Larry Fitzgerald: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Welcome to the biggest 7-day frenzy of the fantasy season -- the precious 168-hour period before the Week 12 trade deadlines ... which, for most people, occur on Nov. 25 (Thanksgiving Eve). Simply put, this time frame could easily be the difference between making/missing the playoffs or winning/losing a league championship. To get the ball rolling, we proudly present four time-tested, highly creative strategies for landing the players you covet the most. First up, the 1-for-1 swap.
1. Never approve a same-position deal (WR-for-WR, RB-for-RB, etc.), unless it's a blowout in your favor
2. Never give up a full-time fantasy starter for a part-time starter
Think about it: When Owner B offers to give you (Owner A) 49ers RB Frank Gore (762 total yards, 7 TDs) for Colts RB Joseph Addai (676 total yards, 9 TDs) ... he/she's really thinking: Addai will get more overall points than Gore, and since overall points are the only thing that matter in fantasy football, perhaps you'll be stupid enough to make the move.
OK, maybe Owner B really wants you to have the RB handcuff with Glen Coffee. Even so, what's your motivation for doing the deed? (Even if Gore earns better numbers, it's only a marginal improvement at the very same position. It's not like you've markedly improved your team. If anything, you have now assumed a greater risk for the lateral shakeup.) That's when you politely decline the swap and reply with something to the effect of, "Go find another pigeon!" Now, if that owner is truly serious about prying Addai from your RB-heavy, WR-light team, then you subtly steer them in the direction of stud receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Sidney Rice or Vincent Jackson. That trio would likely trigger a win-win deal for both parties.
1. Kurt Warner @ St. Louis
2. Philip Rivers @ Denver
3. Tom Brady vs. N.Y. Jets
4. Donovan McNabb @ Chicago
5. Drew Brees @ Tampa Bay
6. Eli Manning vs. Atlanta
7. Brett Favre vs. Seattle
8. Aaron Rodgers vs. San Francisco
9. Matthew Stafford vs. Cleveland
One of my best friends in the world -- who'd like to keep his prominent identity private ... so let's call him Peter Sam Underwood, or PSU, for short -- texted me Tuesday night for my thoughts on a potential blockbuster trade: Peyton Manning/Chad Ochocinco for Tony Romo/Terrell Owens/Marshawn Lynch. And after scolding him for even considering such a one-sided deal where he'd be giving up a megastar (Manning) and top-20 WR for two throwaways (sorry, Buffalo fans) and Romo (BTW: he already has Philip Rivers) ... it suddenly dawned on me that PSU has already been eliminated from playoff contention!
Which brings me to this: If you're playing in a non-keeper league and have already been bounced from the playoff picture, what is your obligation as a fantasy owner? Should you be allowed to make incidental trades, as part of a low-key plan to win any "Toilet Bowl" payout (a "playoff" amongst the teams that don't qualify for the actual postseason) ... OR should they just have the common decency to STOP conceiving or accepting any/all subsequent swaps -- out of respect for the owners who are chasing a fantasy title?
I'd love to get some Twitter feedback (@SI_JayClemons) on this issue. In fact, I'll post the most interesting responses in Friday's Fantasy Clicks. Thanks!
Here are the 20 best available free agents for 12-team, standard-scoring leagues:
1. RB Justin Forsett, Seahawks
2. RB Jason Snelling, Falcons
3. QB Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
4. TE Jason Avant, Eagles
5. QB David Garrard, Jaguars
6. RB Michael Bush, Raiders
7. RB Fred Jackson, Bills
8. WR Pierre Garcon, Colts
9. WR Chris Chambers, Chiefs (say hello to The Man -- until Week 15)
10. QB Matthew Stafford, Lions
11. WR Lance Long, Chiefs (15 targets in the last three weeks)
12. D/ST New York Giants
13. WR Lance Moore, Saints
14. QB Chad Henne, Dolphins
15. D/ST Houston Texans
16. WR Davone Bess, Dolphins
17. TE Brandon Pettigrew, Lions (getting a noticeable uptick in weekly targets)
18. WR Devery Henderson, Saints
19. PK Kris Brown, Texans
20. WR Justin Gage, Titans (broken back and all ... still a sneaky-good stashee for Week 14)
General Tenet: Seek out the owner who believes they're "one player away" from making the playoffs or winning a championship
In one of my PPR leagues, I am swimming in quality receivers -- Reggie Wayne, Anquan Boldin, Roddy White, Steve Breaston, Wes Welker, Antonio Bryant -- and need a strong RB3 to complement Chris Johnson, Ryan Grant. There are two ways to approach this mission: Either work with an owner exclusively in hopes of striking a deal OR stealthily involve the masses, in hopes of starting a bidding war (the more enjoyable method).
