Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2019: Trade Hijinks

The question on my mind this week: should spouses be allowed to trade with one another?

This is a story about a different league I’m involved with – one that I’m the commissioner of – so don’t get this confused with what I’ll talk about later. I’ll take you back to last Thursday. My team was playing someone who has Drew Brees. It’s also a 2-QB league, and her third QB (the only other healthy one she had on her roster) was Marcus Mariota, who was going up against Jacksonville on Thursday Night Football. She hadn’t updated her lineup all week – so Brees was still in the starting lineup; Mariota was on her bench – as kickoff came and went. I wasn’t about to say anything, because she was my opponent! If you don’t look at your roster by Thursday night, that’s on you! I figured she’d make a free agent claim over the weekend and we’d all have a good laugh.

Instead, on Saturday, I got a text asking me to push a trade through so she could set her lineup.

There aren’t any rules about trades in my league. Not really. I’ve never vetoed a trade in my life and I wasn’t about to start now. I legitimately don’t believe in it. Part of it has to do with trusting people to do the right thing. Part of it is you never know how these things are going to shake out in the long run; you can easily overreact in the moment (if you think one person is fleecing another), but then it turns out to be more even than you expected as the weeks go on. Part of it also has to do with the fact that pretty much EVERYONE has very intense reactions about pretty much every trade that’s ever happened, and by and large they’re largely just that: overreactions because they’re just bitter they didn’t have a chance to make a better offer.

I like trades. I like wheeling and dealing with other people. I like trying to come up with terms that someone else will accept (while at the same time secretly getting something over on someone else with my “brilliant fantasy football intellect”). I like shaking my team up and getting new guys to play around with. And, I generally find the reactions of others pretty amusing when I’m involved in a trade that’s perceived to be one-sided. The funniest parts of the TV show The League are when cries of “COLLUSION” are bandied about, because it’s so true to real life.

That having been said, this trade – on paper – looks pretty bad. It’s not the worst fantasy trade I’ve ever seen (that would still be when I got Shaq in his prime for Erick Dampier one year – which may or may not have been legitimate collusion, I can’t remember – but pretty much destroyed the entire league as a result), but it’s far from equal right now, and I think it’ll look a lot worse over time:

  • “Team Fleeced” Got: Mason Rudolph (QB) and Cleveland’s Defense
  • “Team Fleeced” Gave Up: Damien Williams (RB) and Chicago’s Defense

Now, if the defenses were reversed, and it was Rudolph and Chicago going one way, with Williams and Cleveland going the other, it might be more reasonable. But, just going by draft projections, we’re talking about Chicago (generally the number one defense selected, alongside maybe Baltimore) and a running back that was considered to be in the top 10 of fantasy backs, if not in the top 10 of all players (in standard leagues); whereas we’re talking about an okay defense in Cleveland, and Big Ben’s backup making his first career start. It’s a bad look. To her credit, she already had Minnesota’s defense on her roster, and Cleveland’s defense has a lot of talent, so the Cleveland/Chicago comparisons should probably line up pretty close by season’s end. But, if you polled fantasy football players, I feel like well over 90% of unbiased voters would choose the Bears over the Browns for their own teams, if given the opportunity.

As for Rudolph vs. Williams, it’s no contest. Rudolph looked awful against the 49ers; Williams is the starter on an offense that scores the most in football. He’ll be out for one week, maybe two? Then, he’s dialed in as your starting RB for the rest of the season as long as he remains healthy.

I said up top, we won’t know how this looks until season’s end, but I have a pretty good feeling there will be a clear winner, and with it potential changes to the league’s rules heading into next year.

I don’t want to pick on spouses, because I don’t believe for one minute that this was done with the intent to collude to win a league championship. I’ve known these people for years, so believe me when I say that I trust their intentions. But, I mean, you’ve got two people living in the same house, who’ve got nothing but time to discuss their rosters (I assume that’s what married people do? Talk about their fantasy football teams all day every day?). Why reach out to the rest of the league when it’s so much easier to trade with someone right in front of you? Also, time was of the essence; she had one day to roster a second QB, and Rudolph probably seems like a better option than whoever’s left as a free agent; so there’s not a lot of time to put feelers out to the league on a Saturday when people have lives and things going on.

But, we’re talking about a guy who has been playing fantasy football for over two decades and who’s been watching football his entire life, against a gal who is on her third season in the game (all in this particular league) and is just a casual football observer. In that case, regardless of whether he intended to or not, it’s one person taking advantage of another’s inexperience.

This isn’t the first time a questionable trade between spouses has happened in this particular league. Two years ago, a husband – again, in need of a quarterback – gave up Todd Gurley & C.J. Beathard for Blake Bortles & Kelvin Benjamin. That was arguably Bortles’ best season of his career, but I mean come on. Gurley was the best offensive player of 2017. His wife, who already had a good, playoff-bound team, went on to win the league’s championship, largely on the back of Gurley crushing opponents.

