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Beginner's Guide to Fantasy Football
Section IX: Improving Your Roster After the Draft

"If a trade between two parties is voluntary, it will not take place unless both believe they will benefit from it. Most economic fallacies derive from the neglect of this simple insight, from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another." -- Milton and Rose Friedman

In the last section, we took a look at how to properly analyze your fantasy roster following a draft to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your roster. We also touched on using the Draft Dominator to break down the strengths and weaknesses of the other squads as well. This section will take a look at the two ways you can improve your roster before and during your fantasy season. Part A will break down trading in fantasy football, how to target potential trading partners and how to ultimately close the deal. Part B will brush upon the free agent market and how to target potential breakout players available via the waiver wire.

The Art of the Deal

Step 1: Evaluate your team weaknesses

No matter how strong of an owner you are when it comes the fantasy draft and waiver wire pickups, there are always improvements to be made to your roster. Take a good look at your squad and determine what needs to be added to reach the top and stay there. Perhaps one more starting receiver will put you over the top or a better quarterback. Discover exactly what you need to improve. We will use the example from the prior section here.

Example roster from previous section

Pos
Player
Team
Bye
QB
Michael Vick
Atl
5
QB
Drew Bledsoe
Dal
3
RB
Edgerrin James
Ari
9
RB
Tatum Bell
Den
4
RB
Frank Gore
SF
7
RB
Chris Perry
Cin
5
RB
Ryan Moats
Phi
9
RB
J.J. Arrington
Ari
9
WR
Chad Johnson
Cin
5
WR
Darrell Jackson
Sea
5
WR
Santana Moss
Was
8
WR
Javon Walker
Den
4
WR
Eric Moulds
Hou
5
TE
Chris Cooley
Was
8
PK
David Akers
Phi
9
DT
Baltimore Ravens
Bal
7

Your league starts 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, and 1 TE. You have a solid QB duo, tremendous WR strength, a question mark at RB2 and solid starters with no depth at tight end, kicker and defense. Furthermore you have a potential problem at receiver with three off on bye during week five. The obvious move for this owner is to move one of his big name receivers with a week-five bye in order to strengthen his running back spot.

Step 2: Breaking down your opponents' rosters

There are not many foolish owners anymore in fantasy football with all the information that is available to help the casual owner. Therefore it is crucial to find an owner desperate to add talent to a particular position on his team. Find an owner that is weak in a position in which you have a wealth of talent and you are well on your way to completing a deal. Just remember that the only deals that will be made in this day and age are the ones that help to strengthen both squads going forward. Don't try to cheat your fellow owner and fleece him in the deal but rather go for fair value.

Potential trading partner: One owner has good running back strength in Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, Corey Dillon, Fred Taylor and Marion Barber III, good tight end and quarterback strength in Tom Brady, Trent Green and Randy McMichael but very poor receiver talent in Rod Smith, Jerry Porter Braylon Edwards, Chad Jackson [r] and Mike Williams. Let's say for the sake of this study that Jerry Porter is injured and out for the year. Having four strong running backs doesn't help him when his receiver core is in shambles. At this point, he will likely be more than willing to trade a running back for a strong receiver.

Step 3: Approach the Owner

You have identified the owner who will be the most likely to deal with you. Great. Now what? This is the most important part of the trade. You need to approach this owner and propose a deal to him. It has to be good enough to grab his attention but not so strong that you ultimately hurt your own chances to win the league. You are going to have to offer strength to get strength back so you need to decide which player you ultimately want to offer up via the trade route.

Make the deal look as fair as you can to begin with or it may kill any trade talk between the teams. Also make sure to stress the fact that it doesn't do him any good to have two of his running backs sitting on his bench. In addition, you are aware of your deficiency at receiver and how unlikely it is he will make a run to the title without improved receiver play. A great strategy is to drop a 'name' player on him that is a known commodity but not likely to start on your roster.

i.e. "Hello owner X, this is Chris of the Tuffguyz. I was looking at your roster and noticed that you are in big trouble at the receiver position. I happen to have an overabundance of talent at that spot and perhaps we can reach a trade that can help both of us get to the playoffs. I have two potential offers for you to mull over…

Trade Offer #1 - I will give you Darrell Jackson and Frank Gore in return for Ronnie Brown and Braylon Edwards: Darrell Jackson has fantasy stud potential this year while Gore could be significant value for yourself if he can stay healthy. He will at least provide depth for your running back spot. Ronnie Brown is a good #2 running back which I need and Edwards has some potential down the road this season if he can get healthy. This trade gives us both a much stronger starting lineup going forward.

