Now is not the time to get complacent. Winning or losing there is plenty you can and should be doing to make the playoffs!
Many of you may have already noticed trades, flurries of free agent pickups, or received more trade offers than usual. This is when this happens folks, and may be my favorite point of the fantasy football season besides the draft of course.
Owners have had time to analyze their rosters during the first six weeks and some may need to make some tough choices if they want to compete the rest of the season. I am hoping to help push you forward on some of these decisions, hold you back from some poor decisions, and maybe even fire you up to start making some moves.
Everyone is in different league formats or places in the standings, which makes writing a strategy post somewhat difficult, or impossible to capture every circumstance. I will try to list a few things everyone should do, or can do to help prepare for the second half of the fantasy season.
Get ready to jump into action, have fun and good luck the rest of the way!
One thing I dislike the most is complacency. This is the point of the season where EVERY owner has something they could and should be doing to strengthen their rosters. Being in a redraft league compared to a keeper or dynasty league are also huge considerations. A last place team in a redraft league may be truly finished for the season, whereas with the other formats a last-place owner should be looking forward to next season.
Cellar-Dweller (Redraft Leagues)
Two or fewer wins. This sucks. It REALLY sucks and whether it was injuries, poor performances, or just an all-out terrible team you are stuck, and aside from a miracle and going undefeated the rest of the way, you are out of the hunt.
Being in this position, I say do whatever it takes to keep you interested the rest of the way. Please don’t become a zombie owner, that is simply not fun for anyone else in the league and worst yet, you could unintentionally impact the playoff seeding.
Make your team as competitive as you can but don’t sell your best players to anyone for anything. If you are going to shop your stars, make sure the other owner gets stung a little in return in any deal. Or sit tight and count the days until the season is over. One other way to stay involved is to play spoiler. Setting a lineup is easy, PLEASE don’t be a zombie owner.
Middle of the Pack
Three to four wins. The heading speaks for itself. You are not in first or last but right in the playoff hunt or the middle of the standings. That is definitely not terrible, but of all owners you likely should be making the most moves.
Be active, and make changes to remain in the hunt, or climb the standings. Now is the best time of all to try to snag some stars, or unappreciated talent from your league’s cellar-dwellers or waiver wire. Two- or three-for-one deals are very common in this scenario. Either way, if you are in this spot you need to be aggressive to have an impact on your standings.
Sitting on the Iron Throne
Five to six wins. You are in first place, or the top three of your league’s standings. It doesn’t get better than this, but an injury or extended slump of a few players could destroy you.
Moves can still be made, but you should not trade for the sake of trading. Make a deal that bolsters your starting lineups, not one that deepens your bench. If you are consistently losing because of your tight end or defense try and improve those areas.
You may not need to make any moves at all and be safe, but doing nothing when you could be improving your squad is a big
mistake many owners encounter every season.
This is the most common and frequent move made at this point of the fantasy football season. I love trades more than most, but I also consider it to be an art form. To truly make a great trade, one side will lose or get hurt more than the other side. Every now and again a perfectly balanced trade will work for both teams. Not often though.
Redraft: If you are making moves simply to make moves, then you may be getting a little crazy. If there are ways to keep you involved and enjoy playing out the season, more power to you. You will likely be getting offers from teams in the middle or at the top of the standings. Many of these trades will be garbage. Sure your team is struggling, but that does not mean you should be giving up DeAndre Hopkins for another team’s four players, two of which are on their bench.
If you move Hopkins, make the trade as if you were competing and get some fair value. More players does not equate to a better deal. Making a deal like that could also upset the league, which is never good either. Bottom line: make deals if it makes you like your team more, but make logical trades.
Keeper/Dynasty: Now this is one of the times when you may consider a four-for-one deal. Hopkins is a keeper of course, and a very good one, but if you can land four players who will help your team going forward then it is a good deal. Trades are much more difficult to evaluate in Keeper or Dynasty formats. In these, it may not be about remaining competitive this season, but building for the future.
