The Art of Swapping
Freelance Submission Posted 8/19 by Bill Smathers, Special to Footballguys.com
A discussion of fantasy football strategy will be way down the list
if you Google 'The Art of Swapping'. And, while there appear to be reams
of interesting information on the topic of swapping, there is precious little
discussion around the impact swapping has on a successful fantasy football campaign.
So, as a public service to all those frustrated swappers out there, I offer
the following guide on how best to approach this critical element of your fantasy
An eroding skill
More and more, trading in fantasy football is being eliminated from the rule
book. Most high dollar leagues disallow trading. Why? Because the higher the
stakes, the more competitive are the participants. Even the fairest of trades
can become controversial and divisive. I've seen the meekest personalities strike
down with great vengeance and furious anger, those who are perceived to be skewing
the balance of power through an inappropriate trade. Many commissioners prefer
to just bypass the whole mess and disallow trades entirely.
But, what fun is that? This is America, and here we are taught to advance by
climbing over the corpses of our competitors. So, if persuasion is something
you are good at, then you absolutely need to seek out those opportunities where
you can leverage your talent. A well executed trade is something to be embraced,
not demonized and outlawed. How boring would the NFL be if trading was disallowed
because it might upset some of the owners? How could we ridicule and deride
Dan Snyder otherwise!
With that, I'll climb down off of my soap box, and delve into the finer points
of trading, and discuss how I think trades should be approached for maximum
Owners are almost always happy with their teams coming out of a draft. So,
it makes little sense to start trying to architect blockbuster trades immediately.
I make a point to engage in early dialogue with every owner in my league. I
want owners to feel comfortable around me, and I want to be very easy to talk
to. Without sounding too much like Dr. Phil, I think trades are frequently the
product of good relationships, and you have to make an effort to establish that.
This brings us to 'Trash Talk' which I believe is anathema to trading. We're
not trying to attract mates for propagation of the species (at least most of
us), so leave the chest thumping for the amateurs. If money is on the table,
then you should conduct yourself as a professional. You can not afford to alienate
anyone. A harsh comment may feel good at the time, but it also may eliminate
16-20 players that might have been instrumental in your stretch run to the playoffs.
On the flip side, if a handful of owners are flaming someone for slow drafting,
or questionable selections, I make a point to publicly weigh in with cutting
the guy some slack. Everything I do is designed to make every owner think of
me 'first' when he/she decides it's time to talk trade.
Team strengths and weaknesses
Sometimes I think owners don't even look at rosters when they are trying to
formulate trades. How many times have we been offered the exact opposite of
what we need? I'm getting killed at WR, and someone offers me their third best
RB for a WR. Hello! McFly!
Be smart. Look for an abundance of strength at one position to bolster weakness
at another position. And do this by finding the opposite scenario on another
squad. Now we have something to talk about. Assume the other owner is savvy,
and is not going to blindly participate in one sided trades. Don't be afraid
to go into detail with your logic and why you think the trade is a 'win / win'.
Responding to trade offers
By my way of thinking, there is no such thing as a bad trade offer. No matter
how laughable the offer might be, I consider it more desirable than isolation.
Why? Because it opens the door to dialogue, and it tells me something about
how the owner assesses talent. I do not ignore the offer, and I never express
indignant outrage. I'm courteous and appreciative of the offer. If it makes
no sense to me, I try to explain the logic from my perspective.
Open ended offers
I frequently lead with an open ended offer as a way to initiate dialogue. Rather
than talk about specific players, I try to discuss the situation. "I'm
getting killed at WR lately and I see you have some strong receivers that are
languishing on your bench. What would it take to get you to move one of them?"
Something like this is a great way to get the conversation started without having
to tip your hand. I'd much rather have another owner name names if at all possible.
Open ended counter offers are also effective. "Hey, I can't let Westbrook
go for Ron Dayne right now, as Westbrook has really been carrying me. But thanks
for the offer. But listen, I do see you're stacked at WR. Are you interested
in using any of those guys to bolster your RB strength?"
Situations to exploit
A Bye Week Mistake - This is the most likely scenario in which an owner
might be receptive to an early trade. It happens even to the best owners. Whoops.
Edge and Curtis Martin have the same bye week. Bring it to their attention and
see if maybe you can help each other.
Early Panic - Losing a couple of games out of the gate may cause some
owners to get itchy trigger fingers. Make sure you touch base with an owner
who starts out 0-2, and follow up if he goes 0-3.
Teams that are on the bubble - I especially like to reach out to the
teams who are in 'must win' situations. These teams are the most likely to dump
a good player, with good playoff matchups in order to maximize the chance of
winning an immediate game to get into the playoffs.
Offering two players for one is not often a successful ploy, but I do think
it can sometimes make sense. A twist to the two for one is to offer any two
players on your roster for a named 'stud' player on another team. This works
best when the stud player you are targeting is surrounded with mediocrity and
a losing record. You have to obviously be prepared to lose two good players,
but sometimes that is worth it. What is easy to overlook is the other owner
has to give you a second player just to make room on his roster. Sometimes you'll
be surprised at who they package. And, even if the second player is not a fit,
you can drop for a free agent. The impact of visualizing two players for one
can be tempting. Before you reject giving two for one out of hand, look at whom
you can pluck from the waiver wire and make sure you still don't like the deal.
There are times when it might make sense to sacrifice a little immediate value
for longer term gains.
Playoff Positioning - Once I have a playoff spot secured, I start looking
at favorable matchups over the playoff weeks. A lateral trade, or even a trade
that might be considered a small step backwards, might pay off in big dividends
during the playoffs.
Defensive trade - One of the most controversial maneuvers around, but
for those owners who feel that this is not crossing the ethical boundary into
collusion; they certainly could consider the strategic use of a defensive trade.
A defensive trade is made not so much to help you directly, but rather to influence
the elimination of an opponent you'd rather not face in the playoffs. We've
probably all seen the scenario. A team that got off to a rough start has made
some trades and free agent acquisitions and they are now on fire. They have
the longest winning streak in the league and no one wants to face them in the
playoffs. If a timely loss down the stretch keeps them out, many owners will
have no problem with sacrificing a little depth to another owner that might
just result in derailing a juggernaut march to the playoffs.
While the art of the deal seems to be frequently fading from the fantasy football
landscape, trading players can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of the fantasy
football experience. It would be a shame to see trading eventually outlawed
altogether. Trades can rekindle a struggling squad, or they can leave you scratching
your head in frustration. A well executed trade that has been nourished over
time and through sound logic is definitely a point of pride with many owners.