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!