Grand Theft Roto: Dealing with the desperate
Within 24 hours of publishing one of my columns, I know I have two sources to check for feedback.
If I go to ESPN Conversation, at the bottom of this page, I can expect responses like:
"I think my IQ just dropped 25 points after reading this." -- NEgino59
"You stink." -- Wolv_265
"This is the worst article about fantasy football for the year. Trade Michael Turner?! What a joke." -- Austin Nicholas
Then again, if I head to my ESPN inbox, I'll be treated to the following:
"I love your article and I always look for the next GTR." -- Andrew in Vancouver, Wash.
"Shawn, just completed my 5th trade of the season. Wanted to thank you for your motivation to not just win my league, but steal my league." -- Andrew in Portland, Maine.
Now, I'm probably not as good as my e-mailers think I am, nor am I as bad as my Conversation posters claim, though I do wonder: Is it still the worst article ever after Turner's four-point outing against a defense that wasn't Detroit? But that's not the point.
The point is that sometimes "where" you go looking for something decides what you'll find when you get there, and that definitely applies to looking for trade partners two weeks into the season.
The laws of probability say that in your league, about a quarter of the teams are saddled with an 0-2 record right now. Now, 0-2 isn't a death sentence, but it is like having your DNA found at a multiple-homicide scene. Any experienced owner knows he'll likely need eight wins to make his league's postseason and has already done the math and realized that a Week 3 loss could bury him.
That's who you're calling or e-mailing or IMing or carrier-pigeoning today.
Regardless of whether or not you seem to be a good match for their needs on paper, I implore you to at least start some early trade talks with these owners, because it's likely they have at least one disappointing underperformer on their roster whom they consider responsible for their predicament. A 2-0 owner is happy to wait and see if Carson Palmer or Braylon Edwards is going to bounce back (I happen to think both will, though Braylon more than Carson) and the 1-1 owner has no motivation to make any crazy moves right away. But the 0-2 owner has nothing left in the patience pantry. The cupboard is bare! Even the most level-headed owner feels a little heat when they have no wins and the beginning of wholesale bye weeks are around the corner.
The key is to offer someone who is providing production already, but that doesn't mean you'll get away with offering up Jason Campbell for Larry Johnson with a note saying "LJ stinks this year. " Instead, own up to the fact that you're asking for a guy whom you believe will turn it around, but point out to the other guy that if that happens in Week 5 or 6, it may be too late. Then make a strong offer for a player you believe will see better days ahead. Focus on guys who were hurt in the preseason and are likely still rounding into shape like Edwards, Peyton Manning and Willis McGahee, who has already had his bye week. I think now is also a good time to go after guys whose early-season schedule clearly has contributed to their slow starts.
Maybe you'll find that the 0-2 owners in your league aren't ready to make a big move, but you'll never know for sure unless you start making offers.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints: I wouldn't have considered putting Brees in this space a week ago, mere days after he lit up the Bucs and scored 23 fantasy points, because who would have considered dealing him? But now that he doesn't have Marques Colston for a month or more and he's coming off a two-interception performance against the Redskins, I think he's not quite as untouchable. He should be, though, as the Saints play the Broncos, Niners and Vikings in the next three games. None of those teams has stopped the pass so far in 2008, and Brees still has enough weapons to spread it around and pile up the fantasy points. Why not kick the tires on him at this point?
Joseph Addai, RB, Colts: If a guy's first two dates of his life were with Mother Teresa and Ellen DeGeneres, would you blame him for not even scoring a goodnight kiss? Well, that's what Addai has faced by starting his season going against the Bears and Vikings defenses without his team's starting center. As we saw in the second half of Sunday's game, the Colts' offense is finally knocking some of the rust off the gears, and with Anthony Gonzalez's emergence, defenses are going to have to start playing the pass more. I know Dominic Rhodes is currently getting some goal-line looks, but as soon as Addai gets going he'll get his share of touches in all situations. The Colts have a tough schedule in general, but this week they get Jacksonville, which has allowed 106 yards per game on the ground already this year. I think now is the time to get a back whose fantasy playoff schedule looks luscious.
Matt Jones, WR, Jaguars: Even though Jones' Week 1 performance -- six receptions for 80 yards -- opened a few eyes, Jones is owned in only 16.2 percent of ESPN leagues. But in deeper formats, he's on someone's team, and you could do worse than to have him on yours. Jones has been all potential, no production for much of his career, but something has changed this year, and with the Jags unable to run the ball behind their injury-plagued line, the team is throwing more. Jones has been targeted 10 times in each of the first two games, and David Garrard's accuracy -- he completed 64 percent of his passes in 2007 and is at 63.5 percent this year -- should result in plenty of catches. Especially in point-per-reception leagues, Jones could be a steal.
Jamal Lewis, RB, Browns: Lewis is a seasoned veteran, but the rest of Cleveland's offense is relatively young, with Derek Anderson, Kellen Winslow, and Braylon Edwards all on the upside of their careers. However, players at that stage of their development are the types that are most affected by missing reps in the preseason, and both Anderson and Edwards were hurt. As a result, the passing game isn't clicking, and Lewis has found no running room. In the next four weeks, the Browns face tough defenses in the Ravens and Giants, plus they have a bye. Assuming you need help soon, he's not going to do much for you and might still draw interest.
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Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars: It's not selling low if a player is going to struggle all year long, and that's what's in store for MJD. As mentioned earlier, the Jaguars' offensive line has injuries that aren't going away, and while Jones-Drew is an exciting player when he gets in space, he won't be finding much space except on swing passes and screens. MJD's draft position was largely based on the Jags being a run-first team, but it doesn't seem like that will be their identity this year. Splitting carries with Fred Taylor, especially in the red zone, I don't trust Jones-Drew to be more than an explosive flex option, so either find someone who still likes him or wait one more week and hope he goes off against an Indy defense that is missing Bob Sanders so you can deal him then.
Joey Galloway, WR, Buccaneers: There are few things that send me running the other way quicker than when a team switches quarterbacks and a receiver goes from being targeted all game long to being ignored. That's what has happened to Galloway as he saw 13 passes in Week 1 from Jeff Garcia and only four balls in Week 2 when Brian Griese took over. Now the St. Petersburg Times is reporting that Jon Gruden is sticking with Griese, at least for this week, and that's bad news for Galloway. I'm dealing him to someone who's looking to replace Nate Burleson or Marques Colston.
Got my first deal done of the year in an ESPN public league, where I had Tony Romo as my starting quarterback with both Derek Anderson and Jake Delhomme on my bench. I found an 0-2 team that was worried about Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder strain and ended up dealing Delhomme and Matt Forte for Jericho Cotchery and Willis McGahee. I know Forte has been a monster so far this year, but rookie backs often hit a wall while McGahee has had an extra week to get healthy, plus he's already past his bye. Throw in the fact that I will start Cotchery multiple times while Delhomme was destined to ride the pine and I'm very happy with that deal.
A steal? Probably not. I gave up value to get value. But I bet the other guy doesn't make that deal if he isn't 0-2 and in need of Forte's instant production.
Until next week, don't just win your league. Steal it.
Shawn Peters is a fantasy baseball, football and golf analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him your own grand theft rotos by clicking here.
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