News & Analysis

Is there a best way for selecting keepers?

Jan 7, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) leaves the field after defeating the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

(Editor’s note: Every Sunday, we’ll wrap up the week on PFF Fantasy with some topic one of our writers has been thinking about of late, and recap the features, columns, and podcasts you could find on the site that week.)

There just isn’t a system for keepers that I like.

The basic method is you keep X number of players, and those are the first few rounds of your draft. Three keepers per team, draft starts in Round 4, something like that. That’s simple enough, but it removes a lot of the strategy to the process — just keep the best players. On top of that, some of the most fun parts of the draft each year are the first-round picks, wondering who will bust, and this method kind of kills that.

The next step is the draft-round penalty. You can keep your first-rounder from the year before, or you can keep your fifth-rounder, or you can keep some waiver fodder for a last-round pick, and they fill that round in the draft. That invites some strategy into the equation — is it better to keep a super-good first-rounder or a slightly-less-good ninth-rounder? — but it makes interesting waiver claims ridiculously powerful. Alvin Kamara probably went undrafted in your league last year, or at least was drafted very late. Now he’s an easy first-rounder. Should his owner get to keep him basically forever, basically for free? If Kamara has an Le’Veon Bell-esque career, that owner has an outsized advantage for a long time.

So the next step was the draft-round penalty that gets more penurious by the year. Keep a 10th-rounder for the cost of a ninth-rounder the next year, then the eighth, seventh, and so on. And again, in addition to increasing the level of complication, this gives an outsized advantage to the Kamara (and Deshaun Watson and others) drafters — how many years can you keep Kamara at the cost of a 13th, 12th, 11th, before it actually costs you anything? The only way to make the increasing draft-round penalty worthwhile is to increase it by, like, five rounds a year, and at that point you might as well just go back to the first method.

The other alternative is that you keep the player at the round he was drafted, but there’s a limit on the number of years he can be a keeper. Congratulations on getting Kamara, fantasy player, you’re in good shape for 2017, 2018, and 2019, but after that you have to trade him elsewhere or release him to gen pop. It’s better, but still arbitrary, robbing young players of a lot of their fantasy value for no reason other than to keep someone from getting too powerful, like how the creators of Superman had to introduce Kryptonite or he’d just never lose.

I’ll write this, and 20 percent of the readers will passionately advocate for each of the four above methods, while another 10 percent say they hate keepers and another 5 percent will talk about how you should just go to a dynasty format. It’s the last 5 percent, then, that I want to talk to — is there a better way? Two weeks ago I proposed what I thought was a better method for the snake draft, but when it comes to keepers, all I can say is that our current methods leave me wanting better.

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