By: Jerry Sinclair (Twitter: @JerrySin88)
Only one thing makes a Fantasy League everything we want it to be, activity. Scouring the waiver wire to pick up Odell Beckham Jr. after Victor Cruz goes down with a season ending injury. Drafting Bishop Sankey in the 3rd round after he was drafted by the Titan’s. Only to realize you’d made a terrible mistake, and now need to pawn him off on some other hopeless sap. Nothing else in fantasy is comparable to the art of the trade. We’ve all been in leagues that nobody trades. They fall to the bottom of your bookmarked pages, proceeded by all the leagues where a swindle can occur. In Dynasty, that only intensifies exponentially. Now, we’ve not only got players to trade, but draft picks? Future draft picks? Fantasy Euphoria. So why then, does everybody suck at it?
Why do we care what others think of our trades? We ask what other members of the league think about our deals. We put polls on twitter to see who ‘won’ the trade. We second guess ourselves when someone texts that we lost the trade. Who cares?!? Dynasty leagues don’t exist in the vacuum of space. There is no theory of relativity to perfectly explain the way our football universe exists. The variables that go into constructing a championship roster are endless. Do what it takes to get that trophy on your mantle for the next 12 months and nothing else.
Don’t be Afraid of the Trade
Playing it safe in Dynasty football is the easiest way to fail. You need to go with your heart and be able to risk your cozy comfortable roster in order to prosper. Being content will only get you a declining team, with players whose values are being wasted. It’s those that took the chance on Le’Veon Bell following a season ending injury and a suspension looming, that reaped the rewards he bestowed upon his owners. Don’t be afraid of what your gut tells you. Let’s say we’re in May 2012 and you proposed an outrageous trade at the time. Trent Richardson and Robert Griffin III for Russell Wilson and Lamar Miller. Your league members think you roster dumped. RG3 was drafted #2 overall and Trent Richardson went #3 overall. They post a hateful poll to twitter and it agrees. In 2012, that poll would have been close to 85% opposed to your end of the bargain.
How stupid are they in hindsight? Would the same league members who thought you dumped your players texted you after Russell Wilson put up 40 points in the championship week in 2014? No, they tucked their tail between their legs, while you sent them pictures of you enjoying a nice bowl of Fruity Pebbles out of your championship chalice.
Your gamble would have paid itself back in spades. The great Doyle Brunson said it best, “To survive, you must be willing to die.” If you can’t go with your gut to do whatever it takes to get the players you want, you’ve already drowned in a sea of your cowardice. Don’t be afraid to trade your positions of depth to upgrade another, even if you’re paying a little extra by doing so. The tide can retreat on a player’s value in an instant, like that of RG3 and Richardson.
This offseason, I traded Thomas Rawls, Jordan Reed, and Paul Perkins for Lamar Miller. Overpaid? Yes. Dumb? We’ll see. Now, if I told you my starting running backs prior to the trade were Demarco Murray, Doug Martin, and Thomas Rawls, would you still think I hurt my team? Doug Martin is suspended the first 3 games. Thanks for that Doug. I’m from Michigan so I’ve seen Thomas Rawls play since he was 18 and he’s never tickled my fancy. Demarco is getting closer and closer to the proverbial fantasy cliff. It hurt to lose Jordan Reed, but I was deep at TE with Delanie Walker on my bench. “Don’t be afraid to trade your positions of depth to upgrade another, even if you’re paying a little extra to do so.” See what I did there? Jordan Reed is one concussion from what could be a lengthy absence, so I gambled. Paul Perkins…eh. He’s got talent but does anyone see a workhorse back out of him in New York? When I did the trade I got so much hate. I traded a lot but they all have major risks on the horizon. Pawn those risks off on someone else to get yourself a more stable asset.
Fast forward past free agency, the Seahawks signed Eddie Lacy. The Giants signed Brandon Marshall, all but securing an air attack of which is inevitable. Washington got rid of its top two pass catchers, zeroing defenses in on Reed. Did I get a sure thing like David Johnson? Not even close. Lamar Miller definitely has issues of his own. He’s on a bad offense, which caps the amount of touchdowns he’s likely to get. He does have a high floor at least. Miller got 20 touches a game in virtually all of the games he played last season, some closer to 30 touches. So in week 1 of 2017, I’ll have him and Demarco Murray to trot out, rather than praying the Seahawks don’t have Eddie Lacy, CJ Prosise or Russell Wilson run in a TD, and let Thomas Rawls miraculously stumble across the goal line. The most important thing to remember about trading is that you’re never done. There’s always the next move to be made. Dynasty is a marathon. Stop treating it like a sprint, making one big trade or drafting and riding it out. Perception and values are always fluctuating. Use them to your advantage and do it over and over.