The best way to do this? Simply post something short, sweet, funny and very non-specific on your league message board, such as: "I just got a call from Roddy White's agent: He said, 'Play my client EVERY WEEK or trade him.' So, I guess I have to explore that now ... damn! Anyone want him?" After that, it'll be high-time to sit back and let the offers pour in. As soon as two or three attractive offers come down the pipe (assuming the other owners actually care about their rosters), you're in position to play each participating owner against one another -- keeping them on the hook through personalized IMs or emails. What's the point of this dance, you ask? Well, there's a reason why "11th-hour deals" come down to the ... uh, 11th hour. Translation: Make 'em sweat (and possibly jump through hoops) to get their man!
You can never have enough quality running backs in fantasyland, which is precisely why Seattle's Justin Forsett (149 total yards, 1 TD in Week 10) 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 Forsett, 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 (like a Julius Jones injury). Or, 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:
1. Justin Forsett, Seahawks
2. Jason Snelling, Falcons
3. Correll Buckhalter, Broncos
4. Rashad Jennings, Jaguars
5. Jerious Norwood, Falcons
6. Brandon Jackson, Packers
7. Bernard Scott, Bengals
8. Aaron Brown, Lions
9. DeShawn Wynn, Packers
10. Kenneth Darby, Rams
1. DeAngelo Williams vs. Miami
2. Ray Rice vs. Indianapolis
3. Marion Barber vs. Washington
4. Frank Gore @ Green Bay
5. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Buffalo
6. Adrian Peterson vs. Seattle
7. Pierre Thomas @ Tampa Bay
8. Beanie Wells @ St. Louis
9. Chris Johnson @ Houston
10. Matt Forte vs. Philadelphia
11. Rashard Mendenhall @ Kansas City
General Tenet: Always be the instigator -- be the first one to push the potential deal
May we introduce ... the 1-4 vs. 2-3 Method. Simply put, this involves a 2-for-2 swap where Owner A gives up the best player (#1) and worst player (#4), while Owner B surrenders the second- and third-best players (#2, #3). In real terms, say I wanted to ship Rams RB Steven Jackson to an owner who needs running backs and has great depth at receiver. I would simply give him/her one premium back (S-Jax) and one serviceable WR (Torry Holt) for one premium WR (Brandon Marshall) and one solid back (Panthers rookie Jonathan Stewart). The result: A win-win trade for both parties, satisfying two weaknesses. (Note: The 1-4 vs. 2-3 Method works for any positional trade combination -- just make sure Owner A is clearly surrendering the best and worst players of the deal.)
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 11:
1. Dallas Clark @ Baltimore
2. Kellen Winslow, Jr. vs. New Orleans
3. Visanthe Shiancoe vs. Seattle
4. Vernon Davis @ Green Bay
5. Tony Scheffler vs. San Diego
6. Antonio Gates @ Denver
7. Brandon Pettigrew vs. Cleveland
8. Heath Miller @ Kansas City
9. Brent Celek @ Chicago
10. Dustin Keller @ New England
Peyton Manning: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
@slymanm wants to know: Help! Should I trade Peyton Manning for Larry Fitzgerald, if I already have QBs Matt Schaub/Joe Flacco on the bench ... and WRs Brandon Marshall, Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes? Thanks!
Answer: Slyman, not that I'm trying to duck the question here. But are you really that desperate to part with Peyton and his standard 300 yards/2.5 touchdowns every game? Oh sure, I'd love to have Fitz, but I don't see any major holes with your wide receivers -- unless you've lost all confidence in Holmes (7 catches, 88 yards against Cincy in Week 10). And here's another thing: At this point in the season, Peyton holds far greater value than Fitzgerald (even with Arizona's cake schedule from this point forward). Owner B CLEARLY has QB issues right now. So, to bridge that gap, I'd make him/her surrender a RB2 (and Fitz) to seal the deal. And then after that, let's openly pray for Schaub's continued health.
