The best fantasy owners maximize every avenue to build a strong roster. They know talent and the machinations of the draft. They are efficient at starting the highest producers on their rosters. they identify and acquire talent that can help their teams. And they display prowess at brokering trades.
One of the least discussed aspects of fantasy football is the art of the deal. Broaching a conversation, recognizing value, engaging in a winning negotiation, and closing the deal are all important parts of a misunderstood craft. However, few people value the process over the product and it makes some fantasy owners short-sighted about wheeling and dealing.
I am confident that this article will make you a better fantasy owner. Although the immediate results of learning these lessons won't always be a better win-loss record, you'll be setting a strong fouondation for the future. Most of all, opportunities to improve your team through trades will be more frequent.
The key to becoming adept at trading has as much to do with the basics of conducting good negotiations as having football knowledge. Much of the advice in this article is from a professional negotiator. One of the primary takeways is that your team and how you run it is your brand. Cultivate that brand's image and you'll encourage positive interaction. Maintain this intent when you interact with other fantasy owners and you're on the winning track.
The final section of this article addresses ways to assess player values when negotiating deals.Although I have made several changes to last year's article, if you read 2013's piece the message is the same. You can skip to the section "Player Value Guideposts."
PART I: ADOPT A NEGOTIATOR'S MINDSET
There are three fundamental things you have to internalize as a fantasy owner if you want to become good at the art of the deal:
1. You need to know the spectrum of players that you want and the spectrum of players that you're willing to give away.
2. You need to have real commitment to your limits and be willing not to acquire that you wanted.
3. You need to evaluate your skills at trade negotiation more by the process and less by the end result.
If you don't approach negotiations with these three steps, you are are doing no better than searching for the next bandage to cover the wound in need of surgery. The best way to begin is to take these three steps and work backwards.
BE PROCESS ORIENTED MORE THAN RESULTS-ORIENTED AND THE RESULTS WILL COME
Becoming a good negotiator is a process. You have to be mindful of the steps and begin looking at the deal with perspective. Diplomats and business people call it vision; con artists call it the long con. It's the same skill applied with different intent.
Good negotiators understand that they will win and lose deals, but one of the best characteristics of a winning negotiator is that the person is easy to work with. In fantasy football this means you have to engage people and keep them interested in working with you. It's a quality you have to develop with every potential deal. Even if a trade doesn't come to fruition or a deal backfires for you or your trade partner, the way you conduct the negotiations will make that person return to you for future negotiations.
This is ultimately what you want. The more that a person wants to deal with you, the more likely they will evolve into a more cooperative party. This facet of human nature benefits you as a negotiator.
In fact, the more people who want to deal with you, the more opportunities you'll have to practice negotiation. It becomes a positive cycle and like most skills in life the more reps you get, the more you'll improve.
It also means you'll be among the first people they consult--sometimes excluding the competition. The only place where this intent might not matter is a league where you don't know anyone and you won't be interacting with any of these people again once the season ends. Even in a situation as rare as this one, there will only be so many opportunities for a fantasy owner to take advantage of his competition before the competition shuts him out of deal-making.
If you cultivate your relationships with your competition with every interaction, you're creating a future pipeline where you're more likely to get first shot at a deal, get a better quality deal, and have competition coming back for more. Think of it as creating a long-term situation where you always have one of the top positions on the waiver wire but with a more desirable pool of players to choose from.
How do you do this? First, you set the tone for a negotiation. Whenever someone emails you a trade offer, do not respond with the preset options of the website management tool unless it's an immediate "yes." Still, email the person after accepting to cultivate a personal touch.
A simple yes, no, or automated response won't give you a chance to cultivate a long-term working relationship with the competition. Find that owner's email address and respond with a personal email. I'll address what to say later.
Second, you want to leave every negotiation on good terms. You may not like what the owner is offering you. You might even think the offer is insulting, but your job is to set the tone that you're easy to deal with. There's a difference between being easy to sway and easy to approach. You want to be approachable.
