Dynasty Trade Secrets: 10 Tips for Successful Negotiations (Fantasy Football)
Trading is arguably the most fun part about dynasty fantasy football leagues. Still, it can sometimes take work to get deals done because of different manager strategies, player values, and whether a team is competing or rebuilding. In this article, I will dive into some tips and tricks on trading from my experience in dynasty leagues.
1. Know Your League
Knowing your league is something many managers ignore, but it’s key to take time to do it if you want to get trades done frequently. That way, you are avoiding sending blind offers and hoping they get accepted. Let’s look at what “knowing your league” might take.
Assess Your Own Team
Knowing the dynasty managers, their roster construction, and their strategies are key when looking for trades in your dynasty league, but knowing your league starts with knowing your own team. Are you competing for a championship, or do you need to rebuild? What positions are you strong in, or what position do you need to improve? You must ask yourself these questions to know what potential moves you need to look for. If you have depth at a position or are looking to pivot off of assets that have the potential to depreciate in value quickly, that is a good start.
Assess Your League-Mates’ Rosters
After you know what your team needs and identify some players you would like to trade for, it’s key to glance at your league-mate’s roster and assess what they may need and whether they may be competing or rebuilding. I see it all too often in my leagues, where I will be offered trades that do not make sense to my team. For instance, a young stud running back like Breece Hall on a rebuilding dynasty team will likely not trade him away for aging veteran players. A rebuilding team may be willing to trade away a player like Hall, but it will likely require young assets or first-round rookie draft picks. The same theory works for contending teams as well. If you are contending and looking to gain an advantage from another contender, it may be difficult to get a deal done if you offer young assets or picks for their star players.
Learn Your League-Mates’ Strategies and Preferences
Now we will get into the importance of knowing your league-mates. This part may be more challenging if you are entering a new startup or recently finished a draft with managers you do not know, but over time you should be able to spot any potential edges based on each manager. Below are some potential edges I have encountered in my years of playing dynasty.
- The Fan: Dynasty managers sometimes overpay for a star player on their favorite NFL team or just a favorite player they have. It may be few and far between, but if you roster a player on one of your league-mate’s favorite teams, it is worth trying to get a bigger haul than you normally would. Also, if you are getting spammed with trade offer after trade offer for a player, you might have a shot at getting a significant haul back.
- The Running Back Connoisseur: Find the dynasty manager in your league with the highest testosterone levels and simply ask the world for your RB1. Getting major hauls for running backs is getting harder and harder because dynasty managers have begun fading the position due to injuries and lack of longevity. However, I still see it happen occasionally, mostly from managers new to the dynasty format.
- The Zero-RB Manager: As mentioned above, more and more dynasty managers are devaluing running backs and going “zero-RB.” I sometimes fall into this category and over-value wide receivers. Sometimes you can find productive running backs cheaper than the market values them.
- Always “Win Now” or Always “Rebuilding” Manager: In dynasty fantasy football, you typically compete for the championship or the 1.01 of the rookie draft. Some managers are always in “win now” mode and will give up youth or draft picks for anything that gives them a shot at winning a title. While this is respectable, it does give an opportunity to gain value by dumping off aging players for picks or youth. Then you have the managers who are always in “rebuild” mode and will over-value youth and picks. These managers want to build a true dynasty, but often the youth they have fails to progress into elite assets, so they are stuck in a continuous loop of rebuilding. You can sometimes get older players cheaper than usual from these managers.
- Managers Scared of a Players Situation: In dynasty leagues, many analysts preach talent over the situation because situations can change while typically talent does not. Players’ situations turn off some dynasty managers, causing them to want nothing to do with them. Year after year, we have players that we wish had better situations but are still productive, and through time, they could end up in a better situation and have their value skyrocket. A recent example of this would be Garrett Wilson. In one of my dynasty leagues, Wilson was traded for Christian Kirk, Gabe Davis, and a 2023 third-round pick. After the trade, the manager stated that he did not want a wide receiver tied to Zach Wilson. While Kirk certainly had a good year, anybody who made this trade would be filled with regret even if Aaron Rodgers didn’t sign with the Jets. Situations can change, so take advantage of managers who may panic.
