Trading is a critical part of any competitive fantasy football league. Oftentimes, the best fantasy players are the most active owners in a league. Check out articles The Art of the Fantasy Football Trade and 10 Tips of Trading Etiquette & Strategy for introductory level information about fantasy football trading.
Advanced trade strategies are about recognizing discrepancies in perceived value and then taking action to put your team in a better position to win. Do your homework and continuously engage other owners in your league so that you have a pulse on the trade market. This article outlines several advanced trade strategies that you should consider in your dynasty, keeper, and redraft leagues.
Think Like a Statistician
One of the best ways to evaluate a player’s value is to break down the range of possible outcomes. Break down a player into three (or more) possible outcomes and then apply a probability to each outcome. Multiply each outcome by the probability and add them together. In statistics, the result is called the expected value or “e(x)”. This approach also helps you conceptualize the probability that you will end up with a positive outcome. Thinking like a statistician is especially helpful for risky players or players with huge upside.
As an example, let’s say you already drafted in your redraft league. You look back at the draft board and now realize that Todd Gurley was undervalued at his draft price of pick 3.05. Although there are significant concerns about his health, he is still the highest paid RB and the Rams will want to get their money’s worth out of him. Let’s say after doing some research, you think there is a 15% probability that Todd Gurley scores 10 points/game this season, 60% chance at 15 points/game, and 25% chance at 23 points/game. So what should you expect from him?
(.15 x 10) + (.60 x 15) + (.25 x 23) = 16.25 → e(x) = 16.25 points/game.
This would make Gurley a top-10 RB, which are normally drafted at the beginning of the second round. Let’s say you drafted Nick Chubb at pick 3.01 and expect him to score about 13 points/game this season. Chubb has a safer floor but according to your projections, you feel that there is an 85% chance that Gurley outperforms Chubb this season. You should approach the Gurley owner and try to trade Chubb for Gurley. Even better, your first offer should be Chubb for Gurley and other pieces (Gurley plus) since Chubb is perceived as safer and he was taken earlier in the draft. After all, you’re doing the other owner a favor by taking that risky running back off their hands, right!? Be smart with your narrative!
Anchoring describes our tendency to focus too heavily on the initial offer in a negotiation. The initial offer sets the precedent for the rest of the negotiation. We tend to think in terms of how much we saved compared to the initial offer instead of the actual true market value. Buying a new car is the perfect example. If you buy a new car for $19,000 and the MSRP is $21,000, you tend to feel like you won even though you have no idea what the car actually costs the dealership.
Anchoring exists in fantasy football trading too. Some owners refuse to make the first offer because they believe this presents an advantage. While this may be true sometimes, you can use anchoring to your advantage even if you’re the one making the first offer. Keep in mind that the counteroffer is nearly as important as the initial offer because it bounds the other end of the spectrum. After the counteroffer, each person will inch closer, hoping to find a common ground without leaving money on the table.
Use anchoring in fantasy trades to get the most bang for your buck. Distracted fantasy owners can get stuck in the trap of trying to improve an existing trade offer rather than focusing on unbiased trade value, and you can use this to your advantage. Try to get the other owner to make the first offer, or alternatively make your first offer at about 75-90% of the maximum you are willing to give up for your target player(s). It all depends on the league and the situation. Keep “trade pieces” in your back pocket and offer them as concessions to sweeten the pot and land a deal with the other owner. “Trade pieces” can include other players, future draft picks, kickers, defenses, FAAB money, etc. Look for anything that could be valuable to your trade partner and be creative. The key is to present an offer that is reasonable and also piques their interest (while leaving you some wiggle room for further negotiation).
Note: Don’t abuse anchoring because it’s annoying and it can waste other people’s time. In fantasy football, relationships with other owners are important so you should always strive for win-win trades.
Trade Current Value for Future Value
If you’re out of the playoffs in a dynasty or keeper league, trade current assets for future draft picks or injured players that can return the following year (like A.J. Green last year). Conversely, if you think you’ll make a strong playoff run, consider upgrading your team for players or picks that can’t help you win now. After all, the goal is to win the championship.
Pay Attention to Detail
Here are some simple tips that can give you an edge if your trade partner isn’t detail oriented:
- Look at the draft spot when trading draft picks. If you’re at the 1.12/2.01 turn in a 12-person league, try to trade your odd round picks instead of even round picks. Your league mates might perceive your 3rd round pick to be much more valuable than your 4th round pick even though they’re nearly identical.
- In keeper leagues, look for opportunities to swap draft picks with owners who are keeping someone that round. For example, I just traded Juju to a league mate in exchange for 2019 draft picks. Juju is eligible to be kept in the third round. So in addition to draft picks, I upgraded my 3.12 pick to 3.06 at no cost to the other owner.
- Look at player bye weeks. It’s a sneaky advantage to acquire a player who already had their bye week by trading a player who hasn’t.
- Look at your players’ strength of schedule in the playoffs. After week eight or so, try to acquire players with easy playoff matchups.
Trading is one of the best parts of fantasy football. If you put in the effort and do your homework, you’ll win the majority of your trades. Also, remember to ask your leaguemates a lot of questions. Although simple, the power of information gathering is undervalued. Use the information to your advantage. Be creative and look for discrepancies between perceived value and true value. Happy trading!