Middle of the Pack
Redraft: In this position, more than ever you need to make deals, but most importantly deals that improve your team at all costs. If you are constantly getting outscored at the tight end position you need to improve it. Trading Justin Forsett for Travis Kelce may not feel right, but it helps you. That is what matters most. You don’t always have to win a trade on paper, but if you can take a stinger and it helps you improve your team, you DID win the trade.
Focus on your areas of weakness, and bolster your starting lineups. That is what matters most. If you have four or five bench players who are fringe starters but you don’t play, find a way to move them. At this point, your starters are what matter most. Deep benches win you nothing.
Keeper/Dynasty: This is the worst situation to be in I think. You likely need to decide if you are going for a late push, or conceding the odds are not in your favor and you need to play for next season and beyond. Depending on which direction you go is difficult because you could be moving prospects for a talented veteran. This kind of trade could push you ahead this season, but weaken your future squads.
The motto is Play for This Season. BUT, if needing a miracle to win this year needs to happen you may be better off sitting on your hands, or playing like a cellar-dweller.
Sitting on the Iron Throne
The acquisition makes you look smart, and feel great too, but he is doing you no good on your bench. It may be that you need some help at wide receiver or quarterback. See what you can do. Like I stated above, don’t feel bad if you lose a trade, either. In your shoes, that is the only thing that will happen, but if it improves your team and strengthens a need or your starting roster, you really did win.
Keeper/Dynasty: This may be one of the times sitting tight makes complete sense. If your team is in win-now mode, staying put makes complete sense. However, what if you can only keep five players and you have seven keeper-worthy players? Would you rather just toss them back in the pool at end of the season, try to make a trade prior to 2016 draft (When everyone knows what you are doing) or move one of them now for a piece or two who would make your team better or equally as good?
Hint: The latter is the correct answer. NBA and MLB teams make moves like this all the time with expiring contracts, or disappointing seasons, so you too can look into this. Remember you want to win now, and if trading a keeper player to another team for pieces you can use to win this season is a no-brainer.
Streamline Your Roster (Redraft and Some Keepers)
This applies to everyone at this point in the season. You don’t need to do it all at once, but as you inch closer to the end of your regular season you should have your rosters built to win. That means having your starting lineup locked, loaded and with no doubts. Do you really need four fringe starters who will not sniff your starting lineup? Probably not. Can you trade one of them and a starter and upgrade the position?
Now, while you can still make trades or moves of some solid bench players, what if they serve you no value or purpose after the trade deadline? Why keep them, especially in redraft leagues? Know your league rules and if for some horrific reason you are in a league where bench points serve as tie-breakers, or something along those lines try to have handcuffs, and backups at QB, TE if you are low on FAAB budget.
If you are in a keeper or Dynasty league consider filling your bench with young players who may start to break out, or be given opportunities later in the season. This is not always possible, but depending on where you are in the standings an owner may be cutting bait with rookies who are not playing and needs to options on their bench. Remain active. Consider trading a handcuff on your team to an owner who wants them for a prized rookie, or draft picks.
Capitalize on Some Over-Performance Hype
Many owners will be mining for gold, primarily those in the middle of the standings or teams out of the race. If you have a big-name prospect who could give you a nice return via trade, should you pull the trigger? Some players are worth the hype, but you may be amazed what some folks are willing to pay for potential. Don’t miss your chance to acquire a proven, but somewhat boring commodity.
Utilize Strength of Schedule
During both the offseason and draft it is somewhat foolish to hone in on strength of schedule, which relies heavily on the previous season’s data for defense. However now that we are halfway through the season we have a more accurate representation of defensive performance, as well as offensive output. This means looking at a running back that has a smooth ride the rest of the way, ESPECIALLY in the fantasy playoffs.
If you are in the playoff hunt and have confidence your squad will continue to win making a move for a player with an easier schedule is a great idea. You never know having a player who is dominating now but has a difficult schedule when it matters most may be worth trading for a comparable player(s) with easier schedules.
Nothing is guaranteed, especially health-wise in fantasy, but this is something you can try and use and is safe to assume many of your league-mates will not be doing the same.
My friends over at Rotoviz.com are fantastic at compiling data and help give you an edge to analyze data and create some trade offers. Here is a great sample article (subscription necessary to access addtional content).
— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.