Fantasy Football Strategy: The Do’s and Don’ts of Keeper Selections

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Every year between now and draft time, one of the most commonly asked Fantasy Football questions on social media channels, forums, message boards, and podcast mailbag segments is “Who should I keep?”. Fantasy Football owners are notorious over-thinkers and the decision on which player to keep for your fantasy roster is one of the most scrutinized decisions each year.

One of my favorite semi-obscure movie quotes is “Chance favors the prepared mind.” While much can and will change between now and your keeper declaration deadline, it’s always a good idea to start preparing as early as possible. Many of the occurrences that determine the outcomes of Fantasy Football seasons are outside of our control, but being fully prepared what you can control will position your team in the best chances for a successful season. If you have a difficult decision between two players, you’ll want as much time as possible to analyze every bit of information available on those players. Below you will find my top Do’s and Don’ts for Keeper Selection in your 2020 Leagues.

Do Your Research

Fantasy Football, and more precisely, access to information about Fantasy Football has dramatically changed the nature of this game we play. When I first started playing Fantasy Football, most owners did minimal research. It was so easy to have a big advantage in your drafts over the casual owners. Many owners simply bought a magazine and brought it to the draft. Most of the time, those magazines were printed in June and were severely outdated by the time draft day arrived in August. In today’s game, even the most casual fantasy owner has access to a myriad of content and information. Savvy owners now need to dig even deeper to find the real gems that will give them an edge on the competition. So start digging now. Follow your favorite analysts and podcast host on all the social media channels. I highly recommend checking out the award-winning Ultimate Draft Kit created by your favorite Fantasy Podcasters, the Fantasy Footballers.

Don’t Overthink Your Decision

As mentioned in the introduction, Fantasy Owners are some of the most notorious over-thinkers in the world. We simply can’t stop thinking through every possible scenario that we’ve seen play out over the years. While doing all that research above, it’s important not to let it overwhelm you. One of the most common trends in keeper decision questions is simply overthinking the options. Off-season hype trains get rolling and are hard to stop. The 2019 Browns are a great example of the hype overshadowing reality. Sometimes, the hype-train for a player gets so much steam that owners suddenly find themselves considering a player for keeper status that they never would have considered earlier in the off-season. It’s exciting when you can find this year’s breakout stud and keep him for a huge discount, but don’t overthink hyped up potential over a proven talent.

Do Consider Positional Value

Positional value is extremely important when making your keeper decisions. In a typical “Baller’s Preferred” setting league (1QB, 2RB, 2WR, 1TE, 1 FLEX with ½ PPR scoring), RBs carry the most value. Over the past few seasons, the WR position has become very flat, meaning there is far less difference between WR12 and WR24 when compared to RBs. Simply speaking, unless you have a true alpha stud WR like Michael Thomas, WRs have recently lost some value. Moving down the list, both the RB and WR are still far more important to your roster construction than QBs and TEs. Again, unless you’re keeping the elite of the elite at massive value, like Lamar Jackson, the difference between QB4 and QB14 is next to nothing. The top few TEs are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the TE ranks, so they may be keeper worthy.

Getty Images / Jayne Kamin-Oncea

Recently, the Superflex format has changed that view on positional value. There are still plenty of “Late Round QBs” available, but having a solid anchor QB is an enticing prospect. The most important thing to keep an eye on is the availability of QBs after keeper declarations. If your league is QB heavy, then you may find it necessary to follow suit. There are, however, plenty of counter-arguments to be made for going against the grain.

Do Pay Attention to Average Draft Position (ADP)

Most keeper leagues will have a “cost” for keeping a player. Many owners will be looking to reduce that cost to achieve the most “value”. Value, in this case, is the difference between the player’s keeper cost and their ADP. For example, if the keeper rules are to subtract two rounds from the player’s previous year’s draft position – IE a 2019 – 9th Round draft pick can be kept in lieu of your 2020 7th Round selection, owners will be looking to maximize their value. If the player being kept for a 7th Round pick has an ADP in the 5th Round, their two rounds of value are not as great as a player with the same keeper cost that has a 2nd Round ADP, or five rounds of value.

