss different players before completely stomping on the offer altogether. Don’t be that guy who never talks a trade out or doesn’t respond to a trade request. No one likes that guy.
9) Let the bench be your friend
I know you want to trade for a stud. Everyone does. But it isn’t often that a simple 1-for-1 trade is feasible. Very often a trade will be completed not because of the big names involved but thanks to the role players that get tacked on to make the trade fair. This is where having a strong bench comes in. I make trades every year even though no one wants to trade with me. Know why? Because I focus all year on building up my bench to be as good as possible so that when I offer a trade to people, usually for the better player in the deal, I can package an ‘A-‘ player and one or two ‘B’ players for an ‘A’ to ‘A+’ player. Package deals are the name of the game, and putting up the strongest package is how big blockbuster deals get done. Be willing to add players on both sides of the trade to even it out and make your trade partner happy.
10) Be realistic
All of the advice in this article is useless if you don’t follow this rule. Be realistic. No amount of phone calls, analysis, or pleading is going to get you Todd Gurley for Ronnie Hillman and Jordan Matthews. Harkening back to my 4th point, no trade is going to be made if you don’t consider the other person, and absolutely no trade is going to happen if you live in a dream world. Be smart, be savvy, but don’t think that you can just rob another player blind. One of the quickest ways to ruin a trade negotiation is to offer up a completely one sided trade. They will be offended you offered the trade to them at all, and there would be no ground to negotiate from. No one is going to entertain the idea of trading Julio Jones for Torrey Smith and Joique Bell, so you might as well never offer it. If you want to low ball you can, but don’t offer something so low that they become instantly turned off by the idea of you trying to pull a fast one on them. Approach the other owner as an equal and lets the seeds of the trade grow on its own.