How to Evaluate a Fantasy Football Trade

Every league has its issues, but I’ve never come across a league that didn’t have a problem evaluating trades. Whether you’re trying to figure out what to offer another team or debating whether a trade is “fair,” there is no perfect method.

Every league is different — different sizes, different scoring systems, different starting rosters. And every team manager evaluates players in their own way.

As a result, no one can agree completely on whether a deal is fair. That’s why every trade is a negotiation, both with the team you trade with and the league itself.

Of all the questions I talk about with fantasy football buddies, even the ones in other leagues, I get the most questions and discussion about the fairness of trades or whether a trade offer makes sense.

And so I thought it best to share a couple of tools that I use to evaluate trades in a completely neutral way. These tools are completely free, and once you try them, I think you’ll find they make assembling a trade offer easier as well. Rather than calling up a buddy and having to talk through trade options in your head, these tools can help you find what should be considering a good offer before you go to the bargaining table.

But before we get to the tools, a quick aside on vetoing trades.

WHEN TO VETO A TRADE

There are several schools of thought when it comes to vetoing a trade. The two extremes are the most common.

On the one hand are the folks who say a trade should never be vetoed as long as it’s agreed upon by both trade parties. In that system, it’s up to the league to kick out any members who abuse the trading system or who get taken advantage of in trades all too often.

I don’t believe in that practice much because it opens the floor for complaints and because throwing a member out of a league is never a painless process.

The other end of the spectrum requires the league to vote to approve all trades, which gives any league member the right to veto any trade for any reason. These leagues get riled up over the slightest trade variables, and it can really ruin a good fantasy football league when trade arguments get heated. League members will always abuse the veto.

I think the ideal system is somewhere in the middle, but here’s my general rule of thumb: you should be able to defend your trade to the rest of your league with solid reasoning. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be making the trade.

Buy lows and sell highs are going to happen. Really, they’re encouraged by even this fine fantasy site. So don’t get caught up in the heat of an argument over trades that may help a good team get better and lose sight of how a trade helps both teams.

That said, it’s often helpful to have a neutral third party to evaluate trades. Not only do a neutral opinion help you decide what a reasonable offer would be before you send it, but it’ll also help you look at a trade from an outsider perspective if you’re a commissioner or if you’re trying to decide if a veto is necessary.

2 TOOLS TO EVALUATE TRADES

Paid tools and league-site specific tools (Yahoo!, etc.) exist, but I have found these two free tools to be perfectly satisfactory. And for the purposes of this article, I’ll stick to the free ones that anyone can use.

1. My standby for the past two seasons has been KFFL’s Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer.

KFFL Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer

It’s not much in the looks department, but KFFL’s trade analyzer gets the job done. You simply enter the players on either side of a trade, choosing the range in the alphabet in which their first name falls to shorten the list of names to choose from at each spot.

Unlike other tools, KFFL does a little more thinking for you by also taking into consideration the starting roster and size of your league.

It feels a little more complete to provide this sort of info when evaluating a trade, but I still wish that KFFL would consider incorporating a FLEX position as an option on the roster. So far, I’ve simply ignored flex postions as a part of my starting roster when entering the form, but for leagues in which you start 2 RBs and a FLEX position, having that third running back to start in the FLEX can be extremely more valuable.

KFFL doesn’t ask for any type of scoring notes, but neither does the other tool I’ll talk about. It starts to get really tricky to look at trades once you start talking about various scoring systems, so I understand the reasoning behind not including it. But if it ever did…that would be awesome. If the league uses PPR scoring, for example, wide receivers would be much more valuable.

I really do like what KFFL brings to the table. The output they give to evaluate a trade tells you not only the most valuable pieces being exchanged, but who’s “winning” the trade and how severe the difference is. In the end, KFFL will give you a definitive answer on whether Team 1 or Team 2 should reject the trade or approve of it as a very fail deal.

KFFL Trade Analyzer Output

Analysis of Frank Gore for Darren McFadden and Plaxico Burress

In my experience, KFFL tends to be pretty conservative on how it rates players, not giving much credit to players on the rise as compared to a stud who’s not performing up to their expected level. But I still love you, KFFL. Good work.

