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Dynasty Strategy – Impact Trading

There are three critical skills that one needs to possess when managing a successful dynasty football team; drafting, waivers and trading. In any league, there is a varying skillset from one owner to the next but one phase that many don’t know how to develop and improve is their ability to trade. Throughout the years I have encountered many trading techniques, some more effective than others, which have enabled me to learn and hone my skills when it comes to the art of dynasty football trading. I hope to provide some insight on how and when to approach trades in your leagues to help you dominate.

General Trade Strategy

One aspect of dynasty leagues that is unique in comparison to redraft is the ability to build and maintain long-term trading relationships with the other owners in your leagues. A major part of keeping these relationships fruitful is to avoid managing with ego.

Firstly, and this should go without saying, do not take the used car salesman approach. Don’t try to explain why an owner needs to take your trade. People are more than capable of assessing an offer and their team’s needs. Do your own research, stay true to your process, and let the well thought out offer speak for itself.

Secondly, it’s important to understand that everyone has different thoughts and opinions, you are not always right, and you never will be. Modesty and understanding are key essential, so refrain from lowball and lopsided offers without an explanation. Remember “pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered”, so avoid feeling the need to dominate every trade that you are involved in. Both owners must feel that they have prospered if you intend to continue negotiating with them in the future. Friction between you and other owners will only leave you with less potential trade partners, meaning fewer trades and potentially diminished profits. Always do your best to stay cordial. Owners that excel in trading never burn bridges.

Lastly, many owners rely on ADP, Twitter polls and trade calculators to determine a player’s value. Use this to find areas that you can turn a profit. None of these sources are gospel, and they frequently fluctuate as they adapt to the ongoing events in the NFL. ADP is a consensus rank based off multiple opinions, which you can use to leverage trades if you value a player higher than consensus. Similarly, you can do the same if you feel a player is overvalued compared to the market. This is a great way to find value, and if you end up being correct in your evaluations it can pay off big for you finding these ADP gaps between consensus and your personal thoughts on players. ADP, trade calculators and rankings are great tools, but really it is just that some group of people agrees with you as far as player values. Often these tools lead to groupthink, and none of them alone are a good enough reason to accept a trade without incorporating your evaluations and process. Occasionally you will end up negotiating with an owner whose evaluation of a player(s) varies extremely from yours. Do your best to avoid getting frustrated and maintain a positive trade relationship with that owner because eventually, down the road, you will be able to make a deal with them. In dynasty fantasy football nothing is a short window, especially owner to owner trade relationships. “Time is your friend; impulse is your enemy”.

Start Up Draft Trade Strategy:

My absolute favorite strategy in startup drafts is to trade my first-round pick. I cannot remember a draft in the past few years where this wasn’t my intention. I target any owner that I feel is enamored with having two first round “big shiny name” players, and trade for multiple picks in the top 6 rounds. Most owners have been conditioned that there isn’t a ton of value in those rounds but that could not be further from the truth. A great pre-draft strategy is to have a list of your top 150 players in correlation with the corresponding draft pick they would be and then use that to identify what players would be available in that range when trading your pick. I then take those names, analyze the trade with those players in place of the faceless picks or toss them in a trade calculator and see if the trade is profitable or not. Doing so will help you navigate around the draft board to maximize the draft value. For a quick reference on what this could possibly look like, here is a recent Dynasty Nerds writers draft that I took part in.

Another idea is to break that list into player tiers based on their value relative to one another. This gives you the ability to use a general tier template to know when to trade up or back to maximize your draft capital. If you are on the clock and there are 11 players left within the available tier, I always recommend trading back 10 or so spots in order to gain more draft capital while still drafting a player with the same approximate value. Trading back will allow you to have the ammunition to trade up later in the draft if need be. Be aware that it does no good to have excess picks in a startup, due to roster limits. You don’t want to be stuck with excess picks, that cannot fit on your roster, that you could have used to move up in the draft or could have traded for future rookie picks.

