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Ten Secrets for Swinging a Draft Day Trade
Paul Sandy
July 29, 2008
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Most fantasy football owners feel reasonably comfortable pulling the trigger on a trade during the fantasy season. If you’re contemplating a trade in October, there’s plenty of time to weigh the options, compare Player A to Player B, or even run the trade by some friends to get their thoughts.

Trying to consummate a deal on draft day is an entirely different story. During the draft, chances are you’re already stressed about making your next pick. You might even be second-guessing your last pick. The clock is ticking. Players are disappearing. Pressure is building.

Given the draft-day environment, you might not even think trading up or trading down is possible. The reality is you might be right. This isn’t like the NFL draft in which general managers have 10 minutes on the clock for each pick and usually hours between individual selections. Trading during a fantasy draft is tricky. However, with a little preparation and some quick thinking, you can swing a deal on draft day to help you build a championship roster. Here are 10 tips to help you.  

1. Know Your League Owners.
Unlike you, not everyone in your league has the mental makeup and intestinal fortitude to make a decision on the fly and pull the trigger on a draft-day trade. Narrow the field of trade candidates before the draft. If there’s an owner in your league who never makes a trade during the season, don’t even bother trying to deal with him or her on draft day. Got a couple owners who have the decision-making skills of a jar of Cheez-Whiz? Cross them off your list.

On the other hand, if you have owners in your league who really know their stuff, they should be your prime targets. You won’t be able take advantage of them, but they’ll be more likely to act. Speaking of taking advantage of people, the crazies, drunks, and clowns are another crowd you should pay attention to. These folks might be more interested in getting a chuckle from their fellow owners than drafting a quality team. Throw out a proposal and see if one of them takes the bait.

Bottom line: Don’t waste your time trying to make a deal with stubborn or slow owners.

2. Time Your Trades Based on Available Talent.
If you’re using a draft cheat sheet that doesn’t divide players into tiers by position, you’re doing yourself a disservice. By taking advantage of the rankings provided by The Huddle, you will be able to easily recognize whether a position’s talent pool is deep or drying up quickly. This information is the critical identifier in knowing when the time is ripe to swing a trade.

For example, let’s assume you’re targeting a WR. Imagine you get to a point in your draft where there’s one or two WRs left on the board who you strongly believe stand above the rest. This is the perfect time to make an aggressive move to trade up. On the other hand, if you get to a point in your draft where you’re targeting a WR and there are a dozen or so WRs who all are in the same tier, that’s the ideal time to trade down.

Bottom line: Don’t make a trade just to make a trade. Time your trades and trade with a purpose.

3. Examine Other Owners’ Rosters and Anticipate Their Picks.
Let’s say it’s the sixth round and you’ve filled out your roster with two RBs, two WRs, and one TE. At this point, QB is likely your key need. If you’re eight picks away from being on the clock and the seven people in front of you have already drafted QBs, you know there’s a very good chance you’ll get your pick of the remaining QBs. In that case, you’d be foolish to trade up.

Conversely, if two of the seven owners in front of you share your need for a QB and the talent pool is running thin, it might behoove you to trade up ahead of those owners to snipe the last remaining quality QB on the board.

Bottom line: Know when it makes sense to move up and when you’re better off staying put.

4. Look for Opportunities to Trade Down Early in Your Draft.
The blue chip players in the first and second rounds of the draft may look like “can’t-miss” guys. However, recent history tells us that close to half of them will be busts. Keeping this in mind, it makes an awful lot of sense to trade away your first or second round pick if you can get enough value in return.

In leagues that re-draft every year, the drop-off in talent is pretty steep after the first five picks. If you’re in the sixth hole or later, consider trading out of the first round in exchange for someone’s second and third round picks. Throw in a fifth rounder to sweeten the pot. For many owners, the idea of having two first-round picks will be too exciting to pass up.

Bottom line: Trading down is often easier than trading up.

