How to evaluate multiplayer deals

Looking at all roster spots affected by a trade is essential

Updated: November 14, 2012, 3:01 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

"Would you deal away your Arian Foster for my Jackie Battle straight up?"

If you have even a passing knowledge of football -- or a pulse -- when faced with the above offer, you're likely to have one of two reactions: an extreme laughing fit at the ludicrous nature of the deal or the hurling of a steady stream of expletives at the audacity of the owner propositioning you with such a lopsided swap.

Odds are that few owners would be foolhardy enough to make such an offer in the first place. But suppose you found the following deal for Foster in your inbox: Marques Colston, Jason Witten, Matthew Stafford and Battle. And heck, this generous owner will even throw in the San Francisco D/ST for good measure. What do you think about that one?

While you're mulling that offer over, let's talk about how to analyze trade offers. In order to judge any deal appropriately, you need to put a value on the players you are getting as compared to the players you are sending away.

In the terms of a one-to-one deal, that process is pretty simple. For example, let's take a look at a potential trade of Cam Newton for Philip Rivers. Through the first 10 weeks of the season, Newton has outscored Rivers 143-114 in ESPN standard scoring. That's a difference of 3.2 points per game.

Part of the equation in determining whether you pull the trigger on the deal is going to be your gut feeling on if you believe both players will continue to perform at their current pace. If so, it's clear that you reject this deal, as Newton has more value than his counterpart from San Diego. Because this is a straight-up deal involving two players at the same position, it's a pretty easy comparison to make. But any trade other than such a one-for-one positional swap requires you to look a bit deeper.

What if you were offered Jermaine Gresham for Newton? At 15.9 points per game, Newton has been far more valuable to date than the Cincinnati tight end, who has scored only 58 points in 2012, an average of 6.4 per contest. It may seem, on the surface, that this deal is incredibly unfair -- and it may well be. However, to determine if it is, you need to look at the whole picture. This is not a one-for-one deal, but rather a two-for-two trade.

In terms of your regular starting lineup, you're technically trading Newton and replacing him with either a quarterback from your bench or one you'll obtain from the waiver wire. Similarly, you're acquiring Gresham and "trading away" your current tight end -- by means of sending him to your bench -- on the assumption that Gresham is an upgrade at the position. (After all, if he's not an upgrade, then you certainly wouldn't be considering accepting this trade in the first place.)

If you've been playing, say, Dallas Clark at tight end, you've been getting an average of 3.3 fantasy points per game from him. Gresham would give you a boost of 3.1 points per game. Now, let's also assume your backup quarterback is Joe Flacco. If you would need to turn to him on a weekly basis once Newton is sent packing, you'd be expecting an average of 15.6 points per game from the Baltimore Ravens' signal-caller. That's a drop-off of only 0.2 points. Gresham may not be as valuable as Newton in terms of the entire player universe, but he absolutely would be more valuable to you under those circumstances.

That's the true jumping-off point you have to use in order to make your decision as to whether a trade offer is one where you're going to be getting equal value in return for what you're being asked to send away. It certainly isn't the names of the players involved, nor is it the number of players you're getting back in the deal.

Let's go back to the earlier Foster offer. Should you accept that multiplayer package chock full of top-10 fantasy studs at each of their positions in exchange for your elite running back? Maybe you should, maybe not. Take the following example:

If your current starting players were the ones listed on the left and you were offered our hypothetical Foster deal, it clearly would be an exchange that, on paper, offered you good value. One never knows what injuries may come down the road, but assuming all the players involved in this swap continue at or around their current pace, you will end up coming out ahead by accepting this trade. In fact, assuming you have a better running back sitting on your bench than the likes of Battle -- and I certainly hope you do -- you're going to benefit even more from swinging this deal.

However, this might not be your situation. Your team's makeup might more closely resemble the following example:

You can clearly see that the value of what you're being offered, despite the bevy of fantasy talent coming your way, is far inferior to what you already have in place. Even though you're being offered the moon, take a closer look of the value of all the players involved in this particular version of the deal.

Remove Foster and Battle from the equation and you're looking at a difference in expected points that is negligible. In other words, in this scenario, trading Foster for the package of Colston, Witten, Stafford, the San Francisco D/ST and Battle is essentially the same thing as a one-for-one deal of Foster for Battle.

So keep this in mind the next time a fellow owner is offering you a veritable cornucopia of players in exchange for your one solitary stud. The number of names being sent your way has no bearing on the quality of the trade being offered to you. You cannot determine the value of any multiplayer deal without first transforming it, at least in your personal deliberations, into a one-for-one positional swap -- even if those other players are not actually being exchanged in the trade.

If you choose to only look at the deal at face value, you may actually end up with a fantasy team far weaker than it was before you added more fantasy studs to your roster than you had in the first place. And that's a sure-fire way to guarantee that first place is not going be the final resting spot for your team this season.