Use Perception and Doubt to Build your Offer
There’s no reason to give someone a foot when they want an inch. The key is getting them to think their inch IS a foot. Take Michael Thomas, let’s plan out how to turn him into Odell Beckham. As a rookie, Thomas caught 9 TDs and had 1,100 yards all with Brandin Cooks on the field at the same time. I don’t see Michael Thomas’ value getting any higher than it is right now. He’s about to be the main target defenses key on. Drew Brees, as timeless as he is, can’t have much longer in the league. As long as he is there, Brees has always spread the ball around like a mad man. He’s in a perfect storm of selling high. Good quarterback, great offensive situation, young and productive, but has major unknowns coming in the near future. When you have a perfect situation like that you go for the shark.
This part isn’t even casting your reel, you’re just putting your bait on the hook. Upselling your guy’s strengths and downplaying the other guy. Brandin Cooks left to go win a super bowl in New England. That leaves Michael Thomas as the top option in an offense that has Drew Brees doing what Drew Brees does. Throw the ball and throw it a lot. Brees has thrown at least 32 touchdowns in every single season since 2008. Odell Beckham was 15 years old and in Drivers Ed class trying to get his license that year. With Cooks gone, there are 1,100 yards and 8 TDs gone and up for grabs next season. Willie Snead? The guy who had a career high in touchdowns last year with 4? Who’s only started in 14 games in his career. Please. Even if Snead does take extra targets,(you have to give them a little something, don’t sell your argument to hard) it’s easy to assume Thomas gets an extra 300 yards and 4 more TDs. That’s just as good as any season Odell Beckham has ever had. You know damn well Brandon Marshall is too good not to steal targets from Odell, and will definitely be a major part of the game plan. He’s a red zone monster. Beckham played all 16 games for the first time in his career last year. It also happened to be his worst statistical season. He’s already starting to produce less as Eli gets older. You need to plant some doubt to pull the hustle off.
Trading for superstars is never an easy task and it seems to always take countless text messages or emails during the hours/days/weeks long process. You never want to overstep your bounds and scare the fish away. You’re not selling your offer yet, you’re budding the trade relationship and giving yourself a foundation to work with. Everyone knows they’re not trading Odell for Michael Thomas but you need to give them the reason to believe he’s not a huge drop off before you hit them with the extra juice to get them to take the trade. Let’s not forget that Sterling Shepard had a good rookie season too and they took him in the first round. He’s not going away anytime soon either.
As good as the Giants defense was last year, you know they’re going all offense in the draft this year. Maybe they take Dalvin Cook or Christian Mccaffrey as a three down back, hurting Beckham’s opportunities even more. Get them thinking. The moment “Yeah, that’s a good point” crosses their mind, then they took your bait and bit cheek deep into your hook. No shark is unobtainable if you plan ahead properly. Thomas’ perception is at its peak so the deal must be done now. Think Dwayne Bowe following his 15 TD 2010 season or Brandon Lloyd’s 1400 yard 11 TD season that same year. Had you sold them at their peak value, you could have obtained Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall, Rob Gronkowski or Lesean Mccoy in their primes.
Rarely do players repeat performances like that, so you need to take the small window you have to manipulate a paper tiger’s value, into getting yourself a real tiger. Most fantasy players take the most recent season as gospel. That growth is the only outcome that can occur. This is where the better fantasy players separate themselves. You need to upgrade after Zac Stacy has a break out year and sell. Maybe Jeremy Maclin gets traded to Kansas City and has an unknown future, trade him away to get his perceived value before he even suits up for the Chiefs putrid passing attack. It’s a never ending mission to upgrade at any and all opportunities. The only way to upgrade a piece, that is a true every week starter, is through trade. When trading you always need to be a step ahead of your opponent. You need to know where the trade is going to end up long before they do and use that to work your way there.
That’s when the hustle truly begins.
Understanding the True Value and Manipulating it
Using draft picks is the most critical tool in upgrading players in a trade. Specifically, using future picks as well to get the deal done. It’s the realization your opponent gets when they comprehend that you’re offering so much they can’t refuse. If you offer something along the lines of Michael Thomas, your first and second round picks this year and a first round pick next year for Odell Beckham. The Odell owner is in a spot where they get a suitable replacement at WR plus several assets to improve other roster spots. As the Thomas owner, you gain an ultra-elite dynasty asset to get you a championship now, but also giving you a stable future.
