A Guide to Orchestrating Early-Season Trades (Fantasy Football)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Jul 23, 2019

Some early round players, like Robert Woods, can be had for a discount if they start slow out of the gate

There is nothing more exciting than pulling off a trade in fantasy football. Making the right trade at any point in the season can be highly beneficial to your team, but making a trade early on can be a little trickier to finagle. Let’s take a look at how to orchestrate an early-season trade.

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Be Realistic
It’s going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to trade for a top-tier fantasy asset in the first three or four weeks of the season. Guys such as Ezekiel Elliott or DeAndre Hopkins won’t be on the block in Week 2. Drafts are still fresh in owners’ minds, and those owners remember the price they paid for their studs.

In fact, owners will almost always want to be overpaid when giving up such a high-scoring fantasy player, making any deal you finalize lopsided – and not in your favor. A player who cost a first-round pick will not be given up cheaply, even if he has a couple of bad games to start the season. Instead of going for a mega-deal that might compromise your depth and force you to greatly overpay, go for guys who won’t be treated as “untouchables.” These are the players who were likely drafted in the third to fifth rounds of drafts and were not the cornerstone of a team. These sorts of players will probably be available for a trade given the right offer, so make a move.

Slumps & Streaks Are Your Friends
Sounds pretty obvious, right? There is no better way to acquire a valuable fantasy contributor than dealing for him when he’s in a rut. As mentioned above, two bad games from Zeke won’t lower his asking price enough to get a fair trade completed. Two bad games out of Robert Woods, however, might motivate the Woods owner to move him. Buying low and snagging a guy who will produce later in the season is a fantasy owner’s dream.

On the flip side, it’s never a bad idea to sell high on a player who is in the middle of a hot streak. DeSean Jackson, a consummate boom-or-bust player in the twilight of his career, led the NFL in receiving yards with 275 through two weeks of action in 2018, scoring three TDs in that span. His value was never higher, as he finished his remaining 10 games with 499 yards and just one score. He was a worthy trade piece early on, and D-Jax owners had to be thrilled if they could profit on that early-season success.

With all of that said, you have to be smart when buying low and selling high. Acquire a guy who actually will produce after he lands on your team. Some players can be had cheaply for a reason — they’re not that valuable to your fantasy team and won’t have a bounce-back finish to the season.

Be wary of selling high, and don’t mistake consistent high-end production for a hot streak. You can get burned making early-season trades if you’re not careful. Examine a player’s opportunity share on his team, the play of his quarterback or offensive line, and any lingering injuries. Those are all great indicators of what the rest of the season may hold.

Target Players with Injury History/Risk
Players with a history of injuries will almost always come at a discount, no matter how well they are currently performing. Cooper Kupp, coming back from a torn ACL, will not have as much value as his talent warrants in 2019. Through eight games last season, he compiled a healthy 40/566/6 receiving line that would have likely made him an elite option over the course of a full 16-game schedule.

The severity of his injury, however, will naturally make fantasy managers hesitant to draft him and owners more willing to move him for a trade package that features a safer or healthier option. You can target injury-prone players in the middle of slumps for an even steeper bargain. If someone like Kupp or Leonard Fournette does not produce in the first two or three games of the season, you could make a move while explaining to the owner that the player in question is underperforming due to injury (rather than what could be the real cause – too many other quality options on offense, bad offensive line, negative game script, etc). Putting an injury spin on a trade narrative is a great way to get early-season value.

A desperate owner is one who is willing to overpay. If an early-season injury forces a stud out of action (David Johnson in 2017, perhaps?), send the owner of that stud an offer. You never want to lowball or make an unfair trade, but you can certainly get more out of the deal by offering a quality RB now if your leaguemate is in dire straits and in need of production at that position. Strike while the iron is hot.

Know Your League
Not everyone is willing to jump ship early in the season. Some managers in your league will stand pat on their players to the bitter end or only accept ridiculous offers that swing heavily in their favor. Bypass offering a trade to these owners.

Instead, utilize your knowledge of the tendencies of those willing to make a deal, and get it done. All fantasy managers have favorite teams and favorite players or guys they simply value much too highly. If you have a coveted player on your team, use him as the centerpiece of a deal that might otherwise not get done. The allure of finally getting that much sought-after player could be enough to land a player you really want.

Pay attention in your draft to who got “sniped” and lost out on a player they were really hoping to draft. If you have a player on your team who was prized by an owner leading up to the draft, offer him in a deal similar to the one just mentioned. It should go without saying, but remember to be cognizant of your league’s scoring settings when making an early-season deal. Ignoring your scoring could cause you to give away value that will be almost impossible to get back later in the season. If you trade away a pass-catching back for Sony Michel in a PPR league in Week 3, shame on you.

Understand Team Need
Most importantly, understand what your team needs and what it doesn’t need. Trading for a high-end RB when you already have two on your team makes little sense, especially because it forces you to give up depth and production at other positions for a player who may not end up in your lineup each week. Making a deal for that back isn’t such a bad idea, however, when you have six starting-caliber WRs and two backup-RBs. Making a trade should always benefit your team, plain and simple.

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Zachary Hanshew is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.

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