Third, you want to generate cues during your negotiations about specific players that will influence owners to return to you for further negotiation. I'll also address this later.
COMMITMENT: THE WILLINGNESS TO LOSE BIG TO WIN BIG
The most difficult of these three mindsets to adopt among the average fantasy owner is this one. No one likes to lose. But the fear of losing prevents people from embracing the best risks.
At the beginning of the 2013 season, Sigmund Bloom believed it made little sense to trade Michael Vick. Although his take was wrong if purely looking at the outcome of the specific transaction, I contend that Bloom's broader philosophy behind the take remains the correct one. Despite not working out, Bloom's take that fantasy owners should keep Vick and start him is a good example of a fantasy owner acting out a championship mindset. Vick had top-five fantasy quarterback production during September before Nick Foles took over.
Those in favor of trading Vick were betting on the quarterback getting hurt. As someone who projected Vick's production this summer with multiple games missed due to injury baked into my results, I understand this point of view.
However, at that point of the season your competition wasn't going to value Vick's production. If this was the case in the majority of leagues then Bloom's point was correct even if it didn't work out in practice: Why trade away a player for less than his current value just to get whatever you can when the point is to maximize your use of him as a fantasy commodity?
The exception to a situation with a player like Vick where making a trade is sensible is if your team is weak in multiple places and trading Vick will give you a far more stable team capable of a strong game from several players every week. Otherwise your best decision was to use Vick as a point producer, not trade bait.
This example underscores the importance of having a core philosophy. Bloom is a good fantasy football owner because he sticks to his overall values even if his inidividual takes don't pan out. he plays to win rather than playing not to lose. Although trading Vick last year was the right move for that specific transaction, the intent that most fantasy owners had when trading away Vick was to get rid of the Eagles' starter before he got hurt. It's an example playing not to lose rather than playing to win.
What's the difference? Most people I know think they play fantasy football to win championships. However, most people think they make decisions based on logic when in fact we are ruled by our unconscious. We're an irrational species no matter how much we try to prove otherwise.
You have to look a little deeper to determine if championships are your real, primary goal for playing. At this point in my fantasy career, I know I'm a good fantasy football manager. I've won expert leagues multiple times, I've won money, and I've helped at least three high-stakes winners with my strategies and advice in the past five years and many others in regular leagues over a decade of writing.
But I've had the mindset in the past that if I finish second or third; win enough money from points totals and best record titles to paint my house; or make the playoffs every year that it's enough validation that I'm good at this hobby. There's no denying that these accomplishments will provide some level of validation for anyone who plays fantasy football.
I'm sure there are some of you who are fantasy football grinders and your goal is to win more money than you invested. If your goal is to win enough to paint your house or buy a new television that's great, then winning money means more to you than winning championships.
However, playing to reach the playoffs and hoping something good happens afterwards is a conservative mindset. There is nothing wrong with taking this approach unless you're playing to specifically win championships and anything else isn't satisfactory.
If you're satisfied with making the playoffs then it's fitting to play a more cautious style of fantasy football. Poker players do it all the time. However, if you want to build a dominant team then you're aiming for bull's eyes more than you're aiming to hit the target.
It means adopting the mindset where the only goal is to win the championship. To do this means that you must be willing to target players who will make a big difference at the risk of building a stinking pile of garbage. If you've played long enough, you should be comfortable with the risk of going 0-13 if the reward is to build a champion or better yet, a team your league never forgets. Understanding your true goal is essential to your mindset as a negotiator because you have to determine which players you're willing to accept and those you can give away.
If you're playing to look good to your friends, make the playoffs, or earn at least more money than your initial league investment, you probably sold Vick for his perceived value early in the year despite the fact his value was lower than his current fantasy status. If you're playing with the potential to dominate you would have kept Vick, fortified elsewhere, and rode it out. It didn't work out as planned, but if you're sticking to a core set of beliefs then trading Vick wouldn't have been the play. However, adding Nick Foles would have been an easy acquisition in most leagues before Vick was wound up on the bench.
