Navigating the Trade Deadline: Leveraging Your Assets as a Non-Contender (Fantasy Football)
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While trades can be few and far between in the NFL, they are essential for success in fantasy football. The trade deadline in your league should spark a lot of action, as it’s the last chance for owners to make significant changes to their roster.
Leagues like the MLB and NHL will often be extremely busy in the days leading up to the trade deadline. Teams will usually identify themselves as either a “buyer” or a “seller” — franchises looking to compete will search for players to buy, while non-contenders will look to get some value from their assets.
Keeper and Dynasty leagues in fantasy football greatly improve the trading market. In a standard redraft league, all owners in the league are attempting to win (or at least not get last). However, in a league where some portion of the roster is kept past the current season, owners can decide it is in their best interest to build for the future.
Identify Your Status
It’s always a good idea to be honest in a self-evaluation of your roster. However, this is especially crucial as the trade deadline in your league nears. Take a look at the landscape of your team and the league as a whole. While your team could be solid in redraft, a dynasty or keeper format can often allow for some rosters in the league to be incredibly strong.
A mantra of dynasty leagues is that the worst place to finish is in the middle. Having an average team in a dynasty league only means that you will never be a top contender to win the league while you also won’t be in a position to earn a top draft pick. Therefore, you must definitively decide whether to compete now or wait for next year by the deadline.
Deciding Who to Sell
Being a seller does not mean that our roster has pieces that cannot be of value to contending teams. If there’s one thing I know about contending teams, it’s that they are almost always willing to overpay to improve their chances at a championship. I realize this article is about being a non-contender at the trade deadline, but the name of the game is still to get that trophy eventually, right?
We can take advantage of the eagerness of contenders when looking to offload pieces. When identifying pieces to sell, the best place to start is usually the players who are likely in their final years in the league. This could be a veteran, like Larry Fitzgerald or Drew Brees. A contender could feel that a veteran piece would put his roster over the top, even if he only has the player’s services for a month.
As a non-contender, you should also be looking to sell your starting running backs. I generalize the running back position because it is easily the most volatile in fantasy football. Marlon Mack was the RB13 in Weeks 1 – 11 of 2019 in 0.5 PPR leagues. In the very next NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected Jonathan Taylor early in the second round, and Mack’s value has since plummeted. Mack was a clear sell for non-contenders, and he is just the latest example of why fantasy owners should cash in on running back assets if not competing.
Let’s say that we’ve identified our roster as a non-contender for the current season. We’ve flagged some veterans and a running back or two as guys we can trade away for value. Now it’s time to find a suitor and make him pay up for his chances at a title.
Remember, contenders are usually willing to pay above face value to boost their roster. We should also keep in mind that these competitive teams have most likely locked up a playoff spot and have their sights focused on Weeks 14-16, the fantasy playoffs. We could identify a starter on the contender’s roster who has a difficult matchup during those weeks. This is especially helpful if we have a player that could fill that void.
When looking for a return, a seller should be most interested in young players and draft picks. A rookie receiver on the contender’s roster who is not going to crack his playoff lineup is a good place to start. While the playoff team may like the player’s upside for future years, the owner could easily push all-in and sell off the rookie for a player that can help him win a championship in the here and now.
Similarly, the contender would love to have draft picks to get a piece of the incoming rookie class. However, those players are not even in the NFL yet, and here he is trying to win a fantasy title right now. With a little probing, even precious draft picks can be pried away from a contender.
Get Something for Expiring Assets
The worst thing you can do is be stagnant and allow pieces that will undoubtedly have sunk cost remain on your roster as a non-contender. In the middle of the season, any players who put up fantasy points are gold. In the offseason, the currency of choice pivots to draft picks and young, upside players. The productive veteran on your roster will never have more value than he does at the trade deadline as teams gear up for the fantasy playoffs.
Veterans nearing retirement and running backs nearing the end of their contracts are prime players to sell. So even if we’re not getting the maximum value we had hoped for, it’s still important to get something in return for these players.
Do Not Sell Short on Studs
Occasionally, a contender will decide to go for it all. If you are a non-contender who happens to own a top-10 player at his position, you may receive offers. It is important to remember that you are in the position of power in this scenario.
The contender is already picturing his name engraved on the trophy. He is willing to pay up for a stud to put his team over the top. Be sure to hold your ground and show that you are more than willing to stay pat with this particular player if you do not receive a great offer.
This should be the attitude for any players that are going to retain their long-term value in keeper and dynasty leagues. Remember, your first priority is to sell off any pieces that are likely to lose value in the offseason.
Best of luck when navigating those tricky trade markets at the deadline. While you are chasing those titles in your fantasy leagues, I hope that you will be better prepared to make a move if you do identify yourself as a non-contender.