One of the mistakes I most often see fantasy owners make in keeper leagues is keeping players who were studs the year before, but also cost high draft picks to keep. This is a problematic strategy for a few reasons, not the least of which is the annual attrition that takes place amongst the “studs” of fantasy football.
The easiest way for me to describe my priority order when deciding on my keepers is through a simple matrix where the production of a player is shown across the top (low, moderate, high) and the draft pick cost is down the side (early round, mid-round, late round). In the boxes of the matrix I have put a number that corresponds with my priority for that action. So keeping a high production late rounder (Michael Vick) is the #1 priority.
Think of the production levels as being something like a high production guy is your typical fantasy stud, while a moderate production guy would be a guy who would start most weeks in your league. Maybe LeGarrette Blount is a good example.
As you can see, I have keeping a moderate production guy like a LeGarrette Blount as a late rounder as being preferable to keeping a high production guy with an early pick. So basically, I would rather keep Blount and have a first round pick, than keep MJD and give up my first round pick.
This strategy generally holds if you have 2-4 keepers (it’s a little different if you just keep one player). But for now let’s think about why this is sound strategy when you keep let’s say 3 players.
The first reason it works is that your leaguemates will just keep their best players from the prior season, often even when they cost 1st through 3rd round picks. If you keep guys who cost later round picks, you’re going to be picking a lot in rounds 1-3. Each of your leaguemates might end up with 3 of the top 36 players. But you’re going to end up with maybe as many as 6 of the top 50 players.
So you’re going to keep 3 guys who are at a minimum starters in your league, and then you’re going to have a disproportionate number of the picks in rounds 1-3 where you’re going to take the guys who were just not quite good enough to be kept. So like I said, you’re starting the draft with about 6 of the top 50 players, whereas some of your leaguemates will have as few as 3 of those top 50 players (really just their keepers), and others might have 4 of those top 50 players.
If all you did was execute this simple strategy, you would probably have a playoff team about 3 of every 4 years even if you didn’t draft really well. You’re at such a numbers advantage to your leaguemates when you do this, and the best part is they might not ever realize it.
I’ve done this and had a mix of keepers who range from awesome (Jamaal Charles in the 13th round last year) to below average (Pierre Garcon in the 16th round last year) and it comes out the same every time. I load up on the Arian Fosters, Ahmad Bradshaws, and Hakeem Nicks of the world in those early rounds when the other guys in my league can’t pick because they kept DeAngelo Williams. Yeah, you’re not super excited about having Garcon, but just from a numbers standpoint you win out due to having a disproportionate number of the top 50 guys.