Last Week’s Question
In last week’s column, I
shared the question of a reader named Jim who wants to convert his
traditional redrafter league to a keeper league. On the one hand,
the folks in his league appear to be concerned about the fairness
of switching from one format to the other without having known in
advance that they should have been thinking about keeper implications
when they had their draft earlier this year. But on the other hand,
they appear to be impatient to make the switch. Fortunately, I received
a great deal of feedback on the question of whether there is in
fact some way to pull off the transition without tilting the playing
field. Unfortunately, I can’t say that there was a true consensus
among those who wrote in. Nevertheless, I’ll cover the various
responses in the hope that leagues facing this sort of question
will be able to find the answer that works best for them.
half of the folks who wrote in were unimpressed by Jim’s
eagerness. The simple answer from the people who took this position
was that Jim’s league should have another pure redraft in
2007 with the understanding that the league will switch to a keeper
in 2008. Paul spoke clearly enough for this camp:
The dynamics of the league are changing at end of
season. Despite the fact the issue was discussed at the draft,
it was not resolved at the time and was only decided that MAYBE
it would be turned into a keeper next year.
A reader named John seems to agree with Paul for the most part,
but adds his thoughts on what Jim’s league should do if it
isn’t willing to wait until 2008 to adopt a keeper model:
Strategy for a re-draft league is in many ways different than
that of a keeper. There are plenty of times in a keeper, when
the owner would be flip-flopping between 2 guys who should perform
at the same level this year, but he ends up taking the younger
guy in a keeper because he’ll get more production out of
the player long-term.
Thus, if the league is switching from re-draft to keeper, wipe
the slate clean and start over. Make sure everyone knows prior
to the draft that the league is now a keeper league. This, in
my opinion, if the fairest way to make the transition without
punishing the guys who might have picked the Tikis over the S-Jax's
and Ronnie Brown's in the NFL because this, in reality, was a
re-draft league at the time of the draft.
Of course, I think you should also randomize the draft again and
not base the draft on the results from this season. Switch the
dynamics, start over again as if this is a brand new league.
I would think that some owners could have made different
decisions this season if they had known that next year would
be a keeper season, so the best decision may be to do a complete
re-draft next season with the rule in place that the league
would convert to a keeper system the following year. That would
allow the owners to plan for the transition during the draft
and while making mid-season roster changes. As for the Colston
comparison, where an undrafted player has a breakout season
and emerges as a legitimate fantasy star and potential keeper,
there is the potential for that situation in any season, so
that should not be of particular concern.
If you are going to keep just 3, that makes it a bit easier
to do it next season, as few top 30 players would have been
released this season. A compromise could be to keep one player
from this season for next year, then go to the full-blown keeper
system (however many you decided upon) in the following year.
Terry also responded with ideas about how to make incremental
progress to a keeper league:
Our own league of some 7 or so years has adopted a keeper
league from a normal league by doing it in small steps. First
we don't have permanent keepers. Instead, each player drafted
is kept next year by taking the round they were drafted and
then subtracting 3. So a player drafted in round 10 is a keeper
for next year at round 7. Anyone picked up on waivers that year
is assigned a draft round of 12 so that they become a round
9 keeper for the next year. Any player drafted in the top 3
rounds is automatically added back to the draft pool. And if
you have multiple keepers for the same round, for example 2
waiver wire pickups, you can keep one at the re-draft round
and the next at the re-draft round minus 1. So in my previous
example of 2 waiver wire pickups, the first would be kept for
a round 9 pick and the second for a round 8 pick. Secondly,
we only allow 2 keepers but can expand it to larger numbers
as the years go on if desired. This allows us to create a partial
keeper league out of a re-draft league. And it prevents any
one team from building a dynasty off of one great year. Good
Geiger, whose league is apparently going through the same process
as Jim’s, wrote in to advocate the incremental approach
and to explain how he handled a situation analogous to the one
Jim reported about Marques Colston:
One of my leagues is currently going through the very same
process as far as converting from entirely redraft towards a
keeper league. The league is also a ten team league which I
think helps make the transition a bit easier due to more talent
available per team compared to twelve team leagues and greater.
Jim’s situation with one of the owners wanting to keep
Colston is identical to one we had as we were beginning our
transition. It was Reggie Wayne, and I acquired him as a waiver
wire pick up with the hope/expectation that he should only cost
me my last round pick. This caused, I imagine, much the same
debate that's going on in Jim’s league now.
In my experience, whether it's fantasy football or just about
anything else, the biggest cause of disagreement is someone
thinking either they’re not going to get what they want
or something will be taken away from them. Once I agreed that
yes it would be a huge advantage for me to keep Reggie Wayne
and then pointed out a number of players from the previous few
seasons that each of the disgruntled owners had acquired from
waivers as well, I only needed to challenge whether they were
good enough to do it again. It's the competitiveness and false
sense of truly knowing how well a given player will perform
that fuels fantasy football. As long as leagues operate with
that in mind to go along with honesty and fairness most objections
tend to be resolved.