2. The new kid on the block that I’ve also been using late this season is Fantasy Football Nerd’s Trade Analyzer.

Fantasy Football Nerd Trade Analzyer (Beta)

It’s only in beta — and to be honest, maybe I shouldn’t be telling you about it yet — but I already find what Fantasy Football Nerd is building very useful.

FFN’s tool is much faster to input players with a search box and arrow buttons to place a player on either side of an offer. Once players are entered, the analyze button gives you an almost instant answer on who has the better end of the deal.

Since Fantasy Football Nerd doesn’t take into consideration any data on league size or starting positions, it’s hard to say that its trade values are as complete as KFFL’s trade tool, but it is nice to get the quick answer, even if it’s a quick and dirty answer.

I also like that they give a numerical value on exactly how much more valuable the winning side of the trade is.

Fantasy Football Nerd Trade Analyzer Output

Sample analysis of trade of Frank Gore for Darren McFadden and Plaxico Burress

Also on the plus side, the Fantasy Football Nerd tool lets you know that the winning side is getting “the better end of the trade by XX points over the course of the rest of the season.” So you know that their trade tool is looking at how a player will do the rest of the season and not just how they are currently valued. The rest-of-the-season (ROS) value is always what I care about more in a trade than how much a player is worth at that given moment.

Then again, some people may not want something like this out there giving away that “buy low” and “sell high” edge.

HOW TO USE THESE TOOLS

I find myself using both of these tools on a regular basis to put together and judge trades. Fantasy Football Nerd’s analyzer is a nice, quick way to build a trade when you’re trying to put together an offer, and once you’ve got the basic idea together, KFFL is what I feel is the most fair way of judging whether the other owner will think you’re crazy or not for sending it.

KFFL’s analyzer is also the best indicator as to whether the other owners in your league will burn you alive for making that trade. But don’t take it as gospel since KFFL can be a little stingy when it comes to studs versus up-and-comers, as I said before.

As a commish, I’d make KFFL’s Trade Analyzer a regular part of my tool set. When the league starts to get upset about a particular trade, it can sometimes quiet the masses by providing a soothing, “This trade is fair” response. It can also help in challenging an owner to defend a trade when it seems more sloppily assembled.

If you can’t defend a trade by discussing player values, you don’t deserve it, and these tools should help you make a great deal.

For those of you not so concerned about fairness as you are about winning (okay, all of us), I’d definitely bookmark Fantasy Football Nerd’s Analyzer to quickly survey any trade offers you receive and figure out whether to accept.

While it’s in beta now, the FFN analyzer is only going to get better, and Fantasy Football Nerd has already demonstrated a great ability to synthesize a number of opinions and give an unbiased consensus opinion through their weekly rankings.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK

Neither of these tools are perfect, and as each evolves, I’d love to hear your feedback on which works best and if you have any interesting ways of using them. I’d also like to hear about any other tools you use when evaluating trades or putting together a trade package. Tell me all about them below in the comments or drop me a note.

Happy trading!

The League S02E08: “The Tie” is No Way to Retire as League Commissioner

You get no love for being a league commissioner. It’s a thankless job, but the good ones have the respect of their league even when they aren’t in agreement. And the very best ones have dirt on every member of the league.

That comes in handy when there’s drama, when league members turn into assholes…or when they show their assholes.

The trash talk has gotten serious this week. Before the games even begin, Ruxin gives his best impression of Ace Ventura’s talking butt, minus the pants. It’s ugly when buttholes are involved, but Ruxin is pissed that Kevin refused to help him substitute a player on his starting roster.

Ruxin’s butthole blasphemy on the league site is too much for Kevin, who claims there are no personal attacks on the message boards. So he removes the post.

I don’t know about your league, but my league posts almost all personal attacks on the message boards. What else are they good for besides trash talk? That’s the best thing about the message boards. In fact, I thought that’s why they were invented. Just like the Internet was invented for porn, forums were invented for personal attacks.

By the way, if you didn’t get the conversation about Andre resembling Nosferatu, Google Image Search that. It’s a worthwhile comparison.

