Fantasy Football Trade Strategies

If you've ever played in a league with me, you know I'm that guy. The guy who sends at least one trade offer a week. I used to be the guy who would offer my backup WR for your starting RB2, and to say I've learned my lesson might be a little premature. I have been on the other side of those proposals as well. It gets frustrating. To help you avoid frustration and make game-changing trades, I want to offer a little advice about trading strategies.

I will illustrate using a few examples of actual trades I've been a part of. I am in a 10-team, 6-man keeper, PPR league. I inherited a team with Andrew Luck, Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray, Antonio Brown, Julian Edelman, and Alshon Jeffery, along with a few gems on the bench-not a bad way to start. I chose this league as my example because of the various trade strategies employed over the last two seasons. 

The Need-Based Trade.

Send Lamar Miller (RB, Mia), Receive Jimmy Graham (TE, NO).

I had a surplus of running backs, and I didn't have a tight end to speak of. My trade partner hit on Travis Kelce bu didn't have RB depth. He proposed the trade with the note, "Looks like this could help us both out." It did. Graham was up and down last season, but he was a huge upgrade for me. We both made the playoffs, so it worked out for both teams. You would think this would be the preferred way to trade, and it does make the most sense. Unfortunately, people tend to value their own players higher than the players on other teams, so this type of one for one, need-based trade is harder than it looks. Need-based trades are easier to pull off after a draft but before the season starts. Everyone wants to "win" the trade, and need-based trades allow everyone involved to do just that. So even if you "lose" the trade based on where you drafted a specific player, you still upgrade your team, which is kinda the point. So, swallow your pride, and make the need-based trade.

The 2-for-1 Trade.

Send DeMarco Murray (RB, Dal), Receive Calvin Johnson (WR, Det) and Josh Gordon (WR, Cle).

At the time of this trade, Murray was the No. 1 back in fantasy by far. Calvin was hurt, and Gordon was suspended. I am a Lions homer, so that factors into this deal, too. I still had great running back depth. I also had Edelman, Brown, Beckham, and Jeffery, so I could afford to take a flier on Gordon, and, of course, I love Calvin. Again, it worked out for both teams-we played each other in the championship game. The common misconception about 2-for-1 deals is that the 2-player package should be significantly less valuable than the one coming back, but that's incorrect. A 2-for-1 can also be a need-based trade that adds value to both teams. In this trade, I had RB depth, and I wanted Calvin and Gordon, who finished the previous year as the No. 2 WR in fantasy. Murray trailed off a little at the end of the season, and Calvin provided me with the playoff push I needed. When doing a 2-for-1 trade, I prefer getting the best player in the deal, unless I am hurting for depth due to injury or because I drafted Cordarrelle Patterson. You want your team to have as many studs as possible, and you can make it happen with a 2-for-1 trade.

The Take-What-You-Can-Get Trade.

Send Alshon Jeffery (WR, Chi) and Jimmy Graham (TE, Sea), Receive C.J. Anderson (RB, Den).

On the surface, this looks like a typical 2-for-1 trade. It is, and it's not. This was an off-season trade to cut down to six keepers and not lose value on a player that was worthy of being kept. This is a "value-based trade." I wouldn't have been able to keep both players, so I upgraded at running back. It was a win for both sides. Trades like these are very common in the off-season, but they are specific to keeper leagues. Look at your keepers in the off-season and see if you can benefit from this sort of trade. These trades make everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside. That's a good thing. 

When trading, there are several things to consider when determining who "won" the trade, but if you trade for need, upgrade in a 2-for-1 deal, or get value back on a keeper you would otherwise have to cut, your trade was successful.

Here are 5 tips to turn you into a fantasy football trade machine:

Five fantasy football trade tips to turn you into a trading machine

  1. Leave a note. When you do reject a trade, I recommend that you leave a note. It gives the other guy an idea of what you're thinking and keeps your dialog open.
  2. Counter. If you reject a trade, send a counter-offer, even if its outlandish. It keeps the conversation going and could result in a trade down the road.
  3. Don't make ridiculous offers. You might offend the other party with a low-ball offer. It signals to the other owner that you don't think they know what they are doing.
  4. Have fun. Be a fan first and a fantasy owner second. If you want to give up more than fair market value for a player you like, do it. It's your team, and you should enjoy each week and cheer for the players you want to. In many leagues I'm in, other owners will often draft Lions players in the hope of trading them to me because they know I'm a Lion homer. It makes the draft more entertaining and trading more fun.
  5. Build relationships. Last, but certainly not least, you need to create relationships with the other owners. Even if one trade falls through, there should be many more deals down the road. You'd be surprised how many deals get done because of relationships. Keep yours fruitful (that's a good life lesson also).

There are plenty of trading styles. Find one that suits you. Trades are the best way to make your team better. Sure, you can hit on a free agent from time to time, but everyone else is trying to do that, too. If you learn how to become an effective trader, you will not only have a better fantasy team, you will also have a lot of fun.

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