How to Trade in Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football Expert Matt Brandon offers some significant tips to help you get the most out of trades in your Fantasy Football league.

Aside from rummaging the waiver wire for deep sleepers, the only other way to improve your Fantasy team following the draft is by trading players. There are many different types of trades — small trades, blockbusters, one-for-one swaps, two-for-ones, etc. There are also many strategies. Some owners favor acquiring depth whereas others (including myself) are more in the business of improving their starting lineup. When only a certain number of players can earn your team Fantasy points, I figure you might as well assemble the best group of starters possible. Sure, there is inherent risk in trading depth for a superstar, but you have to roll the dice sometimes if you want to compete at the highest level. Below are a few tips that will help you land talent before the trade deadline passes in your Fantasy Football league.

1. Know your league settings

One of the most important rules to follow when trading is to be mindful of your league’s scoring settings. Always know how many points you need to score in order to defeat your foes on a weekly basis. For example, in a PPR league that also awards points for return yardage, you would NOT want to trade your top wide receiver — who doubles as a punt returner — for a stud QB. That WR is more valuable due to the extra points your team accumulates with each reception and return yard he records. Understanding your league’s scoring system is critical to success. However, that is not the only thing that matters.

In another league, you may need to start four wide receivers and just two running backs. If you have only two strong WRs but are deep at the RB position, doesn’t it make sense to trade one of those running backs on your bench for a wideout whom you can start? Knowing the positional makeup of a starting lineup in your league is also essential.

2. Know your team needs and your opponents’ team needs

You will not be able to improve your squad unless you know your team’s needs, weaknesses and strengths. If you are particularly deep at one position, use that to your advantage. It’s all about supply and demand. Find an owner who needs what you have and negotiate a deal that benefits both owners. Otherwise, your depth is practically useless.

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3. Buy Low, Sell High

Every single season, a handful of players begin the year performing exponentially better than expected while others fail to put up the numbers most experts anticipated. When these situations present themselves, it may be the perfect time to explore a blockbuster trade. For example, if a 25-year-old running back who finished the past three seasons as a top-10 RB opens the year with four subpar stat lines, you may want to look a bit closer. Perhaps his offensive line is dealing with injuries and not opening many running lanes. Maybe his schedule is about to get much more favorable. Whatever the case, this player’s owner may be panicking and willing to trade him for far less than he is actually worth. If you trust that this player will get back on track, send the owner two decent prospects in return for the stud RB. This move could end up paying major dividends.

At the same time, if you own a marginally talented player who suddenly erupts for three consecutive 100-yard rushing games, you should probably look to sell high before it’s too late. Ask yourself if this player can continue to produce at an elite level or if he is bound to trickle down to earth. If you are leaning toward the latter, be sure to make this player available on the trading block. Team owners will be licking their chops for a guy who has been dominating.

4. Trade to Upgrade

As mentioned earlier, I’m all about improving my starting lineup when it comes to trades. However, if you share that philosophy, you won’t get the opportunity to do so unless you draft intelligently and acquire plenty of depth. If you drafted four solid wideouts and four great running backs but need to start only two players at each position, try to upgrade your talent. Why not propose a deal in which you ship away one of your solid RBs and a WR for a stud at the position where you are most needy? This will improve your starting lineup and also allow you to keep some of your depth.

5. Forget About Names

When making trades, names are not important. Trends are important. Statistics are important. Surrounding players are important … but names are not important. Just because a certain player will end up in the Hall of Fame one day, that doesn’t mean he’s worth owning. He may be old, past his prime and too pricey. Don’t make the mistake of trading for a guy solely based on his name or past production. You will be sorry when you are looking up at the playoff teams from the bottom of the standings.

6. Examine Strength of Schedule and Bye Weeks

If you are approaching the end of the season and are a shoo-in for your league’s playoffs, it’s time to start thinking about how to advance to the championship. One way is to make a trade for a player with favorable matchups in Weeks 14,15 and 16. Click here to see our Strength of Schedule tool! Perhaps you own a stud who goes on bye in Week 11 and then faces a stretch of extremely difficult matchups. Even though this player may have carried you to a winning record, you may want to deal him for someone who has already had his bye week and has some nice matchups awaiting him during the Fantasy postseason.

7. Don’t sigh when you see a small trade proposal

Sometimes the smallest trades can determine your league’s champion. Although upgrading your starters is the ultimate goal, there are other moves you can make that will increase your odds of qualifying for the playoffs. For example, it’s not a bad idea to acquire your stud RB’s backup. This kind of small trade will help you in the event of a serious injury to your superstar.

8. You don’t necessarily have to get the best player in the deal

Although trading two players for one stud is often a great way to improve your lineup, you can still benefit even if you are the owner who is trading a superstar for two good-but-not-great players. For instance, if the injury bug has plagued your team and is threatening to knock you out of contention, you might need to trade a star in order to replenish your roster. As long as both players you are getting in return are worthy of spots in your starting lineup, such a swap could be worth it. If you are lacking at the RB position and someone offers you a top-10 WR and top-15 RB for your WR1, who just happens to be the best wide receiver in the league, don’t reject the proposal instantaneously. This move could help you if the upgrade at RB is more significant than the downgrade at WR.

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Ultimately, there are many ways to improve your team through trading. The most important piece of advice I can give to you is to be aware. Be aware of your league’s trade deadline, your team needs, your adversaries’ needs, your scoring system and so on. If you analyze the statistics, look at the matchups and think with your head rather than your heart, you could hit the jackpot when making a trade.