Learn Communication Preferences
Something interesting I have learned in the dynasty community is that managers have specific preferences for beginning the trading process. Some managers prefer little to no communication and want an offer they can accept, decline, or counter. That way, they can go back and forth until they can reach a deal or move on by declining. Starting a trade like this can be challenging because you likely don’t know how they value a player or who they may want in return for that player.
There will be managers who enjoy dialogue while attempting to get a trade done. From my experience, these conversations can be fruitful and typically have a higher chance of getting a deal done. As mentioned above, reaching out to get an idea of what or who they would want in return for a specific player can lead to good conversation. If you end up conversing with someone about a potential trade, check out fellow Footballer’s writer Matt Disorbo’s article on negotiation strategy!
Whether dynasty managers prefer dialogue when discussing a trade offer or not, one thing I’m sure they can agree on is to stop sending why a trade is good for them and why they should accept it or a screenshot of a trade calculator saying the trade is even. We’ll dive more into trade calculators soon.
2. Don’t Send Outrageously Lopsided Trade Offers Often
Most dynasty managers have fired off a ridiculous trade offer hoping the other manager will accept. While managers who do this will claim, “It never hurts to try,” I would argue that sometimes it can. Some managers brush off bad trade offers, but there are managers you can damage relationships with by lowballing every trade offer.
The goal of a trade is for both managers to improve their teams, so these lopsided offers will likely never be fruitful. When I speak of lowballing, I mainly mean those outrageous trade offers, such as a 2nd round rookie draft pick for DeVonta Smith, or Joe Mixon for Breece Hall, a 2023 1st rounder, and a 2023 2nd rounder. Those are real offers I have recently received. You don’t want to be the manager that when someone receives your trade offer, they roll their eyes because they know it will be bad.
3. Know the Cycle of Value for Players and Rookie Picks
One of the key elements to trading in dynasty leagues is knowing the cycle of value between rookie picks, rookies, and veterans. Since dynasty leagues are year-round, different pieces have value spikes depending on the time of the year. It’s important to know these trends when making trades to maximize value.
Veteran players tend to see a spike in value around playoff time. You can sell veteran players throughout the season, but the closer you get to playoff time could lead to a bidding war between contenders. If you don’t think you are a contender early on, selling sooner than later can be better. The last thing you want as a team out of contention is to get stuck with an older player because he got injured or for the other contending teams to have already traded their younger assets or draft picks to other teams that are not competing.
Rookie picks start to gain value when the NFL Combine begins around March and increase in value until the rookie draft season, typically in May. Most managers in my leagues get some form of rookie fever and want to try to trade for additional first-round draft picks or trade back into the draft if they already traded away their first-round pick. There is just something about rookies that make dynasty managers have to have them, especially over the last few years, as we have had several good rookie draft classes.
Even when draft classes are predicted to have less talent, those picks are still valuable when it’s time for the rookie draft. Before the 2022 rookie draft (Drake London, Garrett Wilson, etc.), there was talk about how weak the class was, but when it was time to draft, I still saw so many managers trying to trade for first-round rookie picks.
In summary, you can take advantage of rookie fever and trade away rookie picks for established players with plenty of years of production remaining. Veteran players are the cheapest during rookie draft season.
4. Trading for Future First-Rounders
One asset that will not depreciate quickly would be future first-round rookie picks. The cheapest first-round pick you can get would be a year or two in advance. For instance, we are about to head into the 2023-2024 season, meaning the next rookie draft will be 2024 picks. While making trades, 2025 and 2026 rookie picks will be considerably cheaper than 2024 picks. Since this is a dynasty league, investing in these assets at their price is good because they are guaranteed to gain value as time passes. Looking at your league-mates’ rosters comes in handy once again when trading for their future first-round picks. You can see if they have aging veteran players or anything that may lead you to believe that this future-first may be a high pick.
