Ricky Williams was a former rushing champion, All-Pro and fantasy football stud.
Ricky Williams was a third-string running back who washed out of the NFL after just two seasons and never belonged on a fantasy football roster.
Both of these statements are true.
Several years ago, a friend invited me to play in his fantasy football league. I knew about half of the other owners. One that I didn’t know pulled what I still consider one of the dirtiest stunts I’ve seen in a league.
You see, it was about this time that the Ricky Williams of the Miami Dolphins was just coming off an 1,800-yard rushing season and was the consensus first overall pick for fantasy owners.
This overlapped with the brief NFL career of Ricky Williams of the Indianapolis Colts, who had only touched the ball 12 times the previous season.
Not long after our draft, I saw I had a trade offer, sending me Ricky Williams for LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson of course was my first-rounder that year, but Williams was the no-doubt prize.
At least that’s what I would’ve thought if I hadn’t seen the (RB-IND) next to his name.
I checked around with other league members who ran into similar issues, getting offers of the “other” Ricky Williams for the likes of Marshall Faulk, Shaun Alexander, Tiki Barber, etc.
If it was my league where I was commissioner, I would’ve kicked him out there.
It’s fine to try and get an edge on your competition, but playing fantasy sports in such a cutthroat way shouldn’t be tolerated.
I’ve never run into anything quite so serious in my years of playing fantasy sports since then, but it’s still had me thinking about my “Ten Commandments” for fantasy etiquette.
No. 1: Make your trades in good faith.
This really shouldn’t come as a surprise with everything I wrote above. Most of us play in leagues with our friends.
If you wouldn’t cheat them in real life, why are you doing it here?
If you learn one of your players is out for the year with an injury, don’t try to catch someone off guard with a trade before they can hear the news. And, if you’ve been negotiating a trade with someone through text message and have actually agreed to a deal, don’t back out if you have second thoughts.
No. 2: The best trades benefit both teams.
This, to me, should be more obvious than how it seems.
A lot of fantasy owners mistakenly think the objective is to get a dollar for a dime on every single deal. That’s the wrong way to look at it.
Invariably, through injury or under-performance, there are going to be clear winners and losers in some trades. But, if you’re continuously leaving your partner holding the bag, no one will want to trade with you ever.
If your opponent is satisfied with your trade, whether it’s of the “present value for future value” or “need for need” variety, you’ve made an ally and an enjoyable contest. Which leads nicely into…
No. 3: A truly fair deal should “hurt” in some way.
What I mean by this is if you put together a trade offer, and it doesn’t make you pause for at least a second to ask whether you’ve given up too much or whether this could backfire, you’ve probably made an imbalanced trade.
Certainly, if someone sends you an offer that you feel is in your favor, take it — just don’t be the person sending the terrible offers in your league.
I can promise you if you’re among friends, they talk about that person, and if you don’t hear any talk, you ARE that person.
No. 4: Your trade needs to make sense for your trade partner.
It’s a similar concept, but player value is different to league owners depending upon situations.
If you’re trying to trade for an opponent’s starting running back and offer Carson Wentz when he’s already got Patrick Mahomes in a league where you only start one quarterback, don’t be too surprised when that trade gets shot down faster than a Tyreek Hill sprint to the end zone.
Not only are you removing a starter from that opponent’s lineup, you’re not giving up one to supplant it.
You’re forcing roster inefficiency onto a fellow owner, essentially providing the equivalent of the expensive wedding china that sits in a cabinet and never gets used.
The only way for your opponent at this point to extract value is to make a second trade, when it’s already hard enough to make just one.
No. 5: If you’re trying to acquire a star, you need to be prepared to make a strong offer.
You don’t see star-for-star trades happen very often in fantasy football; more often, it’s something along the lines of making a trade to improve at one position while taking a slight downgrade at another.
This isn’t nearly as easy with the upper echelon of players because of the opportunity cost involved. It goes along with my “hurt” point from before.
Players like Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey are such super talents that the downgrade your opponent would get from trading them away needs to be offset significantly.
You’d best be prepared to offer the 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th best players in such a deal, and no, you can’t trade a 4 and two 3s for a 10.
No. 6: Don’t be upset at league members who don’t want to make trades early in the season.
You’re fresh off of drafting, which in theory is the time when everyone likes their teams the most.
It’ll take about a month for the dust to settle and for everyone to truly get a grip on their rosters’ strengths and weaknesses. It’s also around this time that where a player got drafted starts to wear off, and you’re judging more by the on-field results.
No. 7: Barring strong evidence of two owners colluding, don’t veto a trade.
I personally prefer leagues without vetoes, or at most, one where the sole veto power lies with a commissioner trusted to behave ethically by the rest of the league.
The only time it’s OK to block a trade is if you’ve got clear evidence of one owner not acting in the best interest of their team.
It doesn’t matter if you, as a non-involved party, don’t think the trade was fair; the two owners who made the deal certainly think it was. And if you block a deal because you think it makes one team too good, that’s cowardly. You should’ve tried to make the better deal yourself.
No. 8: Don’t pester another owner about a trade offer.
Remember what I said earlier about having allies in your league? This is a good way to lose them.
I’m not talking about texting someone that you’ve made them an offer. I’m referring to a constant barrage of trade offers after your initial offer has been rejected.
It’s fine to ask for some clarification and to find out if a deal can be made. From there, you can make a counter-offer. If it’s accepted, great!
If they counter with an offer, you can keep your negotiation window open. If it’s rejected, don’t try to revise the deal any more and simply move on.
You’re more likely to aggravate another player (and possibly, a friend) by trying to force the deal. And, if someone flatly tells you they’re not interested in trading, just like in real life, accept that no means no.
No. 9: Respond to trade offers in a reasonable amount of time.
This is sort of the inverse of Rule 8. If someone lets you know they’ve made you an offer, at least acknowledge it.
Take your time to think it over if you need to, make a counter if you want to, but if you aren’t interested, please say no in a timely fashion.
I can appreciate gamesmanship, but running out the clock on an offer that could keep someone from trying to make another move is more underhanded than you need to be.
No. 10: Don’t be the person who never trades.
Please don’t take this to mean that I think you need to accept every offer sent your way, but the worst leagues I’ve been a part of are the ones where nothing ever happens after the draft besides making waiver claims.
Of course if you’re in a league, you want to win, but the reason we all get involved in this hobby is because it’s fun. To cut off a third of the ways to improve your team seems not just silly, but boring.
I hope you run away to victory in your fantasy leagues this year, but it won’t be with Ricky Williams — or the other Ricky Williams.
Just remember these guidelines for handling yourself as an owner, and you should be set.