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How Fantasy Football Keeper Leagues Work

Keeper Fantasy Football Leagues (KFFL) are rising in popularity as more and more fantasy team owners get committed to fantasy football for the long haul. The basic idea behind a KFFL is team owners get to keep their original draft selections for longer than a single season. This gives fantasy football a more realistic slant to it and has the added extra of rewarding owners who have a knack for picking long term draft picks who end up as long term productive investments.

The standard league method of selecting players for a KFFL team is used, with owners being able to pick players round-by-round until their roster is completed. At the beginning of the actual NFL season, there is much optimism about certain players, their improvement, and the hope of having a comeback year. In a KFFL league, if the owner accurately assesses his talent, the core of that talent can be kept for many years to come, depending on the league rules. Many KFFL leagues set a maximum number of years an owner can hold on to players before forcing them to be place back into the draft.

One important piece of strategy to keep in mind is that while the idea of being able to keep talented, younger players who will be productive for many years to come is very tempting, an owner needs to think of the importance of winning this year. For example, a first round quarterback draft selection may have be successful in his first and second year, then fall of the performance cliff or get injured. Compared to a proven quarterback such as a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Drew Brees, who can help the owner win now, the KFFL value of the younger players diminishes. Establishing a balance on a roster of proven veterans and young players who have a huge upside potential will bring success for many years.

Like standard fantasy leagues, variations have developed in keeper leagues to try and make everybody happy. For the purposes of this article, Dynasty leagues are simply longer term versions of the Keeper leagues. Some of the variations are hidden in the league rules, meaning they are not advertised as anything different than simple a keeper league. For example, if the league rules stipulate you are allowed to keep 5 players per year instead of one, the KFFL is not likely to be advertised as a Five Player Keeper League.

The variations listed here are not all that are available, but cover the basics. Be sure to carefully read the league rules before signing up.

Variation 1 – The total number of players you are allowed to keep from year to year. As in the example, the owners of the league will determine how many players can be kept and for how many years they can be kept.

Variation 2 – A team owner is allowed to keep one player from each position. In this variation, team owners can keep one player from as many positions as are used to determine the total weekly points. For example, if there is a QB, 2 RBs, 3 wideouts, a defense and a kicker used to calculate the week’s total points, a total of 5 players may be kept – one from each position.

Variation 3 – The team owner is only allowed to keep a player who has been drafted after a certain round number in the draft. This variation makes sure that the best players in the league will be available in the following years draft. For example, there are 17 rounds in a league draft. If the league rules state that only players drafted after round 10 can be kept, then it is likely the best (or most popular) players will be available in next year’s draft. The advantage for the team owner is if they are able to secure an excellent future prospect in a later round, they can retain them to build around in future years (think Russell Wilson).

Variation 4 – The combination Auction type-Keeper type league. This is a KFFL with each team owner having a pool of cash that is used to bid on each available player in the draft. Obviously, running out of cash is never a good idea, but with the keeper leagues the amount an owner pays for a player will be counted against next year’s available cash. This is much like how the actual NFL works, and is intended to prevent one team hoarding all the best players because they have the biggest cash cow.

Variation 5 – League trading deadlines are critical to keeper leagues. The later the trading deadline, the better chances a winning team has to win it all. The reason is they can pick up some currently high performing players from a team who is out of playoff contention, and return some quality, but not critical players, to the other team. On the opposite side, team owners who are out of contention may try to trade for future value by giving up older, but high performing players from younger players with great potential. Whichever side you are on, earlier trade deadlines make decision making much harder.

It is necessary to include non-team owner issues when understanding how a KFFL actually works. As in the actual NFL, each league has a commissioner whose job is to deal with disputes and make rule determinations during the course of the season. There can be two commissioners who share power equally. This is suggested as being a better league structure because two heads are better than one. But whether there is one or two commissioners, they need to have a good sense of structural organization and understand both fantasy football and KFFLs. There are many KFFLs that play for a prize fund, and each team owner pays into it at the beginning of the season. The idea of losing a game or a season due to an unfair ruling or decision by a commissioner can wreak havoc with the future of the KFFL.

Remember, the whole point of the KFFL is continuing to play and trade over several years. Without this factor, it is just another standard fantasy football league.