How to Make the Perfect Fantasy Football Trade

Matt Hicks

Staff Writer, SEC and Fantasy Football 

It’s Week 4 and your team isn’t where it needs to be. You’ve been patient the first couple weeks, picking at the waiver wire but it hasn’t paid off. You need to make a trade. Not just any trade, though, you need THAT trade, you know what I’m talking about; the trade that you’ll be bragging about for years to come. The trade that will bring your 0-3 team to the championship, the one that every fantasy player seeks out like Ponce De Leon sought out the fountain of youth (it’s a history reference, read a book). Here’s your step by step guide to finding fantasy treasure.

The Situation

I’m going to walk you through each step by using a real life example from my keeper league, where I’m desperately looking to dig my 1-2 team out of an early hole. My starting line-up is: Newton/Cook/Crowell/Gore/A. Brown/OBJ/Watson/Alex Smith (Superflex), and my notable bench players are: Manning/Kelley/J.J. Nelson/Kearse. The hole I want to address is Crowell as my RB2 (I’m not willing to promote Gore from my Flex spot).

Step 1. Realize that You Don’t Want to “Win” the Trade

This is a common mistake fantasy players make. They seek out an owner in their league who they think they can dupe into making a bad trade. They try to seek the one who is new to playing fantasy football, the one who will take 4 players for 1 player, or maybe the even the one who’s behind on injury news. Don’t be this player. You may win this one trade (or you may get vetoed) either way you’ll be shut out by the rest of the players in your league. In dynasty/keeper leagues this is a move you’ll be regretting for years to come. Instead, you want to find the perfect trade partner, so that you make a mutually beneficial trade. This will also make you a more popular trade partner in the future.

Step 2. Understand the Players in Your League

To find that perfect trade partner, you have to know the players in your league. In my keeper league, we have 12 players, which means I start with 11 potential trade partners. That’s not really true though because I know the players in my league. One player never accepts fair trades, and will only make offers like the ones I mentioned in Step 1 (note that they never find trade partners). I also know there’s an owner who got burned early on in the keeper league, it’s kept them near last place every year since, but it’s also made them weary of all trades. Even when offered very sensible trades, they reject them quick and rarely counter offer. That means I actually have 9 options to make this trade.

Step 3. Find an Owner who Needs a Player You Don’t

This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many trade offers I get that make absolutely no sense. I have OBJ/Brown/Kearse/J.J. Nelson so I don’t need another WR. What I do need is to get rid of Isiah Crowell and never look back. To make this happen I look at my assets which include: the above mentioned WRs, an extra QB (in a Superflex league I actually do have tradable QB options), some RB2/3 options in Gore/Kelley, and the aforementioned Crowell. I scanned my league and 8 teams could benefit from one or more of these assets, unfortunately 2 of them are the teams from step 2 so I’m down to 6 potential trade partners.

Step 4. Check How Desperate Your Potential Trade Partners Are

If you’re 3-0 you’re not likely to make a trade, no matter how good the offer is. Remember, you are trying to make a trade that benefits both sides, so if the other owner doesn’t feel like they need to improve their team they won’t be interested in trading reasonably. Surprisingly, nobody in this league is 0-3 so I’ve narrowed down my options to 4 different 1-2 teams. These owners are going to be in the same position as me, anxious and ready to make a move that will get them back above .500.

Step 5. Find Players that Fit Your Need

Don’t overthink this step; don’t trade for a player you don’t need. Also avoid making a crazy package deal that forces you to ship off one of your top players. I mentioned I have a bunch of WRs, so although I have a Flex spot open, I’m not trading for a WR regardless of the value I can get back. From the four teams I have left I’ve found a few players with good value including: Travis Kelce (13 rec, 140 yards, 1 TD) who could provide me an upgrade from Watson and pair nicely with Smith, Marshawn Lynch who I mentioned last week and looks like even more of a steal after a down week vs the Redskins, and DeMarco Murray (slow start but broke out in Week 3) who I could get value from based on age in a keeper league.

Step 6. Don’t Just Offer the Trade

This is critical; you want to reach out to the owner before making the trade offer. This makes the owner more engaged with you, and makes them more willing to counter-offer/explain why they may or may not be interested in the player you offered. You can also explain why you’re offering the trade, to ensure they don’t think you’re ripping them off. I use this opportunity to gauge which players on my team they are interested in. If I decide to make an offer for Kelce I’ll likely need a package so I’d open by saying: “any interest in trading Kelce for Crowell/a Flex level player”. This makes it clear I want to trade Crowell for Kelce, and I’m willing to add in someone with Flex potential, so they’re not going to waste my time by trying to get Cook from me, but it would be reasonable for them to ask for Kelley/Kearse/J.J. Nelson to be added to the package.

Step 7. Seal the Deal and Don’t Look Back

Alright, you’ve done it. You found the perfect trade partner, they’ve agreed to a trade that looks to be mutually beneficial…don’t panic or have second thoughts. Click “accept” and call it a day. If I make this trade and Kelce bombs next week, I’m not going to freak out; I know he’s a good TE and I know Crowell frustrated me through the first 3 weeks. Own your trade, and treat your new fantasy asset like the treasure you’ve worked hard to discover.

About Matt Hicks

Matt’s writing at Top2 is focused on dynasty fantasy football. He loves blending his experience writing research in the field of education with fantasy football stats. Matt currently lives in Baltimore, MD and graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. You can follow Matt on Twitter: @Top2Matt

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