Grand Theft Roto: Week 1 trade bait
After watching the Patriots treat the Jets the way Britney Spears treated her "comeback," I turned to my buddy, Jon, and told him, "Maybe I'm a conspiracy theorist, but I don't think Moss was hurt in the preseason. I think Belichick saw him practice, knew he was legit and told him that he'd arrange special, secret practices with Brady so they could work on timing and guarantee no one knew how good they were going to be together until it was too late. You know, kind of like the trainer in 'Seabiscuit.'"
About 24 hours later, I heard about the NFL confiscating a tape and the Patriots possibly losing draft picks and all I could think was, "Man, I liked my conspiracy better."
I am a Patriots fan, have been since Stanley Morgan was a pup, and will be until my ashes are scattered from the lighthouse at Gillette Stadium. That said, regardless of whether this is something every team does and the Patriots are just the first ones to get caught, or if this is the secret to New England's three Super Bowls, it doesn't matter to me. Whatever punishment the league hands down, the Pats will deserve, and be getting off easy in the bargain. In college, they'd be forfeiting games and maybe even titles.
Even in the GTR Family, we don't cheat to win.
This where I'm supposed to tell you to sell high on Jon Kitna and buy low on Drew Brees, right? I looked at my "fantasy trade columnist's handbook" and it says that once the season begins, that's the sage wisdom I'm supposed to give.
Not gonna do it. Everyone else is gonna do it, and if everyone's doing it, then someone's going to have to pay full value for Brees and there will be so little market for Kitna that you'll actually give him away for less than he's worth when he's actually a top-10 fantasy quarterback this year.
Now I'm not saying to not buy low if you can. If someone's willing to give you Steven Jackson for Marshawn Lynch and a side order of Derrick Ward, I'll reach through this computer and slap you if you don't say yes at the speed of Lynch. But while everyone else is moving on the disappointed owners of Larry Fitzgerald and Lee Evans, I'm urging you to make deals by approaching owners who are actually happy with a few of their players.
I've written this point before, but it bears repeating. People like to feel smart. That's the real reason people watch reality TV. So they can say, "At least I'm smarter than those mouth breathers." Yup, it's all about feeling smart and nothing makes people feel smarter than when they are ahead of the curve. Let's use me as an example. I have Lamont Jordan on about two-thirds of my teams because I looked at his situation -- he's healthy, he's got no one challenging for the job for another three weeks, and he's finally got real football coaches running the Raiders -- and it seemed to me he was being devalued as if his 2006 performance was going to be his new norm. I caught a lot of grief reaching for him in drafts, but he won three different games for me this past week. In short, Lamont and I are BFF and while I drafted him to be a third running back or flex option, I'm encouraged that he could be a strong second back all season long, making him a starter in my book and on my teams.
I'm not alone in this emotion. When fantasy owners take Tatum Bell, Antwaan Randle El, Jake Delhomme or Ronald Curry in the 15th round of a draft and then watches him go nutso on the bench Week 1, their chests and heads swell with pride. Of course, the only thing that could make these body parts expand more would be having these players repeat their brilliant performances the next week while slotted into the starting lineup.
This is where opportunity lies. When owners can't parlay Jordan or Bell or Curry into anything of real value on the open market, they'll decide to keep them and then want to start them. After all, when a beat-up old jalopy becomes an antique car, you don't want to leave it in a dusty garage parked next to the treadmill you haven't used since Hayden Panetierre was playing the coach's daughter in "Remember the Titans." You want to drive that bad boy. So what you need to do is make a slightly below-market offer for the guy who is blocking his way into the starting lineup. Go to his owner's team and look at who was started last week and figure out who's moving to the bench. If your target has already set their lineup for this week, it's even easier to see.
I can't tell you exactly what to offer. You'll have to read the team, see where it may be feeling a tad weak, and offer the other owner the slightest upgrade you can afford in exchange for the player who is suddenly expendable.
I personally think that Jordan is going to be a top-24 back this year and feel that Curry is for real in terms of being a solid third wide receiver. The other breakout stars of Week 1? Not so much. But rather than ask you to make that call and formulate an offer, I'm reminding you of a sure thing. People like to feel smart. Help them do it, and help yourself.
Sadly, I'm not surprised that I have no deals to report this week. Only the most rash and reactionary of owners will shake up their roster with a trade in the 36 hours following the end of Week 1's games, which is the window I have to work with for this week's GTR column.
I will say that I've been selling Tatum Bell like he's Coke Zero, trying to capitalize on his strong first week. I can't help feeling that Kevin Jones is coming back in the next three weeks, and I know that the Lions won't face the Raiders every Sunday, so it seems like a fair bet that his value won't get much higher barring a setback for Jones or the Lions becoming a playoff team, as Jon Kitna suggested they would be during the offseason.
I've offered Bell up for Marques Colston in several leagues, and Calvin Johnson in another, generally targeting Brandon Jacobs' owners who suddenly are looking to fill an empty spot in their lineup. Any owners who hitched their hopes to Jamal Lewis or Carnell Williams are getting their Bell rung by me this week as well.
In the leagues where I don't have Bell, I tend to have Kevin Jones and am marketing him as a must-have handcuff, playing up the fact he could be back as soon as this week.
If you make any trades that you think qualify as fantasy felonies, send them along and I may print a few of them in the future. In the meantime, 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.