In Season Trade Strategy:

Now that the startup draft is complete, we can focus on making deals based on team structure and positional need. When putting together a well thought out offer there are a few techniques that I always like to keep in mind. Most importantly, it is key to pick the proper trade target. By “trade target” I am referring to the owner, not the player that you have hopes of acquiring. I feel that too many owners only consider one side of the trade, their own. When selecting a team to trade with it is important to ask yourself “what does their team need?” rather than “what does my team need?”. No owner will ever accept a trade that they don’t feel is of benefit to their team. As the offering owner, it is important to provide the other owner motive and incentivize them with the offer. A great example of what I am talking about can be seen in this scenario; imagine you drafted a team that is very rich at RB but is thin at WR, it would not make sense to then offer a deal to another owner that is also thin at WR and offer him an RB for his best WR. One needs to look at a trade as a mutually beneficial engagement between two parties. The best value is found where contenders, or those who wish they were, are desperate for a positional upgrade due to an injury or thin roster construction. You can typically squeeze them for a slight premium because they have a need. No matter what anyone says, a draft pick is always worth the most when it is on the clock. If you want to acquire picks, the most inexpensive time to acquire is right before the playoffs. Owners will pay a premium if they think they can mortgage a future pick for a piece to help them win now, especially during a playoff push.

Another great exercise is to go back and analyze the other owners’ draft, this will give you a great idea of how they value players. If they drafted player X at 4.05, it doesn’t make sense to offer them player Y that you drafted at 5.09. They clearly value player X over player Y, or they would’ve simply drafted player Y. Reviewing draft data allows you to see the other owners hand and is a great tool to scout your opponent’s roster for potential trades. If they reached on a player, their asking cost for them will be much higher than the industry consensus. If this is the case, don’t waste your time offering below value for that asset.

Being creative and putting in work is another way to separate yourself from other owners when it comes to trading. Many owners are unwilling, or unable, to make multiple moves in order to acquire their coveted player. If I want a player badly, I will start a dialogue and ask an owner what they want for the player. If there is no player on my team that they want or what they want in return is a player that I do not want to trade, I will ask them to give me a list of players in the league that I don’t own that they would take for their player. Sometimes it takes more than one trade to get what you want. Don’t be afraid of the hustle. Trading is exciting. In many cases, it is easier/cheaper to acquire a player that they want that is on another roster than it is to trade directly with them. However, always protect yourself from owners that change their mind. Make sure that the player you trade for in part one of a two-part trade is someone that you would not be upset if you got stuck with on your roster.

Off Season/Rookie Draft Trade Strategy:

Another dynasty phenomenon is rookie hype. There are a few perennial windows that one can always exploit. The first one is immediately after the combine. The “Underwear Olympics” is notorious for increasing rookie fever and inflating the value of rookie picks. I find it difficult to maintain composure as twitter erupts with metrics and analysis regarding the impending incoming rookies. Sometimes the best offers you will get is during this window. Another window is during the NFL draft weekend, many owners rely on other people’s opinions or scouting to determine the effect that the landing spot has on a player’s value. Landing spots can greatly influence a rookie’s industry perceived value, whether it be positive or negative. This is a great opportunity to acquire late first round and high second round picks due to the lack of analysis being available.

During this “rookie fever” period it is a great time to purchase veterans or players coming off injuries. For example, I was able to acquire Devonta Freeman for a mid-2nd in a 14-team league. Many owners value rookies at their ceiling value and rarely consider that they have almost a 50% chance of never being fantasy relevant. If an owner is willing to pay the value now for what you feel that prospects value could be, take that offer and laugh all the way to the bank.

The offseason is also a great opportunity to target tight ends heading into their 3rd year. Every year it seems that a rookie TE gains a ton of hype and gets drafted in the first round of rookie drafts, but can then be had for half of the price after a year or two if they don’t instantly become a Gronkowski caliber player. I often let impatient teams act as a “TE farm”. A prime example of this is Hunter Henry, who can frequently be had for significantly less than Noah Fant or TJ Hockenson in many leagues.

In my opinion, there is no skill that is better suited to overcome injuries or a bad draft than the ability to trade well. Do your best to treat each player as an asset or stock, being a fanboy or homer is a disadvantage. When it comes to trading do not be afraid to take risks, even the best owners lose a deal from time to time. The most important thing is that you have a positive return on most of your deals. If you turn a profit more often than not and, in the end, the cumulative balance of your deals is a positive for your team then you are on the right track. The goal is to eventually minimize losses and maximize wins.  I hope that this article sharpens your ability to get the most of trades going forward.

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