Fantasy Football 101: How to Convert a Redraft League into Keeper

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Are you obsessed with fantasy football and ready to jump from the standard redraft league into a more advanced league format?  Are you and your league-mates ready for a new challenge?  Are you wondering how to go about doing that?  Well, you’ve come to the right place!

The three most popular formats for fantasy football are redraft, keeper, and dynasty.  I play in each type of league and love them all for different reasons.  But if I had to pick a favorite…it’d be keeper.  If you’ve only played redraft before, I recommend trying a keeper league before jumping into dynasty.  Keeper is a blend between redraft and dynasty.  While keeper league rules vary significantly, the general idea is that your team resets every year with the exception of a couple of fantasy players that you get to carry over from last year.

This article outlines how to convert a traditional redraft fantasy football league into a keeper league.

Logistics

The most critical thing about starting a keeper league is making sure you have active league-mates.  If you get frustrated with inactive league members in your redraft league, those players are not fit for keeper leagues.  Don’t invite them!  I’m serious!  Inactive league members ruin the league for everyone else.  I’m guessing that if you’re reading this article, you probably have an active league with friends and family.  Reach out to your league mates to gauge interest in a keeper league.  If only eight of 12 league members want to do a keeper league, start a keeper league with only those eight people!  It is more fun to play in a smaller league with active managers than to play in a 12-person league with a few league-mates that don’t participate.

Plan in advance.  If you have an active redraft league that’s converting to keeper, get the ball rolling in the spring.  You’ll want to vote on league rules and make sure everyone has a clear understanding of the settings at least a few weeks before the draft.

If you are converting a redraft league to a keeper league, it’s best to do it in two stages over the course of a year.  If your league just voted and approved a keeper league in the spring of 2021, I recommend implementing it in 2022.  That allows league members to draft this summer with keeper eligibility in mind.  Then, keepers can be selected in 2022 using the 2021 draft and rosters as the basis.  The reason why I think it’s important to wait is that draft strategy changes when you are accounting for future keeper value.  For example, I take more fliers on rookies and sophomores in keeper drafts than I would in redraft leagues – especially in the double-digit rounds.  If I have the opportunity to pick between Trevor Lawrence and Matthew Stafford in the 12th round, I would be more likely to lean Lawrence in keeper because he has more upside in the future.  While Stafford’s expected production should be higher this year, the QB position is easy to replace and it’s in the realm of possibilities that Lawrence becomes a great value if you can keep him in the 11th next year.  Low risk, high upside.

Typically, fantasy managers can keep 1-3 players in keeper formats.  This is always based on your roster from last year.  My league has a trade deadline at Thanksgiving, but it opens back up after the fantasy playoffs.  As far as the number of keepers to select… I think the perfect number of keepers is two.  If you’re keeping more than 4 players, you might as well be playing dynasty.

Cost tied to ADP

Some fantasy players prefer to tie keepers to this year’s ADP.  So for example, you can keep two players in the round where they are being ranked (by The Fantasy Footballers, ESPN, Sleeper, etc) heading into 2021.  This doesn’t provide managers with much of an advantage, but it lets everyone lock in their “my guys”.

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Straight up Keeper

Another way to play keeper is to ignore draft cost and allow fantasy managers to keep their best players overall.  So if your league has two keepers, you would treat your draft as if everyone’s keepers made up the first and second round of the draft.

Cost tied to Prior Year Draft Cost

My favorite way to play keeper is to tie keeper cost to prior year draft cost.  This is my favorite way to do it.  Oftentimes, there is a one or two-round penalty to keep a player.  For example, if you drafted J.K. Dobbins in the 5th round last year, he is eligible to be kept in the 4th round this year.  The reason why I like tying keeper value to draft cost is that it gives you a lot of options beyond just keeping the best overall player.  For example, I’d rather keep J.K. Dobbins in the 4th round than keep Alvin Kamara at pick 1.05.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There are a few details that your league will need to vote on if you go with the approach where keepers are tied to prior year draft cost, I prefer to make it so that prior year first-round picks CANNOT be kept.  This allows the elite talent to refresh so that you don’t end up with super lopsided leagues.  Additionally, I prefer to establish a limit for the latest that a player can be kept.  In my league, we have it set up so that the latest a player can be kept in the 9th round…unless the fantasy manager drafted a player beyond that AND kept them on their roster all season.  That allows managers to shoot their shot late in the draft and be rewarded if they’re right.  You will also have to vote on how to treat players that went undrafted but were scooped up off waivers mid-season.