To change your goal from "making the playoffs and hoping something good happens," to "championship or bust," you also have to change your mindset. Fantasy football won't be fun for you if you make this change in goals and you don't learn to enjoy the journey more than the end result.
KNOW WHAT YOU'RE WILLING TO GIVE AND WHAT YOU'RE WILLING TO ACCEPT IN RETURN
You have to know your boundaries before you enter any negotiation and you must be committed to stick to them. It means you need to be willing to risk making deals that don't work out based on your evaluation of players or turning down offers and not getting the player(s) you desired.
Before you engage with an owner, figure out how much you're willing to concede in every possible situation. Anticipate every possible scenario and determine what you'll take and what you won't. If it helps, write them down and rate them so you can visualize them.
This requires knowing not only your players, but researching the players on your opponent's team. How do those players' values compare to yours. Is there a gap between the way you perceive that player and the way the current owner or league perceives him? If so, you've just identified a potential bull's eye - or your own roster's wrecking ball. Remember, if you defining a good season as championship or bust, then the risk will be easier to take.
You may not arrive at a deal with this negotiation, but if you know your boundaries and you use the rest of the knowledge I'm about to impart you'll get most reasonable fantasy owners to return to you for future offers that will work out.
PART II: UNDERSTAND THE FRAMEWORK OF THE NEGOTIATION - THE SELLER
The person initiating the deal is the seller. The person receiving the offer is the buyer. This is common sense, but it sets the table for what comes next because there is a different strategy for each role. Learn the dynamics of each role and respond to these roles the right way and over time you'll cultivate more negotiation opportunities, better offers, and seal deals that transform your team.
Let's begin with the role of sellers. Remember, even when you're initiating a trade, you must understand what you're willing to give or take in every possible scenario before you initiate any offers. Once you do this, you'll know when to continue negotiating with counter offers and when to politely end it while leaving the door open for future conversations.
It's common sense, but I'd lead with offering the least amount of you're willing to give up in exchange for the most that you want in return. You can't win if you don't play. Since you're trying to cultivate a long-term reputation as someone easy to work with among your opponents, this should also dissuade you from making offers that are intentionally lopsided and insulting. You may insult an owner with a well-meaning offer regardless, but if you're using this process it's unlikely you'll damage your chances to deal with that owner in the future.
You also should inquire with an email first rather than an automated trade offer unless you can provide some comments with it. Even with this format, I'd prefer email, a text, or phone call. It's more conducive to conversation.
You want to get that person to feel comfortable responding to you. One of the reasons is that the more they talk, the more likely they are willing to give you information you can use. However, the bigger reason is to get them feeling comfortable talking and working with you so they'll get more open to dealing with you in this league or another league.
WAYS TO SELL PLAYERS: LEARNING BUYER MOTIVATIONS
When you contact that owner you have to have a plan for how to best advertise this player. First, identify the needs of the fantasy owner you're targeting. Looking at his roster is simple enough. Once you've figured out that the owner needs a WR1 then it's time to assess the motivation behind that need.
This seems weird on the surface, because you might think everyone's motivation is to win. But if you've been paying attention, then you realize the deeper motivations for fantasy owners are often different than championships regardless of what they'll tell you. The reasons include not getting humiliated by other owners, making the playoffs, or winning some kind of money.
If you know these owners, you can often feel this out through casual conversation with them about their team or other teams in their fantasy leagues. This is easier than it sounds. Everyone likes to talk about their fantasy teams, but few people get a chance to do so with someone who not only cares but actually understands and plays fantasy football. If you become one of those people over phone, text, or email, you'll get a chance to learn what motivates this fantasy owner.
While what I'm about to share sounds complicated, it's something that you don't have to master right now to become an effective seller. However I recommend you begin thinking about it when you chat up fantasy owners.