Owners must recognize that ADP value is not linear throughout the draft. The deeper you get into the player ranking, the more “value” must be present to select them as a keeper. A player with only 1-2 rounds of value, who has a 1stRound ADP is likely a much better keeper selection when compared to a player with 6 rounds of value, whose ADP is in the 9th Round.

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Don’t Overlook the Tier-Based Approach

Part of the excitement of a keeper league declaration date in finding out which players other owners are keeping. If you are playing in the same league for a few seasons, you’ll begin to see trends amongst your fellow owners, which can bring additional strategy to the table.

If you can effectively project which players your competition will be keeping, you can begin to get a sense of which players are likely available to be drafted. Using this information, you may find that it is better to keep one player over another depending on where they fall within their player tiers.

As an example, there may be more value in keeping a “lower-ranked” RB over a higher-ranked RB, if you know that your league places a greater focus on RBs versus WRs. Knowing that the best available RB at the draft may be worse than your potential keeper, while a few WRs from the same tier as your potential keeper are likely to be available, can really swing your draft planning.

Don’t Worry About Roster Construction

To an extent, overall roster construction should have minimal impact on your decision making for most keeper leagues. Unless you are in a “deep keeper” where you’re keeping more than 4-5 players, your goal is to keep the most valuable players on your roster, in turn keeping them away from your competition. It’s better to keep a top player and use them in your flex than keep a mid-level player who is less beneficial to your team for the season.

There are my different variations of the keeper format, but these simple Do’s and Don’ts will assist you in a key area: staying out of your own way!

Comments

Amy says:

Lamar Jackson vs. Dalvin Cook .. HELP!

Sims says:

I can’t decide on what to do. 3 player keeper league and i have my first 2 but do I keep Waller or Chark for my 3rd?

James Nigrelli says:

Guys,
I am in a 10 team keeper league. Whichever keeper you decide you lose that round draft pick. Here are my options so please let me know what you think:

D. Hopkins – 1st round
Aaron Jones- 4th round
Chris Carson – 5th round
Calvin Ridley- 6th Round
DJ Moore – 8th round
Will Fuller – 12th round

Michael says:

Question. We keep 1 player and lose that round draft spot. I pick 12 in a 12 team snake draft. Choices of value are
Thomas 1st round
Chubb 2nd
Carson 3rd
Thielen 4th
Sutton 7th
John Brown Buffalo 14th
What do you think?

Sam says:

Hi Micheal – I am in an interesting spot. Took the league championship last year due to have Lamar Jackson (11th rd) and McCaffrey (1st rd). We keep 1 player and lose that round draft spot. I pick last in the first round (snake, so b-t-b picks). McCaffrey will be gone, but the better “value” in the 11th round with Jackson, being one of the top QB’s off the board.

Drew says:

I cannot decide who to keep, and it is a valid concern of mine. In an auction draft league, so each keeper has a dollar amount attributed to them. I can only keep one player in a 12 man league that’s been together for 10 years. League is mostly RB heavy in the draft, but people spend hella on the top tier WR’s too. We have $200 total to draft with. My team last year was stacked and the highest scoring. Can’t decide who holds the most bang for the buck. I could get most of these players back since in an auction draft you can bid on every single player. Any suggestions? Mostly Torn between Hopkins, Adam, Jones, and Andrews.

Devante Adams for $55
Deandre Hopkins for $43
Mike Evans for $41
Aaron Jones for $37
Mark Ingram for $25
Terry Mclaurin for $1
Mark Andrews for $1

Jason says:

Half point ppr 12 team keeper league

I have to decide who to keep. I lose the pick in the round I drafted them last year.

