Rashard Mendenhall: Brian Garfinkel/Icon SMI
On the whole, 12- to 14-team fantasy leagues don't have trade deadlines until Week 11 or 12 (the good ones, at least). But the thought occurred to us while watching The League -- the hilarious fantasy-football themed comedy on the FX Network (more on this later) -- for a second time Sunday morning: Smart owners don't wait until the Thanksgiving holiday to make season-changing moves; these intelligent beings are already busy shaping their rosters for the fantasy playoffs -- even if it means possibly taking a dive in Weeks 9 or 10, while the remaining NFL clubs have their bye week.
So, in a move to stay ahead of the curve ... here are four rules to live by BEFORE rolling up your sleeves and playing Let's Make A Deal:
1. Perform an honest assessment of your own roster. Do not get fooled into believing bad players will magically turn on the jets -- if you have had a hole at QB, RB, WR, TE or the RB/WR flex the first eight weeks ... you'll likely be exposed in Weeks 9-16, as well.
2. Be the aggressor in offering trades. There's nothing worse than NOT having control of an intense negotiation. Don't let the other owner gain the upper hand by throwing out names, in hopes that you'll bite out of desperation.
3. Always get the best player in the deal. I don't care if you're embroiled in a 1-for-1 swap, 2-for-2 switcheroo, 3-for-2 blockbuster or 4-1 tsunami (more on these deal-types next week) ... make sure you walk away with the primary stud in the trade.
4. Don't be afraid to sacrifice your bench. I learned this lesson a long time ago from one of the fantasy world's true shamans, Detroit radio host Sean Baligian: Great bench depth will serve you no purpose during the playoff weeks. So, if you have four great running backs -- Marion Barber, Rashard Mendenhall, Clinton Portis, Steven Jackson, for example -- and need to get stronger at wide receiver, have no fear in dangling Rashard and/or Portis to land a big fish at WR. Oh sure, you'll be sweating bullets if a stud runner goes down to injury ... but hey, there's a risk-reward \aspect to every challenge in fantasyland -- just don't look back!
For what it's worth right now ... these are the QBs/RBs/WRs (in no particular order) you'll want to move mountains to acquire before Week 14 -- traditionally the first weekend of the fantasy playoffs:
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, David Garrard, Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Kurt Warner
RBs: Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Turner, Thomas Jones, Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Matt Forte, DeAngelo Williams, Jamaal Charles, LaDainian Tomlinson, Brandon Jacobs, Frank Gore
WRs: Santonio Holmes, Marques Colston, Derrick Mason, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Miles Austin, Vincent Jackson
1. David Garrard vs. Kansas City
2. Aaron Rodgers @ Tampa Bay
3. Tom Brady vs. Miami
4. Peyton Manning vs. Houston
5. Drew Brees vs. Carolina
6. Matt Hasselbeck vs. Detroit
7. Donovan McNabb vs. Dallas
Looking for a creative way to land Rams RB Steven Jackson (970 total yards in '09) in a pre-deadline blockbuster? Try offering a receiver-needy owner Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston and Cowboys RB Felix Jones, as part of an all-too-tempting 3-for-1 trade (especially if they already own Marion Barber and/or Anquan Boldin).
In general terms, here are the 20 best available free agents for 12-team, standard-scoring leagues:
1. RB Ryan Moats, Texans
2. RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
3. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders (he should be back by Week 10)
4. WR Lee Evans, Bills
5. WR Sam Aiken, Patriots (this week's Flavor of the Month in Foxboro)
6. TE Vernon Davis, 49ers
7. QB Matthew Stafford, Lions
8. WR Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers
9. WR Mike Wallace, Steelers
10. TE Heath Miller, Steelers
11. WR Pierre Garcon, Colts
12. D/ST Cincinnati Bengals
13. WR Kenny Britt, Titans
14. WR Mohammed Massaquoi, Browns (the one gem of Cleveland's disastrous year)
15. RB Glen Coffee, 49ers
16. QB Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
17. TE Todd Heap, Ravens
18. WR Andre Caldwell, Bengals
19. PK Olindo Mare, Seahawks
20. WR Brandon Tate, Patriots (while fantasy owners flock to grab Sam Aiken, I'll gladly take the bigger, stronger, faster and hopefully better wideout)
You can never have enough quality running backs in fantasyland, which is precisely why Houston's Ryan Moats will fetch top dollar in auction and blind-bidding leagues this week (he'll undoubtedly be No. 1 in straight-up waiver leagues, too). But not everyone has the resources to add Moats, whether it's because: 1) Their seasonal record is too good, or 2) They've exhausted their amount of free-agent blind-bidding bucks in previous weeks. However, there's a simple solution to this problem (at least in the future): Simply identify which unheralded tailback is on the brink of becoming The Next Big Thing due to unforseeen circumstances (Moats' 151 yards/3 TDs came directly from Steve Slaton's bout with fumbleitis). Or, you could just cherry-pick off my Top 10 Running Backs You'll Be Selling Your Fantasy Soul To Get In 1-3 Weeks, Unless You Act Now (after Moats, Shonn Greene and Beanie Wells, of course):
1. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
2. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
3. Glen Coffee, 49ers
4. Brandon Jackson, Packers
5. Correll Buckhalter, Broncos
6. Garrett Wolfe, Bears
7. Rashad Jennings, Jaguars
8. Aaron Brown, Lions
9. Dantrell Savage, Chiefs
10. Justin Forsett, Seahawks
For owners in 16-team fantasy leagues who absolutely, positively need a backup running back this week, one with a serious chance of scoring double-digits through the magic of garbage time ... look no further than Jacksonville's Rashad Jennings (74 yards on 21 touches). Yes, Jennings is only a rookie, but with Kansas City allowing 25.8 points per game and looking brutal on the road, the stars are aligned for Jennings to get this year's 15 Minutes of Fantasy Fame.