5. Using Trade Calculators & Knowing the Market
Nowadays, trade calculators are widely used in dynasty leagues, and some managers rely heavily on them to make decisions. Trade calculators are a divisive subject in the dynasty community, but when used correctly, they can help see how balanced a trade offer is. All trade calculators have the same fault; adding enough random assets can eventually add up to a much more valuable asset. From my experience, KeepTradeCut.com is the most popular trade calculator. KeepTradeCut’s rankings and values are determined by users who access the website and answer the required keep, trade, or cut questions to view content.
While I do not believe dynasty managers should only accept or reject trades based on the trade calculator’s values, you can use them as a tool to find an edge. Using KeepTradeCut as an example, you can see how the “market” values players and picks and attempt to find assets to trade for or sell high based on current valuation. Knowing the market and its valuations for players can be key to maintaining a valuable and competitive roster. Consistently trading away players below their market value and trading for players above their market value is a recipe for disaster. Use the market to your advantage, but you don’t have to use it as gospel.
6. Buying Low & Buying High
Buying low when a player underperforms or is injured is a strategy that every fantasy football player knows now, but buying low in a dynasty league carries some risk. When attempting to buy low, assessing the player and their potential to increase or decrease in value is smart. Sometimes, buying low leads you from a player you think will gain value to a player you cannot give away for free. Buying low on established players who haven’t reached the end of their careers is the safest way to buy low. Consider someone like Kyler Murray, who has proved he is a valuable fantasy asset, but is losing value due to injury and fears of a situation change.
When attempting to buy low on young players after their first year was a disappointment, remember that it’s rare for these situations to be worth investing in. People are quick to bring up Davante Adams and how he flopped but was able to become arguably the best wide receiver in the game. However, that is rare and, more often than not, a losing bet.
I went through the last several draft classes to see startup ADP trends (from DynastyLeagueFootball.com) from May of their rookie year to May of their sophomore year in the NFL. Each class chosen has the top-12 picks of that particular rookie draft, excluding quarterbacks. Doing so lets you determine which rookies would be considered a “face planter,” a concept I first saw from @DFBeanCounter on Twitter. I chose to chart rookie classes 2017-2020 because each class has at least played their third year in the NFL. Note that players marked in green gained at least 12 spots in startup value, players in yellow did not gain or lose 12 spots in startup value, and those in red lost at least 12 spots in startup value.
Players Who Gained 12+ Spots in Startup Value Their Sophomore Year
First, we will discuss the players that gained value. In this sample, 22 players gained a round of value. As you can see, there are some big names on this list. Fantasy finishes in this chart were based on PPR leagues. A whopping 50% of players on this list had a top-5 season (colored in purple), and 73% had a top-12 season (colored in green). The players in yellow had a top-24 season, and the players in red did not. Only 2-of-22 players did not produce a top-24 season, and if you have been playing for a while, you might know injuries were a major factor for both Kerryon Johnson and Cam Akers.
If you bought high on most of these players, you are likely satisfied with the production you received. Outside of a few older running backs, most of these players are still valued within the top-24 at their position, according to KeepTradeCut. While there may be some landmines (JuJu Smith-Schuster), many of these players continued to rise in value and produce big-time fantasy numbers.
Players Who Did not Gain or Lose 12 Spots in Startup Value Their Sophomore Year
Here we are with the middle of the pack, the players who may have gained or lost some value but not 12 spots in either direction. Here we have 12 players, with three players in each category. We had 3-of-12 players hit a top-five season (25%) and 6-of-12 producing a top-12 season (50%). Production was lower in this group compared to the above group, but some promising players, such as Jerry Jeudy and JK Dobbins, could still turn things around.
Only three players did not produce a top-24 season (Corey Davis, Derrius Guice, and Sony Michel). Corey Davis is likely the biggest bust of the three with the opportunities he was given as a highly-drafted wide receiver. Guice didn’t have a chance to do anything because of legal trouble, and Sony Michel did battle injuries here and there, but he failed to produce a relevant full fantasy season.
