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Mike Davis | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Why doesn't your league use keepers?
Q & A: Week 4

Last Week's Question: What scoring/drafting mechanics set your league apart?

Not all commissioners care about setting their leagues apart from the crowd, but those who value individuality can achieve it through ambience (e.g. with unique trophies or special draft day rituals) and/or through idiosyncratic scoring/drafting methods. My column for Week 3 focused on matters of ambience. For this week's installment, we'll look at some unusual scoring/drafting mechanics.

I'll start with Andy's hybrid of a blind auction and a conventional serpentine draft because it somehow manages to be simple despite sounding complicated:

This is for a re-draft league. Each team is given $100 to spend for the first five rounds of the draft. Each team writes down how much of the $100 they want to spend on the 1st round. The cards are collected and the first round order is determined by how much money was spent, most to least. The next 4 rounds continue the same way, with owners only being allowed to spend what they have left. It's interesting, because you can spend $90 in the 1st round and get Adrian Peterson, but then you'll likely pick near the bottom in rounds 2-5. Round 6 is the reverse order of round 5 and starts the serpentine draft.

I would love to try this out at least once. My only reservation is that it seems like a lot of work for the commissioner to keep a running tab of who has how much money left. (Even if everyone intends to be honest about how much money they have left to bid, mathematical mistakes seem bound to happen in drafts--especially when alcohol is involved.) This approach might go a little more smoothly if each owner is given an envelope with his own name on it, containing $100 in Monopoly money. Then, for each of the first five rounds, the owners could return the envelope to the commissioner with as much money as they're willing to devote to that round. No FFer would mistake this kind of draft for a true auction draft, but it might be a fun way for redrafter leagues to start flirting with the auction model.

Tom wrote to me about a charity league in his neck of the woods. This league gives owners two live drafts for the price of one unspecified donation:

The interesting twist in this league is that at the end of the 13-week regular season the division winners get together for a complete re-draft for a 3-week season. [The winner gets a free trip] to Vegas baby!

This sounds like the perfect solution to what is most problematic about drafting. Every August, we have to select our players not based simply on past performance and projected value, but on their schedules during our own fantasy post-season (somewhere around Weeks 13-17). We don't just want any great running back; we want a great running back who will be abusing a soft rush defense in Week 16, when it counts! But our ideas of a favorable matchup in August have nothing to do with what constitutes a favorable matchup in December. (Just think about the Kansas City Chiefs and how exhausted their defense was last year and how it looked like it might not get any better with the addition of Andy Reid, who absolutely failed to solve the defensive problems that plagued Philadelphia after the death of coordinator Jim Johnson. How many of us expected the Chief defense to be any good back in August? If they keep this up, you can bet that the Week 16 matchup against KC that looked favorable during the draft will look mighty unfavorable come December.)

Tom's charity draft doesn't just give us twice as much drafting fun; it takes the brain-pain out of the first draft by letting owners focus on building the strongest team they can in stage one; then they get to focus on three weeks of matchups in stage two.

I received two lengthy responses (both with heavy emphasis on keeper modifications) from Jeff and Eric. I especially like the way that the consolation playoff tournament in one season affects the draft order of the subsequent season in Jeff's league:

One of the things that we did right from the start (13 seasons now) is that we are a customized keeper league. Each owner can keep up to 3 players from the end of the year roster at the cost of a draft pick 2 rounds higher than the player cost the previous year. Players may be traded and kept by another owner. First round drafted players cannot be kept the following year; 2nd round draftees may be kept for a 1st and 8th round pick. Undrafted players may be kept for a 14th rounder. (We have a live draft online with a conference call, as we live scattered across the US.)

We have two sets of playoffs: top six are playing for money (winner gets about $200) while bottom six are playing for top overall pick. So the first round order is the winner of the losers bracket followed by remaining teams in order of finish; rounds 2-4 are simply reverse order of finish. From round 5 on we serpentine. Thus it is very hard to repeat (hasn't been done yet) and takes very good management and talent evaluation of waiver wire players or draft fliers to even be in the top four consistently.

Draft picks can also be traded (same year only, but we are thinking about revising that to include one year out). So what you might see is a trade like I did this year: I traded Luck (6th round keeper cost) to an owner for his 10th round pick. I then traded Cobb (who had a keeper cost of 10th round) and my tenth round pick (I had two 10th round picks, right?) in exchange for a 9th and 5th round pick.

Also common in our league is trading a pick that you need to use for a keeper to someone else in exchange for a lower pick in that same round (since you lose it anyway). Let's say I am using an 8th round pick to keep a player and I have 8.03....I may trade 8.03 and 9.10 for someone's 8.12 and 9.01. Both of us benefit.

We are an IDP league also forcing owners to start 3 players from at least two different positions.

We have an IR with several rules that force owners to think things through. If you draft a player that is known to have an injury and that injury ends up keeping them out of one or more games without ever returning to play in a game, he cannot be placed on the IR. You have to use one of your 20 roster spots on him. After the wire closes in week 12, players may only be picked up by the commish for an owner to replace a player eligible for IR (have to be OUT or IR in the NFL) and that player must be of the same position and is not eligible to be kept.