COMMON MOTIVATIONS OF FANTASY OWNERS
In the process of writing a story about a master's program in marketing research at my day job, I learned about a market research firm by the name of Olsen and Zaltman that services Fortune 100 clients with a patented qualitative analysis tool called ZMET. They have performed this analysis over 12,000 times in 30 countries and their repeat customers are top names in a variety of industries.
The process involves eliciting deep insights from customers through the use of metaphor theory. Lindsay Zaltman, the firm's managing director and partner, explained that there are as many as 16-18 universal metaphors all humans use. Seven of these are deep metaphors: balance, journey, transformation/change, container, connection, resource, and control.
I'm not an expert in metaphor theory, but there are scenarios with fantasy owners where their motivations are easy to identify. If an owner tells you something that indicates he feels trapped in a cycle of losing weeks then this is an owner who feels imprisoned by his losses. This is an expression of a container metaphor and you could appeal to him on the basis of providing him of freedom or security. When offering the deal, explain why the player on your side of the deal will provide him a more secure chance of winning each week or getting his team to make the playoffs.
If the owner says he feels like his team is spiraling down the drain or imploding, it's a good indication he feels a loss of control. Selling the owner with the concepts of freedom and flexibility may help. You can pitch that the player you're offering will give him more control over his lineup decisions.
The owner talking about his team veering off path or losing its direction is a journey-focused desire. Selling the idea of your player having the potential to put his team "back on track", "maintain course" or "on the road to a championship" could help get that interest rolling when it comes to negotiating with you.
A desire for balance would be the owner's description of his team's inconsistency or great players at one position and bad players elsewhere. A desire for change might be an owner complaining that it's the same thing every week with Player X. It's ok if you guess wrong and lead with pitching the incorrect motivation. You may appeal to his desire for control when what he's really motivated by is transformation/change.
The more you engage the owner, the sooner you'll figure it out. Even if you don't with this transaction, everything else you do during the negotiation will influence him to come back for future talks. By then, you'll begin to see what motivates this owner and learn how to appeal to him best.
If you think your target owner is motivated by control, balance, or containment/security then you can often use fear of the loss of these things to your advantage: "I see Larry Fitzgerald is your WR1. He's a great player, but it looks like he's working out more as a WR2. You know once Roddy White gets healthy in a couple of weeks (the player you're offering to him) he's going to be no worse than a low-end WR1 with elite upside every week and it will strengthen your corps so it can withstand a bad week that everyone gets from a player crapping out on occasion."
You're saying "Your wide receivers aren't good enough to win and if you don't take White you have no chance at competing with the big boys of the league," but you're doing it without alienating the owner. You're also saying it in a way where the reader absorbs this blunt underlying message while reacting graciously to the actual words of the nicer tone about Wayne.
Remember, we're basically irrational beings. Despite all the numbers and data, research shows that we make irrational decisions and a vast majority of what factors into our decisions are subconscious triggers. Use those subconscious triggers to your advantage and sell fear, security, balance, a successful journey, or a positive change along with the player you're offering. Do it in a nice way by explaining that rationale of your offer that appeals to a potential motivation and you'll get the conversation flowing.
PART III: UNDERSTANDING THE FRAMEWORK OF THE NEGOTIATION - THE BUYER
Knowing how to sell also helps you in the opposite role and some of the same methods of preparation apply. When approached with an offer, I recommend you reply right away with an email. Explain that you're interested, but indicate somehow that you need some time to look at it.
Perhaps you're busy at the moment and look at it later. A better way is explain that you have a few offers on the table you're considering and need some time to examine them. Either way, the small cue of responding and giving one of these explanations tells the seller that you want to work with them but you're in demand and not in a situation of desperation.
