Commentary

Examining the trade market

Updated: November 23, 2011, 3:13 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Being your own man (or woman) might be an admirable quality, but when it comes to trading in fantasy football, there's merit to following the crowd.

After all, there's only one goal on the trade market: Get the deal done.

Considering the limited time remaining to make a trade in ESPN standard leagues -- the deadline arrives Wednesday, Nov. 23, at 11:59 a.m. ET (deals must be accepted by then, but the trade review period can extend past that) -- what better way to get your last-minute deals done than examining trading trends in what else but other ESPN standard leagues? Surely knowing how the fantasy football ownership as a whole feels about player valuation provides you a handy head start given that we're entering the proverbial 11th hour.

Thanks to the help of Mike Polikoff, who oversees our league manager product, we collected trade data from a sampling of approximately 4,500 ESPN draft-based, prize-eligible leagues to provide you such an edge. Let's take a closer look:

Most-traded players

Why not begin your deadline shopping by targeting the players most frequently traded? After all, it stands to reason that the players most commonly dealt tend to continue to be dealt. Accounting for only the past three weeks' data -- from the conclusion of Week 8 through Week 11's kickoff -- these are the 10 traded the most.

The Chris Johnson market

Incidentally, Chris Johnson has been the most-traded player for the entire season in ESPN standard leagues, having been included in 279 successful deals out of our 4,500-league sampling. It makes sense; he was a top-three selection on average in the format (average draft position 2.8) yet has frustrated his owners to the tune of only the 26th-most fantasy points at his position (82) thus far.

Chances are, Johnson has been equally targeted as a buy-low candidate or feverishly shopped by his most frustrated drafters, depending upon your opinion of his slow start. Examining his weekly trade value, here are some key findings.

• He was included in 46 successful trades after Week 3, the most times any individual player has been dealt in any single week since the season began. At the time, Johnson had managed 17 fantasy points total in three games, with not one game in double digits.

• He was included in 30 trades after Week 8 -- tied for the most times an individual player was dealt in the past four weeks -- which, if you recall, was his miserable, four-point fantasy performance against the Indianapolis Colts. This was also the week when he was included in 467 rejected trade proposals, 182 more than any other player.

Now, let's couple those findings with those regarding a different character…

The DeMarco Murray market

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
AP Photo/Hans DerykDeMarco Murray has averaged 17.4 points per game in the past five weeks, failing to reach double digits just once in that span.
Although Chris Johnson was a desirable commodity on draft day, Murray was clearly not, his ADP of 147.8 ranking 180th. Still, despite Murray's spending the season's first six weeks as a backup, he has managed 12 more total fantasy points than Johnson in 2011, thanks to becoming scorching hot right when opportunity presented itself (in the form of Felix Jones getting injured).

Murray might not be anywhere close to the season's leaders in terms of most-traded players -- he has been dealt only 91 times total -- but, as the chart above shows, he's the third-most dealt player in the past three weeks combined. In fact, since his 31-point breakout performance of Week 7, he is the only player to have been traded at least 18 times in each of the past four weeks.

Murray, however, also has been included in the most trades that were vetoed in those four weeks, which suggests that fantasy owners might approach approval of trades of red-hot players with greater scrutiny.

Couple the Johnson and Murray findings and there's reason to believe that there are two types of players who make ideal, likely-to-complete-your-deal targets: Those who are performing beneath their expected levels, and those who are coming off unexpectedly strong games.

The injured players market

Predictably, trading injured players can be tricky, and the vetoed-trade numbers support that. Three of the four players included in the most-vetoed deals have dealt with persistent injuries that have cost them at least two games apiece: Andre Johnson (58), Jahvid Best (40) and Arian Foster (38). In fact, since Johnson originally injured his hamstring in Week 4, he has been included in 32 trades that were subsequently vetoed, tops in our league sample.

But although it has been more difficult to get your trade processed if it includes an injured player, the percentage of players coming off missed games out of all players dealt has actually increased the deeper we get into the season.

For Weeks 2-4, 4.3 percent of all traded players were coming off a missed contest. For Weeks 5-7, that number dipped to 4.2 percent. But since Week 7, 7.2 percent of all traded players had sat out the previous week's game. In fact, 84 players -- the second-highest number all season -- were traded in Week 11 after having sat out their respective Week 10 contests.

These were the three most-traded of that group the past week:

Darren McFadden (18 completed deals): Foot injury.
Miles Austin (15): Hamstring injury.
Andre Johnson (15): Hamstring injury.

What do the three have in common? Not one has been officially cleared to play in Week 12, meaning recent trades for each required a leap of faith. Whether it's clear playoff front-runners stocking up for the stretch run or struggling squads taking wild stabs at high-risk, high-reward players, it appears that injured players might be a bit easier to acquire at this stage of the season.

Position combinations

In the past three weeks (Weeks 9-11) combined, there have been 380 one-for-one trades, the type that make it easy to determine, "Just what is a player ranked this number at this position worth?" Before accounting for specific position ranks, these were the nine most common 1-for-1 trades, positionwise, in those past three weeks:

Now, accounting for current ranking in fantasy points (standard ESPN leagues), here is what several varieties of players fetched on average the past three weeks in one-for-one trades. The two most common combinations are listed.

Top 10 QB: Traded 41 times for a running back, their average ranking 15.8. Also traded 27 times for a wide receiver, their average ranking 13.9.

Top 10 RB: Traded 13 times for a quarterback, their average ranking 5.2. Also traded 14 times for a wide receiver, their average ranking 6.9.

"No. 2 RB" (Nos. 11-20): Traded 59 times for a wide receiver, their average ranking 18.9. Also traded 25 times for a quarterback, their average ranking 9.6.

Top 10 WR: Traded 51 times for a running back, their average ranking 16.4. Also traded 18 times for a quarterback, their average ranking 6.4.

"No. 2 WR" (Nos. 11-20): Traded 40 times for a running back, their average ranking 19.9. Also traded 13 times for another wide receiver, their average ranking 20.7.

Top 10 TE: Traded 22 times for a running back, their average ranking 23.7. Also traded 14 times for a wide receiver, their average ranking 17.9.

The most common trade?

Finally, how about a specific suggestion on a one-for-one trade you might consider proposing? Accounting only for trades completed in the past three weeks (Weeks 9-11), DeMarco Murray and Roddy White were traded for each other straight up six times.

Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter @SultanofStat.