Trading in rookie drafts is a lot more of an art than a science. There are a lot of factors that could make or break a trade, and most of those factors are either unknown or not knowable at all. One of the biggest blurry spots in making a trade is getting to a deal that both sides like. That’s what we’re here to help with.
First: Find your Tiers
Before you do anything in your rookie draft, make sure you get your own rankings together of the incoming class. I always say to draft for talent and trade for need. That means you shouldn’t worry at all about your roster needs at the rookie draft. Instead, you should target the best player available whenever possible. If you have a tie on players, maybe you can look at your roster to help break that tie, but in general, it shouldn’t impact your draft.
Once you have your own rankings together, split them up into tiers. I’m sure you’ve heard of this before, but just in case you haven’t, tiers should form where you have a big gap in how you value players. If you feel like two guys are about equal to you then they’re in the same tier. If you clearly like someone over the next guy in your rankings, that’s a tier break.
Tiering your rankings allows you to do a couple of important things at the draft. For one, it shows you at what picks values could see a drop-off. The bottom of a tier is what you should target in trades. If you have your 5th ranked player at the bottom of Tier 1 and your 6th ranked player at the top of tier 2, trading for the 1.05 makes more sense than trading for the 1.06. The two have similar value as picks go, but to you, you value the 1.05 a lot more than the pick right after it.
The second reason you want tiers in your rankings is so that you can use them to decide whether or not to trade back when you’re on the clock. If you’re up to pick at 1.10 and you see that you still have 3 players left in your second tier of players, you might be willing to move back to 2.01 and add a veteran player or future pick on top of it. You valued all three of those players to be about the same, so adding another asset for very little difference in rookie players will help you build your team into a dominant one.
Second: Find a Partner
Once you determine what your own player values are it’s time to do some fishing in your league. If someone has a player they really want they will sometimes make it very clear, either in DMs or group chats, leading up to your pick. They might even send trade offers ahead of your pick to get a deal done so they can make a quick pick of their own. Use all of this information to your advantage. See who’s being aggressive and who’s not.
Even if you don’t find someone immediately, you can still test out the waters in your league by sending offers of your own to start the conversation. Sending a 1.10 for 2.01 and a player might not be accepted, but it could be countered. Not all trades happen with the first offer, so counters are another great source of information. If the counter includes someone you don’t want or a player that you feel doesn’t close the gap, then hold off and see what happens. Whether you’re on the clock or not, take your time to make the right move.
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to make the pick either. If you can’t find someone willing, or can’t come to terms, make the pick and try to trade them later. There are always leagues where no one wants to trade but as soon as the pick has a name to it, the offers come rolling in. This is exactly why I recommend taking the best player available. You will likely get more for a higher valued player than you would for the best TE on the board just because you’re light at that position. Always think of the bigger picture.
Third: Make the Trade
Once you’ve gotten a trade agreed to, make the trade and see how it goes. Sometimes in my own drafts, I’ll trade back multiple times in a row. For instance, in one league, I went from the 1.05 to the 1.08 and added the 2.10. None of my top-tier guys were taken so I was sitting there at 1.08 with two great options left. I then traded the 1.08 to the 1.09 manager for a stud WR on his roster he was down on. He picked twice in a row and felt great about it, and I got a player that I valued way more than either of the two players he took. Win-win.
Rookie draft trades are more fun because that’s the one time of the year that everyone in your league is likely back to being 100% invested. A lot of managers check out from January through April and are just starting to come back around. If you’re reading this in March, you’re not likely to be one of those players. Us diehard managers love to grind things out all off-season, and scratching that trade itch at the rookie draft can feel amazing.
That being said, don’t force a trade either. Don’t let the rookie hype or your group chat lure you into reaching for someone or overanalyzing things. Bring your tiered rankings to the draft and stick to them. If you can make a trade then great, but don’t trade just to trade. Do what you can to add value to your team at the draft and your lineup decisions in season will thank you.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.