Again, I’m not against trading, but there has to be an argument that both people are getting something at least CLOSE to equal. But, in each of these deals, we’re talking about one person taking advantage of another’s desperation. Being desperate is no excuse for flipping the whole league into one person’s advantage.

So, I dunno. I might have to make a change for next year. I don’t want to outlaw trades entirely, and I don’t want to be the sole arbiter. So, maybe it has to fall to a league vote on every trade. That runs the risk of – again – people being bitter and voting against every trade because of their own biases, but we’ve got people of varying skill levels in this league, and something has to be done to level the playing field.

I really hate my gut reaction to this, because as I said before, most of the time these things are overblown. But, as commissioner, I’m torn. I take that role seriously, maybe definitely too much so. I take things to heart in a situation that’s totally ridiculous and doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Football itself doesn’t matter when compared to real life events and whatnot; fantasy football, by its own definition, doesn’t matter to the Nth degree. I don’t like calling people out, because I’m not really interested in shaming people for something that doesn’t matter. But, I also have a responsibility to the league as a whole, and a need to ensure things are above board. Trades are a slippery slope; they breed resentment. Retaliations generally come in the form of even MORE lopsided trades, this time with actual collusion in intent. Then, the league blows up and you’re left with nothing but hurt feelings and randos as your opponents.

***

My worst-case-scenario came to fruition last week, as my Space Pirates! lost to Space Forcin’ by a score of 222.46-198.95. His score was the highest that anyone has posted all season long. My score was the second-highest that anyone has posted all season long. Of course this happens to me. I can’t be allowed to have nice things! Perish the thought!

It’s pretty rare that both teams in a weekly matchup can get A+ grades, but this is what happens. Cooper Kupp went off for over 30 points. Four other guys got over 20 points, and Buffalo’s defense wasn’t far behind with 19. Everyone on my team except for Justin Tucker scored in double-digits. But, I mean, it just wasn’t even a contest! Mahomes, Kamara, and Lockett each scored over 30 for his team; two others scored almost 30. Only if I had the option of going back and replacing guys in my lineup with higher-scoring bench guys (Danny Dimes had 41, for instance), I still only would’ve BARELY beaten him by less than 1 point (and, seriously, who in their right mind would play someone like Chris Thompson over Le’Veon Bell?). It was the perfect storm, and one that I could see from about 5,000 miles away.

As a result, my team falls to 1-2 on the season, in fifth place in the league. Much like my unlucky streak from a year ago, I find myself with the fourth-highest point total, and the first-highest points-against total. Can’t catch a break. Just gotta find a way to stay in the playoff hunt (top 6 advance, with top 2 getting a first round BYE).

***

I made a waiver claim for Wayne Gallman in every league I’m in, and I got him in every league except this one. Ehh, it happens. I didn’t totally need another running back just yet anyway, and in the long run I still have Chris Thompson on my bench, who is a pretty solid plug n’ play guy if you’re desperate (PPR leagues only).

Some interesting news, as I woke up this morning to check all my waiver claims (much like a survivalist goes around the camp checking all his traps for stray rabbits and rodents and whatnot), someone proposed a trade! To me! This so rarely happens, I feel like the prettiest girl at the ball. I’m almost always the one throwing things out there to mix it up.

This one, I’ll admit, is pretty interesting to me. Beasts is asking me to give him Danny Dimes, and in return he’s willing to give me Matthew Stafford and Chris Godwin.

I’m just running it all through my head right now. Dimes is a rookie quarterback who has made all of one start in his young career. Of course, in that start – by our league’s scoring – he got over 41 points, which is pretty remarkable. Nevertheless, it was his only start, and there’s still so much we don’t know about him. What we do know is that Tampa’s defense is pretty mediocre. We know his offensive line is pretty shaky, and he doesn’t have a ton of weapons (reduced all the more impactfully by the injury to Saquon Barkley). His value might literally never be higher than it is right now; he could be the next Christian Ponder or Jake Locker or take your pick (name any terrible first round bust). In return, I’d be getting a legitimate veteran starting QB and a #2 receiver in an offense that has to throw it a billion times a game.

But, I’m obviously torn. For starters, I don’t love Stafford. I don’t love how that offense is being neutered into a more balanced attack. He’s only had one good week and that was against Arizona, who might have the worst defense in all of football. Now, Beasts picked the right week to offer him up, because he’s facing Kansas City, and you would expect the Lions will need to throw the ball a ton. But, with that comes the obvious risk of him throwing interceptions. Stafford isn’t reliable to me. As for Godwin, you just never know. He can blow up in some weeks, but he can also disappear. That offense has a ton of different people to throw to, with Mike Evans being the clear #1 focus. Plus, I feel like my team is full of Chris Godwin types. Cooper Kupp, Christian Kirk, Scary Terry, T.Y. Hilton, these are all boom or bust types, albeit ones with higher floors than people you’d see on waivers.

