Making deals a concrete way to speed up team rebuilding

ON FANTASY SPORTS

Commentary

November 24, 2005|By CHILDS WALKER

Franchise building can be among the great joys of fantasy sports.

The chatter around fantasy football or baseball tends to focus on whom to draft this season, whom to start this week and whom to acquire for this stretch drive.

But today, I'm taking the long view. We're going to talk about the Tao of the keeper list.

It's Week 12 of your fantasy football season. It's pretty clear which teams are playoff contenders and which aren't. If your league has a trading deadline, it may well be this week.

If you play in a keeper league and are out of contention, here's the best advice I can give: Don't hesitate to gut your team to snag the one or two pieces that could make you a contender next season.

Now, this isn't as easy to do in football as it is in baseball, because depth is less prized. Smart contenders aren't likely to trade superstars for three or four good players, because they won't have room for the guys they're getting.

But there are some scenarios you can work.

Say you have a good running back and a good quarterback, Tiki Barber and Drew Brees maybe. Say also that there's a guy in your league who has a stud runner but an unreliable quarterback tandem, could be Trent Green and Brett Favre. Try to pull a two-for-one where you get the stud runner in exchange for Brees and Barber. Your contender buddy upgrades at quarterback while taking a half step down at running back. And you get a guy you'd like to build next year's team around.

Not that Brees and Barber aren't perfectly nice players, but in most leagues, you don't get more than two or three keepers, so the goal is to make them the absolute elite at their positions.

Look for contenders who are unusually weak at a given position and solve their short-term problem in exchange for long-term blue-chippers. This is the oldest and most blunt keeper strategy, and the opportunity may not be there in every league.

You could also flip a veteran who's better now for a young star who will be better next year. Edgerrin James, for example, is a great player. But he's approaching the point in his career where a sudden performance drop wouldn't be shocking. You could trade him for a Larry Johnson or Ronnie Brown.

I also like to pick up or trade for injured players when I'm out of contention. Call the Terrell Owens owner in your league and help the man out. Give him a wide receiver or a second starter at tailback. You've doomed yourself this year, but crazy or not, T.O. is liable to be among the league's most productive receivers next year. If you can get him for a song and hold him, why not?

Now, if you're in the other, better position of being a contender, you may also want to look for a deal. There's no shame in going for broke if you're already in a good position, because the chance for a title may not come around again for a few years. So if you're a little weak at quarterback or receiver and you want to use a frontline runner to upgrade at multiple positions, go for it.

I'm not sure I'd ever trade a Shaun Alexander or LaDainian Tomlinson, because those guys are the gold standard and can win playoff games almost single-handedly. But anyone else might be expendable in the right offer.

I'm overly cautious in those situations, always thinking about next year. And I've probably cost myself higher spots in a few leagues by not pursuing trades in the stretch drive.

It happened to me in a baseball league this year. I was second for much of the summer but never pulled a big move (I was unwilling to part with my most desirable long-term asset, Jake Peavy). Two teams passed me at the wire. By always thinking about next year, you can consign yourself to never winning this year.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

Glenn Graham's fantasy football picks

Play of the week

Tom Brady -- New England at Kansas City. A lack of running game and poor defensive play from the Patriots have put more emphasis on Brady. He has responded in recent weeks, throwing eight touchdown passes in his past three games, including three against New Orleans on Sunday.

Position analysis

Quarterback

Starting nod -- Byron Leftwich, Jacksonville at Arizona. The third-year quarterback had an impressive performance last week with 258 yards and three touchdowns in a win against Tennessee. The trend should continue facing a Cardinals pass defense that ranks 23rd.

Other solid options -- Trent Green, Kansas City vs. New England; Jamie Martin, St. Louis at Houston; Kerry Collins, Oakland vs. Miami.

Take a seat -- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh at Indianapolis; Jake Delhomme, Carolina at Buffalo; Aaron Brooks, New Orleans at New York Jets.

Running back

Starting nod -- Mike Anderson, Denver at Dallas. The veteran back has already been making the most of his carries sharing time with Tatum Bell. With Bell listed as questionable on the injury report, Anderson could give his fantasy owners more big numbers on Thanksgiving. Last week, he ran the ball 26 times for 113 yards and three touchdowns.

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