1. Michael Turner vs. Washington
2. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Kansas City
3. Brandon Jacobs vs. San Diego
4. Ryan Grant @ Tampa Bay
5. Frank Gore vs. Tennessee
6. Ronnie Brown @ New England
7. Joseph Addai vs. Houston
8. Matt Forte vs. Arizona
9. DeAngelo Williams @ New Orleans
10. Chris Johnson @ San Francisco
11. Julius Jones vs. Detroit
Looking for a creative way to land Reggie Wayne (51 catches, 689 yards, 6 TDs) for your Points Per Reception league? Try offering a RB-light owner Darren Sproles, Knowshon Moreno (ranked 23rd and 26th, respectively) and Packers WR Donald Driver, as part of a bold 3-for-1 trade. (Obviously, the preceding idea wasn't pitched with one specific fantasy team in mind ... simply use your imagination here.)
It's foolish to guarantee 100 yards and/or one touchdown with tight ends -- since their stats, stars included, tend to fluctuate wildly from week to week. Instead, here's our top 10 most productive tight ends for Week 9:
1. Brent Celek vs. Dallas
2. Dallas Clark vs. Houston
3. John Carlson vs. Detroit
4. Greg Olsen vs. Arizona
5. Jason Witten @ Philadelphia
6. Vernon Davis vs. Tennessee
7. Heath Miller @ Denver
8. Antonio Gates @ N.Y. Giants
9. Jeremy Shockey vs. Carolina
10. Benjamin Watson vs. Miami
Vincent Jackson: Jacob de Golish/Getty Images
@B4him13 wonders: Is trading Joseph Addai/Vincent Jackson for Steve Breaston/Chris Johnson worth it ... if it means having to start Eddie Royal/Jeremy Maclin in Week 9?
Answer: EVERY trade is worth it, if it'll help you succeed in the fantasy playoffs. If Week 9 is a must-win, though, then it probably wouldn't hurt to pull back for another week. At face value, I'd want the Johnson/Breaston side of the deal -- only because of Anquan Boldin's lingering ankle problems ... and that Kurt Warner heavily relies on two Arizona receivers in every game.
@thrasherrr asks: Could you cite someone of comparable value with Matt Forte? RB-for-RB trades can be sketchy.
Answer: Yes, if possible, avoid the 1-for-1 RB swap -- it's absolutely absurd (unless you're robbing Owner B blind OR the parties are mututally securing handcuffs). As for specific value, I would think any WR outside of Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne would work in a 1-for-1 trade involving Forte. I, like everyone else, have no idea if Forte's 121-yard, 2-TD outing against the Browns was a fantasy mirage ... but it was tantalizing enough to get an elite-level wideout in return. Strike while the iron is hot!
@antbrent wants to know: Hey Jay, does giving up T.J. Houshmandzadeh for Marshawn Lynch seem fair? I'm not impressed with the Bills, but I'm desperate for a No. 2 running back.
Answer: Not to mock this potential deal, but both Housh (35 catches, 383 yards, 2 TDs) and Lynch (340 total yards, 1 TD) are on a noticeable downslide at this point. It's almost a garbage-in/garbage-out kind of trade. HOWEVER, if it'll dig you out of a significant hole at running back, then I see no harm in dealing away Housh. Although, you might want to wait until AFTER Week 9 -- for Lynch is on his bye and Housh gets a once-in-a-season crack at the Lions' porous secondary.
@EAGLEinBAMA wonders: I have four good options in my PPR league for Week 9: Chris Johnson, Cedric Benson, DeAngelo Williams, Joseph Addai. Which three do I start?
Answer: For Week 9, let's ride D-Williams, Chris Johnson and Addai. Obviously, I love Cedric and have fond memories of his 136 yards/1 TD against Baltimore in Week 5. But the odds of him cracking the century mark twice against the Ravens seem rather remote. Better to play the percentages on this one ... thanks!
@mongoose5271 poses this question: I'm 7-1 with Chris Johnson, LenDale White, Donald Brown, Rashard Mendenhall, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jamaal Charles at RB ... and Reggie Wayne, Hines Ward, Derrick Mason, Lee Evans and Carolina's Steve Smith at WR. What's a good trade for getting Cedric Benson?
Tweet #1: Instead of targeting Benson, via trade, you might want to consider bolstering the WR corps instead ... it's a little thin after (and perhaps including) the Panthers' Steve Smith.