This season is now our second in transitioning to a keeper league.
In our particular case everyone agreed to go slowly with it
and add one keeper per year for each team. What I find most
interesting about the whole transition thing is that there is
a renewed sense of competitiveness and community within our
league and it's actually become even more fun than it was. Realizing
this now, I would only suggest that anyone who is trying to
bring about changes within their league and isn't alone in that
desire, would benefit by offering the greater level of competition
as a reason why changes should be made and why any differences
need be resolved. I think most would be willing to apply some
give and take to make that happen. (Geiger)
I also heard from people who question why any league would want
to switch from a redrafter to a keeper in the first place. Glen
begins by echoing Paul’s concerns about fairness, but ends
up making an even more significant objection:
If you intend to change to a keeper league, you should
start with the players drafted next year, not this year's. A
rule change such as this is a significant change that should
begin at the start of a season. Everyone should have the opportunity
to plan for a draft with the knowledge that you will be able
to 'keep' some players. You are essentially starting a new league
format, not tweaking your current rules. If you were to draft
this year's team over, there will probably be a significant
change to your draft strategy. You may pass on a solid veteran
player in favor of a rookie who may not see significant playing
time until the following year. Trade strategy would also change
in a keeper league. You may not trade a struggling or injured
player if you knew he could possibly help you next year. You
would also pay more attention to the waiver wire to pick up
any possible players who would develop into quality players
for next season.
Why change to a keeper league at all? The only thing it
accomplishes is to reward the owners who have the marquee players
on their roster. So you save time by cutting out a couple of
draft rounds, so what? All you are essentially doing is 'predrafting'
the first couple of rounds by keeping players from the previous
year. Why reward an owner next year for drafting a player this
year. Shouldn't there be some sort of competitive balance to
maintain? What if you don't want any of the players on your
current roster for next year? Would you drop all of your players
for the chance to draft Tomlinson next year? The owners who
don't have the marquee players at the bottom of the league will
suffer. They will eventually begin to resent the owners who
have the marquee players. League harmony will dissolve when
the have-nots begin to feel cheated and taken advantage of.
Keeper leagues favor two types of owners, the owners who have
time to research the sleepers, and the owners who are lucky
enough to draft the marquee player. Make it fair to all owners.
Redraft each year. Use a random lottery to determine draft position.
Troy’s position about the importance of the draft is in
keeping with what Glen has to say, but allows for a keeper element:
The key to the keeper league is one keeper per year.
The draft is the most important and fun piece of the fantasy football
season, so you don't want to take away from it. We went to a keeper
league a few years ago. Here is how we do it: To qualify for a
keeper the player must be DRAFTED in the 5th round or later. He
must also stay on the owner’s roster for the entire year.
To acquire your keeper you give up your draft pick two rounds
earlier than when you selected him last year. Make sense? If you
drafted Colston in the 14th round, you give up your 12th pick
for him. We only allow a keeper for one year. This means you can't
give up your 10th pick the following year and keep Colston again.
After one year they go back into the draft.
Just in case Jim is feeling down in the dumps about the skepticism
that some folks have about whether keepers are any good or not,
here’s a response from Larry that should help buck him up:
The keeper adds a whole new element to the league so you must
announce it prior to your draft. I'll give you an interesting
strategy. Say a big time player goes down with a season ending
injury in the first or second week of the preseason. We draft
around the fourth week of the preseason. If he's out for the season
there is no reason to draft him...not so fast! If you’re
smart you'll waste a 14th or 15th on him. Say LT or LJ went down.
Could you imagine giving up a 12th round pick for either of them
the following year?
I heartily applaud anyone who wants to go keeper. All the
elements that lead to that decision say you're hooked in a way
that will last long term. My main money play is in a league
in our 23rd year - 22 as a keeper.
The first suggestion I'll make is that converting to keeper
and to an auction rather than a draft at the same moment isn't
as radical as it sounds, and managing your auction cash is a
most satisfying - or challenging - endeavor. If you go to an
auction, at whatever amount, you can make every keeper the league
average salary (ie; 20 man roster, $100 auction budget = $5
average salary), or you can do something mildly more complicated
and create tiers at each position using this season's totals,
assign the average salary to the middle tier, and add or subtract
bucks for players in higher or lower tiers.
If you're not ready to auction, I'd say use the tiered
system anyway. Top tier players would be first round picks,
second tier - third round, etc. That would fit pretty well with
a 16 player roster.
I agree that you should limit the change-over keepers.
If your plan is to stop at three, keeping just one in the change
is about right.
And discuss just how long a player can be kept. Think of
it like free agency. There's nothing more discouraging than
all the best players being taken before the draft even begins,
and if you've got just 10 teams keeping 3 each, the talent gets
pretty average pretty quickly. In our keeper/salaried league,
players are only allowed to be kept out of two auctions, even
if they're traded or released by one team and picked up by another.