@mountainrugby asks: Which RB should I grab off waivers: LeSean Mccoy, Justin Forsett, Beanie Wells, Jason Snelling, Jamaal Charles?
Answer: I'd rank your waiver options as: 1)Beanie 2)McCoy 3)J-Charles 4)Forsett 5)Snelling ... thanks!
@thrasherrr wonders: In a non-PPR league, should I trade Brandon Marshall/Reggie Bush for Larry Fitzgerald/Ryan Moats? I have Kurt Warner and Steve Slaton, so I'd have the handcuff for both Fitz and Moats.
Answer: So, this is what teachers and coaches refer to as that "proud moment" when the proverbial light clicks on for a student or player. Thrasherrr, my man, not only would you be making a solid trade, at face value ... but you have hit the jackpot with the Warner/Slaton handcuffs. Absolutely brilliant! In other words, this is a fail-safe, no-lose proposition for you. And we haven't even gotten to the best part: Brandon Marshall's quarterback for the foreseeable future will likely be Chris Simms. KA-BOOM!
@justincrist1 says: I have Dwayne Bowe, Larry Fitzgerald, Jeremy Maclin, Devery Henderson. With Bowe out, I'm starting Fitz and (blank)? I'm playing against Drew Brees, if that makes a difference. Thanks!
Answer: First of all, it doesn't really matter that Drew Brees is your opposing QB -- at least midweek. Whenever I choose starters, I'm ALWAYS trying to maximize the points. With that said, if I have the option of making a last-minute change on a Monday night -- while in dire need of at least 15 points -- generally speaking, I'd probably go with the wide receiver who could go "off" at the blink of an eye. But on a Tuesday/Wednesday, it's not a worrisome issue. Moving on ... in lieu of Bowe's absence, I'd start Fitz and Maclin -- although Henderson has the potential for mucho fantasy goodness against the Bucs.
@sjo2009 wants to know: Just got offered Big Ben/Greg Olsen for Carson Palmer/Greg Jennings. What do ya think?
Answer: SJo, if your tight end is NOT amongst the top-8 regulars this season, then I would probably want the Big Ben/Olsen side of the ledger. However, I think Jennings/Palmer will have a slightly better finish to the year, if that helps.
@kevinb23 wonders: I've got Cedric Benson and can only pick up one player -- Larry Johnson or Bernard Scott?
Answer: I would understand ANYONE that is super-down on LJ and vowed never to grab or trade for him again. I really would. However, I am not one of those people, which means I would allow myself to be seduced by LJ -- at least one more time. Damn, I suck!
1. Think BIG ... like hauling in a top-5 talent
2. Don't be afraid to sacrifice talent on the bench for a proven star
Let's face it: If Michael Turner hadn't suffered a high-ankle sprain against Carolina in Week 10 (after nine rushes for 111 yards), he'd be an untouchable commodity on the trade market. But, for the sake of argument, let's pretend your team is a shoo-in for the playoffs (starting Week 14), thus allowing for some wiggle room to construct a high-risk, high-reward with an owner who's desperate to make the postseason. Simply offer Owner B two solid-but-not spectacular running backs (Ahmad Bradshaw, Jamaal Charles, for example) and one productive WR (Nate Burleson) for Turner (831 rushing yards, 10 TDs) and a RB/WR throw-in (like Justin Fargas, Laurence Maroney, Lee Evans or Mike Wallace). By doing this, you are assuming 100 percent of the risk (in case Turner never comes back this season), while giving Owner B a much-needed infusion of starting talent from Weeks 11-13. In fact, you'd be doing him/her a favor, since Turner will most likely be useless during that crucial three-week period.
On the flip side ... should Turner return to the mix in a timely fashion -- and at 90/100-percent health -- you'll likely have three top-20 studs at running back (along with two high-quality receivers) at your disposal, while creating the aura of an unstoppable playoff force.
The message here: The "blockbuster" trade concept is a MUST at the trade deadline. Because, as we all know, bench depth does absolutely squat for you come the playoffs!
