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Opinion

Early season trading tips from a fantasy football veteran

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October 4, 2007

If you’re playing fantasy football, you need to read this column. I’m not saying you need to do what I tell you, but to at least consider it.

During 15 seasons I’ve experienced many scenarios to start my season. Some of you may be sitting at 4-0 and saying to yourselves, “what the hell do I need to make a trade for? My team is unstoppable.” If you’re one of the people saying that, you’re an idiot. No matter how good your team is, or seems to be right now, it could always be better. So now I’m going to lay out some guidelines for you to follow to help improve your team, no matter how good or bad they appear to be on paper at this very moment.

Target your tradable assets
The first thing you need to do when formulating a trade is to target which players on your squad are peaking in terms of value. I’m not necessarily advocating trading Randy Moss or Tom Brady, but if you can get a deal that improves your team by trading one of them, why not do it? Do you really expect Moss to keep up this pace and score 28 touchdowns this season? The ideal type of player I’m talking about is someone like New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress. Burress is a player that traditionally runs hot and cold. Right now, he leads all NFC receivers in touchdowns, but chances are defenses will start keying on him more or he’ll get hurt, or both. Regardless, if he’s on your squad, he probably won’t keep up the production level he’s at right now, so why not trade him to a team desperate for help at receiver and get back a maximum return on his value?

Target talented players off to slow starts
Players that fall in this category through week four include Steven Jackson, Marvin Harrison and Maurice Jones-Drew. All three of these players are obviously talented individuals who have fallen on hard times early this season. The trend may continue for them, especially in the case of Jackson, because his team is terrible, and Jones-Drew, because he’s sharing carries, but these guys are much better than they’ve shown this year, and you can probably get them at a discounted rate from a frustrated owner who is likely struggling because he used a high pick on one of them. Hell, even LaDainian Tomlinson falls into this category right now. Think of what it would have taken to trade for him before the season started and what it would take to trade for him now, and you’ll see my point.
Another strategy you can apply, if you’re feeling really daring, is to target players that are injured. This is obviously very risky, but as with most risks, it can come with a high reward.

Check your league standings
This may sound simple, but it is easier to target an owner in your league who may be getting desperate because his team is off to a slow start. If you’ve ever heard the expression ‘on tilt’ in poker, it’s basically the same concept here. It is much easier to trade with an owner who is frustrated with his team’s performance than an owner who’s got a winning record and is confident his players will continue to perform at a high level.

Check the NFL schedule
Researching the NFL schedule is key for two reasons.
The first step is to check the schedule to see which teams in your league will run into bye week problems. You can really take advantage of the bye week situation in week six, when six of the more fantasy talent laden teams, Buffalo (well not so much them), Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and San Francisco will have bye weeks. There are also six teams with a bye on week eight, so keep that in mind as well.
The second is to see what teams have an easy schedule down the stretch. Before finalizing a trade for a player make sure you check that player’s remaining schedule to make sure it’s not too brutal. This should only be used as a deciding factor if you’re unsure of whether you want to go through with a trade or not.

Final thoughts
One final word of advice, trust your gut instinct. If you think it’s a bad idea to trade for a particular player, don’t do it. But remember, by the end of the season, everything will likely even itself out for the most part, and talented players like Tomlinson, Jackson and Harrison will put up good numbers. Like former Arizona Cardinals head coach Denny Green once said, “They are who we thought they were!”

Nick Sortedahl is a student at UW-River Falls.