You might be desperate for that WR1. The owner offering Roddy White might know it. Even so, you always want do something that may potentially give that seller the smallest shred of doubt that you aren't desperate. That seller may even know consciously what you're doing, but as the deal nears crunch time these little things can still help. You've been there before. You know those young girls in green uniforms selling cookies are little containers of guilt, but many of you still buy those cookies you don't even like all the while rationalizing that you'll put them in the break room at the office.
After you respond, do the same things that the seller should have done before pitching a deal to you: Research his team and find the players you're willing to accept from his team. Determine which players your team that you're willing to give away. Consider all the scenarios you'd accept and those you'd deny. This is your value of the players and no one else. While asking others if they'd make the deal can be helpful, it's wiser to figure out how and why you or someone you tend to trust values those players.
Once you've done this, commit to these values and understand that with each offer that you don't like make sure to counter in a way that sets up future negotiations. You might not reach a deal this time, but every interaction is a piece of that bridge that owner will walk across with another offer next time. The easier you make it for them, the easier they will make it for you - whether they realize it or not.
A good rule of thumb is not to accept the offer unless you feel it is so heavily weighted in your favor that you thought the possibility of this scenario happening was low. Once again, if it helps you to write down every combination of offers you'd accept involving the target player(s), do it and then rank them by likelihood. This can also help you organize your thoughts as either a buyer or seller and ensure you're committed to your values.
SELLER MOTIVATIONS IN FANTASY FOOTBALL
Never flat-out refuse an offer and turn an owner away unless you want to send the message that you don't like dealing with them. Think long and hard about that choice before making it. Most of the time it's beneficial to try to get some conversation flowing. This will help you find out the motivation of the seller.
Yep, they have deeper motivations, too. Some folks are straight-up results-oriented and about the numbers: wins or money. Once you learn this about a fantasy owner, you can get straight to the point with them in the future and talk value. If you don't know, it's always safe to see if they have a different motivation.
Whether folks realize it or not, many folks like to show off what they know. Watch football with people in any setting and there's a constant game of one upmanship when it comes to how much they can tell each other about a player or team. Why not use that to your advantage and ask the seller initiating the deal to explain why it's a good deal for you?
Maybe even play a little fool to catch the wise - especially if you're new to the league. Perhaps you don't understand the nuances of this scoring system as well as you should and they can help educate you. Maybe the lineup options are a good topic of conversation. It doesn't matter too much how you respond, the attempt to get the seller talking is a good start.
THE COUNTER OFFER
When you do counter, lead with an offer where the value of the deal is 15-20 percent lower than the original offer. How you determine that value can vary. As the season progresses, a comparison of fantasy points or projection of fantasy points is a good starting point. However early in the year, Average Draft Position can still be a factor. My buddy Bloom may talk about the regular season being a "new reality," but the fact that Bloom had to rant about keeping Michael Vick rather than trading him tells you that ADP is still a factor in September and early October.
Whether its fantasy points or ADP, use whichever data that helps your position the most. Again, negotiation isn't scientific. If you think you're going to convince a trade partner purely on logic, you're not sealing a lot of deals.
If you're countering according to ADP league had a 20-round draft then the player you counter with should be an option you drafted 3-4 rounds (15-20 percent) lower than the seller's targeted player. Or, you can ask for a second player who adds another 15-20 percent in terms of fantasy points or a promising late-round guy who has produced well early.
First and foremost, always make a counter offer that works best for you, even if you have a feeling that owner is going to say no. I think it's always helpful to adopt the position that he came to you so you're trying to work with him to get something done. However, if he leads by identifying your needs and you're the more desperate one, then I'd try to minimize any sense of desperation he senses.
If you stick to your guns on what you're willing to give and take then it doesn't matter what your potential trade partner says. You also can use the ploy that you have other deals on the table that are appealing. More on this in a bit.
Even when the seller offers a package of players you have no interest in at this time I'd comment on this, too. However, not like you think. Let's say an owner offers you Kenny Britt, Matt Forte, and Donald Brown for Giovani Bernard and Kenny Stills. It's clear the main players of interest are Forte and Bernard.
