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5 Mistakes Managers Make with In-Season Trades (Fantasy Football)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Feb 13, 2020

Sammy Watkins was the perfect sell-high player after Week 2 of 2019

A good draft and solid waiver wire pickups are not always enough to dominate your fantasy football league. Often, you’ll need to make in-season trades to upgrade your roster and help your team take the next step forward in earning a coveted league championship. There are plenty of ways to make a successful trade, but there are certainly plenty of other ways to botch one. Let’s take a look at the top-five mistakes fantasy managers make when executing in-season trades.

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Overvaluing “Projected Points”

We’ve all seen the “Evaluate the Trade,” “Trade Analyzer,” and “Grade the Trade” features that nearly every fantasy site offers, and those are excellent starting points for discussing a trade or solid tie-breaker options when you’re on the fence about making a move. But all of your stock shouldn’t be placed in these tools, as they’re simply that — tools. Trading involves many different moving parts, and making a trade should ultimately be decided by hard work and insightful reflection of the diligent fantasy manager. Team construction, available roster spots, additional scoring bonuses, and plenty of research should all be deciding factors rather than projected points, grades, and rankings gleaned from trade tools. A successful fantasy trade involves more than simply plugging two players into a tool and hitting a button. If all of your research and intel have told you that Player X will be more valuable than Player Y for the rest of the season, make the move that your head (and likely your gut) are telling you to make.

Panicking/Playing it Safe

There are obviously plenty of emotions to go around when playing fantasy football, but it’s best to take as much of your emotion out of trading as possible to ensure the best results. It’s easy to panic when a second-round, sure-fire stud stinks up the joint for the first couple weeks of the season, but there’s no reason to panic and except less than market value for him. Taking change on the dollar of an obviously valuable fantasy player isn’t a smart move. The same is true when you lose a starter to injury and find yourself shorthanded. Before trading a stud at another position to fill a recently-created void, consider your options and how well you can sustain your production with your current roster. Conversely, you can fall into a trap by playing it safe when making trades. One of the main tenets of trading is making improvements to your team. Trading two similarly-valued players is a zero-sum game, and the trade is essentially useless. Trading a solid player with a low ceiling for a home-run hitter with some boom-or-bust tendencies is sometimes needed to give your team a little juice.

Trying to Win Every Trade

Trades are meant to make your team more successful, but you don’t have to screw your fellow managers over in the process (that’s just a bonus!). The notion that you have to be the clear winner in every trade is misguided. If your post-trade roster is better than your pre-trade roster, you have won the trade. If your opponent’s team gets better too, then so be it. You can’t spend all your time worrying about your league-mates’ rosters and how well you made out in a deal, because the goal is to build the best possible team you can. Do the best you can with the elements you can control, and leave the rest to fate. It’s always a good feeling when you reflect back on a trade that was obviously to your benefit, but if a buddy you traded gets a boost in return, that’s not all bad, right? Winning should be a priority (otherwise you wouldn’t be perusing fantasy articles in February), but fun, friendship and camaraderie should always be at the front of your mind. Don’t miss out on a trade just because you don’t gain a clear upper hand.

Not Understanding How to Buy Low or Sell High

Buying low and selling high are art forms that fantasy managers must be aware of when making successful trades (for more on this topic, click here). There’s usually a reason why a player is a “buy-low.” That player is likely in the middle of a slump, playing on a bad team, injured, or simply underperforming. You’ll need to do your homework and decide which players of this ilk are worth nabbing. Not all underperformers will turn it around mid-season and blossom into weekly starters, but you’ll do yourself plenty of favors if you can identify those that will. Some factors to keep in mind when buying low are opportunity, health and potency of team offense. Likewise, it’s vital to understand when your high-flying stud is nearing an Icarus-like plummet from the sky. Once you’ve got that player in your sights, cash in his stock for some quality fantasy options before depreciation inevitably sets in. John Ross and Sammy Watkins were the top-ranked wide receivers after Week 2 in 2019 but finished the season as the WR70 and WR49 respectively. Understanding that both players have been boom-or-bust options and battled health issues in the past could have helped you get land a great haul for one of these guys before their values took a plunge.

Not Accounting for Roster Need

When making a trade, the most important factor to take into consideration is roster need. Roster need comprises starting roster spots. Trading for a player who you can’t play is a worthless move. If you have only two RB spots and no flex spots on your roster, trading a wide receiver for another quality back makes no sense. You’ll then have an abundance of talent that you can’t plug into your starting lineup every week and a bunch of points left on the bench. Roster need also comprises league scoring. If you’re playing in a league that rewards any sort of point-per-reception (PPR), then you’ll need to valuate players differently than in leagues that do not reward receptions with points. The same is true of four-point versus six-point passing touchdowns and bonuses for statistical milestones or big gains. Finally, roster need comprises positional scarcity on your team and on the waiver wire in your league. If you’re super weak at tight end (a notoriously scarce position) and have some trade capital in the form of a running back, wide receiver, or quarterback, upgrading your weakest position by trading some surplus is a savvy move.

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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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