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Fantasy Football Trade Calculator

AKA: How To Make a Fantasy Football Trade, Trading 101

By: Dr. RoboStein

Fantasy players rarely discuss trade strategy and when they do it is usually about how they put one over on so-and-so. Trading gets a bad rap because of this, but it shouldn't be that way. Trading shouldn't be a way to bamboozle your buddies; it is a way to win your league. Additionally, some say that the draft, not trades, determines who wins or loses. Don't fall into that trap. The draft only determines where you start so it doesn't necessarily have to determine where you finish. If you forget these negative notions about trading you are well on your way to becoming a better fantasy player.

In this article I'll describe the fundamentals behind fantasy football trade calculations as RoboTrade and RT2T (RoboTrade Two-Team In Depth) do it and I'll give some fantasy football trade calculator examples. RoboTrade can look at the entire trade landscape, i.e., the billions, trillions, etc. possible trades. The human mind is remarkably powerful, but you can't look at that many trades. Despite these human limitations once you've narrowed it down to a doable trade then this article can help you complete the trade successfully.

Your trading strategy is crucial; if you don't trade or you trade poorly then you are likely not going to win your league. There are three steps to trading correctly. First you must choose the time interval over which you need the point production from your trade, second you must forecast player values over this interval and third you must identify trade opportunities, i.e., where your strengths can make up for your trade partner's weaknesses and vice-versa.

You first must decide on your forecast time interval or the weeks over which you need point production from your trade. Choosing the right interval is extremely important. As you have probably heard, timing is everything and that is especially true when trading fantasy players. The forecast interval is the period of time that you will calculate player values over. If you are trading in week 8 you might say that your forecast interval is from week 8 to the end of the season, i.e., week 16 (most fantasy leagues take week 17 off). If you are really confident then you can set your time interval for just the playoff weeks, e.g., weeks 14, 15 and 16. However, if you don't make the playoffs then that forecast interval will do you no good! If your league starts the playoffs in week 14 and you are on the bubble then you probably want to make your forecast for week 8 through week 13. This way you get the production when you need it. Keep in mind; the more you narrow your forecast interval the greater the forecasting error can be. It is easy for a player to have a few bad games, but over an extended period, barring a major injury, players tend to achieve their historical averages.

Keeper leagues/perpetual leagues are another factor to consider in setting your forecast interval. If you are in a keeper league then you may choose a forecast interval based solely upon what will happen in this year, but you are taking a risk. The player might do well this year and poorly the next. For example, a player might have an easy schedule for the remainder of the year and he would look like a good pickup. However, you will be stuck with that player in the next season if he ends up being one of your keepers. To avoid this problem you can extend your forecast time interval to cover the following year or, perhaps, the following two years.

Assigning player values is the most crucial step to successful trading, but nobody wants to do it. There are people who read about player values in a half-dozen magazines before the draft and, as soon as the draft is over, they don't give player values another thought. Trying to trade without assigning player values is like trying to play chess without knowing the piece values. You wouldn't swap your queen for a pawn-everybody knows that, but would you swap your rook for a bishop? Hmm, not as many people know that. Likewise, you wouldn't swap a top RB for a top PK, but would you swap a top RB for a top WR? Hmm, most people would say because they know both positions are valuable, but they don't know with certainty because the answer depends on many factors. To trade confidently and correctly you must put in the time and find out what the players are worth.

Forecasting player values means you forecast the output of the players in terms of yards, touchdowns, etc. and convert this output to fantasy points. This can be an extremely tedious task so I recommend you don't do it. Just do it the easy way and use RoboCheat cheat sheet to get player values at any point in the season. You might want to check the forecast with your trading partner. If he doesn't like the forecast you can always return to this step and make adjustments. Additionally, a RoboCheat cheat sheet is particularly good when establishing player values because it has no bias toward either team.

Whatever you do, make sure that your forecast uses value-based forecasting (fyi, RoboCheat is v-b). Value based forecasting is a generally accepted way of assigning values to players. An explanation of value based forecasting is beyond the scope of this article, but I will explain the basics. Because of supply and demand each position on your team has a different weight: higher weights for more valuable positions and lower weights for less valuable positions. Value based forecasting gives high demand positions higher weights. For example, if your league requires that you start one quarterback and two running backs, the running backs will get a higher weight because the demand for running backs will be twice the demand for quarterbacks. Likewise, if there are only a few point producers at a position, that position gets a higher weight. For example, there are very few productive tight ends; consequently tight ends get a higher weight.

To identify trade opportunities you must assess the strengths and weaknesses of your fantasy team at each position and look for a team in your league that has the opposite strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you are strong at running back and weak at wide receiver, look for a team that is weak at running back and strong at wide receiver. It isn't too hard for you to do this, but RoboTrade and R2T2 do this automatically, finding opportunities that frequently get overlooked.