Some of you may take this deal without a counter and I don't blame you (at least before Britt's latest round of off-field stupidiy): Britt is getting a second chance with a new team and Forte has at least a couple of years of RB1 potential left. But let's say, you've done your due diligence and don't like Britt and don't want this deal. Instead of taking the blunt route of saying you don't like Britt, why not say something complimentary instead?
"I'm not ready to part with Bernard but man, I can't believe you're willing to deal Britt, too. He could become a fine WR1 for the Rams if he gets it together."
You might think you're raising the value of Britt, but if you're not interested in him what does it matter to you? If anything, there's a chance you've just raised the asking price for Britt when he makes an offer to someone else - and perhaps high enough that he gets turned down flat and comes back to you for another negotiation involving Bernard and Forte if you play your cards right. And you're doing everything right by complimenting the seller on a good offer and talking up players you don't even want.
Another dynamic is to understand how he is pitching you. Does his pitch indicate that he thinks you are seeking balance, security, or control? When you find out, play down that aspect of his argument.
Say your seller responds to your comment about Britt with something like, "You know, Britt and Forte give you the balance and depth to win now - especially if you think Britt's benching is just a temporary thing. I have enough depth that I don't really need him."
You can counter with "I agree that could help, but I know that I need a player who will start every week, will get targets every week, and isn't in danger of getting placed under the bench because he and the coaches aren't playing nice. Do you think we can find a player on your roster to pair with Forte who fits what I need? I'm thinking [Player X]"
OTHER NEGOTIATION TIPS
Once you've responded that you'll look over a deal - and do this after every offer/counter - it might be time to switch up the routine once you get to an impasse where you've held firm on your original terms on two different offers and he makes a third stab at a deal. At this point, I'd wait to respond until he emails you to find out if what you think. Let him sweat a bit.
What you might find is that he'll break and give you one of your original offers. This is you winning the patience game. If he doesn't and asks you to make a call on the third offer, turn it down, thank him for trying to work out a deal, and restate what you needed to make it work. Then tell him if he's interested in dealing Players X, Y, or Z, let him know. Also say something else good about a player you didn't want so you get a shot of raising the value he offers to another owner.
There's nothing wrong with intimating that you have a shot at equal or better options than what he's offering. You don't have to say who you're dealing with or what player you're seeking. You can say, "Out of respect for the owner I'm dealing with let's just say I have an offer available for a true WR1, but I think you make more reasonable offers and I like working with you." You're coating the threat with honey. It makes the idea of lightening the terms of their offer go down smoother, right?
If you don't have other offers, why not use the current offer to initiate others? If Owner A offers you Cecil Shorts for David Wilson, why not go to owner B and tell them you just got an offer of a good starting WR for Wilson and you wondered if he is interested in making a deal for Wilson for his under-performing Roddy White. Compliment his depth at receiver, his smart picks of sleepers, and say you'd be willing to take the chance on White having an even slower recovery in exchange for a potential stud like Wilson who has no real competition and has already shown better ball security like Tiki Barber's final seasons where Tom Coughlin made him a stud fantasy RB.
Notice I'm pointing out the downside of his player in a palatable way while only playing the upside of the player I'm giving away? Most folks see through this on one level, but you're still planting seeds that influence the overall decision. It also allows you to go back to the owner making the original offer and give him believable offers to compare. At that point you can share the offer if you want. I wouldn't do it all the time, but just enough so don't assume you're always bluffing.
PLayer Value GuidePosts
League details matter most when determining values of players and/or picks. Scoring rules, roster sizes, lineup requirements, trade deadlines, and waiver wire rules drive player and pick values more thn anything I can share with you. However, there are some considerations worth highlighting when it comes to trading players and/or picks.
