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The Art of the Deal

Hello again, Brainiacs....  Welcome back to the BrainBlog only on RotoWire.  In this space we talk about strategies and tactics for winning fantasy football without delving too deeply into specific player rankings.  Have you ever heard the expression, "Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime"?  That is exactly what we aim to do here.

he NFL trading deadline passed yesterday and most fantasy leagues have a similar trade deadline that is coming up very soon.  You are running out of time for making a move in the trade market and once the deadline hits the only changes you'll be able to make to your roster will be from waiver wire moves and free agents.  That has me thinking a lot about how to craft a deal in fantasy football.

And, yes, I did say "craft" a deal.  This is way more art than science, my friends.  Why?  Well, let's look at a few reasons and some ways that this works:

1. The Endowment Effect:  This phenomena is where a person is more willing to pay to retain something they own than to pay to obtain something new.  In other words, people tend to over-value what they possess and under-value what you have.  To give an illustration, it is as if you wanted to trad with a a person who has a British one-pound note (which is worth $1.60 US).  You offer a $1 bill and three quarters but the other person turns you down for either no stated reason or something that doesn't make sense.  ("I can't do that deal.  The one-pound note is British!")  They forego an immediate profit of almost 10|PERCENT| because they over value what they already have.  How much more does this happen with subjective quantities like Willis McGahee and Dwayne Bowe?  A lot more.  You'd think that McGahee and Bowe were the best in the league if you try to deal for them.  Why?  The Endowment Effect.  How can we overcome this?  I'm glad you asked, because that is a nice segue to #2...

2. Dialogue before Deal:  You've got to talk this through with your potential trading partner.  Almost every time someone wants to do a deal they start by shooting over an unsolicited trade offer.  The immediate reaction is one of fear and uncertainty, compounded by the Endowment Effect.  You have got to break down those issues by starting things off with an inquisitive email.  Ask them what players on your roster they are interested in.  Ask them where they think they need help.  See what they are trying to accomplish.  Being truly inquisitive will go a long way toward breaking down barriers and building up the value of your players.  Paint a picture for them of a future roster with some of your players on it.

3.  Kleptophobia:  Fear of being robbed.  Yep, as crazy as it sounds there is a real phobia at work here.  I mentioned that the first reaction to a trade offer is one that includes fear.  People hate getting ripped off and they will immediately think you are trying to do that to them.  Even if it is your best buddy since first grade, the first thought will be about what you are trying to take from them.  This is why it is so crucial that you lay the groundwork first with a great dialogue around the win-win scenario.  Unless you are thinking win-win they are going to be scared.  You've got to convince them not to be afraid of your trade offer, unless of course, you really are trying to rip them off.  And, dude, all I can say is that if you are trying to steal from them you'll end up doing yourself more harm than good.  Even if you are able to pull off a heist, the kleptophobia will increase ten-fold and not just with your trading partner, but across the whole league.  Steal from your friends at your own risk.

Listen, the fact is that people have real emotions tied to their possessions and the fantasy players on their roster are no exception.  It's crazy but true.  I've seen real friendships damaged over trade offers because the person getting the offer thought the first person was trying to take advantage of them.  It happens all the time.  You've got to break down these barriers in order to get anything done in the trade market.

Start the dialogue.  Think win-win.  Work out an offer where you give value to get value.

The best trade scenarios are where you are trading value now for value later.  Some leagues have prizes for regular season wins or most points in a week, so you could get some traction there... but the best way to use this tactic is in a keeper league.  Target the teams in your league that look like they are out of it and offer a great keeper value to them.  They may have a $30 player (or 1st or 2nd rounder)  that can really help you this year but is too expensive for them to keep next year.  In exchange you can trade that strong $1 (or late round) bargain.  In this scenario it is obvious that both sides win. 

The other major thing to think about is to deal from your bench strength to improve your starters where you can.  Having a great bench doesn't help you much at this point in the year because many of the byes have already happened and many of the injuries that were going to happen have already happened.  There may be a situation where you have Drew Brees and Robert Griffin III.  Brees has had his bye, RGIII hasn't, plus it will be rare to start Griffin over Brees going forward anyway.  Griffin has a ton of trade value - deal him now!  You should get back a stud starter at another position.  You might also try to work in a 2-for-2 deal where the player that you both replace gets added in.  In other words instead of just trading Griffin for someone like Trent Richardson, you would deal Griffin plus BenJarvus Green-Ellis for Richardson plus Tony Romo.  Well, something like that anyway.  Both side swap studs and get a serviceable replacement for their bench.

There is obviously a whole lot to talk about on this topic, but hopefully in this entry I've been able to give you some food for thought... Good luck in hammering out those trades before the deadline.