Fantasy Football Trade Advice: How to Trade in Fantasy Football

There are several ways to build a winning fantasy football team. There’s the draft or auction, hitting the waiver wire, or signing free agents.

But if you really want to build a successful fantasy football team, mastering the art of the deal is what separates the winners from the losers.

The following is some helpful fantasy football trade advice that will hopefully teach you how to trade in fantasy football.

  1. Always remember that fantasy football trade proposals are a work in progress.
  2. Analyze the fantasy football landscape every week.
  3. Always be communicating with the owners in your league.
  4. Treat your fantasy football team like a business.
  5. Never make a fantasy football trade out of desperation.
  6. Buy low and sell high.
  7. Send up smoke screens and never reveal your true intentions.
  8. Target a decoy and “settle” for the player you really want.
  9. The “ace in the hole” is actually the Old Maid.
  10. Be casual and laid back; don’t come off as aggressive.
  11. Give ’em space to think.
  12. Know when to keep your mouth shut.
  13. Know when to keep them talking!
  14. Play the “hot and cold” game.
  15. Use the “what if…” scenario.
  16. Be honest with them and tell them why “that’s not good enough.”
  17. Master the art of “I don’t need to do this.”
  18. Let them know you have other offers — or are in other discussions.
  19. Use any and all leverage that you have to your advantage.
  20. Always make the other owner feel you have his best interests in mind.
  21. Always sleep on an offer before agreeing to it.
  22. Don’t be afraid to walk away.
  23. Suggest a beneficial trade with another owner prior to your negotiation.

Always remember that fantasy football trade proposals are a work in progress.

Although not the most important fantasy tip I can give, I felt this was one of the most pertinent. It’s important to remember that very rarely are “good” fantasy football trades conducted in one sitting. There is always a lot of back-and-forth, give-and-take involved. You and another owner will exchange offers, neither of which should be accepted. The goal is to gauge the value you each place on your assets. If you both can meet somewhere in the middle, a deal can be consummated. If not, you’ll move on to another owner.

Analyze the fantasy football landscape every week.

Managing your fantasy football team is no different than playing the stock market. Okay, maybe a little bit different. But it is essentially monitoring stocks in your portfolio. You have to keep an eye on yours and other teams’ players throughout the entire season. (And throughout the offseason, too, if you play in dynasty leagues). A deal considered “good value” in Week 1 could be the complete opposite in Week 10, or vice versa. Your job is to play chess and think two or three moves ahead. Smart fantasy owners will be studying a potential trade weeks in advance and pounce at the right time. Don’t just start trade negotiations when you feel you “need” to. Plan well in advance.

Always be communicating with the owners in your league.

The ideal fantasy football league is one in which you have some kind of relationship with all owners involved. If you’re participating with owners who rarely pick up the phone or check their email, you’ll be relegated to making deals with only a handful of teams. That severely cuts down your chances of making improvements to your team. Send out weekly feelers to your fellow owners. Ask them to gauge your team. Share your thoughts about their teams. Build a good rapport with them. When it comes time to strike up a deal, the lines of communication are already open and strong.

Treat your fantasy football team like a business.

Do not, for the love of God, become too attached to your players. Chances are, you don’t know them and probably never will. Treat them as pawns on a chess board that serve their purpose before you let them go. If you fall in love with your players, you will overvalue them and will never get fair trade value in return. You’ll ask too much for them and wind up selling them when their stock is too low. The goal is to win championships and you have to maximize your team’s value. If you treat your team as a business, you’ll always do what’s best for it to ensure the highest return on investment possible.

Never make a fantasy football trade out of desperation.

The absolute worst time to make a trade is when you’re backed into a corner and are desperate. Smart owners will recognize that and they will swindle you. You have to deal from a place of strength, not weakness. Does this mean you can’t make any trades when your team is winless after four weeks? No, of course not. It just means you have to be smart and not panic. The minute that you start to feel desperate and feel like you “need” to trade rather than “want” to trade is when you will compromise the value of your assets.

Buy low and sell high.

This is straight out of the handbook of Investing 101. I feel like it goes without saying, and yet I still see so many owners fall victim to the cardinal rule of trading. If you try to trade a player coming off a down season, whether it be because of injuries or poor performance, you will get beans in return. And not beans from Jack’s magical stash, but the refried kind that gives you explosive diarrhea. The best time to sell your assets is when they put up ridiculous, uncharacteristic performances that you don’t think are sustainable. And the most optimal time to buy assets is when they’ve had poor performances or down years and you feel strongly they’re due for a rebound.