Nosferatu vs. Andre

Taco’s weekly distraction doesn’t take long to surface. He fell out a tree, broke his wrist, and discovered Western medicine in the emergency room. Apparently, up until now, Taco was oblivious to modern medicine, among other things. So he now worships Andre and his medical degree. See? Andre doesn’t always play the lame one.

But still, see the Nosferatu versus Andre comparison.

Meanwhile, Pete met a friend in the park who has promised him Bears-Vikings tickets for a “favor.” Since the league believes “favors are gay”–they never would have made it in the Mafia–they convince Pete that this guy is also, in fact, gay and trying to get in Pete’s pants by giving him the free tickets. Either way, Pete has no idea that the Bears-Vikings game won’t be very exciting. 27-13 Bears.

The Kevin and Ruxin feud leads to a team name battle as both league members change their team names to send a message–The Kevin’s Micro Dongs, The MacArthur’s Crotch Nubs, and The Ruxin Looks Like A Middle-Aged Lesbians.

But when Kevin’s failure to sub out a player for Ruxin causes him to tie Andre, Ruxin goes over the edge.

After a rapid sequence of team name changes and league name changes, Ruxin fires back by naming his team “Fear Boners.” That’s too much for Kevin, and he hangs up his commish spurs.

A league without a commish is no league at all.

As we learn from Pete later in the episode, “fear boner” is one of the unmentionables…but obviously not enough of one not to mention it to Andre and Taco. Pete tells them the full story: Kevin got an erection in an alley when Ruxin, Pete, and Kevin were approached by an intimidating black man. Awk-ward.

Since Kevin’s out of the picture as the league’s former commissioner and with no one to stop them, Ruxin and Andre decide to break their tie with a footrace through the park, like something out of Lord of the Flies, according to Pete.

Hidden gem moment: Taco tries to start them with a real gun. Where does this guy get a gun? Fortunately for all, saner minds prevail. And the race begins.

After about 30 seconds of awkward flailing and panting, Andre and Ruxin near the finish line. In the final stretch, Ruxin goes down. But was it incidental contact or interference? No one can make the call.

Luckily, a gay couple is having a commitment ceremony just up the hill from the finish line, and the two are happy to oblige (without their knowledge) by surrendering their tape to the league as an instant replay machine.

As if we needed more reason to suspect Pete is in over his head on this tickets scheme, Pete runs into the man who promised him the tickets at the ceremony, lending more credibility to the league’s theory that he’s trying to get in Pete’s pants.

After checking the tape, the league determines it was incidental contact, not a push. Ruxin fell down. And so, Andre is the winner.

But during the booth review of Andre and Ruxin’s race, the league fills Pete’s head with the key warning signs that this guy is looking for loving: jazz music, a lit fireplace, and a silk robe.

And what a surprise! When Pete goes to pick up the tickets, jazz music, a (fake) lit fireplace on the ol’ LCD, and his “friend” wearing a silk robe are all there. The tickets are even out on a table in a lovely little envelope. How is it that you pay prostitutes again?

In a fit of awkwardness, Pete reveals that, while he thought he could, he can’t even pull off even a hand job in exchange for the tickets…just as his pal’s family enters the room. And as if he could have still recovered from that mistake, the dreaded “fear boner” strikes Pete.

As any sane person would do when a stranger explains that he can’t provide a hand job, asks if you’re gay, and then proceeds to pitch a tent, the “friend” in the silk robe kicks Pete out. So Pete gets no tickets, despite his best efforts to steal them on his way out the door.

How do you get strong-armed by a guy in a silk robe? Pete, you used to impress me, but that’s just shameful.

On their way out the apartment that night, Andre and Ruxin bump into the not-so-happy couple in search of their missing wedding tape. The newlyweds are ready to kick their asses.

Andre and Ruxin are forced to run into the park at night, closely followed by two cops. When they are discovered in the bushes together, they find no pity from a gay cop, who arrests them for giving “us” a bad name.

Cool and calculated, non-commish Kevin comes to bail the two out, but he’ll only bail out the one who was faster…unless they admit that they tied. Ah, what a masterpiece. Kevin would make it in the Mafia.

