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Lesson in Value: Selling High & Buying Low (Fantasy Football)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Aug 28, 2019

It would’ve been smart to sell high on LeGarrette Blount after his two-touchdown Week 12 outing in 2018

Trading is an art form in the fantasy football world, and understanding how to buy low and sell high is crucial to making great deals. By unloading players with unsustainable production or acquiring diamonds in the rough, you can effectively alter the course of your fantasy season in a single transaction. Today, we’re going to talk about how to pull off deals involving buy-low or sell-high players with a lesson in value. Let’s go!

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Buying Low: Recognizing Untapped Potential
A slow start doesn’t mean that big production isn’t on the horizon. There are a number of reasons a player may not be producing early in the year, and recognizing these reasons is vital in the trade game. Some of them are:

  • Injury – The player sustained an early-season or offseason injury that has hampered him, or he is getting back into playing shape after missing significant time the season prior or sustaining a severe injury late last season.
  • Early-season struggles from the quarterback – This goes for backs or receivers. If the signal-caller is struggling early, it can cause a major slide in production for the other skill position players on the team.
  • New offensive scheme – A player in a new offense will obviously have a learning curve, so pay attention to teams with new head coaches or coordinators and the top-tier players who may not be producing as expected in the first few weeks of the season.
  • Tough schedule – No player is matchup-proof, and a brutal schedule to open the season never does favors for production, no matter how elite a player may be.

By understanding these factors, you can find players who have a realistic shot to bounce back midseason. Don’t go overboard, though. Remember that there is danger in buying low. Sometimes a guy you consider a buy-low candidate can be had so cheaply for a reason, so perhaps he won’t get any better as the season progresses. Make sure to keep that in mind and seriously do your homework when pulling the trigger on a buy-low option. Not every player with an early-season slump is destined to break out later in the year.

Selling High: Recognizing Unsustainable Production
It’s important to understand that not all players who have big games or productive stretches will maintain a high level of play throughout the season. There are some easily explainable reasons why a player may have a highly productive stretch, and you should be familiar with them:

  • Easy schedule – The Cardinals’ and Dolphins’ run defenses were akin to Moses parting the Red Sea in 2018, and backs who faced the two teams typically enjoyed a healthy dose of fantasy points. Do you have a genuine stud or just a guy taking advantage of some cupcakes on the schedule?
  • Big playsKeelan Cole was a top-five fantasy receiver from Weeks 14-16 blank in 2017 because of some huge plays, but he was unable to replicate that success in 2018. Many had him pegged for a breakout year following the late-season surge, but Cole was unable to sustain his elite fantasy production, playing on a run-heavy team with a highly-inconsistent quarterback.
  • Unusually high touchdown scoring – Some players get the benefit of positive game scripts and score touchdowns at a higher-than-usual clip. LeGarrette Blount found the end zone twice on Thanksgiving with Detroit last season, but the big game proved to be a one-off as he couldn’t sustain a high level of play week-to-week due to his declining overall skill set. He simply took advantage of his opportunities.

These factors are all hallmarks of players you should sell high and move before they begin to decline. Their high level of fantasy production is unsustainable and will eventually fall back to earth, leaving fantasy owners with little recourse, but to sell them cheaply. Much like buy-low targets, there is danger in selling high on a player who is in the middle of a hot streak. That player has the chance to be an elite option all year if he continues to find himself in favorable situations. Stay educated and informed on any player you’re considering in a trade, especially those putting up fantasy points at a high clip.

Negotiate and Communicate
You should always be open to trading any player on your team. Don’t make a player “untouchable” because of name value, draft capital invested, or huge production. If someone is willing to overpay, take the money and run. Everyone has a price, and if you don’t entertain trade offers, you could be missing out on a haul. If you’re selling high, get the best offer possible. “This is a guy putting up some amazing numbers, and he will make your team infinitely more productive” is what you should tell prospective trade partners.

Know how to negotiate and understand that, when trading, you have to make a case. There is nothing wrong with upselling when trading a sell-high guy and you should always haggle to get a buy-low option. Remember to always include key points about a player you want to acquire, like “he hasn’t scored in three weeks,” “he hasn’t had a 100-yard game all season,” “this looks like a bust,” etc. Great trading involves open communication between both parties, and if you want to get a deal done, you need to talk and be persuasive.

Nothing is more satisfying than pulling off a trade that allows you to get rid of a player just before his decline or land a player just before he pops off. However, not all players in a slump or on a hot streak are buy-low or sell-high candidates. Buying low and selling high allows you to stay ahead of the curve in your fantasy league and give you a marked advantage over your competitors. Recognizing what makes a good target for these types of trades is crucial to making the right move, and if you follow the advice above, you should be able to get a deal done that improves your team.

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

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