Send up smoke screens and never reveal your true intentions.

It’s important to have open dialogue with your fellow owners, but never be so transparent that you reveal your true intentions. Play your cards close to the vest and maintain your leverage in negotiations. Don’t automatically praise all of your own players and denigrate all of his. He’ll see right through that. If you share both the positive and negative thoughts you have, without fully revealing your true opinions about the players you want to acquire, you’ll develop trust with the other owner and he’s more apt to let down his guard.

Target a decoy and “settle” for the player you really want.

This goes along with the concept of never revealing your true intentions. When you identify a player you’d like to acquire, approach the other owner about somebody else on his team. It should be somebody better and you should offer about the package that you would accept for the “lesser” player that you really want. Really try to haggle with that other owner and make him think you really want the “decoy” player. Eventually, the goal is for him to say, “what about Player X instead?” (Player X being the guy you wanted all along). The other owner will think he made a wise move and got you to settle. But in reality, you gamed him and got who you were targeting in the first place.

The “ace in the hole” is actually the Old Maid.

An “ace in the hole” is a resource that’s held back until the most opportune moment. Someone will offer you a trade and you will pick one asset from the deal and pretend that it is gold — even though it is not. Say things like, “No, I could never give that up!” Or, “No, I value that asset too much.” Or, “No, I think you’re asking for too much with that.” Then, while negotiating, continue to “play up” that asset as if it’s the key to Fort Knox. All the while, you’re getting closer to a deal. When the time is right, you play the ace. You say, “Okay, fine, I will give that up if you just give me this…” The other owner feels like he broke you, never realizing that it wasn’t an ace in your pocket, but the Old Maid that you wanted to discard all along.

Be casual and laid back; don’t come off as aggressive.

Have you ever punched a pushy salesman in the nose, been dragged away in handcuffs, been fired from your job because of it, and have caused your family a great deal of shame? Yeah, me neither. But I’ve always felt like it’d be my ultimate demise. Seriously, nobody likes an aggressive salesman. I want to be left alone to shop in peace. When you’re conducting trade talks, be polite and courteous to your fellow owners. If you come across as too aggressive, other owners are going to think you’re desperate and they’ll be able to stand their ground and try to fleece you for more. You want to be as cool as the other side of the pillow. Owners should think you have your stuff together and are making a trade because you want to rather than need to.

Give ‘em space to think.

Once you’ve engaged in trade talks with a fellow owner and have submitted a formal offer, leave it alone and let it percolate. Don’t be too pushy and demand an immediate answer. Be respectful and let them think things through because a panicked owner will balk at most offers. It might be a deal you really want to get done, but casually pass it off as “no big deal.” Just give them a wave of the hand and say, “Sure thing, take some time to think it over. I’ll do the same on my end.” A calm owner who is completely at ease is much more likely to accept your offer.

Know when to keep your mouth shut.

Have you ever heard the expression: “a salesperson who talks himself out of a deal?” It’s real and it does happen. Just watch any old episode of Shark Tank and you’ll see how the sharks often bail out after a prospective entrepreneur talked too much. When negotiating with other owners, give them just enough information for them to process what you’re offering and seeking. Don’t try to sell them too hard on your players or else they’ll think you’re a pushy car salesman trying to dump a lemon on them.

Know when to keep them talking!

Whereas you want to keep your mouth shut and not reveal too much, you want to try to get your trade partner to talk excessively. Get him nervous by giving short answers that leave a lot to be desired. Giving a good stare down is a very effective tool — if you’re negotiating in person, of course. Master the art of heavy sighs, deep eye rolls, looking off into the distance as if you’re really contemplating what he’s saying. Give short answers such as, “That’s a little rich, what else you got?” or “You’re going to have to do a little better than that,” or even simply, “No thanks.” Make him think that he needs to keep talking to close the deal and he’s bound to slip up.

Play the “hot and cold” game.

Surely you played the hot and cold game growing up, or continue to play it with your kids. You hide something or pick out an object somewhere nearby and while the other person is trying to find it, you tell them they are either hot or cold — hot meaning they are really close to the object and cold meaning they’re far away from it. Doing this while negotiating with another owner will keep them making offers. Say things like, “You’re cold, man,” or, “You’re getting warmer,” or, “Aw, man, we are real close here. I just need a little something to sweeten the deal.”

Use the “what if…” scenario.

When engaged in long, drawn-out trade discussions that don’t seem to be getting anywhere, throw in a “what if…” scenario. Ask the other owner what he would give up if you threw in another piece. Or, ask what he’d accept if he removed one piece of the trade. These don’t even have to be official offers, but merely throwing in hypotheticals can help spur discussions along.