In the end, Kevin forces Andre and Ruxin to admit that they tied. Order is restored. Kevin is commish again. And Andre goes a little Titanic on Kevin, putting his hand on the glass.

Kevin does not reciprocate, but Andre probably could have earned himself some Bears-Vikings tickets…

As always, an episode just wouldn’t be complete without the musical stylings of Taco. This episode ends with Taco and Kevin singing “Fear Boner” and “Pete’s Little Tiny Erect Dick,” which compares Pete’s member to a pink Q-tip in classic The League fashion.

Memorable one-liners from Episode 8

KEVIN: “Ahhhh, it looks like a rusty balloon knot.” [Hiding eyes from Ruxin's anus]

TACO: “Is that why you plucked your mane?” [Reaching for Andre's bald head]

TACO: “I thought it was impossible to heal the human body without patchouli oil, but I stand corrected.”

RUXIN: “Yeah, the Kevin’s Micro Dongs are best at coming from behind.”

TACO: “Washing your hands is healthy? I did it because it felt good…”

RUXIN: “Parks are like the Club Med for homosexuals. But instead of Jamaicans, it’s hobos.”

KEVIN: “A tie is like kissing your sister, which I think everyone at this table’s done, Andre.”

RUXIN: “Fantasy football is about proving that you are better than your friends, not equally as good as your friends, okay? It’s not communism. We’re not coveting Billy Joel cassette tapes and wearing ill-fitting blue jeans.”

KEVIN: “I’m going to see a girl, and I have an anticip-erection!”

PETE: “In one single moment, he was cowardly, gay, homophobic, and racist–the perfect quadfecta.”

PETE: “I enjoy both or your unorthodox running styles: you with the shrieking girl thing and you with the escaping mental patient.”

PETE: “We’re like a frittata Lord of the Flies, man. Help us!” [to Kevin as Ruxin and Andre race]

RUXIN: “You’re gay?”
GAY COP: “I’m gay!”
ANDRE: “But you’re a cop?”
RUXIN: “Yeah, but he’s got a mustache.”

TACO: “It’s hard to stay soft in a frightening world…” [first line of "Fear Boner" by Taco and featuring Kevin]

[ Jump to Episode 9: "Expert Witness" ]

Fourth & 1 Debate: Nine Moves to Make for the Fantasy Football Playoffs

At this point in the season, you might be more concerned with getting to the playoffs than succeeding once you get there. That’s okay. Take it one week at a time. I’ll wait…

But if you have the true heart of a champion, some good luck, and if you’ve been doing your research, you’ve probably go a nice spot on the mantel dusted and ready for this year’s fantasy football championship trophy. It’s okay if we block this photo of the in-laws, right?

In that case, it’s best to start planning for your future, and we’re not talking about your kids’ college funds or your financial plan to navigate this tough economy.

It’s even better. I give you a fantasy football roundtable of epic proportions. This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate was mine to rule, and I chose to look ahead at who might blow up or sink your battleship during Weeks 14-17.

By the way, if you have a playoff schedule that puts your championship game in Week 17, slap your commissioner, reschedule that game immediately, slap your commish again, and never, never speak of playing in Week 17 again. Week 17 isn’t NFL football. It’s just not right to win your league with Jim Sorgi. Not right at all.

This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate roundtable question:

Looking ahead at the fantasy football playoffs (Weeks 14-17), what one player would you want to own during those weeks and what one player would you want to unload before Week 14?

My answer:

Trade deadlines are approaching. Playoffs spots will be locked up soon. The chances to acquire players through “sell high” or “buy low” opportunities are few are far between. That being the case, I’ve chosen to focus on a couple of guys who might still be easily moved. You wouldn’t have to break the bank, and you might end up with a stud on your hands in Weeks 14 through 16.

First, I’d look to acquire Tim Hightower.

Kurt Warner has been fond of the check-down passes thus far this season, and Hightower has been the beneficiary. Even against tough rushing defenses, Hightower never fails to stay involved in the passing game and take advantage of short-yardage and goal line opportunities.

