Never give up!

With seven weeks in the books, you may be shaking your head in reflecting on your 2020 fantasy football season. It started with the announcement in July that there would be no preseason games in the NFL, with the dark shadow of COVID-19 hanging over everyone. It was no surprise that injuries quickly followed after the regular season opened in September.

First, Michael Thomas, the No. 1 fantasy wide receiver, was injat ured in Week 1. The following week, the top two running backs and No. 2 and No. 4 wide receivers were injured. Christian McCaffrey still isn’t back from a high-ankle sprain. Saquon Barkley is out for the season with a torn ACL. Devante Adams and Julio Jones were out for multiple weeks.

Running backs Nick Chubb and Austin Ekeler were injured in Week 4, and both are still out for a few more weeks. In Week 5, Dak Prescott, one of the top three quarterbacks, was lost for the season with a compound fracture and dislocation in his right ankle. Dalvin Cook, one of the top three running backs, suffered a serious groin injury. He’s expected back in Week 8.

In last week’s column, I stated that a poor draft shouldn’t doom your season. I want to add that a key injury (or two) shouldn’t finish you off, either. You can still win your league, but you’re going to have to do two things well in the second half of the fantasy season – work the waiver wire and make some good trades. Do these two things well, and you can win.  

My teams currently are 5-2 in both my fantasy leagues. I had McCaffrey in one league, along with Adams and Jones. But I moved quickly to claim James Robinson and then Mike Davis from waivers. I have a good team, but I’m not resting on my laurels. I also added Chase Edmonds, who will now be the starting running back for Arizona, and Antonio Brown.

My other league is more competitive, and I couldn’t get Robinson, Davis, Edmonds, or Brown. They were gobbled up by other managers. But I did manage to trade for Tom Brady. I dealt Cam Newton for Brady and A.J. Green early in the season, when Newton looked like the better quarterback. I also added Rob Gronkowski and Giovanni Bernard from waivers.

This week, I want to give you some tips and insights on how to do both of these things to ensure you have at least a fighting chance to make the playoffs. First, this caveat. If you’re 0-7, or 1-6, your chance of making the playoffs is slim – but owe it to yourself and other fantasy managers to not quit. You need to keep battling and keep learning each week. And have fun!   

WAIVER WIRE STRATEGIES

I assume you know what the waiver wire is and how to use it. The primary use of the waiver wire is to replace injured players. If one of your starters gets hurt, your need to find a replacement. The teams that finish near the top in their league have the highest waiver wire activity every season. I usually top my league each year with the most transactions.  

However, you shouldn’t wait for injury to strike before you check the waiver wire. In fact, you should always be checking it, along with any transactions in your league. In Yahoo leagues, transactions actually come in the form of alerts to your phone. It can’t be any easier than that. With ESPN, you will have to check it each day to know who’s been added and dropped.

It’s critical to monitor the wire because there are injuries to key players each week. Misfortune will strike your team, or an opponent’s team. Murphy is alive and well, so expect adversity. When injuries hit your opponents, this can set up a trade opportunity. If your opponent loses George Kittle, and you have Mark Andrews and Darrell Waller rostered, offer to trade.

The waiver wire also has undrafted players worth rostering. Look for a player like Bernard, who benefits from a key injury. Bernard is Joe Mixon’s backup, and I grabbed him last Friday when Mixon was ruled out for Sunday’s game. I don’t wish anything but the best for Mixon, but I hope he’s out again this week because Bernard paid off like a slot machine in Week 7.

Bernard, who had 23 fantasy points in my PPR league, was gold. But he shouldn’t have been available on the waiver wire because the team that drafted Mixon should have picked him up on draft night, or sometime soon after, as an insurance policy. I don’t like repeating myself, but you need to own the backup RB for anyone you drafted in the first or second round.  

Scouring the waiver wire can pay off big. Sometimes, a fantasy manager will drop a player who shouldn’t be dropped. The key is being able to identify these nuggets of gold. Last year, someone in my ESPN league dropped Cooper Kupp, who finished the season as the No. 4 overall wide receiver. In that league, there was no FAAB, and I lost out on waiver priority. 

