Anatomy of a keeper league draft

A few nights ago, Matt and I participated in our keeper league’s draft (see our league’s rules here). As those of you who have already experienced a keeper/dynasty league know, it is quite a bit different than a standard league draft. For those of you who have not been lucky enough to partake in this kind of league before though, I just wanted to give you an idea of how they work and some things you need to be aware of come draft day.

Below you can see an image depicting the “keepers”, shown in the round they are to be taken, going into our draft (click for full size):

keeper league

After completing the draft, our teams turned out like this (keepers in bold/italics)…

Brandon Pos Matt
Ben Roethlisberger QB Drew Brees
LaDainian Tomlinson RB Marshawn Lynch
Ryan Grant RB Jamal Lewis
Thomas Jones RB/WR DeAngelo Williams
Chad Johnson WR Marques Colston
Brandon Marshall WR Dwayne Bowe
Nate Burleson WR Donte Stallworth
Kellen Winslow TE Antonio Gates
Jeff Reed K Josh Brown
Minnesota DEF Green Bay
DeSean Jackson Bench LenDale White
Sidney Rice Bench Ted Ginn, Jr.
Brandon Jackson Bench Robert Meachem
David Garrard Bench James Hardy
Tim Hightower Bench Kurt Warner
Jacob Hester Bench Michael Bush

My team: The first pick overall in a keeper league is not always a great thing, especially when a bunch of the top running backs are kept by other teams. Luckily, I already had a solid RB keeper in Ryan Grant, so after taking LT with the first overall pick, I wasn’t in serious need of another top running back when the draft came back around to me for picks 2 and 3. However, my picks of Thomas Jones and Chad Johnson at the turn do not look so hot in retrospect, but they were made before we heard all the details on Ocho Cinco and his shoulder. However, I did end up with the top RB, a top three TE, the top DEF and some pretty solid role players. As this is a keeper league, I’m hoping my picks of DeSean Jackson and Tim Hightower work out as guys I can keep around next season.

Matt’s team: Matt had the 8th pick, and with his keepers he was already pretty solid at the wide receiver. This allowed him to take two solid running backs with his top two picks (Lynch and Lewis), as well as also grab a top three TE and a top notch quarterback. He focused heavily on the future with his last few picks, grabbing players who make great keeper candidates (and some of whom could produce for his team right away), including Ted Ginn, Robert Meachem, James Hardy and Michael Bush.

Here are a few random thoughts from our draft…

  • A player’s standard draft value can largely be ignored, or at least “adjusted”. When you’re drafting a player, trying to figure out the value you’re getting in a certain round becomes a little bit tricky. Is Reggie Bush a reach in the 3rd round? He would be in a re-draft league, but when upwards of 9 first and second round draft picks are already off the board before the draft starts, he looks pretty good to a team that has no RB keepers on his roster.
  • Draft strategies will vary greatly from team to team. For instance, on my team I already knew that I had a starting running back in Grant, and a starting receiver in Marshall (although I have to wait at least 2 weeks!), so I could focus on grabbing top tier players at positions I would usually wait much longer to draft (QB, DEF). Guys with no keepers at all though were forced to try to fill the most important positions right away and were stuck with second rate (if that) players at other positions.
  • Some teams will end up with no keepers. One of the managers in our draft just had no players worth keeping, which shows how important it is to not only try to win the league, but also to set yourself up for next season. The other manager though was a rookie to the league, so as part of the hazing ritual, he was forced to start off fresh and build his team from scratch. While his team doesn’t appear to be a true contender this season (first four picks in order: Tom Brady, Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson, Ricky Williams), who knows how it will turn out next year if he makes a few good free agent pickups along the way.
  • MAKE SURE TO KEEP NEXT YEAR IN MIND! Whether it’s drafting a sleeper, or picking guys up off free agency throughout the season, if you don’t have any keeper-worthy guys going into next season, you’re in for a VERY rough draft and a VERY long season.

In the end, a keeper league is just another way to throw a twist into fantasy football if you’re sick of the standard re-draft, basic scoring settings league. Once you’ve tried the WR/RB flex position, or tried adding individual defensive players, your next logical step should be a keeper league (in our case, we also have the flex position). While I probably wouldn’t recommend joining too many keeper leagues in a single year (one is enough for me), having at least one is a nice change of pace that keeps you on your toes and thinking about next year…even if your team is already out of contention!

Finally, as a shameless plug, if you haven’t had a chance to checkout our Fantasy Football GeekSource, I highly recommend you do. It constantly updates with the latest posts from a number of fantasy football blogs and is very simple to navigate. It also includes lists of cheat sheets and other tools hosted by sites that we’ve found to be very helpful. Plus Matt has spent a lot of time on it!