It’d be great to have both Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower on your roster to hedge your bets against any late-season shifts in Beanie’s favor, but I believe Hightower will remain the primary receiving back on passing plays, which the Cardinals should be running plenty of in the fantasy playoffs.

The Cardinals face San Francisco, Detroit and St. Louis in the fantasy playoffs. In Week 1 against the 49ers, Hightower ran just eight times for 15 yards, but he caught 12 passes for 121 yards. A similar performance in Week 14 wouldn’t surprise me, and, well, the Lions and Rams are what they are, great matchups for a team with a powerful offense. By the end of this season, one or both of those squads could have already given up for the year.

If you can’t get Hightower, Beanie Wells, Jamaal Charles and Jerome Harrison aren’t bad substitutions. All have a chance to succeed late in the season, and they all carry a fairly low price tag at this point. Bargain bin!

And, for those of you playing at home, I would try to unload DeAngelo Williams before the fantasy playoffs.

Williams finished the year as the No. 1 fantasy running back after a slow start, and he’s once again been inconsistent to start the year in 2009. It’s not just Jonathan Stewart stealing time and touches from him. This year, Jake Delhomme has developed a bad habit of throwing to players in other jerseys.

While Williams is come on strong the past three weeks, he should hit a slump starting in Week 11 against Miami and continuing, outside of a brief practice session against the Bucs in Week 13, into the fantasy playoffs. In Week 14, Williams faces the Patriots in New England, followed by the Vikings at home and the Giants in New York for the Giants’ last home game of the season.

If you’re a proud Williams owner, you should deal him away to the highest bidder this week or next before you get stuck in the dumps with him during the playoffs.

Smitty from Fantasy Football Xtreme says:

Every season, a grip of players step up during Weeks 14-16, while others shockingly disappoint. It’s a tough business predicting either, but I have come up with two names. I have talked a lot about running backs and wide receivers over the past few weeks, so this week I’m going to focus on quarterbacks.

One quarterback worth talking about before we even sniff Weeks 14-16 is Kurt Warner. The aging quarterback has been hit or miss this season, and he has thrown 7 interceptions over the past three games putting him at 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the year. He has also fumbled the football twice over the last three weeks.

You’re probably guessing that Warner is my “unload” recommendation for Weeks 14-16, right? Wrong.

While I will admit that I have concerns about the aging quarterback staying healthy long enough to see Week 14, he has a fantastic fantasy playoff schedule. The Cardinals face the 49ers (28th) in Week 14, the Lions (29th) in Week 15 and Rams (24th) in Week 16. If healthy, Warner should have a fantastic finish to the fantasy season.

As for my top quarterback to unload before we hit Week 14, I have to go with Carson Palmer.

The Bengals passing schedule isn’t impossible, as they have two decent match-ups in Weeks 14 and 16 in the Vikings (23rd) and Chiefs (29th), but they do have a rough contest against the Chargers (6th) in Week 15. I know Palmer had a monster 5-touchdown performance before his Week 8 bye, where he completed 20-of-24 passes, but before that Week 7 outing, Palmer’s completion percentage was under 60 and he had almost as many interceptions (7) as he had touchdowns (8).

On the year, Palmer has yet to pass for over 300 yards. His Week 7 stats are making him look strong, but I’m predicting that he and the Bengals struggle down the stretch. I say unload Palmer now and take a lateral step into a quarterback with less risk.

Trade Palmer for a Ben Roethlisberger or a Matt Ryan. Both quarterbacks probably have similar perceived value, yet I like both better than Palmer down the stretch (especially in Weeks 14-16).

Junkyard Jake from Junkyard Jake says:

Glancing ahead to the fantasy playoff weeks this year, it appears that Drew Brees and the Saints’ passing game could benefit from a very favorable set of defensive matchups. During Weeks 14 through 16, the Saints face Atlanta on the road and then Dallas and Tampa Bay at home.

As if Brees needed an additional advantage, all three of these games will be in a dome. Moreover, all three of these defenses currently rank in the bottom third of the league in terms of points allowed by opposing quarterbacks.