Devante Adams-1st
Todd gurley- 2nd
Stefon diggs-3rd
Allen robinson-7th
Kyler murray-12th
Michael gallup-13th

Mike says:

14 Team PPR. Bonuses for over 100 yards rushing/receiving, 6 points per TD. Keep 2, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Jones, Josh Jacobs, Tyreek Hill. Thanks

Dion Harvey says:

Who should I keep—-Davante Adams or Josh Jacobs In keeper league. 12 team league. I draft 2nd this year

Lynn Parker says:

can keep 2 of 6 need to be kept – Cook (1), Mixon (2), Kelce (2), Godwin (4), Chubb (10), Ridley (13). Right now I am Godwin and Chubb; but thinking Cook and Chubb and hope I can get Godwin Kelce in Rd 2/3?

bhopkins1913 says:

Man… torn… Was hoping for more clarity with OTAs and Pre-Season… But decision is coming in our Full Point PPR…

Austin Ekeler for a 3rd – A killer in last few games for me in 2018, and a killer for most of 2019… Especially to start the season.

Scary Terry for a 7th – extreme talent… on a crap team, with a qb he has awesome chemistry with who also is meh when it comes to the Pros so far.

Thoughts and Thots?

Finis Thomas says:

I’m torn. In a 3 Keeper league, standard format/scoring. I’m solid w/ 2 of my Keepers, Michael Thomas and Dalvin Cook, but am struggling with the 3rd.

Mike Evans
Tyler Lockett
James Conner

Dylan Cressy says:

Michael,

Fantastic article – it’s for good reason that yours is the first to populate in Google when looking for fantasy football keeper information. I’m in a bit of a predicament and any and all advice would be welcomed with open arms. Traditional PPR (this is key to my decision) keeper league, you keep the player at the round you drafted them at the previous year.

Options –

Josh Jacobs : 5th round

or

Kyler Murray : 13th round

Based on the general “rule of thumb” of RB/WR > QB in a 1Qb league, I thought I had my mind made up with Jacobs; that is, until the addition of DHop to the Cardinals.

Jacobs is handcuffed in the passing game, and the past two NFL MVP’s have been 2nd year QB’s. Kyler’s upside is tempting.

Thoughts?

Thanks brotha!!!

Ryan Weber says:

I am in a one keeper league. I can keep Mahomes as my 3rd round pick or Henry has my 4th round pick. Which one should I keep? Thanks!

Ray says:

I am in a “Ballers Preferred” format. 12 Team, 3 keepers (1st year we are actually “keeping” players)

I can Keep:
Lamar Jackson for a 14th
Kamara for a 1st
Hopkins for a 1st (acquired via trade last season)
Kupp for a 4th
Higbee for a 15th

I am leaning What’s the best way of going about this?

KP says:

Hi,
Great article, been waiting for something like this, thanks. So for 3 keepers at last years draft cost (cost goes down by 2roudns every year) in league with 1qb, 2rb,3wr,te, flex and superflex.
Which 3 do you recommend-
Dak (7th)
Kittle (3rd)
Godwin (6th)
AjBrown (16th)
Mostert (8th)
Lock/teddy (16th)

Thank you

Gord says:

2 Keeper League

Keeping Kenyan Drake for a 7th round pick
Should I keep

Godwin for a 6th
Maetcalf for a 15th
Prescott for a 15th

Kyle says:

Keep 2 or keep 0. If you keep 2, you lose your 1st and 2nd round picks and then draft at the end of the snake in the 3rd round. I have Adams and Cook. I am leaning toward keeping. Thoughts?

Justin says:

I’m in a ballers preferred type keeper league (Only keep 2 players) no cost/penalty and last year managed to get filthy rich By taking a flyer on Lamar Jackson. But now I have a decision

RB Elliot (Previous Keeper)
RB Saquon (previous keeper)
QB Jackson

Any advice, I’m thinking both RBs and get an average QB is the most “worth”. But it’s hard to let LJ go

Max says:

I’m in a 12 team league with each team keeping 3 players. I am keeping Derrick Henry for a 7th and Aaron Jones for a 10th (pretty pumped about it). Debating between these 3 for my last keeper spot:
-Joe Mixon for a 2nd (pick 15)
-Adam Thielen for a 4th
-Kenny Golladay for a 4th

Appreciate the help and keep up the good work!