Now that you have player values it is a simple task to figure out a trade. In the example I cited earlier, according to the RoboCheat Tier column, the top RB has a value index of 304 and the top WR has a Tier value of 321. Should I trade the RB for the WR? Most people would say yes because I can get a player of higher value. However, the decision depends on the strengths and weaknesses of the teams involved in the trade. Maybe I don't need a WR. In other words, trades don't exist in a vacuum you must consider them in the context of the teams involved.

One thing to note about Tiers and versus the straight scoring index, i.e., the Robo column in RoboCheat. Prediction is not an exact science and so look at the Robo column with healty scepticisim. Tier predictions weed out much of the prediction error by saying that a player is in a group of players that will likely score a certain amount. I place more trust in the Tier column than the Robo column.

This example is going to take you way back to the days of yore, but it is useful for instruction purposes. Assume you're Team A and a potential trade partner is Team B. The chart below shows the team rosters. The forecast Tiers appear in parenthesis beside the player names. For simplicity's sake, this example excludes defenses and kickers.

Team ATeam B
Brunell, Mark (200) Bledsoe, Drew (170)
Garcia, Jeff (304) McNair, Steve (225)
Stewart, Kordell (220)
Smith, Antowain (300) Smith, Emmitt (180)
Canidate, Trung (120) Tomlinson, LaDainian (280)
Faulk, Marshall (545) Zereoue, Amos (70)
Dunn, Warrick (245)
Gonzalez, Tony (320) Jones, Freddie (240)
Price, Peerless (200) Harrison, Marvin (330)
Ismail, Raghib (170) Mason, Derrick (255)
Ismail, Qadry (190) Rice, Jerry (250)
McCardell, Keenan (240) Thrash, James (240)

Obviously the RB position for Team B is bad. They have a solid starting back in Tomlinson, but their second back, Emmitt, is not a big producer. Over this forecast interval, Team B can expect only 280+180=460 TIER points at RB.

In this example, as in most fantasy leagues, you can only start 2 RBs. Accordingly, you count only two TIERs toward you total production, i.e., bench players don't count. Likewise, if you were looking at the QB position then you would only count the production of your best QB because (in most leagues) you can only start one QB. Remember, you might have a great bench, but that doesn't do you any good on game day because bench scoring doesn't count.

Notice that Team A is very solid at RB so there is an opportunity to trade and fill Team B's weakness at RB, but what does Team A want in return? Team A is weak at WR. The starters, McCardell and Qadry Ismail, will only get 240 + 190 = 430 for Team A. Team B is strong at WR so there is an excellent opportunity to trade here.

To make a trade we will first try to help Team B with their RB production deficiency. If Team A gives up Antowain Smith they will have to start Dunn in his place. Let's assume they do this, i.e., Team A trades away Antowaine Smith and Dunn becomes a starter. Resultantly, Team A loses 245-300 = -55 points of production. Team B gets Antowaine's production, benches Emmitt, and gains 300-180 = 120 points!

Team A can be compensated for the 55 point loss by getting at least a 55 point improvement at the WR position. Assume Team B trades away Harrison. They will have to start Rice and they lose 250-330 = -80 points. Team A would start Harrison over Peerless Price and gain 330 - 200 = 130 points! The following chart summarizes the net gain for each team.

Team ATeam B
Net Gain7540

In this trade Team A has done better than Team B, but both teams come out ahead. Win-win trades like this one are the only type of trade that you should ever offer. If the other team gets a bad deal then they usually won't even consider the trade and then they will post messages in the league forum about how you are a lowballing con artist. If they should accept a win-lose trade then they won't ever deal with you again after they figure out that they got duped. And, if the league hears about your trading practices you won't be able to trade easily with other teams. The point is, don't trade like a used car salesman. Try to build a good reputation and always think win-win.

Once you have figured out the main players involved in the trade you can balance the trade and make it more acceptable to the team that didn't get the greatest benefit. Usually swapping bench players will do this. In this example, after the trade Team B is thin at WR (only 3 players) and Team A is thin at RB (3 players). Since Team B didn't benefit as much as Team A, Team B should get a better backup than does Team A. Swapping Qadry Ismail for Amos Zereoue helps balance the trade, but note that it doesn't change the trade value. Neither of these players were starters nor will they start on their new teams. Consequently, they don't affect the value of the trade, but they do help Team B feel better about the trade. Don't forget, bench points don't count on game day so don't let a disagreement about bench players derail a good trade.

In summary, there are three steps to trading correctly: choose the right forecast interval, forecast player values and match your strengths with your opponent's weaknesses and vice-versa. If you follow these steps you will most certainly be a better fantasy trader.