In contrast to Brees’s favorable playoff schedule, it looks like the Bears’ Matt Forte could have a tougher time. Forte is already having a slightly disappointing season, and it doesn’t appear that he will catch a break during the fantasy playoff Weeks of 14, 15 and 16 when he is slated to face Green Bay, Baltimore and then Minnesota.

Green Bay has been allowing only 91 rush yards per game, and they have yielded just 3 rushing touchdowns so far. Forte’s Week 15 opponent, Baltimore, has allowed just 79 yards per game on the ground. Forte then faces the Vikings in Week 16, a team that touts the No. 2 run defense in the league.

Hatty from Hatty Waiver Wire Guru says:

So essentially we are looking at a buy low/sell high for the playoff run. Having the right RB for the playoffs is a huge key to victory and health is a major consideration for playoff runs.

My sell high right now would be LaDainian Tomlinson. He is coming off a two-touchdown performance, but again is a huge injury concern. You just can’t afford to go into playoffs with one of your top running backs leaving due to injury.

The running back I would work hard to obtain for the playoffs would be a running back who receives a major workload on a team making a run for the playoffs. Cedric Benson helped me to win a fantasy championship in the past and is a stellar running back to go into playoffs with.  He is not prone to injury, doesn’t play in an RBBC situation and is on a team that has a solid chance at making the playoffs.

Ryan Lester from Lester’s Legends says:

Looking ahead to the fantasy playoffs, there are a couple of wide receivers that I would love to own and one that I want no part of.

The wide receivers that I love for the fantasy playoffs are Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. Aside from being two of the best wide receivers in the game, there are some other reasons that make them so valuable when fantasy owners need them the most.

First of all, neither team is running away with their division meaning they will likely go full tilt the whole season as they vie for a playoff spot. While wide receivers like Reggie Wayne and Marques Colston are in the driver’s seat of their respective divisions, Fitz and A.J. are not. It’s conceivable that Wayne and Colston get a reduced workload in your league’s championship game. You don’t have to worry about that with Fitz or A.J.

They also have favorable schedules in the fantasy playoffs. Fitz plays at San Francisco, at Detroit and finishes at home against St. Louis. Week 14 could be tough for him, but the final two games could bring the monster performances you expected out of Fitz when you drafted him.

Andre Johnson’s schedule is also a breeze. He starts off at home against Seattle, travels to St. Louis and finishes at Miami. Obviously, I don’t like his championship opponent as much as Fitz, but if he leads you to the title game, you’re in the money anyway.

On the flip side, the player I don’t want on my team come fantasy playoffs time is Carolina’s Steve Smith.

The Panthers start off on the road at New England. Weather is very much a factor in New England in December, which doesn’t bode well for members of the passing game. Next up is Minnesota at home. The pressure that Jared Allen and company put on opposing quarterbacks could make for a long day. Finally, he finishes up against the Giants on the road in the swirling winds.

Smith faces three of the best teams in the league, two in what are likely to be bad-weather games, during the fantasy playoffs. Not to mention he plays in a run-first offense. If I were a Steve Smith owner and had championship aspirations, I’d try to move him now that he’s coming off a pair of good games.

Eric Stashin of Rotoprofessor says:

One of the players I would like to own down the stretch is Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons.

Fantasy football playoffs are tough because if you have a player who is on a team that is coasting into the playoffs, you just don’t know how much they are going to play. With the Falcons, they are three games behind the division lead already, but they are primed for a dogfight to take home the wild card.

In addition, the Falcons take on the New Orleans Saints (middle of the road in rushing defense), New York Jets (sans their big run stuffer, Kris Jenkins), the Buffalo Bills (currently allowing the most rushing yards per game in the league) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (need I say anymore).

That seems like the perfect set-up for a big way to close the season. He’s one of the best backs in the league, and if you are in a position to acquire him for the stretch drive, there is no reason to hesitate.

As for players to avoid, you almost have to look at the flip side: Which team appears to be ready to coast into the playoffs as well as having a tough schedule?

The Minnesota Vikings could be that team, as they have a lead in the division and have the Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and New York Giants on the schedule over the final four weeks. Three of those four teams are likely to be in contention for a playoff spot. The easiest game (Panthers) is on the road, as is the game in Chicago, so you don’t know what will happen there.

