- Shawn Peters
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If you're reading this on Thursday afternoon, mere hours from the literal and figurative kickoff of the 2007 NFL season, you're not thinking about trades.
You're thinking about whom to start.
You're thinking about whom to bench.
You're thinking, "I am a matter of minutes from the beginning of an undefeated season in which my opponents will be so thoroughly crushed, they will have no choice but to name their firstborn children after me, regardless of gender, in an effort to be spared further humiliation."
I'm with you.
But after tonight's tilt between the Colts and Saints, and before Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern, there will be time to both wheel and deal, and with the exception of players on those two teams, any swap you do will have the feel of a preseason trade.
So let's see whom you should be targeting for acquisition and who is a candidate for relocation off your roster.
Casing the Joint
Average Draft Position (aka ADP) is a tremendous tool for projecting who might get taken when as you enter your draft. But even after you draft, you can keep using it to identify whether a player's stock is rising or falling.
Tracking players' ADPs over the past two weeks, it becomes clear which players have been getting drafted earlier or later as the season approaches. This generally reflects whether expectations are rising or falling, but don't just take it face value. Sometimes, a player falls too far and suddenly can be a bargain in trade talks, while other guys get trendy and you're better off dealing them away before any stats get in the way of their buzz.
Here are a few notable names, and whether I'd be buying or selling.
Ronnie Brown was being drafted early in the second round in many 10-team leagues a scant two weeks ago, back when Trent Green looked hapless and Brown seemed to have the inside track on getting almost all of the carries in Cam Cameron's running back-friendly offense. Since then, Cameron has invoked the deadly "you need to have two backs in this business" coachspeak, which has sent Brown tumbling into the late second round, bringing his overall ADP to 16.8 as of Wednesday night. I've been on the vanguard of selling Brown, whom I've never had ranked higher than the 16th back in ESPN public leagues (more on this later). However, I think that some people are overreacting. In the worst-case scenario, I think Brown sees two-thirds of the touches, still making him more valuable than Deuce McAllister or DeAngelo Williams. So if you have a Dolphins fan who is hot for him and willing to give you second-round value, feel free to sell. But if Brown's owner is selling him for third-round spare parts, make a move.
Randy Moss was being selected as a top-10 receiver two weeks ago, going off the board before the final pick of the fourth round. However, the fact that Randy's hammies didn't let him play in the preseason meant that a resting Moss gathered no love as two or three other receivers leapfrogged him, sending Moss into the fifth round in the latest ESPN ADP report (part of that still-valuable draft kit, free to Insiders). Are we looking at a bargain? In a word, no. Fact: Tom Brady's favorite receiver is the open one, and some weeks, that simply won't be Moss if defenses roll coverage his way. Fact: The Patriots will happily throw only a dozen passes all game if that's what their game plan tells them will work. Fact: If Randy Moss is hurting, you will never know until Sunday morning at the earliest because it's easier to decode World War II Navajo radio messages than it is to figure out the truth of Bill Belichick's injury report. There are 13 receivers I'd rather have, so if you can turn that name recognition into something you need, feel free to do so.
Rookie running back Adrian Peterson is currently the 29th running back off the board in ESPN leagues, but he's being taken about a half-round earlier than he was in mid-August. Personally, I think this upward momentum is coming from people slowly realizing two things. First, the Vikings aren't likely to be so good this year and second, that means head coach Brad Childress will be "building to the future" with Peterson sooner rather than later. Even with his stock rising, I'm buying on Peterson as well. He's going as a third back in most formats, and should be a solid flex option right away as well as a potentially unstoppable second back by midseason. He's worth investing in over a back like Jamal Lewis, who has a starting gig all to himself.
Donald Driver has tumbled since hurting his foot almost two weeks ago. Before the foot sprain, Driver was already going a little too late for my tastes. Now he's going in the middle of the fifth round. Bad call fantasy nation. Driver is tough, willing to play hurt (he's missed only one game in the past five years as my colleague Stephania Bell pointed out on Tuesday), and he's the No. 1 target of Brett Favre in a season where the Paleolithic Packers' icon is going to set all-time quarterbacking records. We're talking about a player who has averaged 87 catches for more than 1,200 yards during the past three years. Those are legitimate top-shelf numbers and he's being discounted. Heck, he's the guy you dangle Moss for and maybe get an upgrade elsewhere.
Keep track of who is rising and falling, and then make your own opinions. If a player you still like is slipping, grab him now before he has a chance to prove you right on another team's squad.
Pulling the Job
As stated above, Ronnie Brown's status change from "every-down back" to "better half of a committee" has been evolving for the past week. I saw the writing on the wall and decided to make a move in an ESPN public league. With Ladell Betts sitting on my bench and Ronnie Brown in my starting lineup, I made an effort to get another every-down back and a complementary piece to put with Betts. So I approached Clinton Portis' owner, who had stocked up on ball carriers, and I offered DeShaun Foster and Brown for Portis and Edgerrin James. I sold the other owner on the idea that he'd have Brown to go with two other top backs, insuring he'd always have three starters. Meanwhile, I got a second back in Edge whom I like to bounce back from last year and get more than 80 percent of his team's carries, plus I'll be set whenever productivity or injury settles the Washington Redskins' backfield questions.
In my most recent drafts, Edge is being taken within a round of Brown, but Portis is getting picked about 60 picks before Foster in the latest ADP reports on ESPN.com. That's some value.
Was this my first Grand Theft Roto of the year? Only time will tell, but I'd do it again if I could.
Let the games begin, and don't just win your league. Steal it.
Shawn Peters is a fantasy baseball and football analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com, as well as a regular contributor to the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. He can be reached at GrandTheftRoto@TalentedMrRoto.com.
Shawn Peters discusses using average draft position to your advantage in trade dealings.