Trade Offer #2 - I would prefer option 1 but I can also move WR Eric Moulds in return for Fred Taylor. Both of these guys are on their last legs but could surprise with a good season this year.

Final Steps

What you write to the fantasy owner should not completely mirror your own thoughts. In reality Ronnie Brown should be a serviceable # 1 this year and has the potential to elevate his game to an elite level. Braylon Edwards could be very big over the second half of the season and with the depth already in place, my roster can afford to let him sit to start the year. Darrell Jackson will help his team but his departure doesn't really hurt my own and Gore is a significant injury risk.

The second deal is simple. Fred Taylor is much better value this year than Eric Moulds. However to a desperate owner who doesn't want to lose his strong duo at running back, this deal may look more attractive.

Now to the owner with a horrible starting lineup roster, either deal to land a fantasy threat is hard to ignore. It will help his team out to make this deal.

However, you are still set at receiver with three star receivers starting for your squad as well as capable backups in place plus you are adding a much better option at RB2. The deal if you can pull it off makes your title objective that much more likely to happen.

Result From Trade Option 1

Starters Prior To Trade
Starters After Trade
QB
Michael Vick
Atl
QB
Michael Vick
Atl
RB
Edgerrin James
Ari
RB
Edgerrin James
Ari
RB
Tatum Bell
Den
RB
Ronnie Brown
Mia
WR
Chad Johnson
Cin
WR
Chad Johnson
Cin
WR
Darrell Jackson
Sea
WR
Santana Moss
Was
WR
Santana Moss
Was
WR
Javon Walker
Den
TE
Chris Cooley
Was
TE
Chris Cooley
Was
PK
David Akers
Phi
PK
David Akers
Phi
DT
Baltimore Ravens
Bal
DT
Baltimore Ravens
Bal

Looking at the starting lineup before and after the trade, it is clear to see how wheeling and dealing can help your fantasy team reach the ultimate goal, your League Championship. Many times it takes determination to make a trade like this happen. However the end result is so fantastic that it is well worth the frequent e-mail, phone calls or banter back and forth when trying to wrap the deal up. The key is to always make the deal look as great as you can to the other owner while getting exactly what you want on this end. The "Art of a Deal" can be the difference maker from being an also ran to the Kingpin of your league. Give it a go!

Result From Trade Option 2

Starters Prior To Trade
Starters After Trade
QB
Michael Vick
Atl
QB
Michael Vick
Atl
RB
Edgerrin James
Ari
RB
Edgerrin James
Ari
RB
Tatum Bell
Den
RB
Fred Taylor
Jac
WR
Chad Johnson
Cin
WR
Chad Johnson
Cin
WR
Darrell Jackson
Sea
WR
Darrell Jackson
Sea
WR
Santana Moss
Was
WR
Santana Moss
Was
TE
Chris Cooley
Was
TE
Chris Cooley
Was
PK
David Akers
Phi
PK
David Akers
Phi
DT
Baltimore Ravens
Bal
DT
Baltimore Ravens
Bal

Preseason Free Agency
by Will Grant, exclusive to Footballguys.com

Free agency will be discussed in greater detail in Section X. However, in the preseason, it should be approached a little differently. When trying to fill a preseason gap, there are a couple of things that you need to focus on.

Teams with training camp battles should be your main focus. If the rookie has a chance to beat out the veteran starter by the end of camp, you need to keep an eye on the situation to see if someone emerges as the clear favorite. Grab them BEFORE they are named the starter. This way you stay ahead of the pack. Focus on your area of need, but don't be afraid to increase an area of strength as well. If you can add another quality player to your squad, you can leverage this depth in the future to trade with a weaker team.

If a team loses a starter to injury; even a short-term one, you need to be ready to pounce. Grabbing a short-term backup can help you trade with the team that holds the starter, or give you a quality starter for a good part of your season. Taking advantage of a player's injury may seem like a dark approach to the game, but injuries happen all the time in the NFL. It is something that every team owner needs to deal with throughout the season.

Above all else, remember why you drafted these guys in the first place. If you really think a particular player is going to be someone special, don't cut or trade them unless you really have to. A lot of things can happen during the early part of the season, and it may be better for you to ride the bumps and see what happens in the long run.

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