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Trading Draft Picks In Redraft Fantasy Football Leagues

Trading draft picks in any type of league is always a huge risk/reward scenario. Most of the time, this practice is saved for keeper and dynasty leagues where trading draft picks is routine. However, these questions do come up from time to time in redraft leagues, and it’s important to note the differences between strategies.

If you do decide to take a gamble and trade picks, you’re likely either seeking to trade up or trade down, thereby gambling on yourself that you’ll make the right choice with the picks you sought to acquire and make up for the lack of picks you dealt. Trading picks in keeper/dynasty leagues carries a bit less risk in that before the draft starts, you already know what rosters look like (somewhat). You have a decent chance of figuring out who will be available at a certain pick simply based off of what other owners’ rosters look like with their keepers. Therefore, you can trade for a pick with a fair degree of confidence that, for example, the wide receiver you want will be there because the five owners picking immediately before the selection you’re targeting in a trade already have multiple receivers. Is it error-proof? No. But there is at least some evidence to work off in coming to a reasoned decision.

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In redraft leagues, you have no such luck. You’re either:

A. Trying to trade with a blank slate draft board


B. You’re trying to trade in the middle of your draft.

If you’re going for the former instead of the latter, it’s important to trade based on the idea of general draft strategy rather than targeting a specific player. If you’re targeting a specific player with an empty draft board, you’re making a decision based on gut rather than reasonable evidence – and then the plan backfires if that player is drafted before the pick you gave up assets (other draft picks) to acquire. If you instead approach draft pick trading with general draft strategy in mind (for example, “three out of the four third tier running backs will be available at this stage of the draft, and based on my current position there’s only a decent chance one will be there”), you’ve given yourself a solid foundation from which to work.

If you’re in situation B, the best approach may be paying attention to people’s reactions after a pick and playing off their emotions. For example, if you see your buddy looking dejected (or if he lets loose a straight up outburst) after the second-to-last running back in a given tier is drafted immediately before you’re picking, this could be your chance to use his frustration and give him the opportunity to trade up a few picks to get the last remaining third tier RB on the board – and you stockpile a few extra picks in the process.

Now let’s take a look at a common trade idea in 12-person PPR redraft leagues with hypothetical draft positions: first rounder (3rd overall) and fourth rounder (46th overall) for second rounder (16th overall) and third rounder (33rd overall). This is the classic case of superstars vs. great depth:

Team A: Pick #’s 3, 9, 40, and 46

Team A is certainly in an excellent position to nail the first round. Using Rotoballer’s ADP statistics (found here), Team A is likely to land Odell Beckham Jr. with the third pick and may be choosing between Ezekiel Elliot or Rob Gronkowski with pick 9. If they wanted to go WR-WR, Dez Bryant would be the choice here. For sake of position-diversity, we’ll say Team A picks Elliot. With the 40th pick, Team A is looking at either Thomas Rawls or Cam Newton. For the 46th pick, the reasonable choices for this team would be Aaron Rodgers, Doug Baldwin, or Latavius Murray. For purposes of this article we’ll say both owners want to take their QB’s later, and give Team A Rawls at #40 and Baldwin at #47.

Team B: Pick #’s 16, 22, 27, and 33

While all the upper tier studs are gone by the time Team B picks, depth should be on this owner’s side. While the 16th pick by our ADP is Keenen Allen, let’s give this owner either Devonta Freeman or Jamaal Charles as with the 22nd pick they’ll likely be able to nab Amari Cooper or Mike Evans. The 27th overall pick seems like a great place to take your WR2, and Team B would probably have Demaryius Thomas or T.Y. Hilton to pick from. Finally, with the 33rd pick, the reasonable choices here seem to be Randall Cobb or Golden Tate.

Team A: Beckham Jr., Elliot, Rawls, Baldwin
Team B: Freeman, Cooper, Thomas, Cobb

Team A has one of the ultimate studs in Beckham, that much is clear. But the back end of Team A’s first four picks isn’t all that comparable to the receivers Team B was able to draft with the extra second and third round picks. Is either way an absolute home run? No – these scenarios are never without risk. However, this exercise does show us the potential first four pick outlook of two teams who make a common redraft league trade based on this year’s ADP’s data. For the record….give me team B.

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