Nease’s Insights—Becoming a Draft Master—Part 3

Now that we are prepared to master our re-drafter league drafts let’s look at some fantasy football options. Like Baskin Robbins, our favorite game has a huge variety of flavors and variations. We can choose to play anything from a basic, very simplistic TDs only version to a complex dynasty league with IDPs, 30-player rosters, 20-player lineups and salary caps.

Most of us play in a re-drafter league the first time we try fantasy football. The rules are simple—Basic scoring, PPR. 9-10 player lineups, 10-14 teams in a league, etc. In 1985 when I started playing, fantasy football was sort of a joke. No media attention was paid to it and it was very tedious running leagues manually with very little computer availability to help. Like dinosaurs and 25¢ gasoline, the days of scoring by hand, like in those golden olden days, are far behind us.

Access to the internet has allowed fantasy football to grow exponentially. Popular game venues like Yahoo, CBS, ESPN NFL com and more are available for casual leagues where you just want to play without a lot of fanfare or hoopla. For those that want a more customized league a site like offers lots of room to experiment.

There are flexible scoring options, IDPs, salary cap, auction leagues, combinations of several options and the ability to have keeper leagues and dynasty leagues. My dynasty league that started in 1985, has been using since 2003 and its predecessor PC-based version for about 12-years before that. Quality, reliability and the best customer service I have ever seen has kept us a big fan of Mike Hall and his team for over 25-years now.

While a re-drafter league can certainly be fun, unless you win it all it leaves you with a bitter after-taste in your mouth at season’s ends. In fact, if you have a bad start, it feels like the season is over already. With an 0-5 start and a couple of top players out for the season, you are barely able to field a competitive lineup. A feeling of “who cares” resonates through. You might even (gasp!) consider giving up the game.

But wait! There are two options we are going to talk about next. They will be covered here in Part 3 and then Part 4 later this week. You can either join a keeper league, or a more challenging dynasty league. Like climbing up levels in a video game these formats are more challenging than most re-drafter leagues.

Ok Mike, Please Explain That

The keeper league is sort of a modified re-drafter league. The difference is that in a keeper league you can maintain some continuity to link seasons. Generally, you designate about 1-4 keepers around the end of July. You are usually able to keep those players for a maximum of three seasons before returning them to the overall player pool.

The going price for keeping them is usually to lose a draft pick in the current draft that is one slot less than the one in which the player cost the year before. For example, say that in 2016 you luckily drafted WR Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs in the 14th Round. Keeping him in 2017 cost you a 13th Round pick. In 2018 he will cost you a 12th Round draft choice. Finally, in 2019 you pay with an 11th rounder. After the 2019 season you lose him and he goes back into the overall player pool. While that is too bad for you, the upside is that you kept a top WR on your roster for 2016 and then another three years at a ridiculously low cost.

You select your other keepers in the same way, based on anticipated productivity, both currently and in the future. While you have the option to hold on to your keepers for three years, you can also release them at any point after the draft in which they become a keeper. The replacement for a waived keeper does not automatically become a keeper.

A dynasty league makes you a team owner. You initially draft an entire team and about the end of July, like with a keeper league, a couple weeks or so before the annual draft, you can release anywhere from no players to all of them. If you need more picks than you have acquired, then you must add rounds to the draft to accommodate your needs. That is the penalty for needing so many picks. You select them after what is usually a six-round dynasty draft and the players have been pretty much picked over.                      

As we said above, a keeper league is sort of a modified re-drafter league, which means that draft-wise, the drafts are basically identical. Usually a dynasty league has larger rosters to encourage player development and the draft strategy is radically different. Also, a new element is added when playing in either of these leagues—trading.

Re-drafter leagues allow trading, but you seldom see anything of note consummated. With both keeper and dynasty leagues you get a valuable commodity that makes trading a lot spicier. Besides players, you are also able to trade current and as many as a couple of years of future picks. We will talk about trading later. 

The 365-Days A Year Fantasy Football Season

So, we see that in a dynasty league, and to a lesser extent in a keeper league, you have a sense of ownership with your team. You are not just renting the players for a single season like you do in a re-drafter league. You have some at least, or all of them if you wish, for basically if you want to keep them. There are more bells and whistles in a dynasty league and I find them to be far superior to a keeper league.

With a keeper league being just a slightly modified re-drafter league, it dilutes the fun too much for me. In fantasy football, keeper leagues to me are the equivalent of T-Ball. It is like riding a bicycle with training wheels. Keeping a few players adds a little continuity—not much perhaps, but enough to give you a taste of having an ongoing team. At this point I must ask the obvious question. Why not just setup a dynasty the first place?

Off-season trading becomes more inviting in keeper and dynasty leagues. That extends our fantasy football season from a 20-week experience to one we can enjoy all year long. In a re-drafter league, besides an occasional draft night trade or a rare player trade during the season, you hardly ever see trades. With either a keeper or dynasty league you can trade anytime except during the last few weeks of the season. Imagine you and some friends watching a baseball game in June and talking fantasy football trades. You can do it! The season never ends with keeper and dynasty teams.