In keeper leagues where player draft cost is tied to prior year draft cost… I recommend implementing a limit on how long you can keep a player.  In my main league, we have a two-year limit (year 1: draft, year 2: keep at 1 round discount, year 3: keep at 1 round discount again, year 4: no longer eligible to be kept).  This ensures that players are cycled back into the draft pool and available to everyone, which mitigates the risk that you have a super top-heavy league.  Otherwise, the person who drafted someone like Justin Jefferson in the 12th round in 2021 would be able to keep him for virtually his whole career at an incredible value.

Keeper Deadline

Regardless of the type of keeper league you’re in, it’s important that your league votes on when to set the keeper deadline.  I’ve heard everything from keeper deadlines before the NFL draft (talk about introducing chaos) to the day of the draft.  My league has a deadline one week before the actual draft in August/September.  We even have a caveat that if your keeper gets injured in that week leading up to the draft, you have the option to select a different player and there is an additional one-round penalty.

The Fantasy Footballers’ Preferred Keeper Settings

I love it when we hear Andy, Mike, and Jason talk about the leagues that they’re in.  So, I reached out to Andy and asked for the details on their infamous keeper league, which is referenced on the show occasionally.

Here are The Fantasy Footballers’ preferred keeper league settings:

  • QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, Flex, Flex, DEF
  • ½-PPR
  • Format: derivation of Straight Up Keeper.
    • Each manager can select one franchise player.  The manager is guaranteed to keep this player.
    • Each manager selects three additional keeper options, which go into a lottery system.  These three keepers CANNOT match the position of the franchise player.
    • The league gets together for the lottery, where one of the three keeper options is randomly selected for each team.  This player then gets spit back into the pool of draftable players.
    • Each team enters the fantasy draft with a total of three keepers.
  • Keeper deadline: Keepers must be submitted before the final pick of the NFL draft.
  • A completely hypothetical example that did NOT happen to Andy this year:  Kelce was selected as the franchise player.  Mahomes, Jefferson, and Hopkins were selected as the three keepers for the lottery system.  Jefferson was selected and booted during the lottery process.  This person (NOT Andy) is now entering the 2021 season with Mahomes/Kelce/Hopkins.

What is your favorite way to play in a keeper league?  Let us know on Twitter!

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Comments

justinwalters says:

My keeper league is 2 keepers 3 years max. Can’t keep guys drafted in rounds 1-3. year 1 you lose round drafted, 2nd year 3 rounds and 3rd year 6 rounds from the original draft spot. Lastly you cannot keep a guy if he falls into rounds 1-3 by being kept for multiple years. So guys kept in rounds 4-6 can only be kept for a maximum of 1 year. I think this creates balance, rewards teams for making good picks later in the draft and makes managers “manage” their team.

timo_schindler says:

What about the draft order in the season after the initial draft with keepers? Are the ballers completely randomizing it or does it depend on where you finished?

rangdangdoo says:

My main keeper league allows 4 keepers and is a straight up keeper league with no limit to how long you can keep someone. My $ league decided to start doing one keeper, is tied to last year’s draft cost, and you can only keep the player two years after his rookie season.

A good friend of mine does an auction keeper league. I’ve never done one but it sounds interesting

Jim says:

Our league does auction draft with $115. A player is eligible to be kept if they were drafted for less than $15. You can choose to keep that player for $15 the next season, $20 the second season, and then $25 the third season. The player goes back into the pool following the third season of being kept. The increasing price tag makes it a decision about value each season. It has worked well!

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