Strategies for developing teams differ greatly in re-draft, keeper, and dynasty rosters. How a fantasy owner values players should complement these approaches. A good starting point for developing a feel for player values in any league is to examine the average fantasy value for the past three seasons at each position.
It took me 15 minutes to create a table using this page of data. I copied and pasted three years of fantasy points and VBD totals into a spreadsheet, determined a three-year VBD, and sorted by that VBD average. What you have below is a starting point for researching player value and information to use when having discussions about trading fantasy starters.
Re-Draft Example (Scroll to VBD Value Table for reference as needed)
Let's say you owned Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson in a re-draft league last year. You could use help at running back, wide receiver, and/or tight end. Manning is the top QB in fantasy leagues as of Week 8 and Wilson is the No.8 fantasy QB.
You want to make a deal with an owner who is shopping Jimmy Graham, Keenan Allen, and Eddie Lacy. At this point, Graham is performing as the TE1, Lacy is the RB 17, and Allen is the WR 32, but it appears Allen is climbing after 3 strong weeks.
The first way you can begin using this value table is to look at these players based on current fantasy value. If you shop Manning from a VBD value you need close to 152.7 points in return from your negotiation partner. Lacy as RB17 is worth 68 points, Graham is worth 108 points, and Allen is worth 21 points. A straight-up Manning for Graham and Lacy is a reasonable deal. The value isn't exact, but it's ballpark and this should be good enough.
However, a viable obstacle could occur if your potential trading partner believes Lacy's value is on the upswing. It's a good idea to consider potential value in terms of present day, upside, and some degree of downside.
If your negotiation partner believes Lacy's upswing continues to the point that the RB will finish in the top 10 by year's end,vLacy will have to post close to top-5 fantasy production from this point forward. This is sound logic from your negotiation partner and it means you'll have to honor the idea that Lacy's minimum VBD value is worth RB10 (95 points) if you can't convince Lacy's owner otherwise.
Your partner might even be sold that Lacy will be a top-five back the rest of the way and that's the value he wants for Lacy in return. If this happens then you might have to go as high as RB5 (136 points). If this is your negotiation partner's counter argument and you can't convince him to value Lacy at RB17 then you either have to add another player to the deal or look elsehwere.
This is where Keenan Allen comes into play. Allen and Lacy together have a combined VBD of 129 to Manning's 152. This potential deal is now a little light for your side. But if you are convinced that Allen will continue his rookie breakthrough, then Allen's value should be higher to you.
In hindsight, Allen finished as WR17, which is worth 57 points. Combine this value with Graham's and this deal would have been an even trade last year. Even if you hedge and say that Allen is someone you like and you can see him breaking the top-24 by year's end, that value combined with Graham's still remains within the ballpark of a fair deal for Manning.
The example above is a good indication that a table like this is a solid starting point for negotiation. As long as you use it as a guideline and not a concrete rule you'll find some flexibility to make quality trades. The Lacy and Allen examples show how there's playing room to estimate a future value based on how player's are trending. I definitely need to make one of these for my IDP leagues.
VBD Value Table
Dynasty League Example
This table is also helpful in the context of a dynasty league as a starting point to project draft picks versus players. At the same time, getting a negotiation partner to agree on the value of rookie picks can be more difficult. I haven't devoted a major amount of thought to the value of rookie draft picks, but my sense is that a high first-round rookie pick is worth a mid-range to low-end Tier B starter during most seasons. If this is the case, then 2.01 would be 12 picks lower on the chart and 3.01 would be 24 picks lower than 1.01, etc.
The upside of a 1.01 might be a Tier A starter, but you're not going to see anyone trade 1.01 in a rookie draft straight up for Jamaal Charles, Lesean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, or Calvin Johnson. It will take at least two first round picks to even start a conversation. If the VBD sum of two high first round picks is close to 140 points it's commensurate with the top-performing WR in fantasy leagues.