Players Who Lost at least 12 Spots in Startup Value in Sophomore Year
Now we get into the group that mostly hits rock bottom regarding production and fantasy value. No players have had a top-five fantasy season, and only Mike Williams has a top-12 season. Only 4-of-14 players (28.6%) had a top-24 season. This group includes notable names such as Clyde Edwards-Helaire, N’Keal Harry, and Jalen Reagor. Fantasy managers who bought low on these players are probably still living in regret over that decision. If a player falls into this group, future fantasy production and trade value will likely evade them. No player in this group is valued within the top 40 in their position. If a player loses at least 12 spots in value, it’s better to get them off your team and not waste assets trying to buy low, hoping they eventually get it together.
7. Selling High & Selling Low
When a player has reached their maximum potential value, consider moving that player. Running backs on teams that did not invest high draft capital in them, or random players having a career year, are the prime candidates for selling high. Selling high can cause regret when trading away young studs, though, so it may only be wise to sell them if it’s just an offer that is too good to turn down.
Selling players at just the right time, before their value spirals downhill, is how you continue to stay competitive and bolster your roster from year to year. If you remember Andy’s Todd Gurley trade, you know you can trade down a tier at a position and gain significant draft capital. Andy turned Gurley into Dalvin Cook, 1.03, 2.03, and 2.11, the perfect example of a well-executed sell-high trade. Sometimes it’s also better to be a year early than a year too late.
Selling low can also be a good way to gain value on your team. As mentioned above, for those players that end up faceplanting, you can get them off your team for whatever the market value is in rookie picks. You can also see trends in the market value of specific players on your roster to see if you can move on for a second-round or third-round pick. Third-round picks don’t turn out well too often, but it’s better to have a shot in the dark than a random player losing all their value.
8. Trading Down: Player Tiers & Rookie Picks
One of the best ways to stay competitive and still build value on your team is to trade away a player in a higher tier for a player in a lower tier and get additional help or draft picks. For example, if you can get Chris Olave and additional assets for Garrett Wilson, that is a solid trade! As mentioned, KeepTradeCut.com has rankings based on community input, which can help you determine potential tier breaks that you can exploit.
When trading down in a rookie draft, I would not recommend viewing it from the pick standpoint. Trading down from 1.01 to 1.02 or 1.03 would only be moving down a few slots; however, you could have a significant tier break in value between players from even a spot or two. In the 2023 rookie draft, Bijan Robinson was nearly unanimous as the rookie 1.01 in both Superflex and non-Superflex leagues. Jahmyr Gibbs and Jaxon Smith-Njigba were at least a tier below Robinson, so when trading away the 1.01 for 1.02 or 1.03 and debating on additional compensation, it’s better to think about what would be needed in addition to Gibbs or JSN to trade away Robinson. There are typically several tier gaps within the first two rounds of rookie drafts, so staying on top of that will help when trading down.
9. Countering Trades
When a trade offer is received, and you want to counter, keep the original offer in mind. If someone sends you an offer for a specific player, they are likely going after that player. If it’s a player you are willing to part with, then keeping the player in your counteroffer will increase the chance of getting a deal done.
10. Don’t Be Afraid to “Lose” Trades
Winning trades can mean different things for different managers. Most dynasty leagues have teams that are competing and some teams that are rebuilding. When I say, “Don’t be afraid to lose trades,” I am specifically talking to managers trying to win a title. Every manager wants to “win” each trade they do, but in dynasty, there are “win/win” trades even if the values suggest otherwise.
I always recommend building value on your dynasty team, but when you push for a championship late in the year, don’t be afraid to trade away young players or picks to bolster your roster. You can make calculated moves that aren’t reckless that can help you win, and the ultimate goal of dynasty leagues is to win those championships.
Getting trades done in dynasty leagues will take work and persistence, but it’s all worth it when you see that “trade completed” notification. Now, send some offers!