Fantasy Football: Keeper Selection Strategy

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Many of the listener questions that are featured in the Fantasy Footballers Podcast mailbag segment are looking for advice on keeper selections. As fantasy football continues to gain mainstream attention, more owners are joining multiple leagues and branching out from common re-draft leagues into the world of keeper leagues.

Most leagues will set a deadline to declare keepers ahead of the league’s annual draft and the days and weeks leading up to it are often filled with self-doubt and second-guessing. The growth of keeper leagues is only slightly ahead of the variations of those leagues’ keeper rules. It would be impossible to cover every single variation of the keeper rules, but the goal of this article is to give you a baseline guide to making a decision that will best position your team for success.

Don’t Overthink It

One of the most common trends in keeper decision questions is simply overthinking the options. After weeks and months of staring at your roster, many owners start looking at the players who are getting the most off-season hype. Those players that would never be considered a keeper over a proven talent in most cases. While it’s enticing to hope to find this year’s out-of-nowhere stud for a discount, it’s just as likely they will not live up to the hype. When in doubt, stick with the known commodity.

Positional Value

When planning keepers, positional valuation is highly important. For the most part, RBs and WRs are more important than QBs and TEs to your team’s roster construction. It’s simple math; you start more RBs and WRs than the “onesie” positions of QB and TE*. (*Assuming non-superflex leagues or those with TE-premium scoring.)

While it may be tempting to keep last year’s top QB or TE, an RB or WR is almost always the preferred choice. Using the Fantasy Footballers tiered rankings and comparing to ADP is a great way to help you decide when to keep a top tier QB/TE over a mid-level RB/WR.

ADP Value

Where most leagues have a “cost” for keeping a player, your goal is to maximize the value of the kept player. One common system of keepers is to keep a player at last years draft round.  An easy example is when you are keeping a player you drafted last year in the 8th Round who has an ADP in the 4th Round this year. The lower a players ADP rank is, the greater his keeper value must be, as rounds of value are not created equal. Keeping a 1st Round player in the 3rd Round is a great value. But as you go down the ranks, 2 rounds of value is not great for a player with a 10th Round ADP being kept in the 12th Round.

In the chart below the blue line represents a players ADP, while the grey line represents the required keeper value. As you see, the two lines diverge at a greater rate the deeper you go into ADP. Keeping a top-ranked player with two rounds of value is far better for your team than gaining 5 rounds of value on a mid-tier player.

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Tier-Based Value

It is extremely important to keep track of who is being kept versus who is potentially going to be available in the draft. It may be more beneficial for you to keep a player at a position with greater scarcity than one who ranked alongside players who will not be kept. Using the Fantasy Footballers’ Tiered Rankings in the Ultimate Draft Kit can help you make some of those crucial decisions.

Let’s pretend you are debating between keeping a tier-2 WR and a tier-3 RB. You first need to look at the other teams’ rosters and project their likely keepers. Let’s also pretend that most of the top RBs, including those in tier 3, are being kept while most of the tier-2 WRs will end up being available in the draft. This may make your tier 3-RB more valuable as one of the few options remaining for other owners to target. Meanwhile, your tier 2-WRs returning to the draft pool will fall in line with similar players, making your ability to acquire the same player or a similarly ranked one much easier than acquiring the only tier 3-RB.

Roster Construction Planning

Depending on your league’s keeper rules, it may become tempting to keep players to fill out your starting line-up. While this is viable in some leagues with more keepers, it is almost always a better idea to simply keep the best players. There is a common draft strategy called “Best Player Available” (BPA), where you simply draft the best/highest ranked players, regardless of position. This draft strategy often leads to teams that lean heavily toward one position or end up with a top player at each position as you end up drafting a top QB and TE. In many cases, keeping the best players regardless of position (but still factoring positional value) can lead to a strong team. You may be keeping 3 top RBs and putting one in your flex position, but that is better than sending back a top RB to keep a mid-level WR. Don’t let starting requirements get in your way of keeping the best players.

There are so many other variations to keeper rules that it’s important to remember the most important part of fantasy football: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid!). The simple basics outlined here should help prevent you from getting in your own way and out-smarting yourself.

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