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Swapping Surplus for Deficit (Fantasy Football)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Aug 29, 2019

Swapping surplus for deficit can be an excellent way to improve your roster if done at the right time and in the right way.

It seems to happen every year. You draft particularly well at one position and end up with a surplus of talent with a limited number of roster spots. With more quality starters on your team than available slots, you’ll be leaving points on the bench each and every week. Lineup decisions become tougher because you have a plethora of talent from which to choose. It’s a fantasy dilemma, but what’s the logical move in this situation?

Trading your excess talent for a position of need could be a great way to balance out the roster and improve your team while limiting the points left on your bench each week. When is the best time to swap surplus for deficit? Let’s take a look.

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Assess Team Need

The simplest question to ask here is, how much do I need a player at a specific position? Roster construction is everything, so assess your team need before making a multi-player deal that drains you of valuable assets and depth. A good way to do this is to determine just how much you’re lacking at one position you’re considering trying to acquire. Is the tight end you have worth giving up your running back depth? Running back is infinitely more valuable than TE, and that’s a reason why TEs can be streamed effectively while running backs can’t. Having an array of elite backfield options can be far more valuable than upgrading at TE.

Evaluate the reliability of your starters. This cannot be stressed enough. Some players carry a lot of risk, due to injury or opportunity or both. If your starters are volatile in terms of productivity, keeping depth on your bench is a huge need. If you trade away your depth, and a starter’s production goes south, you’re in a bind. Don’t back yourself into a corner by trading away surplus for deficit if the move could leave you in a worse deficit later.

When making a trade of surplus for deficit, determine if making the move will be too beneficial to your trade partner. By hanging onto your surplus, you may still be lacking with a deficit, but you’ll also be hurting your opponents who are in need at the position you’re hoarding. Hurting an opponent just for the sake of being spiteful is frowned upon, but keeping productive players on your team to keep them out of the hands of others to maintain a competitive edge is just smart strategy.

Don’t Overreact

“When I find myself in times of trouble…” I take a deep breath, relax, and determine if I’m really in bad shape with my roster. Do I have a problem at the TE position? Is my receiving corps as weak as I perceive it to be? Take a long, hard look at your team to decide if you really need to swap out surplus for deficit. Don’t be a prisoner of the moment and consider making a trade based on one or two bad games. As Paul McCartney said, “Let it be.”

In a trade involving a high-end player, the team who walks away with the best player has usually made out the best. That is certainly true because there are a finite amount of spots available for players in your weekly lineups. However, by trading surplus for deficit, you can weaken your overall lineup by employing an “eggs in one basket strategy.” If you trade depth and one of your best players goes down with a serious injury, you’re no longer able to pivot seamlessly because you traded a then-bench player for a stud at another position, leaving you in a deficit at the position you were originally at a surplus in.

The Right Time

Giving up a surplus in the first couple weeks of the season is not advisable unless you are severely lacking in a position of need. If the available options are serviceable and can get you some wins, stick with your depth. There are a couple of reasons for this. Early on, you have an idea of what players will accomplish, but that expectation does not always equate to reality. If you have four excellent backs on your team, give them four weeks to show what they’ve got. You might be surprised at who underperforms and who exceeds expectations. This also gives you a chance to find hidden studs whose value will grow with great performances.

You don’t want to give up depth early on because injuries have not yet come into focus. Every season, a top-tier fantasy player misses time with an injury, and you’d hate to give up a player giving you quality depth only to see your starter go down with an injury and leave you out of luck.

There is no firm answer to the question of when surplus should be swapped for deficit. Making the decision to do so should be done on a team-by-team basis, as is the case with most in-season fantasy moves. Though the timing can’t be precisely pinpointed, Week 4 seems to be an appropriate estimate. This is the quarter mark of the season, and by this time, you should have a good idea of how your players project for the remaining games. You’ll know if you have the depth to trade surplus for deficit without putting yourself in a bad position.

Of course, if you are desperate, you can make the swap earlier than this. You can help determine the right time for your team by assessing your team, assessing your opponents, staying up-to-date on the current team and player news around the NFL, and keeping your cool by not overreacting.

Swapping surplus for deficit can be an excellent way to improve your roster if done at the right time and in the right way. Following the tips outlined in this article can help guide your decision to successfully execute such a deal. Remember to assess your team honestly, keep your cool, and make sure to leave yourself some wiggle room when losing depth. Best of luck this fantasy season!

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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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