Grand Theft Roto: Hurts So Good

There are some clichés that persist despite often being untrue.

"To the victor goes the spoils" comes to mind.

Neither Clay Aiken nor Chris Daughtry won "American Idol," and yet I'd say platinum records are pretty good spoils. If I could score that kind of spoilage by finishing second (or fifth) in my main league, I'd be rich by now.

And how about "cheaters never prosper?"

My Patriots are 4-0 despite shooting the amateur video "Coordinators Gone Wild," Shawne Merriman gets to do a cool Nike commercial with Michael Mann less than a year after being suspended for "Just Doing It" ("it" being a banned substance) and former New York City mayor Rudy Guilliani could be in the White House in 16 months despite having a well-publicized affair. Sex, lies and videotape, indeed.

But then there are clichés that endure because they are simply so true, such as: "Injuries are a part of the game."

So let's take a look at how you can turn pain into fantasy profit.

Casing the Joint

The best time to pull a "Grand Theft Roto" deal is when your mark never sees it coming. Unfortunately, when a fantasy footballer watches a major part of his team go down with injury, his guard usually goes up since he expects the sharks to circle.

The good news is that despite the fact that your trade partner will see you coming from a mile away, they should accept you with open arms. You want to make a deal, but they need to.

The first thing you as the one offering need to do is determine whether you're going to make an offer for his injured player or whether you're going to play the role of "savior" by helping them fill the hole the injury created. So let's look at some of the notable members of the walking wounded and figure out which ones beg to be bought and which ones you want no part of.

If you find someone who is ready to throw away quarterback Marc Bulger for the price of a No. 3 wide receiver and a bootleg copy of Mike Martz's newest playbook, do it. If rumors about his Week 5 status are true, Bulger will be riding the pine against the Cardinals in favor Gus Frerotte. However, unlike when Kurt Warner took the starting job from an injured Trent Green, or when Bulger did the same to Warner, Gus Frerotte isn't going to be the long-term answer in St. Louis. So if you're deep at quarterback, try fishing with a David Garrard or Ben Roethlisberger on your hook. You could reel in your starting quarterback for the playoffs

Conversely, I think this is a spectacular time to approach Steven Jackson's owner and ask him for someone else. Groin injuries scare me (both from a fantasy perspective and on a personal level), and if Jackson returns to a struggling team starting a backup quarterback, we could see more of the non-production evident in Weeks 1 and 2. Brian Leonard didn't show us much Sunday, and it's fair to say Jackson owners are sad and vulnerable right now. How about offering Kevin Jones, who you've stashed away as your fourth or fifth back, and a middling wide receiver for a top wideout?

I'm making offers for both Brian Westbrook and LaMont Jordan right now as long as doing so wouldn't cost me a win this week. Both are hurting and on bye weeks. Read that sentence again. Their owners are feeling let down and know they won't get any reliable info on either until next week. But the bye week couldn't come at a better time for either back since they'll have more rehab time than usual. Bet you could offer up a healthy, top-20 back and at least get a nibble.

I will reach through your cable modem and smack any GTR reader who makes a "buy low" offer on Laurence Maroney right now. I was talking with my baseball consigliere, Zach Messler, before the season began, and he pointed out that the Patriots are the ultimate system team. He said, "Just because Corey Dillon left the team doesn't mean his role left the team." Smart guy. Sammy Morris' 18-point performance on "Monday Night Football" just reinforced the fact that, at best, Maroney gets 65 percent of the backfield touches when healthy. He's a flex player even when his groin stops hurting.

In fact, feel free to offer Maroney to Ahman Green's owner in exchange for ... Ahman Green, perhaps? There isn't much I like better than a proven player coming back from injury following subpar performances from his backups. Green's schedule between now and his bye week is tasty, and things should open up even more once Andre Johnson returns. Speaking of Johnson, the way Matt Schaub has schown, er, shown off his skills without the talents of his top receiver is a great sign that Johnson schould, er, should keep producing when he returns from his knee sprain. Unfortunately, he had his knee drained this week, which is a sign he still has some swelling. Make an offer only if you can wait another two weeks or more for him to come back strong.

I think the owners of both Anquan Boldin and Santana Moss are vulnerable, too. I'm not in a hurry to trade for either of players, but for different reasons. With Boldin, I haven't read one report that indicates the trainers in Arizona know what's wrong with his hip and when it will get better. Plus, there's that whole "platoon quarterback" issue. As for Moss, the signing of veteran receiver Keenan McCardell can be taken as a sign that the Skins are preparing to not have Moss for a while. Be careful giving up too much to get one of those two guys.

When life hands an opponent lemons, it's your job to take them and make lemonade -- for yourself. How's that for a cliché?

Pulling the Job

Sadly, no deals to report this week, but I did get an interesting e-mail from Jeff in Illinois:

I offered Thomas Jones and Jamal Lewis for Larry Johnson to an owner in my league, and he accepted. I was banking on future production from L.J. because I was desperate. I got a call from the commish a little while later saying he was vetoing the trade. In his opinion, I was giving up too much! He had already spoken to the other owner and worked out another deal that would be acceptable: Thomas Jones and Jamal Lewis for Larry Johnson and Isaac Bruce. I'm not saying that Bruce is anything special, but I'm getting him for free! Does this qualify as a Grand Theft Roto?

Sure does, Jeff. Even before the "buy one, get Bruce free" part, I liked that deal. Then again, I'm one of the few ESPN analysts who has been saying for weeks that Johnson will be just fine over the final three-quarters of the season. But getting Bruce actually helps you, too. Nice work, and thanks to the commissioner in your league, your league mates now see you as an easy mark, instead of as a shark. You can't buy that kind of camouflage.

Until next week, don't just win your league. Steal it.

Shawn Peters is a fantasy baseball and football analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com, as well as a regular contributor to the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine