What's the best keeper-league ruleset?

Brandon and I are in a keeper league that got its start in the ’06 season. I’m the commish, and I’ve been pretty happy with the system we have in place for keepers. It’s relatively conservative, it’s fair, and it rewards good judgment on player potential while not going so far as to slam the door shut on teams who didn’t make the best keeper decisions the previous season. The system we use is after the jump, and after using it for two seasons, I feel comfortable recommending it.

But that doesn’t mean I think it’s necessarily the best system in the world. I’d love to try something a little more extreme – something with few limits on how many players I can keep, and how long I can keep them. That, to me, would be the epitome of the keeper league concept. Really, I’m just curious to hear about any system you’ve tried and liked. If you’d be so kind as to share, please do so in the comments.

I don’t recall where we got the original set of keeper rules that we based our system on, but the basic idea of it has stayed the same: You can keep up to three players from one season to the next, and you can keep any one player for no longer than three seasons in a row. Other details:

  1. Any players drafted in rounds 1 – 3 of the previous year cannot be keepers. Obviously, this is to keep the Westbrooks and LTs of the world from making one or two teams into unstoppable league royalty.
  2. For each player you keep, you must give up a draft pick 2 rounds higher than the player’s draft position the year before. So let’s say you took Wes Welker in the 12th round last season. This season, you’d have to give up your 10th-round pick in order to keep him. So the question is: Is he worth a 10th-round pick now? (In Welker’s case, I think you know the answer – and so does his owner in our league, the bastard).
  3. Players you got via free agency count as 14th-round picks, so if you’re keeping one you give up your 12th-round pick. If you’re keeping two, you also give up your 11th-rounder, and so on.
  4. Players you got via waivers or trades maintain their draft position – so if another owner drafted Jamal Lewis in the 5th round and then traded him to you mid-season (then watched in horror as he became an elite back in the second half), you will need to give up your 3rd-round pick in order to keep him. An example for waivers: Let’s say another owner drafted Eli Manning in the 8th round, then dropped him after his string of mediocre statistical performances in the first half, and you grabbed him up off waivers because you’re a big ugly stupid Giants fan who smells bad. You’ll need to give up your 6th-round pick to keep your man-crush on your fantasy team.
  5. Draft order: While some keeper leagues try and mess around with this based on where you picked or what place you came in the previous season, we decided as a league that we didn’t really see the point. We just pick the draft order randomly using our NY Lotto system, which I’ll get around to describing here someday.

That’s about it. I’ve seen similar leagues out there so I know I’m not breaking any new ground here; just wanted to share what works for us. If you’d like to do the same, please do so in the comments. Thanks.