And we have many other rules that may seem to make things confusing for someone on the outside, but in reality it is the difference between playing a game of go fish vs chess. Both can be fun....though go fish loses its appeal very quickly because you have little control. We have striven to create a league that engages owners constantly. They must pay attention every week. (Also, we once kicked an owner out because he failed to set his lineup two weeks in a row. Warned him once, booted him on second offense.)

Eric's response is actually perfect as a lead-in to this week's question because his league has so many different keeper options:

1) Keep nobody

2) Keep one or two players, where the players are kept one round higher than they were drafted the previous year, and they are allowed to be kept on your roster for a three year maximum (draft plus 2 more years)

3) Keep a non-drafted player that finished on your roster with an eighth round pick (these first three actually come from a league I’m in that I used to manage)

4) Keep one player as a “franchise” pick, which means you keep him in perpetuity in that round as long as you want him (also one round higher from original draft), and you can select a “value” pick, which is a guy you have to keep in round 1 or 2 – if the value pick was from round one or two the previous year, he’s a first rounder, any later than that, he’s a second rounder.

5) “Buy down” a round for a keeper – for example, let’s say you have AP and you want him to be a second round choice – you can do that, but you have to give up a fifth round pick, so you only get to draft 14 players instead of 15.

I think there’s something else, but honestly it’s gotten so crazy, [the commish] has to send out three emails before the start of the draft to clarify what people are allowed to do.

This Week's Question: Why doesn't your league use keepers?

This week's question comes from Todd. His response to my question of how leagues set themselves apart was to bemoan the fact that his office league does nothing at all to distinguish itself from ordinary redrafter leagues:

The other owners in my office league won't consider [changing our pure redrafter league into] a keeper. They won't even put it to a vote, which makes absolutely no sense. I'm in two other leagues. One lets me keep two players; the other lets me keep three. Those leagues are boatloads more fun than my office league. I can understand not making a redrafter into a keeper league if you have a lot of new owners coming in every year, but the same ten of us at work are now going into our fourth year. Why on earth wouldn't you [add a keeper element] with that kind of owner stability? No one in my office has an answer. They just shrug off the question and keep running the league the same as always.

I can't speak for Todd's coworkers, but there are plenty of redrafter leagues that have been around for years and clearly have no desire to become keeper leagues (or they would have made the move by now). I suspect their commissioners might answer Todd's question with a question of their own: "Why fix what ain't broke?"

However, since I always seem to go out of my way to accommodate league complexity in this column, I think it's only fair for me to give readers a chance to speak up for simplicity. What's the case for keeping things simple and standard in leagues that could always be made more complex and unique? If you like your straightforward redrafter league just the way it is, please let me know what it is about the keeper/dynasty model that keeps you from exploring such an alternative.

Survivor Picks - Week 4 (Courtesy of Matthew Schiff)

Trap Game: N.Y. Giants at Kansas City
Kansas City's defense has allowed the second fewest points so far this season (34), and the offense has clearly bought into Andy Reid's system. Meanwhile, the New York Football Giants have looked putrid in all facets of the game and by all accounts should lose at Arrowhead Stadium. However, Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning know Reid's playbook and schemes better than most teams. The G-Men have mounted their fair share of come-from-behind victories against Reid (a former divisional rival). The Giants aren't as good a team right now as the Chiefs, but Coughlin's boys need this win a lot more than Reid's do. Don't be surprised to see Eli pull off an upset with a last-second score. This just might be the turning point for the Giants (you know, the point where they STOP turning the ball over).

#3: New Orleans over Miami (2-1: KC, NEP, MIN)
Both of these teams come into this game undefeated. The key difference is that the New Orleans defense has really started to shut down opposing offenses, as evidenced by the 31-7 win over the Cardinals last week. The Miami defense is vulnerable to the passing attack (giving up over 260 yards per game), and Drew Brees should be able to pick apart their secondary for a win against a Miami team that has definitely improved on both sides of the ball. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas will keep this game close with a strong rushing game that should take advantage some of the holes in the Saints' defensive line, but it won't be enough as the Saints go marching on.

#2: Indianapolis over Jacksonville (1-2: DEN, PHI, SF)
Trent Richardson scored on his first carry as a Colt last week at San Francisco, and Indy stymied last year's NFC Champion in their home stadium. This week, the Colts return to the more friendly confines of Lukoil Stadium to face a Jaguar team that is dead last in offense. The Jags average a measly 230 yards per game and have scored a total of 28 points. Unfortunately for Chad Henne, those stats aren't likely to improve against a Colts team that held Colin Kaepernick to 150 yards and no scores. The best that Jacksonville can hope for is probably some fantasy production from Maurice Jones-Drew in a game that should be over by halftime.

#1: Denver over Philadelphia (3-0: IND, OAK, SEA)
Peyton Manning has accumulated two AFC Player of the Week honors in just three weeks with his 12 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and a QB rating of 134.7. Can he make it three out of four weeks against an Eagles secondary that made Alex Smith and Donnie Avery look like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice? Very possibly! The Chip Kelly era started off with a bang in Week One against the Redskins, but it will take time and a more disciplined approach on defense before these Eagles can go into Mile High and pull off the upset.

Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999. As a landlocked Oklahoman who longs for the sound of ocean waves, he also writes about ocean colonization under the pen name Studio Dongo. The latest installment in his science fiction series can be found here.