In looking at Beasts’ team, it’s an interesting move. He’s already got Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson as his starting quarterbacks, but I have a hard time figuring he’s doing this to shore up his bench. I’m wondering if he’s maybe starting to sour a little bit on Ryan?

On the flipside, in looking at my team, I’m reluctant to do any 2-for-1 deals when I’ve still got Tyreek Hill on the bench and A.J. Green on IR; I’m not letting those guys walk. And, honestly, I think I like the rest of my depth guys more than I’d want Godwin on my roster. I mean, I literally just blew my #1 waiver priority on Scary Terry, so if I don’t keep him around, I’m a huge fucking idiot.

My biggest concern, though, quite frankly, is the chance that Dimes might turn out to be one of the best five fantasy quarterbacks in the entire league. He has that stink of someone who was drafted WAY too high, and that’s still in the backs of everyone’s minds. Let’s see how he does against Washington, then Minnesota, then the Patriots. Later on he plays Chicago and Green Bay to boot. He could come crashing down to Earth so hard it’ll make all our heads spin, and all the doubters will be out in force with their I Told You So’s.

But, I mean, who scores 41 fantasy points in their first-ever start? This isn’t just a controversial rookie tearing up the pre-season. This isn’t just comparing him to the corpse of Eli Manning. This is a regular season game, on the road, playing for the country’s #1 market for that market’s #1 football team. The closest comp for those kinds of fantasy numbers would be Mahomes’ first start in 2018, when he threw for 256 yards and 4 touchdowns (but even he had a mediocre & meaningless start in the final week of 2017 after the Chiefs had clinched).

I mean, if I trade Dimes for Stafford and Godwin, I could be the guy who traded Manhattan for $24! This is a decision that could affect the fantasy league for the next decade!

Part of me wants to counter his offer with a request for his best player, Christian McCaffrey. I don’t think he’d accept that offer, but what if he did? What if he’s so sure about Dimes being the next Mahomes that he accepted it in a heartbeat? I think I’d be terrified to even throw that out there!

When you’re in a league with 4 keepers, as I’ve said before, you’ve always gotta have at least 1 eye toward the future. The way my team’s set up right now, I’ve given myself a lot of options: Wentz, Dimes, Zeke, Bell, Hill, Jacobs, and maybe even Kupp or Scary Terry if they continue to really kill it. The funny thing is Dimes might end up being the best of that bunch, and the guy I decide to keep around for his entire career. I got in on the ground floor of something potentially special. The last time I made this kind of move, it was Wentz in his rookie year, and so far you’d be hard-pressed to say it’s paid off for me. He’s been injured a lot, and he really doesn’t have a lot of those supernova blowup games where he goes off for 40+ points. You need those in our league, especially when you’re playing against a top team like Space Forcin’.

So, I’ll give it some thought. I’ll let it sit out there and think about it a bit. As soon as Dimes goes down with a season-ending injury this week, I’m sure I’ll want to crawl into a hole and die. We’ll see how it goes.

***

This week, I go up against The Lance Petemans, who are currently 0-3 and in last place. He’s had a rough go the last season and a half, but he’s also got his name on our Championship Trophy more times than anyone else in the league, so no one is feeling sorry for him.

I’ve obviously got Dimes in my lineup with Wentz; my receivers are Kupp, Scary Terry, and we’ll see (T.Y. Hilton if he’s playing, probably Christian Kirk if he’s not); Bell is on BYE, so I’ve got Zeke and Jacobs (hoping for a bounce-back week for the rookie, now that he’s over his illness); Waller is a locked-in Top 10 TE in football, which is a fun thing to have grabbed off the free agent pile a few weeks back; I’m hoping Tucker has a better game against the Browns this week; and with my bench being so stacked, I’m forced to roll with the Bills’ Defense at home against New England. I’m just hoping for maybe a few sacks or something, I dunno.

The Petemans are down a Jimmy G, so they’re rolling with Andy Dalton in primetime. He’s still got Tom Brady, who’s still pumping out the points in the early part of the season, so that could do a ton of damage to my defense. His skill guys include all of the Rams that I don’t have (Gurley, Cooks, and Woods), but I don’t know if he’s playing all three of them or not (he currently has Woods on his bench). The rest of his guys are … far from ideal. He’s got Houston’s Defense going up against Carolina, so that’s a real wild card with the Panthers going with a young QB.

At the moment, Yahoo has me as a slight favorite, but their projections are usually bad. They’re shorting Dimes about 20 points, for instance …