Grand Theft Roto: Self-evaluation time

Bill Parcells said, "You are what your record says you are."

It qualified as sports-Zen philosophy.

Years later, Dennis Green insisted, "They are who we thought they were."

It qualified as sports-coach suicide.

And years before Parcells and Green ever carried a clipboard, Popeye said, "I am what I am and that's all that I am."

It proved that football coaches watched cartoons when they were kids, just like the rest of us.

The value of self-evaluation based on one's own record cannot be overstated. With five weeks down, now is the time to look at your team, recognize "who you are," and make moves accordingly. Let's eat some spinach and get stronger.

Casing the Joint

At this point in the season, your record dictates what kind of trade you should be looking for. An owner who is 1-4 is doing himself no favors by chasing Green Bay running backs because the Packers face the Raiders, Rams and suddenly soft Bears in Weeks 14-16. Likewise, an owner who is 5-0 doesn't shake up his starting lineup just because Brett Favre faces the Redskins, Broncos and Chiefs in his next three games, with a bye mixed in for flavor.

So for this week, I'm just going to separate everyone into three groups: blondes, brunettes and redheads. Wait, I'm confusing this job with my gig as a talent scout for Maxim. I'm going to separate you all into three groups by record, and lay out which trades, and which players, you should be looking for.

If you are 0-5 or 1-4, blame Matthew Berry. Everyone else does. That said, you clearly need to flip a U-turn at stuntman speeds. Chances are you are the less-than-proud owner of Steven Jackson, Larry Johnson, Lee Evans, Andre Johnson, Laurence Maroney or several other team killers. Patience is no longer a virtue. At 1-4 or worse, you are one more loss away from being all but eliminated from playoff contention.

So take your flailing stud, as injured or ineffective as he has been, and approach the team with the best record in the league. Point out to your trade partner that he has a
chance, right then and there, to make an investment in being unstoppable down the road. After all, if I own LaDainian Tomlinson, the prospect of pairing him with Johnson or Jackson down the stretch might be too good to refuse. The key is to ask for at least two players you would start on a regular basis in return. A package of Dallas Clark, Braylon Edwards and DeShaun Foster will do. It's high risk, but what do you have to lose at 0-5? So trade in your sagging blue-chip stock and buy lottery tickets -- as many as you can get.

For the owner who is 2-3 or 3-2, the mantra must be to field a team that's competitive every week. The middle-of-the-packer (or MOP, for short) needs to identify its weak spot and plug it by dealing for someone who has had his bye week already and sees a favorable schedule over the next four to six weeks. The goal is to be 7-5 or better by the time the Week 12 trade deadline rolls around, so you can make last-minute moves to get set for the postseason.

The MOP in need at the quarterback position should look at Jason Campbell, whose Skins face the Packers, Cardinals and Jets in the next four weeks, with a one-week "must-bench" matchup against New England stuck in there. Campbell shouldn't cost you an arm or a leg, let alone both.
More expensive is Reggie Bush for the running back-hungry owner. Deuce is done and the Saints face the Seahawks, Falcons, Niners, Jaguars and Rams in the next five weeks. None of those matchups are scary and three of them look downright tasty. I'd offer up Marion Barber III right now because I don't like his schedule or the Texas Two Step timeshare.

Finally, a note to the league-dominating, point-amassing, envy-inducing owners who are at 4-1 or 5-0. First of all, don't feel the need to do anything right now if you don't want to. You've earned that right. If you can fortify your weakest position for the playoffs without sacrificing the here-and-now, do it. But also consider taking a look at your roster and identifying your most irreplaceable every-week starter and then backing him up with someone cheap who has a tremendous schedule in your league's final playoff week.

The rationale is simple. Trading for a potential playoff starter can cause paralysis by analysis in the postseason when you try to decide between a guy who helped get you there and a lesser player with a better matchup. Maybe you guess right, or maybe you guess wrong. But how often have you seen your league's strongest team fall in the playoffs when their best player sits out the championship game with an injury or because their NFL squad has nothing to play for?

That's where backing up Randy Moss with Joe Jurevicius, who faces Cincy in Week 16, makes sense. Because if you cannot start Moss, you want someone productive on a team that will still play their starters and play to win. If I own Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, and my league uses Week 17 for our finals, first I wonder, "Why did I join a league that uses Week 17?" and then I'm making a small deal for Jay Cutler now. That way, when he faces the Vikings' shut-down run defense in late December, I get his 40 passing attempts. Sure, it might be snowing in Denver on the penultimate day of 2007, but I have faith in global warming.

So look at your record, embrace who you are, and get cracking. Deals don't do themselves. (See? More Zen.)

Pulling the Job

Nine. That's how many deals I have out there, sitting, waiting for slacker owners to reply. I've gotten a half-dozen rejections this week as well, but there are nine offers I have made in the past three days that have yet to be accepted, rejected or countered. (Tapping the microphone) Is this thing on?

I was offered Kevin Jones, Steven Jackson, Marc Bulger, Roy Williams and Kevin Curtis in one league for Joseph Addai and Ronnie Brown, though. What's wrong with this picture? Well, four of the five players being offered are out this week with injuries or byes and taking the offer would mean jettisoning two players with actual value. Am I that ready to give up on Selvin Young or Lee Evans? Of course not.

But I did make a counter offer. Turns out the guy who likes Addai and Brown happens to have Travis Henry on his roster. Seems like a good home for Selvin Young, doesn't it? Since my team is already flush with starting backs, I offered Addai and Young for T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Kevin Jones. So I guess I actually have 10 offers out there now.

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

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