My Kupp example is a cautionary tale. The morale of the story is don’t give up on a player too quickly. I can’t imagine how many times the fantasy manager kicked himself after dropping Kupp. However, after several games, you may decide a drafted player isn’t performing well. This is when you look for help on the wire to replace the player with someone better.

Of course, you need to be able to identify good players. There is a knack to being able to discern a shiny object from a true diamond in the rough. Just because a player has one big week doesn’t mean you should rush out and claim him on waivers. An example of fool’s gold was Nyheim Hines, who scored 27.3 fantasy points in the first week and has done nothing since.

You need to decide if your waiver wire add is for the short term or the long term. On a long-term pickup, always look at the remaining schedule. If the next several opponents offer tough matchups for this player, or team, it might be worth thinking twice before using your waiver priority of FAAB money to acquire him – especially if you already have doubts.

TRADING STRATEGIES

Trading is an excellent way to strengthen your roster. The problem is that there is no sure way to evaluate trades when it comes to making or receiving offers. Everyone values players differently, and I find that most other managers value their players more highly than I value them. There are trade value charts available if you want a second opinion.

Trading strategies vary, and trading philosophies differ. For instance, my son loves to buy low and sell high. You may wonder what’s unusual about that, but he takes it to an extreme. If I have a player that I think is a bust, Nathan may have a higher opinion of him than I. Sometimes, I can use this against him if I want to dump a player to cut my losses.

Every analyst seems to write about players you should buy low, or sell high. I read them all because you can find good information, but you should take all information with a grain of salt. There is also a time you should sell low. I’ve been trying to trade Ezekiel Elliott for the past few weeks. Each week, his value drops. I would love to unload him.  

Don’t get caught up in who “won” the trade. Everyone wants to win at fantasy sports, but winning on a trade isn’t the name of the game. A trade can actually be a win-win if both teams are improved by the trade. That’s the objective of any trade – to make your team better. If you think that your lineup is stronger after the deal, then you made a good trade.

Sadly, I’ve found that most managers won’t trade because they fear they are not going to get a good deal. This is unfortunate because trading is fun, and it’s the best way to make your team better quickly. Three years ago, I picked up Alvin Kamara off the waiver wire and traded for Mark Ingram. I started both of them throughout the season and won the league.  

If you’re going to make a credible trade offer, find a trading partner who is weak at a position where you are strong – and vice versa. For instance, if I’m deep in wide receivers (and I usually am), I am looking for a trading partner who’s weak in that area. With a short supply of running backs, I would be willing to make someone a good deal on a running back.    

If you’re new at trading, you may want to employ the KISS principle. KISS stands for “keep it simple and straightforward.” You may have heard another variation of this acronym: “Keep it simple, stupid.” A simple trade would be a straight up, one-for-one player trade. My experience is that the majority of trades in fantasy football are one-for-one deals.  

While one-for-one trades are the most common, multiple-player trades are more fun, and they offer a better chance to achieve the win-win objective. For instance, if you want Kittle, you’re not going to trade your RB1 for him unless you get a decent RB in the same trade. For example, I tried to trade a Kittle manager Elliott and Hayden Hurst for Kittle and Todd Gurley. 

The trade offer for Kittle was rejected, but I thought it was a fair offer. He would have received a top running back and a marginal tight end in exchange for a top tight end and a marginal running back. I’m not a big Gurley fan, and I think he’s a candidate for negative regression, but I would have done the deal to get one of the top two tight ends for the rest of the season.

If I receive a trade offer from another manager, I always counter. Recently, a manager offered me Mixon and T.Y. Hilton for Ezekiel Elliott. Frankly, that was almost insulting, but I still countered. My offer back to him was Elliott and Tom Brady for Mixon and Russell Wilson. This offer was made a couple of weeks ago, before Brady had his 38-point game.

In summary, I want to encourage you to never give up on your team. Three years ago, I started the season 1-5 in my home league. But then my team came together, led by breakout running back Kamara and teammate Ingram. I won the next seven regular season games and my two playoff games to win the championship. Like Winston Churchill said: “Never give up!”  

You can follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter at ThomasLSeltzer1.

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