Tweet #2: To get a No. 2 WR, try offering Bradshaw/Steve Smith (CAR) to Brandon Jacobs' owner ... for someone like Marques Colston or Roddy White, theoretcially speaking.
Tweet #3: Try offering Hines Ward, J-Charles AND Donald Brown for Cedric (3-for-1 swap). It's a mini-blockbuster ... assuming Larry Johnson doesn't see another carry with Kansas City in '09.
1. Stephen Gostkowski vs. Miami
2. Rob Bironas @ San Francisco
3. Lawrence Tynes vs. San Diego
4. Mason Crosby @ Tampa Bay
5. Olindo Mare vs. Detroit
6. Matt Prater vs. Pittsburgh
7. Nate Kaeding @ N.Y. Giants
Mainstream fantasy sites, like SI.com, are obviously a hit with fantasygoers. But there's always room for alternative media in the marketplace, especially when the authors are hilariously shouting from the rooftops about how a healthy Maurice Jones-Drew should NEVER get less than 10 carries in a close loss OR why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may not win a game ... until 2012.
The first must-see blog is PigskinAddiction.com; and the site's signature page involves Snake's Takes (running every Tuesday) -- comprising a collection of unfiltered thoughts so random, so emotional, so bitter, so twisted ... you'll wonder how the man even survives an NFL Sunday, let alone write about it come Monday.
Next up ... Fantasy Football Toolbox. If you're looking for updated depth charts, weekly cheat sheets, injury reports and even -- sacre bleu! -- an updated listing of the NFL's Top 10 punters (insert joke here) ... then welcome home!
There's even a weekly podcast during the season -- although the Clemons/Ritter podcast offers more hard-hitting fantasy analysis and abject mocking of one another's lineup decisions.
1. Mike Sims-Walker vs. Kansas City
2. Donald Driver @ Tampa Bay
3. Antonio Bryant vs. Green Bay
4. Reggie Wayne vs. Houston
5. Randy Moss vs. Miami
6. Andre Johnson @ Indianapolis
7. Jeremy Maclin vs. Dallas
8. Michael Crabtree vs. Tennessee
9. Santonio Holmes @ Denver
10. Marques Colston vs. Carolina
11. Chad Ochocinco vs. Baltimore
12. Deion Branch vs. Detroit
In case you're scoring at home, here's my perfect lineup for Week 9:
QB Peyton Manning
RB Brandon Jacobs
RB Maurice Jones-Drew
WR Reggie Wayne
WR Randy Moss
RB/WR DeAngelo Williams
TE Brent Celek
PK Stephen Gostkowski
D/ST Seattle Seahawks (simply follow the strench-trail that is the Rams, Browns, Bucs or -- in this case -- Lions)
Never underestimate the power of friendship or mutual respect in fantasy football. This week, I brokered a deal with a longtime compatriot in about 10 minutes (one counteroffer's worth of time) ... simply because we had the sensibilities to cut through the b.s. and create a fair trade that would markedly help both parties: Clinton Portis, Rashard Mendenhall, Austin Collie for Greg Jennings, Austin Miles, Derrick Ward.
For this TD-heavy league, Owner B gets two automatic starters at wide receiver (Austin, Jennings) and a potential gem at RB (Ward) ... whereas I sacrificed WR depth to plug in two immediate starters at RB. (Did I mention that Andre Johnson/Larry Fitzgerald are my No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers?)
The lesson here: Even hyper-competitive fantasy owners (like yours truly) need to build/maintain cordial relationships during the course of a long season. If you're the type of owner who contacts people ONLY when you want something from 'em -- and especially when this involves offering one-sided deals in your favor -- you'll never get past the first round of counteroffers before Owner B decides: I don't like you ... so I'm certainly not going to help you in any way.
The phone calls, texts and emails came pouring in fast and furious early last week: Have you heard about that TV show about fantasy football? ... Are you going to watch that fantasy football show? ... OMG, someone made a TV show about your life!
Of course, these vague messages were specifically referencing The League, the F/X Network's homage to fantasy football and the men (and women) whose lives are affected by it. For those who missed the premiere episode -- where our suburban heroes went through the rib-tickling and never-easy process of conducting a LIVE fantasy draft (at least that's my PG-friendly description) -- the whole viewing experience exceeded my expectations by a long shot (my wife loved it too -- and let's just say she's not a fan of fantasy football).
Oh sure, I knew of Jeff Schaffer's work as a writer on Seinfeld/Curb Your Enthusiasm and I had enjoyed his interview on the Sirius Fantasy Football Show, starring Adam Caplan and John Hansen (my head-to-head opponent in the Facebook Experts League for Week 9) ... but I never thought fantasy football could be that hilarious -- and that mainstream -- on the small screen. In other words, you could show the pilot to 10 men/women from ages 25-44 who DON'T play fantasy football, and I'd bet at least eight would give it a "thumbs up" ... and seven would tune in for Episode No. 2 (Thursday @ 10:30 p.m. EST). BOOM!Here's hoping the show lasts longer than Police Squad.