The likelihood is that the team focuses on the run, as they’ve already shown that they will do, meaning Brett Favre and the Vikings receivers may struggle down the stretch.

Paul Greco from Fantasy Pros 911 says:

I love looking ahead. Why you ask? Well, if I’m looking ahead to Weeks 14 through 17, that means I have a shot at the playoff. Yup, I’m about to make it rain in the Greco household.

The one player that I’d like to unload, not only during the Weeks 14 through 17, but right now, is Carolina Panther’s running back DeAngelo Williams. Coming off a huge game on the ground in Week 8, right now is the time to look to unload Williams.

Starting Week 11, Williams has the toughest Strength-of-Schedule (SOS) the rest of the season. With games against the Miami Dolphins (Week 11), New York Jets (Week 12), New England Patriots (Week 14) and the Minnesota Vikings (Week 15), all four teams are currently ranked in the top 10 for rush defense.

Cedric Benson, running back for the Cincinnati Bengals, is a player you must look to add to your team now. C.B. has the easiest SOS of any running back starting Week 11.

With games against the Oakland Raiders (Week 11), Cleveland Browns (Week 12), Detroit Lions (Week 13), San Diego Chargers (Week 15) and the Kansas City Chiefs (Week 16), all five teams give up an average of 117 rushing yards a game or worse.

C.B. has shown he can carry the load for the Bengals, so why not your team? Look to make a move for CB now, and enjoy big gains the rest of the season.

Bryce McRae from KFFL says:

My pickup for the playoffs: the Kansas City Chiefs’ Kolby Smith (knee). He’s a deep sleeper, yes, but it shouldn’t cost much to get him, and he could pay huge dividends.

Starter Larry Johnson’s suspension ends after Week 9, but the team has given some thought to releasing him. At some point, they have to start looking toward the future.

Jamaal Charles, a third-round pick last year, is expected to shoulder most of the load this week. He’s more of a speedy change-of-pace back, however, and the Chiefs have utilized him as a rusher only 23 times this year. A lot of that has come out of passing downs, too.

This leads us to Smith; the third-year back has carried a full workload in the past (Weeks 12 through 16 in 2007: 100 carries for 387 yards and two scores), and he says he has confidence in his rehabilitated knee. Head coach Todd Haley says Smith is moving around well in practice, too. Smith has the bulk (5-foot-11, 219 pounds) that could help him hold up as a primary back over the speedier Charles.

Kansas City faces the Buffalo Bills (most rushing yards allowed per game to backs this year), the Cleveland Browns (third most) and the Cincinnati Bengals in Weeks 14 through 16, respectively. Cincy isn’t a great matchup, but Smith could be a beast during those two first games.

On the flip side, one player I’m looking to unload before the playoffs is the San Francisco 49ers’ Michael Crabtree. I don’t have much faith in Alex Smith behind center for the long term. I feel defenses might be able to shut down Crabtree, too, once they have more film on him and how the 49ers are using him. Remember: This is still a run-first offense.

Also, I don’t believe his value will be any higher after his first three games. Wait for him to burn the Tennessee Titans, a generous defense to this position, in Week 9 and then sell high on the former Texas Tech wideout.

The defenses Crabtree will face in the traditional playoffs weeks: the Detroit Lions (Week 14), the Arizona Cardinals (Week 15) and the Philadelphia Eagles (Week 16). Philly’s D has been one of the top against this position all season while the other two have shown improvement in the last month. Plus, Detroit’s run D has been bad enough that San Fran might opt to pound the ball.

Kurt Turner from Top-Fantasy-Football says:

Strength of schedule is key when planning for the fantasy football playoffs. Teams like Arizona, San Diego and Miami all have juicy matchups. FFToolbox.com has a nice tool you can use found here that analyzes matchups by position for you.

Here are my picks to own and unload: Kurt Warner and Roddy White.

Snatch up Kurt Warner. He should be a beast in the playoffs. Trade for him now and don’t be afraid to overpay, especially if you’re hurting at quarterback.

