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Fantasy Football Hunting Season Is Open

There is a buzz around the fantasy football community as owners are now taking the safeties off their fantasy football trade rifles and heading out to do some good old-fashioned fantasy player hunting. Are you equipped to handle the hunt?

As a fantasy football owner you are five weeks in, staring at your week 6 match up and one thing is clear: you are either feeling pretty good or you know you need to make a move. I don’t care what “type” of fantasy football manager you are or what “strategy” you took to your draft. If you are not 5-0 going into week 6 you are looking to tweak your roster. Bye weeks just don’t seem to be an issue when you put your team together but when you combine them with an injury or two and a less than stellar record they become HUGE.

Its hunting season and you don’t need a permit folks! Winless and 1-4 teams can’t afford to be patient and are heading out there with little to no ammo and a target on their back. The 5-0 teams are sitting back, benches stockpiled with fantasy talent, hoping to pick off a few teams’ best players. Then there is everyone else. So what do you need? Where to go? We are still talking fantasy football right?

Be Prepared

A good hunter is prepared for the situation. Some people have the means to go out and buy fancy gear, while others have to forge ahead with the bare essentials. It doesn’t matter which case you are in, everyone should be prepared. A good hunter knows when the season begins and ends.

This time of year, you should expect to be receiving trade-offers. You might not get any, but you should be looking at your team more frequently these days just in case. Not every deal is worth pursuing but it is better to be able to reject a trade than to see a trade cancelled after the owner found another trading partner. Even worse, if other owners in your league find out you are slow to respond to trades you are less likely to be approached. First place or last place, people are offering trades so try to be more available this time of year.

The Hunt

Whether you have been offered a deal or want to go out hunting for that player to put you into the playoffs, you are going to need to keep some things in mind.

It doesn’t matter where you drafted a guy or how much money you bid to get his name tattooed to your fantasy roster prior to the season! Along those same lines, whatever that player has or has not done over the previous five weeks is not a true indicator of what that player will do through the rest of the NFL season. The past is the past; you need to place more focus on the present and future when making fantasy football trades.

Much like real life hunting, fantasy owners need to lure their prey into a position where they can take a shot. And like most wild animals, fantasy football owners are wary of any little sound or scent. Act more like a hunter and less like a used car salesman and you will increase the chances of landing your guy. The difference being, a used car salesman will offer a very low amount in his or her initial offer with the intentions of bartering to a middle point. A hunter creates a scenario that is perceived to be beneficial by everyone.

A hunter knows his prey. Reminding an owner he is 1-4 and needs to make a deal is not “knowing your prey.” This is a time to get them comfortable and thinking about winning, not a lousy start to the 2009 fantasy football season. Show them how to win, not why they will continue to lose. You can look at their roster and see when a particular player has a string of poor matchups. Typically there is one team in every league that has an elite type of player but didn’t do well rounding out their roster or made some poor choices in their starting lineup who now finds themselves at 1-4. Bye weeks and tough matchups are exposing their bench to the point considering trading Adrian Peterson becomes a consideration.

“Peterson is a beast but he has Baltimore and Pittsburgh coming up,” you say.

“I can give you Ryan Grant and Steve Smith. Grant’s next two are against Detroit and Cleveland. Smith is getting a ton of balls throw to him let me know if you want to hammer something out.”

The goal is to get them thinking about the near future (because as we already know they are 1-4 and need to win now). The value of Adrian Peterson over the next two weeks is not the same as Adrian Peterson for the rest of the season. In taking this approach you have given the Peterson owner enough reason to consider taking a few more steps closer to you. That owner will either explore their curiosity with a response or get spooked and run off. This tactic isn’t about setting a trap and baiting (ie. used car salesperson). It’s about creating the perception that you are throwing him a rope needed to climb out of a 1-4 hole.

You can also look at upcoming bye weeks to locate your fantasy prey. If you think Brent Celek is a flash in the pan and really wish you had Dallas Clark, tell a potential trade partner “Celek has already had his bye week and he’s better than your backup TE.” Remind the other owner that Anthony Gonzalez will be back and that the other young receivers are going to continue to steal catches and touchdowns away from Clark. Once an owner is willing to consider Celek coming back to him, you can add in more players to make the deal work for each side. Perhaps you can offer him a wideout to fill in for his week 7 bye as well. Bye weeks are great motivation for an owner to consider a deal and should always be a factor when considering a trade offer.

Burning Daylight

To be a hunter you have to burn a few hours over the course of several days stalking your prey. Some deals happen quickly and some take a bit of time. Dialogue is oftentimes more effective than actual trade offers. Official offers tend to force people into choosing whether something is fair. Too often people are offended because they simply have differing perceptions on what a player is worth. My advice is to discuss the particulars through emails or conversations to break the ice and then make an offer if there is interest. Your initial offer will be taken more seriously, increasing the chances of an accepted deal or counter-offer in a timely manner.

As I alluded to earlier, offering trades to teams that check their email and fantasy clubs more often may lead to a quicker deal. Most popular fantasy football sites also have a “trading block” feature. Updating it will let people in your league know you are looking to deal. Message board posts are great in leagues that actively use them as well.

Hunting Season Ends

The trade market dries up pretty quickly. As the weeks progress, less and less teams are looking to trade and that means there are less players available. Teams that are 1-3 are more willing to trade than teams with a 1-7 record. The players that are still available in week 8 have more fantasy owners hunting them-including your potential opponent in the first round of the fantasy playoffs.

Not everyone enjoys the “thrill of the chase” during the trading season. The waiver wire does offer the fantasy mountain man some road-kill opportunities. Even so, unless you are happy with your roster or don’t mind scouring the depths of your league’s free agent pool to patch up your roster every week, plan on taking a trip into the fantasy wilderness soon.

Thinking About Mounting Your Kill?

If you are fortunate enough to complete a trade that works out well for you or take advantage of another owner’s downturn, don’t flaunt about it to the rest of your league. Nobody wants to hear about how you ripped off a guy in a trade. Go gloat on message boards if you have to tell someone about your “infinite football wisdom” during the season. It saves you from potential embarrassment of exiting the playoffs with your tail between your legs and it doesn’t create animosity amongst your league – especially when the 2010 fantasy football hunting season opens!

Making a savvy trade mid-season will certainly help your chances of winning a fantasy football title and earns you some respect amongst the other owners in the league. The names I used are indifferent. Improving your hunting skills and approach will make you a better hunter and help land you that coveted player this year as well as in future trading seasons.

Happy hunting!

For more fantasy football musings, check out Jakes blog at Boxcar Football.