One Big Keeper League Advantage

The keeper league cracks open the trading door just an inch or two. If you can keep three players, but have six legitimate keepers, why not get some value for guys you would otherwise just drop? Unlike most trades, we have very little leverage here. If we do not trade someone, they abruptly disappear from our roster entirely with absolutely nothing being received for them. With other team owners usually having decent keepers themselves, trading becomes heavily weighted as a combination of a buyer’s cost to keep them and how long they can be kept. So, let’s say you got lucky and drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the 8th Round last year and are limited to keeping only one RB. You also have Todd Gurley. You should probably keep Gurley.

Trading Kamara then becomes an option. Normally Kamara would get you a real good price in draft picks and/or players in return. That is not too likely to happen here. Just keep remembering that if you do not trade him, he gets released and you get nothing. At the last minute you are better off getting just about anything for him. A combination of lower pick exchanges is better than nothing. The object here is to improve your current draft possibilities. Even an extra 7th Rounder is better than nothing.

How do you Decide Who to Keep?

Let’s assume that we have a 12-team league with 20 players on each roster. By position, this is what I would do.

QB: Unless I have a QB costing a relatively late pick that I want to keep and have weak RB and WR keepers, I would rather wait and reload at this position. After Aaron Rodgers and perhaps one or two others, most of the next 12 or so ranked QBs are interchangeable, History has shown us that patiently waiting until about the 7th or 8th round will get you a pretty good QB. If you take my advice and pick up your QB2 about two rounds later, you will have a good 1-2 punch. Not wasting an early pick at QB gives you an upgrade at either RB or WR.

RB: If possible, I would want to keep a Top 5 RB, even if he costs me as high as a 1st or 2nd Round pick. A bargain keeper this year could be Kareem Hunt, who became a starter late in the preseason after Spencer Ware got hurt. In many leagues he was drafted low for a RB with his 2018 value.  

WR: Here we find overflowing talent and depth. I would want to get a bargain on keeping a latter round young stud that can grow with my team over a few years. Just remember, keeper leagues usually have limitations on how many seasons you can keep a player. WRs of mote to consider are players like Cooper Kulp and Kenny Galladay as potential 2018 keepers—both having been lower 2017 draft picks with a large upside.

TE: None worthy of keeping—good ones would probably cost you too high of a draft pick.

PK: None worthy of keeping.

DST: None worthy of keeping.

What About the Draft Itself?

The best way to prepare for this draft is to do it exactly what you would do in a re-drafter scenario. With that being said, be sure to read Parts 1 and 2 in this series (see links below if you missed the prior articles in this series). Everything you need to know will be there.

The roster size is usually the same for either a re-drafter or keeper league. With the same roster size, sleepers and late reaches are not much of a factor. You still want players with an immediate anticipated impact. Development of players does not concern us until a player is ready to produce. There is no roster spot worth wasting on a deep, deep sleeper.

After every draft we tend to feel like we have the best team ever drafted. Then look at how fast we turn around later and make 40-50 waiver moves over the course of the season. Patience is a virtue that we could all use a bigger dose of. Know which players are likely to produce right away and which ones may need a few games under their belts to earn their playing time and have some value as the season progresses.

When you finalize your re-drafter cheat sheet. you only have one more step to transform it to keeper league ready. Take the list of all the keepers and check off the applicable players who are already taken as keepers. Also, setup your team draft sheet and fill in draft slots already filled. Everything else is pretty much the same after that. Draft the best players according to your plan and you should be fine.

As in a re-drafter draft, be sure that the keeper team you wind up drafting can score enough points each week to win. Make sure that each one of your draft picks is made with a sound reason.

Ask the Experts

When my friend Andy Richardson invited me to provide material for his weekly Fantasy Index Thursday morning "Ask the Experts" column, I was thrilled and honored. Here is the 2018 kickoff article from our friends at Fantasy Index. This is not anything to buy—it is simply a column I thought you might enjoy. 😊

Other Articles in this Series

Link to Article—Becoming a Draft Master-Part 1

Link to Article—Becoming a Draft Master-Part 2

Training camps are open now, and we are more than ready for the actual season to begin. Buckle up for the journey. My colleagues and I at Big Guy Fantasy Sports are intent on helping you become the champion you want to be. With our poignant articles and being the home base for the consistency theory, a sound mathematically-based alternative to ADP, we will be with you for the 2018 season in its entirety. What happens then? That my friends, is easy. We start over and do it all again in 2019!

Over the years many readers have contacted me personally for fantasy football questions throughout the year. I look forward to helping you in your quest to win championships this year. You can contact me by email with any questions you may have on fantasy football generally, or on consistency specifically, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., follow me on Twitter @mikeinsights, or join me as a member of Couch Tomatoes, my fantasy football discussion group on Facebook.

Good luck! Have fun!


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