5. Announce Your General Intention to Trade Up or Down to the Entire Draft Room.
Don’t be afraid to speak up and let it be known that you’re interested in trading up or down. Make sure your voice is heard. Stand on a chair if you have to. When making the proclamation that you’re interested in trading, you should give as much advanced warning as possible and the terms should be relatively vague. For example, don’t say something like, “John, I’d like to trade for your fourth round pick and I’m willing to give up my fifth and seventh round picks.” This will allow riff-raff in the room to sabotage your deal and put doubts in the mind of the owner you’re trying to deal with. Broad announcements to the entire room should be more to the effect of, “Hey, I’m interested in trading up to the early part of to fourth round and I’m willing to package a couple picks in the next few rounds.” If you get any nibbles, then it’s time for a private discussion detailing the terms of the trade.

Bottom line: Don’t be shy. When the time is right, let it be known that you’re ready to deal.

6. Keep Specific Offers Private by Passing a Note.
When making a specific offer to another owner, it’s a good idea to do so by passing a note or leaving the room and having a private conversation. This way you can talk more freely and avoid having one of your fellow league mates try to sink the deal or worse swoop in and make a better offer. On your note, try to be as specific as possible so the person you’re dealing with can make a quicker decision. For example, don’t say “I’ll trade my fifth and seventh round picks for your fourth and last round picks.” Instead make it easy by saying, “I’ll trade my fifth and seventh round picks (#64 and #93 overall) for your fourth rounder and last round pick (#51 and #143 overall).

Bottom line: Specific offers are best reserved for private conversation.

7. Keep it Simple.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to pull off a trade on draft day that involves more than a couple picks for each owner. It’s even more unlikely that you’ll be able to swing a deal that involves multiple owners. Don’t waste time confusing people with complex offers. Owners will quickly become aggravated if you pitch them a deal that requires a math degree to decipher. And that’s understandable. In between picks, most owners are busy studying their rankings, flipping through magazines, and thinking about their next selection. When you approach someone with a basic package involving two of your draft picks in return for two of their draft picks, your success rate will be much higher.

Bottom line: Simple trades have a better chance of being accepted.

8. Expect to Pay Handsomely to Trade Up.
At any given time during a draft, the most valuable draft position is the one that’s currently on the clock. The owner who holds the current draft pick can choose from all remaining players in the fantasy universe. Convincing him or her to give up that right usually requires some significant persuasion.

If there’s a player you covet and want to trade up to get him, chances are you’re going to have to bite the bullet and give up a lot. Even a small move, such as moving up four draft slots, might require you to package two of your next three draft picks. It may seem like a high price to pay at the time, but if you trust your player rankings and think the player you’re trading up to get will be a difference-maker, then it’s a price worth paying.

Bottom line: When trading up, make sure the carrot on the end of your stick looks mighty tasty if you want to get an owner to bite.

9. Expect to Get Paid Handsomely to Trade Down.
Logically enough, if you have to pay a king’s ransom to trade up, you should expect to be paid a hefty sum to trade down. If I’m in a position in which I hold the current pick and want to trade down, I usually start by asking for an owner’s next pick plus a pick a round or two later. For example, if I’m offering my current pick in the fourth round, I’ll ask for my trading partner’s own fourth-round pick as well as his or her sixth-round pick. I’ll toss in a ninth-round pick so it’s an even 2-for-2 deal. This scenario would net me two picks in the sixth round (my own plus the one I traded for). All I had to do was slide down several spots in the fourth round . . . and I may still get the player I wanted all along.

One final note on this subject — when trading down, it’s usually best to demand the owner’s next pick. If there’s room for negotiation, it should only involve the other pick or picks in the deal.

Bottom line: When trading down, be sure you negotiate enough in return.

10. Don’t Second-Guess Yourself.
When making a deal on draft day, there’s no time for second-guessing. Trust your player rankings. If you covet a player on the board and don’t think he’ll fall to you, move up to get him. If it’s your pick and you don’t like any of the available players, move down. Follow this simple guidance and chances are the finite details of the trade will not make or break your draft. Even if the deal doesn’t end up working in your favor, don’t beat yourself up. There will be plenty of time to recover during the regular season through free agent pick-ups and, of course, in-season trades . . . but that’s a discussion for another day.

Bottom line: Be confident and be quick when wheeling and dealing on draft day.

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