By the time Beckham starts to diminish in value and production, you’ll be long past the draft picks you traded to get him and won’t be in need of them. Assuming you’re not in a total rebuild, I wouldn’t recommend trading for a Beckham type player to begin with in that situation, then getting him has put you in a spot to win the championship in the next few years, diminishing the value of the draft picks you’d be trading away. Using Jacob Rickrode of Rotoworld’s rookie ADP over the past 7 seasons, let’s take a step back and grasp what type of player we’re truly giving up with the picks we’re offering with Thomas. The thought of trading a first round pick scares people away because they envision losing out on Julio Jones or Mike Evans. When in reality, those later picks usually end up on the bottom of your roster or the top of free agency.
Assuming four teams make the playoffs, and getting Odell puts you in the playoff race, we’ll do picks 1.09-1.12 in order every year to compare values. 2010, Golden Tate, Arrelious Benn, Dexter Mccluster, Jermaine Gresham. 2011, Cam Newton, Roy Helu, Shane Vereen, Delone Carter. 2012, Kendall Wright, Ronnie Hillman, Isaiad Pead, Alshon Jeffery. 2013, Marcus Lattimore, Johnathon Franklin, Keenan Allen, Justin Hunter. 2014, Kelvin Benjmin, Johnny Manziel, Devonta Freeman, Marqise Lee. 2015, Tevin Coleman, Breshad Perriman, Dorial Green-Beckham, Jameis Winston. 2016, Devontae Booker, CJ Prosise, Will Fuller, Tyler Boyd.
Aside from the historically productive 2014 rookie class, there’s a whole slew of players you’d be ecstatic to give up for an all-world talent like Odell Beckham Jr. Here’s Odell Beckham for Michael Thomas, Isaiah Pead and Delone Carter. Excuse me while I go google who Delone Carter is. These are the types of players most of these later draft picks turn out to be. There are not many instances where you would have been slaughtered in this trade in recent years. You could have missed out on Keenan Allen in 2013 and Devonta Freeman in 2014 and you’d be bitter no doubt. For every one of those, there’s three or four opportunities at players like losing out on the Arrelious Benn’s and Roy Helu’s of the world. Oh Darn.
It’s that opportunity of missing out an Allen and Freeman that you need. That’s how you pull off the trade. You need your trade partner to think that’s the quality of player they’ll get. Trading two late firsts and a second round pick, generally speaking, doesn’t pay off in elite players. This is why you need to understand what you’re truly offering, and manipulate the value of an unknown draft pick. Everyone thinks they’re going to draft starters with every pick. Most draft picks are more valuable before they become a player, so use them while they carry so much extra weight. Your opponent needs to believe they’re getting a sack full of money, when in reality, it’s just a sack full of your old dirty undies.
Stay Ahead of the Pack and You’ll Never Fall Behind
The NFL is forever changing. Fantasy football shifts even quicker and more drastically. Staying hyper aggressive is not only a good way to stay ahead of the trends, but to also build relationships with your league mates to make trading easier, and your league more enjoyable. If you’re continuously looking for situations to upgrade something on your roster, you’re that much more unlikely to fall behind the times and need to pull off a total rebuild. Let your lazy league mates worry about rebuilding their teams. You keep offering them your draft picks to ‘help them out’ while you steal their best player. The more you trade, the more chances you have of helping an opponent’s team also, making them that much more likely to trade in the future with you. I was happy to get Lamar Miller but maybe Paul Perkins turns into a starter, or Jordan Reed stays productive. I got what I needed and he got what he needed.
Trading is a mind game. Trading is a strategy game. Trading is a Lifeline. Trading is the way to win at this game. The fantasy community has exploded in recent years since the show The League came out. We’re in the midst of the fantasy boom. That means more players and better players are slowly being integrated into our leagues.
In the dynasty community, we’re already more experienced than our Redraft only counterparts, as we’ve taken that next step into a long term, no offseason commitment to our fantasy teams, as well as playing redraft, so our competition is even tougher still. Another reason why staying extremely active is a must. Maybe you get lucky in your start up draft so you can ride your roster out a year or two. Your studs stay studs. Your late round picks blew up. Nobody got hurt. All that is fine and dandy, but there is going to be a day soon, where you will need to create your own profit from your assets before the opportunity floats away. The hyper aggressive trader is the future of fantasy football. The Ladanian Tomlinson’s of the world are long gone. In this era of football, safety is of the utmost priority, so players are swapped in and out on a whim. Drafting LT and sitting back to watch him score 28 TDs(wow) on your way to the title are in our rearview.
Building rapport, setting your bait and adding inflated valued draft picks to reel the shark in… That is Dynasty football in 2017 and beyond. We play a fickle game. Staying on the front line and letting your opponent sit in their castle of content to starve one by one will keep your empire prosperous and growing. Absorb tendencies. Plan ahead and plan harder. Manipulate perceptions and values. Don’t let the future shape your dynasty. Make your dynasty shape the future.