A guy I don’t like for the playoffs is Roddy White. White faces some tough pass defenses weeks 14, 15 and 16. If you can get Warner for White (and some change) and still have some other good options at wide receiver, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Good Luck!

That’s all for this week’s Fourth & 1 Debate. While I am largely a fan of riding hot hands into the ground rather than trading them away because of perceived slumps on the horizon, preparing for the fantasy football playoffs is a necessity.

Oh, and if you have a championship game in Week 17, slap your commish again for me.

As always, the comments are yours. Have a player you’re concerned about for the fantasy playoffs? Would you like to add more names to the hat of players to add/drop? Leave a comment to let us know.

To Waiver Wire or Not to Waiver Wire?

It’s a debate that rages in my leagues just as the first league emails start to go out. The date of the draft hasn’t even been decided. The chips and beverages of choice are still safely on store shelves, but the league emails begin with the eternal debate: “Why don’t we change the waiver wire this year?”

A waiver wire, for those of you who may not know, is the system the regulates how teams request and obtain free agents in your league. Most leagues use some kind of waiver wire system to lock down free agents as soon as they have played their games on Sunday and prevent them from being obtained until the Wednesday or Thursday of the following week. At that time, your league software or commish sorts out which team gets a player they requested based upon a predetermined order.

No one wants the unemployed guy that sits on his laptop all day or the stay-at-home hermit to grab up all the decent free agent gold as soon as their mug comes across ESPN, so, in theory, waiver wires are a perfect solution. If it wasn’t for waiver wires, I’d probably have to build an NFL Network command center that even Jerry Jones would envy just to watch the latest news, injury reports and player profiles throughout the season.

Who wants to give away a Ryan Grant every season? Grant won playoff games and championships for owners who were lucky enough to get him as a free agent back in 2007.

The problem arises when you actually get down to discussing how the waiver wire is going to work. Without a doubt, someone is unhappy that they didn’t get a Ryan Grant or a LeRon McClain the week they needed him. With the season just weeks away, they want to change to another option, and there are several out there without getting too much into salary cap, waiver wire bidding or limiting the number of transactions.

From Worst to First

Is it fair to give the last place team first crack at the free agents? This method, often the default setting in fantasy football leagues, gives the lesser teams a chance to rise up from their ashes like a phoenix during the season and keeps some owners from giving up too soon. That said, it also allows good teams to tank the first week, improve their rosters with the best breakout free agents from Week 1 and dominate your face off all year.

The common argument against this “worst to first” rank is that it gives owners who do not do their research, neglect to follow the NFL news and draft very poorly a break.

Use it and Lose It

Do you adopt a “use it and lose it” system where you go to the back of the line each time you use the waiver wire? This method discourages using the wire each week and rewards the players who wait around for the big score, if one ever comes their way.

The downside of “use it and lose it” is that good teams who don’t have to pick up any free agent players from the waiver wire to dominate will often be the No. 1 pick when the best free agents come available. When the time comes, they block desperate teams from having any shot at the best player.

Wild West

Or do you just screw the system, do away with the waiver wire and live life by the seat of your pants?

Sure, a bit of luck may allow one team owner to hear a rumor or see an injury report first and beat the league to the free agent pool. The hermit may get all the best free agents every Monday night while the rest of the league sleeps. But at least you all have a fair shot at getting who you want when you want them.

The Question

I don’t really have an answer for this one. I prefer using a waiver wire simply because I often write during games or go out to watch them with friends. I like to have a day to collect my thoughts before I get to deciding how to rebuild my team for the following weekend, but there is something to be said for being able to get a player the second your gut tells you that you must have him.

Last season, my most competitive league settled on the “use it and lose it” method. It seemed to work like magic as I used mine often to replace a player without too much concern while others held out all season for the big score — and eventually landed Tony Gonzalez for their patience when he was dropped by a less-than-genius owner. Was it fair? It was close. At least there was a bit of strategy involved rather than luck.

What say you? Do you use a complicated system? A bidding war? Limited transactions? No waiver wire at all? Tell us about your method in the comments.

I’m always open to hearing what is out there, and maybe we can all nip those debates in the bud before we even start sending those emails.

To waiver wire or not to waiver wire? That is the question.