Although that figure might be within the ballpark for Calvin Johnson, it's likely that you'll have to bring more to get him or any of the players I listed above in a dynasty setting. The reason is year-to-year consistency of production at the position. These players are anchors for rosters if they are young or in their prime. As a result, a player's age and life expectancy as a starter could be a good thing to factor into the table for dynasty values.
Creating a VBD Ajustment Bonus or Penalty Based on Age and Position
This is something I'll look into refining, but a decent way to factor this value might be multiplying the estimated VBD total of a player by a weighted figure based on his age/health. I'm eye-balling this weight as a 2 percent adjusment bonus to a player's estimated VBD based on the estimated number of years he has left as a starter. I would probably use between 7-12 years as my range of years left: 12 for a QB, 10 for a WR, 8 for a TE, and 7 for a RB. I realize that the average NFL career is less than three years, but quality starters often have careers that span 10 seasons.
For example, Demaryius Thomas was a fantasy WR2 last year. He's a four-year veteran who will be 27 in late December. Although he suffered an Achilles' injury early in his career, he has been a top-five player the past two years with Peyton Manning at the helm. His four years in the league verus my estimation that a quality starting WR will have a 10-year career means Thomas has approximately 6 years left. If you give Thomas a 2 percent bonus for each year left, he earns a 12-percent adjustment to his estimated VBD.
I think most of us would agree that Thomas is considered a top-five dynasty receiver for at least the next 2-3 years that Manning is in Denver. Because of Manning's presence, I'm keepig Thomas as my dynasty WR2, which makes his estimated VBD on the table 124. If I add 12 percent that VBD total jumps to 138. It's not a huge jump, but he's now slightly more valuable than a top-five RB. You could also subtract points for the Achilles injury if you saw this as a concern.
Lacy is another good example. He was RB7 to finish the season and if you value him in that range again, his estimated VBD is 108. With seven years left, you can add an 14 percent bonus to that total. Lacy's adjusted 123 VBD moves him closer to RB5 territory. In contrast, the 28-year-old Marshawn Lynch has been a top-5 RB the past three years and the No.4 RB the past two in a career that has spanned 8 years. A lot of fantasy owners will consider Lynch a top-five fantasy RB this year. However, he's now a year beyond his seven-year career estimate
If you wish, you could begin subtracting two percent from his estimated VBD value for every year he's played beyond that career range. Looking at his light workload in 2009 and 2010, which had nothing to do with injury, and I'd consider subtracting a year off that range. If I did this, he'd be in year seven and would receive no dynasty bonus as my RB5. I could also make the penalty a larger percentage to reflect the risk of older players dropping off the production cliff. Perhaps 10 percent for each year past that range.
In this case Lynch would be my RB5, but if I applied the 10 percent penalty for his eighth year, his adjusted dynasty value would move him down to RB6. It doesn't seem like much of an adjustment, but if Lynch is still playing like an RB5 by the time he's 30, he'll have a 30 percent penalty to his VBD that would drop his VBD from 136 to 97 (RB5 to RB10). If Lynch was performing more like a RB20 then that 30 percent penalty would drop his dynasty value to RB23-RB24 territory.
You can play with these adjustments however you wish to reflect what you think is fair value. Just remember that what you offer to your competition has to make sense to your negotiation partner or you won't get what you want. Don't get any bright ideas and give your trade partner your chart and calculations. If the caculations work, a decent fantasy owner should see the values in your offer and if he or she doesn't, you should be able to talk that owner into it witout a major abount of effort.
None of this advice comes with expectations to make deals for the sake of making deals or to act tough or slick to bully or trick your negotiation partners. It's all about knowing where you stand, how others are coming at you, what role you have in the negotiation, and how to cultivate relationships. This is how you do it for the long haul.
Otherwise, you'll just be stuck in a cycle of wondering how to handle each deal and repeating mistakes in the negotiation process. There is always a chance that your deals will backfire, but if you play the long game you'll have more chances at deals and therefore more chances to make ones that help you more than hurt you.
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