1. Andre Johnson vs. Tennessee
2. Randy Moss vs. N.Y. Jets
3. Jeremy Maclin @ Chicago
4. Wes Welker vs. N.Y. Jets
5. Vincent Jackson @ Denver
6. Larry Fitzgerald @ St. Louis
7. Calvin Johnson vs. Cleveland
8. Marques Colston @ Tampa Bay
9. Hines Ward @ Kansas City
10. Sidney Rice vs. Seattle
11. Santana Moss @ Dallas
12. Steve Breaston @ St. Louis
Hearkening back to Twitter one last time, @Loschicagoosos wants to know: What would Jay do -- I need three running backs from Kevin Smith, Cedric Benson, Matt Forte, Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Bernard Scott? Any suggestions, oh wise fantasy football sage?:
Answer: Let's the use the process of elimination to knock two names from the list. Let's boot the injured player (Westbrook) and the unproven commodity (Scott). That leaves us with Benson, Smith, Forte and McCoy.
IF Benson is good to go against the Raiders, I'd start Cedric, Forte and McCoy. But if the tea leaves don't portend positive outcomes -- since you won't have early active-or-inactive confirmation for the Bengals' 4:15 game -- you easily sub-out Smith (732 total yards, 3 TDs in '09) for any Bengals rusher. Thankfully, Smith has an easy-cheesy matchup against Cleveland -- THE saddest of the NFL's eight sad-sacks this year (including Detroit).
In case you're scoring at home, here's my perfect lineup for Week 11:
QB Philip Rivers (I'd be shocked if he didn't throw for 325)
RB Maurice Jones-Drew
RB Matt Forte (160 total yards and 1 TD seems very doable)
WR Larry Fitzgerald
WR Randy Moss (revenge on Revis? Absolutely!)
RB/WR Marques Colston
TE Dallas Clark
PK Stephen Gostkowski
D/ST Arizona Cardinals (simply follow the strench-trail that is the Lions, Browns, Bucs or -- in this case -- Rams)
In terms of fantasy football, we couldn't have asked for a better 10-year run with running backs -- from Priest Holmes and Jamal Lewis to Adrian Peterson and Steven Jackson. In fact, perhaps now would be the perfect time to put the decade in better perspective ... while listing the Best Single Seasons of Fantasy RBs from 2000-2009:
1. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers -- 2,323 total yards, 31 TDs (2006)
2. Shaun Alexander, Seahawks -- 1,958 total yards, 28 TDs (2005)
3. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers -- 2,370 total yards, 17 TDs, 100 catches!!!! (2003)
4. Priest Holmes, Chiefs -- 2,110 total yards, 27 TDs (2003)
5. Marshall Faulk, Rams -- 2,189 total yards, 26 TDs (2000)
6. Priest Holmes, Chiefs -- 2,287 total yards, 24 TDs (2002)
7. Steven Jackson, Rams -- 2,334 total yards, 16 TDs, 90 catches (2006)
8. Ricky Williams, Dolphins -- 2,216 total yards, 17 TDs (2002)
9. Brian Westbrook, Eagles -- 2,104 total yards, 12 TDs, 90 catches (2007)
10. Jamal Lewis, Ravens -- 2,271 total yards, 14 TDs (2003)
Here are some quick-hitting thoughts about the ONLY scripted comedy on TV that's 100-percent dedicated to the sport of fantasy football (and no, CSI: St. Louis doesn't count):
**If Andre really wanted to impress the gang with Jack The Ripper jokes, he should've started off by quoting some of Henry Silva's classic lines from Amazon Women On The Moon.
**Ruxin's explanation of why Taco needed to be "blanching carrots" with his wife in the kitchen was equal parts brilliant and naive.
**Every group of friends NEEDS a Taco ... and every group, conversely, needs an Andre to balance things out.
**IF Pete really wanted to find out if LaDainian Tomlinson was going to play in Week 3 -- despite being listed as "questionable" -- he should've called Mel Tillis.
**Dontcha love how Kevin's wife, Jenny -- played by the lovely Katie Aselton -- was more put-off by the long lunch than anyone? And while we're on the subject, what self-respecting man (like Ruxin) would purposely trick the gang into a Sunday brunch without fantasy football? Is it too much to ask to have 16 consecutive fall/winter Sundays on the couch ... oblivious to obligations with family/friends/work-related acquaintances?