“You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle. … But you can’t win much, either.” — Matt Damon’s character Mike McDermott in “Rounders”
Just like playing poker, participating in fantasy sports offers its own level of risk and rewards.
Especially in dynasty fantasy football leagues.
Especially during the early offseason period.
And most certainly when considering trades this early in the offseason.
So, you’ll find that many dynasty league owners won’t touch a fantasy football trade at least before the NFL rookie draft.
But for those who want to dramatically turn around a struggling team and who aren’t afraid to take a few calculated gambles, there may not be a better time to pick up your fantasy war-room phone.
Here are a few things to consider before you do.
1. Study your team. When evaluating a dynasty team, it is important to make sure you have a balanced mix of sure-fire starters, young talent with upside and reliable depth. You can survive with two of these three elements at each position, but you should always be striving to upgrade with an eye on these areas.
For example, heading into this offseason, I had Matt Schaub, Brett Favre and Brady Quinn as my QB options on my main dynasty team. Schaub was my sure-fire starter after proving he can go a full-season slate without injury. Favre could provide reliable depth, but he could just as easily retire. Quinn is a young player, and while some people may argue his upside, there is a chance he’ll start for some team in the near future. Still, outside of Schaub, I had a lot of question marks.
After some discussion with a leaguemate, I was able to get Tom Brady at a decent price thanks to concern about Wes Welker’s injury/surgery, Randy Moss’ inconsistency and Brady’s overall age. I’m gambling that Brady still has several years of top production in his future, and even if he doesn’t, he still provides more than adequate depth. As the season approaches, and other teams in the league find themselves in need of a sure-fire starting QB, I can dangle Brady for a younger QB with upside and perhaps improve my roster elsewhere in the process.
2. Study your opponents’ teams. Before you start making deals, it is very helpful to print out each of your leaguemate’s rosters and jot down notes of what that team really needs this offseason and which players that particular owner may be interested in.
If you notice that your team is loaded at a certain position with either an abundance of reliable depth or young players with upside, than swinging some of that excess to a team that needs it can open doors for you to improve your own roster.
Also, be mindful of the other owners’ favorite teams and players. In most every fantasy format, if you find a diehard Cowboys fan, there is a good chance he’ll overvalue a Marion Barber.
3. Study the news, internet and other sources of NFL player discussion. The key to getting good value is to act before a certain player’s value changes.
For example, Pierre Thomas is a player who could see a major value swing one way or another this offseason. The Saints’ talks with RB Reggie Bush are strained at best at the moment. If Bush somehow winds up on another team, than Pierre’s value sees a very nice increase. On the other hand, if other rumors pan out, the Saints may acquire an additional veteran back, such as LaDanian Tomlinson to compete with Pierre, Mike Bell and Bush in a nasty RBBC.
There are plenty of websites that offer time-sensitive news updates and rumor mill tidbits. Here at www.chinstrapninjas.com, we will update with posts whenever we hear of any impending NFL offseason newsbreaks that will affect your respective dynasty teams. Another site that offers a wide variety of player updates is www.rotoworld.com.
4. Proven players typically trump rookie draft picks. Sure, we’d all love to have multiple early-round picks in our annual rookie drafts, but I’ve personally seen too many people trade proven talent for a slew of draft picks, hoping to get the next big thing.
The problem with draft picks is that you don’t know exactly how a rookie will pan out. For every Peyton Manning, there are plenty of Ryan Leafs, Akili Smiths and similarly talented busts. Reggie Bush and Darren McFadden haven’t exactly been lighting up the fantasy world, and they’ve been much better than a number of other rookie flops.
5. Think young. Think long-term. Successful dynasty owners are those who know when to recycle their stud players for younger talent. Wait too long, and your stud becomes the next LaDanian Tomlinson … who’s value has drastically bottomed out over the past two years.
This means making moves that other owners may scoff at … like dealing Reggie Wayne in his prime for a young WR on the rise, such as Roddy White (and improvements elsewhere on your team). Or moving perennial early-first-round talent Adrian Peterson for Ray Rice (and again, other talent elsewhere). The bigger the perceived value drop on the surface, the more you can get out of your stud player. For example, if you think Beanie Wells or Knowshon Moreno become a top-five fantasy player in 2010, than dealing Peterson for the young back would also allow you to stock up on other talent from your opponent.
Again, this angle of offseason dynasty trading can be tricky and you need to feel fairly certain about the players you’re dealing for … but this can be a very lucrative strategy if played properly.
6. Get as much unbiased feedback as possible. Have a tenative deal you’re considering? Start asking other people whose opinion you respect before pulling the trigger. I do this all the time with various people I know and trust. I may not always agree with them, but I do know they are offering their unbiased opinion on the deal.
As a service to our readers, I would be more than happy to look over your respective trade offers and offer some feedback. Feel free to e-mail me directly or post your potential trade on the site’s forum.
For my generic ten steps to successful in-season fantasy football trading, go here.
What are your suggestions for successful dynasty league trades? Let us know in the comments section below.