(We also have a simple escalation system for all kept players
- $1 added to the current salary, plus another buck for each
multiple of 5 in the new salary. $7 becomes $9, $9 becomes $12.)
There's a much more involved feel to keeper leagues, when
decisions you make this year can impact the next year or two.
Lou happens to agree with Larry about the utility of transitioning
to an auction at the same time that one moves to a keeper:
I am writing in response to Jim’s question as my
league, 9 years, just made the switch to a keeper. And in my
case, I picked up Larry Johnson as a through in to a trade 1
week before Priest went down last year. So I know what Jim is
saying about a guy wanting to keep certain players. I decided
that the only fair way to “start” a keeper league
was to have an auction draft. I lost out on keeping LJ, but
with an auction, I could have him back if I so chose. It was
our first auction, so it took some talking into on my part,
but it turned out to work out great. If an owner really wanted
a player, he could just outbid everyone for him. We are keeping
a salary cap for the years to come, and the 6 keepers salaries
will carry over. I really think the only fair way to do a keeper
is through an auction. I don’t feel it’s fair that
a random drawing of draft order should allow certain teams to
draft the best players.
Although I received a number of other responses to this question,
I’ll save them for next week’s column (as I don’t
want readers to have to struggle with information overload). The
continuation of the discussion will also allow latecomers an opportunity
to chime in with their takes on the subject. My thanks to all
those who wrote in. I received lots of perfectly coherent and
articulate answers that were unnecessary to include here simply
because they were too similar to other responses.
This Week’s Question
If you want to write in with your advice on how to convert from
a redrafter to a keeper league, I will be continuing that discussion
in Week 15. You may also want to respond to the question that I
will pose for Week 16, which comes from a reader named Terry, who
is concerned about the imbalanced way that his league scores defenses.
“Imbalance” can obviously mean at least two different
things when it comes to the way defensive performances are scored.
It may mean that the elite defenses score far more points than they
should as compared to second-tier defenses; it may mean that defenses
score far more or far fewer points than other fantasy positions.
It might suggest other things as well. Whatever the case, if your
league has a particularly effective way of awarding points to defenses
that you would like to share, please write in to explain how your
system functions and what makes it “good” in your opinion.
[Since people who are still alive in their LMS pools are presumably
running out of options,] I thought that it might be wise to use
some of the teams that I still haven’t chosen.
#3: Pittsburgh over Cleveland (9-4
Season): This game has Browns upset all over it. Hines
Ward is out, Charlie Frye is probably not going to play, and Derek
Anderson rallied the Browns to a come from behind win against
the Chiefs last week. The Steelers are home, but this team is
now only playing for pride instead of trying to defend its title.
That said, this is a bitter rivalry, and the fans won’t
let them forget that. This will probably be a close game, but
give the advantage to the home team.
#2: Tennessee at Houston (10-3 Season):
Houston we have a problem. Vince Young is coming to town, and
our team doesn’t know how to game plan for him. The Titans
are playing loose and free, have beaten three playoff-caliber
teams in the last three weeks, and the Texans are far from a playoff
caliber team. Look for them to go into Houston and have their
#1: San Francisco over Green Bay (10-3
Season): Both of these teams long for the days of their
once great quarterbacks Joe Montana and Brett Favre. Wait, Brett
Favre is still playing for the Packers, but unfortunately the
cast around him is far from what it used to be. Alex Smith and
Frank Gore will continue their pursuit of the post season at home
this week, and the Packers’ defense should be no problem
for them. The Pack will be able to move the ball, but their defense
will give up way too many points.
- (6-7) - 49ers over Packers - The Pack is floundering, while
the Niners have steadily improved. Even in a loss last week, the
San Francisco defense slowed down a hot Drew Brees. Now they should
get a few turnovers from Green Bay, and if Frank Gore bounces back,
I like the Niners at home.
- (9-4) - Steelers over Browns - This is a Thursday game,
so both teams face the short week. However, the game is in Pittsburgh
and I like that as a big advantage for the home team. Charlie Frye
has an injured passing arm, so expect Anderson to start. Will he
be ready against the Steeler defense without much time to prepare?
I wouldn't count on it.
(12-1) - Bengals over Raiders - I had to double check this,
but I haven't recommended the Bengals as my top pick yet. This is
a great week to use them as they should have their way with Oakland.
It's at home, and after their Thursday win over the Ravens, there
has been plenty of time to rest and prepare. The Raiders have a
strong passing defense, but Rudi Johnson should be able to carry
the load if he needs to. I still expect the passing game to get
some opportunities, though, and Cincinatti should put more than
enough on the board for Oakland to keep up with.
For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your
LMS picks, please email
me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football
Readers who want to have their fantasy questions answered live,
on the air, by Mike Davis are invited to tune into FFEXradio
on Friday afternoons at 5:00 p.m. EST. Archived
programs are also available.