Levi Carey says:

I’m overthinking it. Help me please! Great article by the way. 4 keeper league. Draft is reverse standings. Lost in final last year So I will have pick 11,14. 1/2 PPR 1 QB 2rb 2wr 1 Te 2 flex (Te,wr,rb) 1 Def no kicker. Need to keep 4 of Aaron Jones, Hopkins, Kittle, Lamar Jackson, Fournette. So torn. RB always more valuable but I have the TE 1(Or 2) and QB 1. So torn. Help please. I’m leaning both RB, Hopkins and Jackson but I really have no idea. I go back and forth.

LS19 says:

14 team PPR 2 Keeper 1QB 2RB 3WR 1 TE FLEX
Kelce
Evans
Fournette
Robinson
Kupp

Assuming no “penalties/cost”, since you didn’t list anything, I’m keeping Kelce and Fournette. In a 14 team, Kelce can be a real difference maker. Fournette has near-zero competition and saw a nice increase in his passing game work. Assuming his TD rate trends back up towards league averages, he’s in a great spot to out produce his ADP and be a great keeper in 2020!

V says:

Got M Thomas
Lamar Jackson
Devante Adams
Raheem mostert

PPr which two to keep ? Help please’

With the basic assumption of a typical format and no keeper cost/penalties, the two best players to keep are MT and Adams.

Sam says:

Did you mean to say “…over a higher ranked WR”? :
“As an example, there may be more value in keeping a “lower-ranked” RB over a higher-ranked RB, if you know that your league places a greater focus on RBs versus WRs. Knowing that the best available RB at the draft may be worse than your potential keeper, while a few WRs from the same tier as your potential keeper are likely to be available, can really swing your draft planning.

Aaron Kincaid says:

Hey Ballers,
Great article, but I still fall in the category of overthinking this decision. Here’s why… Michael Thomas for my second round pick or Lamar Jackson in the 12th. This would be the last year I can keep MT. The league format is “Ballers preferred”, I don’t have any RBs worth keeping, and it is safe to say that other tier 1 RBs/WRs will likely be kept by others. I obviously have some time to think it over, but additional advice or a “what would you do in my shoes” would be helpful! Currently leaning towards MT as I am comfortable with streaming QBs, but Lamar in the 12th is a steal.
Thanks,
A-A-Ron

You likely can’t “replace” MT, because he would likely be the top available slection if you send him back.If you’re confortable streaming and this is a 1QB league, then I always lean RB/WR > QB.

Jose castillo says:

I’m in 12 team keeper league;
Qb(1)
RB (2)
Wr (3)
Te
Flx (we/rb/te)
I’m keeping Lamar jackson at 10 round thanks to you guys advice and I choose first this year( champion in all of my 4 leagues) .. thanks to your advice also 😂… my hard decision is so do I keep c. Goodwin in 3rd round .. or Kenny golladay in 7th round.. and do I take CMC or saquon in First pick..

Assuming that CMC/Saquan are not kept and available, it’s all up to who you’d rather root for, as both are outstanding options. Keeping Chris Godwin for a 3rd is likely “actual cost”, so you’re not getting any value, but he’s a great building block.

will Gitlin says:

I’m in a 12 team keeper league. We keep same players, don’t give back. We use IDP players. I have 7th pick in this years draft. I want to take Chase Young,. What do you recommend. I also need RB. I have: Melvin Gordon, Darrius Guise, Mark Ingrahm, Tevin Coleman Benny snell,justice Hill, Mattison minn. ANY SUGGESTIONS?

Without knowing the IDP scoring and it’s impact on LB value, it’s hard to say, but he will be a stud. Assuming that the top 5 rookie RBs go before pick 7, you’re looking at Young vs WR (Lamb/Jeudy).

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