Be honest with them and tell them why “that’s not good enough.”

You don’t always have to give an explanation for why you might turn down a proposal from a fellow owner. But sometimes it helps you reach some common ground when you are open and honest and give your trade partner a reason why you can’t accept their offer. You can say something like, “That’s just not good enough for me. I can get more for this player in a few weeks after he pads his stats. But I’m offering you a shot at him while his stock is still relatively low.” Or, “That’s just not good enough for me. If I’m going to give away a player of his caliber who can be counted on every week, I’m going to need a similarly productive player at another position.”

Master the art of “I don’t need to do this.”

When you’re wheeling and dealing, never let the other owner think you’re dealing from a position of need. You want to convey that you’re doing this because you’re being proactive and just trying to improve your team. And also that you see an opportunity for both of your teams to improve. There’s one key phrase that you should learn to use and that is: “I don’t need to do this.” Make sure your fellow owner understands that he needs to make this trade a lot more than you do, but send that message without actually saying it. Make him think that you’re doing him a favor by entertaining his trade offer.

Let them know you have other offers — or are in other discussions.

There’s nothing like competition to bring a sense of urgency to negotiations. Nobody wants to be beaten, whether on the football field or at the trade table. Without sounding threatening (remember, people don’t like pushy salesmen), let it be known that you have other buyers interested in the player you’re looking to deal. Whether or not you want to lie is up to you, so if you’d rather say it straight-faced without any guilt, then actually engage in trade talks with multiple teams at once. It’s good to shop around and seek the best price anyway. When you let an owner know that other teams are interested in your players, it heightens their awareness and adds a sense of urgency without you actually pressuring them. If they are truly interested in your players, they’ll be much more responsive and willing to offer more to seal the deal.

Use any and all leverage that you have to your advantage.

What constitutes “leverage” in trade negotiations? It could be taking advantage of an owner who is off to a rocky start and he is dealing from a place of need and desperation. It can be peddling players from a position of great depth. You could pick up the top waiver wire player in a given week, even if you don’t need him, just so you could trade him to a needy team to get something in return. How far you are willing to go, what ethical standards you’re willing to bend, and what loopholes you’re looking to exploit is completely up to you. But you should explore every option and examine every angle that can help you get the best deal possible.

Always make the other owner feel you have his best interests in mind.

Nobody likes a shyster whom they think is trying to rip them off. It’s not a good way to build a working relationship. Plus, it will make owners think twice about discussing trades with you in the future. You have to let your potential trade partners know that you are seeking a win-win deal. You want both teams to improve from the trade — even though your intent is to get the better end of the deal. When you approach an owner about a possible trade, don’t just say, “Hey, I want Player X from your team … what do you want for him?” Instead, come at it from a working relationship standpoint. “Hey, I’m interested in Player X. I noticed that you could use a little help at running back. I have some extra depth and could help you out there. Interested in a deal?”

Always sleep on an offer before agreeing to it.

One of the big problems that almost all owners inevitably feel at some point in their fantasy football careers is buyer’s (or seller’s) remorse. This can occur when you make a rash decision on a trade and wake up the next morning in a cold sweat, fearing that you made a big mistake. It happens in life when you make a big purchase. This is why they tell you to sleep on a big purchase before you shell out a ton of money for something. Making fantasy football trades can utilize this same principle. There is no deal that is too good that can’t first be thought about overnight. When you wake up the next morning, your feelings about a deal will become amplified. You can make a clear-headed decision at that point.

Don’t be afraid to walk away.

It’s not enough to make your fellow owners think you don’t “need” to make a trade. You should actually practice what you preach, too. Go into all trade discussions assuming your team will be just fine if you don’t make a deal. And that’s where the “walk away” principle comes into play. If you are in long, fruitless discussions with a fellow owner, and he keeps asking for more than you are comfortable giving up, then just walk away. He’ll either come back to you and lower his asking price, or you’ll save yourself from making a huge mistake.

Suggest a beneficial trade with another owner prior to your negotiation.

This is actually a method that helps you build a good working relationship with your fellow owners. Don’t just look out for your own best interests. Help some of your fellow owners by spotting good trade opportunities for them. Reach out to an owner and say, “Hey, I think you could get good value if you trade Player X to Johnny’s team for Player Y. Why don’t you offer him…” You can help build trust with that owner. That owner will see that you have his best interest in mind. He is much more likely to engage in future trade talks with you.